I've argued against this here, here, and here.
As Exapologist suggests, I'd recommend the reader to read all three posts and judge for himself who made the better case.
At any rate, Exapologist had said that he had said his piece on the matter but recently has made some more comments on my resolution of the dilemma.
I think it falls short, and I think there's nothing that one couldn't draw out of what I've previously written which wouldn't answer Exapologists latest salvo.
But I'll try to make more clear what I've argued and show where's he's gone astray.
I think if Exapologist (and anyone else) weighs my arguments, he'll note that I've taken away "one of the main reasons why [he] thinks Christianity is false."
Let's look at his latest claims then. Again, Exapologist is in red.
EA: But with respect to the discussion we've had, I don't think you've fairly characterized my position. My basic position argument was this: there are at least fourteen pieces of evidence that, taken together, provide a strong abductive argument for the position that Jesus was fundamentally an apocalyptic prophet, i.e., a prophet proclaiming the immanent eschaton, which includes the general resurrection and the final judgement.
No, I got what your argument was, exactly. My response was that you've jumbled up different events. This fully undercuts your argument. Put differently, it's like you're saying that events A = C, and events B = C. I'm saying that events A = C and events B = D.
Moreover, many of your events are not even Scripturally correct. For example, you say:
2. Many (most?) of Jesus’ “Son of Man” passages are most naturally interpreted as allusions to the Son of Man figure in Daniel. This figure was an end of the world arbiter of God’s justice, and Jesus kept preaching that he was on his way (“From now on, you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds…”). Jesus seems to identify himself with this apocalyptic figure in Daniel, but I'm not confident whether this identification is a later redaction. Either way, it doesn't bode well for orthodox Christianity.
But let's look at Daniel 7. Daniel 7 talks about the Son of Man going to the Ancient of Days.
Daniel 7:13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Now, letting the Bible interpret itself, what does this event refer to?
Where did Jesus ascend to the Ancient of Days (The Father) and get crowned King?
In Acts 2 we read
33Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
"'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35until I make your enemies your footstool.'
36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
And so Exapologist confuses the event of ascending with the event of descending. Jesus' going up with Jesus coming down.
And so he uses events which refer to two different things as premises in his abductive argument to get the conclusion of one single event where the premises all refer, supposedly, to the event of his conclusion.
EA: "When the issue of the partial preterist response came up, I argued that this wasn't the best explanation of all the data."
But you see, here's the problem. You didn't argue that my interpretation wasn't the best, you asserted that it wasn't. You simply said my interpretation was "absurd" and that "the natural reading led you to conclude your reading." In fact, I showed how the "coming on the clouds," and the "cosmic changes," all fit with how the Bible uses those terms. I gave an explanation of the events, you didn't. You simply said they all belong together and when I challenged you on this you simply quoted from Craig. I responded to Craig and your response was to say that the "natural reading would lead one to believe that they were talking about the same events." I then showed how they couldn't be referring to the same events, and you ended the discussion.
EA: "For the fourteen pieces of evidence, taken together (but especially the points about the successive watering down of the message of an immanent eschaton, and Paul's exhortations for people to remain in their present state (for example, married and single people), since the time is short) abductively point to a continuity of sequence among all of the events listed in the "little apocalypse" of Mark, and the parallels of Matt. and Luke. Now within this evidential context, I think that the most plausible, natural interpretation of 1 Thess 4: 13-18 is that Paul is referring to the same events as those discussed in Mk. 13 and parallels."
1) I've already shown that you mix events within your "14 pieces of evidence."
2) I've also agreed with many of your points. I have interpreted them to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Old Covenant era. Given my interpretation, which you have yet to refute, everything coheres just fine.
3) Therefore, I've (a) shown that some of your evidences can't be used in your overall case and (b) the ones that can did happen but just in a different way then you think they did.
That is, I'm reading them how a Jew would have read them, you're reading them like an American who's been raised in dispensationalist churches and read the Left Behind series would read them.
I'm saying that Jesus did not bodily surf clouds to earth and that the "end" spoken of was not the end of the physical heavens and earth, but of the Old Covenant era.
There are indeed passages which do speak about the end of all things, but those are not the same as the passages which speak about the coming in judgment and the end of the Old Covenant era.
Furthermore, it is well known that there are double-fulfillments for prophecies. There are prophecies about Jerusalem's king that were fulfilled in both David and Christ.
Given the above, there's no way your case stands.
4) I've also shown how the events in 1 Thess. 4 cannot refer to the events in Mark 13 and Matt 24 (before the transition texts). More on this below.
EA: "Now as I understand your reply, you do two main things:
(i) argue that the similarities aren't strong enough, and that the differences outweigh them. But if so, then that provides evidence that they don't refer to the same event.
(ii) lay out a case for showing that the meaning of the "coming in the clouds" language is common OT language for God's judgment -- it need imply nothing more. If not, then we can't infer a literal, bodily coming of the Son of Man (or the Lord, if they're the same person) just from that language alone; so there isn't sufficient reason to infer the latter from such language in Mk. 13 and pars.
(iii) lay out a case that the language referring to cosmic signs has strong precedence in the OT to refer to a shift in or destruction of authority, and suggest that just such a shift occurs with God's judgment via the destruction of Jerusalem."
I've argued that (i) the differences make them different events, that (ii) that's fine as far as it goes and (iii) correct.
But what's his counter?
My reply was then that I thought that my previous statements didn't require further defense to overcome your case. The reason was that I thought your case didn't overcome the prima facie plausibility of my hypothesis:
- your case for (i) -- your list of dissimilarities -- didn't seem to undercut the relevant similarities. They seemed rather trivial. I don't know, if others disagree I'll be glad to hear it.
-your case for (ii) and (iii) doesn't seem to get the conclusion you want. These points only show that the language about the coming in the clouds and the cosmic signs don't show *by themselves* that Mk. 13 and pars. attribute to Jesus an immenent eschaton that involves the final judgement and the end of the age. But the worry is that this language, *plus* the rest of Mk. 13 and pars., *do* seem to lump in the general resurrection and the end of the age.
1. I really don't know how to respond to (i). It's the easy way out. I mean, I guess I could respond like this:
"Your case for similarities didn't seem to undercut the relevant dissimilarities. They seemed rather trivial. I don't know, if others disagree I'll be glad to hear it.
And thus (i) turns out to be a wash.
Are these kinds of responses profitable to communication? To furthering the dialogue? Exapologist's response is similar to what John DePoe refers to as the IDEKWTM Objection found frequently in the works of contemporary metaphysicians.
Moreover, what's most disappointing is that Exapologist fails to even deal with my 19 lines of argumentation which argued for dissimilarity. He doesn't even bother with one of them!
Lastly, one is left confused as to how he could come to this conclusion (especially since he failed to explain himself and deal with hy objections). Let's look at just a couple of the dissimilarities I brought up and see if they are "trivial."
D1: In 1 Thess. 4 the trumpet announces the Lord's descending. In Matt 24 the trumpet announces the sending out of messengers. Allow me to draw the dissimilarity more clearly by using an example from Football.
In a Football game the referees use their whistles for a variety of purposes. For example, one may blow his whistle announcing the end of a play. But, sometimes a ref. may use his whistle to stop two players from fighting after the play has already been blown dead.
It would be absurd to think that an event in which the whistle is used to signal the end of a play is the same event as using your whistle to get the attention of fighting players!
Therefore, why would we think that two events where the same when we read the Monday morning paper where it is reported that a whistle was blown to signal the end of a play and a whistle was blown to stop fighting players? There's some similarities, e.g., whistles, refs. etc., but that doesn't make it the same. Likewise, there are similarities in the two accounts in the Bible, e.g., trumpet, the Lord, etc., but the events are clearly different. In one the Lord descends to a trumpet blast, in another he sends out messengers by a trumpet blast.
D2: Exapologist says that both accounts report a "gathering of the elect." But again we have a similar instance as (D1). Matthew 24 talks about preachers of the gospel going out and preaching the gospel, bringing in converts. 1 Thess. 4 talks about those who are alive when Christ returns bodily meeting Christ in the air.
I argued from the Bible for these interpretations and Exapologist, again, failed to interact with any of my work.
How does preaching the gospel mean the same thing as believers who are alive when Jesus returns bodily will be caught up and meet him in the air?
How is this a "trivial" dissimilarity? Exbeliever may disagree with it, but it's far from "trivial." And until he can actually engage my exegesis, I'll assume my points stand, his mere assertions aside.
2. Regarding points (ii-iii) Exapologist says that the coming with the clouds and cosmic catastrophe language PLUS other things found in Mark 13 and Matt 24 imply that they are talking about the end of all things - the resurrection and the end of the physical heavens and earth.
i) Well, we're at a familiar spot. What "other things," Exapologist? He leaves us to guess. He's not once argued for any of the "other things" in Mark 13 and Matt. 24. So I don't know what to respond to.
ii) He continues to fail to be precise. End of what age? I've agreed to an end of the Old Covenant age.
iii) There is NO MENTION of a resurrection in Matt.24 (1-36), so what's he referring to? What "other things" would lead him to believe that Matt 24 (1-36) talks about a resurrection?
Where's his argument? Nowhere. Absent. His case rests on mere assertions.
iv) Likewise, Mark 13 (1-31) nowhere talk about a resurrection. One is left clueless as to what "added" to the "coming with the clouds" makes one think that these events refer to the resurrection and the end of all things.
Therefore I maintain that Exapologist has totally failed to mount anything resembling an effective argument against the resolutions I've proposed. There is zero interaction with my arguments, zero exegesis, zero development of his own arguments, and a utter lack of desire to actually put forth any effort in to making this an exchange of ideas.
At the end of the day, I think one must agree that I've taken one of Exapologist's "number one" arguments against Christianity away from him.