The God Delusion - an Appraisal  - Chapter 3: Pt.2

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This is the Chapter 3, Part 2, Page for the appraisal of the contents of Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion.



Page Contents:








Chapter 3 Overview 

"Arguments for God's Existence"

This chapter is divided into:

(The following were considered on the previous page)

(The following are considered on this page)




Chapter 3 - Content & Comments (Second Part)


Part 5: The Argument from Scripture



IGNORANCE AND MISUNDERSTANDING: In what should have been the most powerful attack on the veracity of Christianity based on Scripture, we find instead a string of examples of statements that merely indicate the incredible ignorance of Richard in respect if this subject over which, above all else we would expect him to have done his homework.

Instead we find ignorance, misunderstanding and a willingness to quote those who flow against the strong and powerful stream of Biblical academia. It is this last point that is really so staggering – a willingness to make trite statements that fly in the face of an incredible wealth of academic scholarship in the past century. Ignorance of the trends of the past one hundred and fifty years, means he chooses to quote those who have little or no credibility – except in the eyes of the exhibitionist media.

LINK to Appendix 6 - Misuse of Liberal Theologians



Quote 14: p.117


A fourth possibility…. is that Jesus was honestly mistaken



A SURE JESUS: It is a shame that Richard writes off C.S.Lewis, because unlike Richard, Lewis was a scholar who looked into literature with immense care – including the New Testament. The only possible way of saying that Jesus was mistaken about himself, taking the available evidence, is that there is no God and so there can be no Son of God, but that is prejudging the issue. Surely the issue here is to examine the life and work of Jesus Christ and draw conclusions as a result. Richard's integrity is at greatest risk at this point, for he appears to refuse to so that.

C.S.LEWIS QUOTE: Richard makes reference to it but writes it off. In case you haven't seen the C.S.Lewis quote this is it, and it DOES bear thinking about and not just writing off!

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.



Quote 15: p.117


there is no good historical evidence that he ever thought he was divine



MISREAD BIBLE: Richard's assumption from the outset, which he will shortly enlarge on, is that the New Testament cannot be considered in any shape or form. If he hadn't arrived at this conclusion, he would know that this statement is patently incorrect.



Quote 16: p.118


The fact that something is written down is persuasive to people not used to asking questions like: ‘Who wrote it, and when?'



A CHALLENGE TO READ: As a bland statement this is correct but in that it assumes that this is the background attitude of the vast majority of those in the Church, in Christian leadership, or involved in Christian scholarship, it is total arrogance of the worst order.


I can only assume Richard and those of like mind have never visited a Christian bookshop and seen the shelves full of books covering just those questions and many more. What the arrogance of Richard doesn't realise is that the Christian world is full of ordinary people, leaders and scholars who spend a considerable amount of time pursuing the background of the Christian faith. As I have testified previously, I have questioned for forty years, not because I doubt, but because I want answers for those who have questions.


F.F.Bruce, a world-acknowledged scholar and expert said,

There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”


He also stated,

...the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the NT may be regarded as finally established.”


 F.J.A.Hort, one of the greatest textual critics ever wrote:

In the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests, the text of the NT stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.



Quote 17: p.118


Were they unbiased observers….



CLEAR GOSPEL WRITERS: Richard asks good questions, but I don't believe he wants answers. These are the questions that anyone investigating the Gospels, for instance, asks. There are two things here of note. First, without doubt, the Gospel writers had an interest but unlike Richard and his followers, it was more about the truth than anything else. Luke's opening words are devastating in their clarity:

"Many have undertaken to draw up and account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."


Luke sounds more like a scientific scholar, remarkable for the age in which he was living.  Note some of the phrases he uses:

      • eyewitnesses - passed on by those who were there and saw it all!
      • carefully investigated - the language of a scientific scholar
      • an orderly account - ditto
      • know the certainty - this is all absolutely clear and certain!



CONVINCING THE WORLD: However, the second thing to note is that if you were trying to convince the world that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who you should follow, you would not have written in the style of the Gospel writers. Elsewhere on the Apologetics section of our site we have noted 7 ways we would have written to convince people – but which the Gospel writers didn't do:

1. I would present him as a wise leader     

2. I would present him as accepted by the important people 

3. I would present him as morally unquestionable

4. I would present him as a great success  

5. I would present him as a great teacher

6. I would present him as a survivor  

7. I would present him as a balanced family man


The openness and honesty of the Gospel writers convinces most open-minded people who bother to read them. There is an undisputable integrity about the New Testament writers, but you need to read it to see it!



Quote 18: p.118


Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world.



BEWARE LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS: Now here we come on to the question of authority of scholars and the history of the past hundred years or so. In chapter 2 we referred to Josh McDowell's work, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict and noted his comments in respect of so-called Higher Criticism. Similar comments could be applied to so-called ‘Form Criticism' which applied to the New Testament and which Richard quotes, and the schools of historical scepticism that flowed in the 20th century.


Commenting on those later sceptics, one of the world's foremost apologetics scholars, Dr. Norman Geisler, wrote,

"Most of the proofs they offer… are uncompelling and often non-existent except for quotations from one another and other liberal scholars."

These words would seem to fit The God Delusion very well! Josh McDowelll's book deserves a sound reading by sceptics who are unsure of these things. He also includes a scholarly article by C.S.Lewis on Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism which Richard would do well to read.


To summarise, we have been through a century where scholars starting from Richard's viewpoint wrote off the Bible – Old & New Testaments – and created a host of assumptions that had little or no credibility. Fortunately we are now through into a period where more coherent scholarship paints a very different picture. Please do use the link below if you have not been to Appendix 6.

LINK to Appendix 6 - Misuse of Liberal Theologians



Quote 19: p.118


the gospels …. were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus' life.



WRITING THE GOSPELS: Well the one thing we can say about Richard is that he is consistent. He continues to exude lack of knowledge and understanding. Let's take briefly the two contentious comments here.


Yes, the Gospels were written long after Jesus (well, long as we consider it, but not long as ancient documents go). That was a day when writing was a serious exercise – no computer to turn on and write the day's blog. The primary way of passing on teaching was by word of mouth. What is obvious when you study these things is that the early church collected a number of sayings of Jesus, and these were the things focused on first of all. As years passed and the apostles started dying off, it was recognised that it would be wise to write down the things that had happened. We have already recently quoted Luke's opening words, showing the care he used going about collating his Gospel.


Second, why didn't Paul write a Gospel, is almost what Richard is asking. The answer is twofold. First he didn't see any need to and, second, look at his letters and you will see that they were written with an express purpose to a specific church or a specific person, and he was addressing a specific problem they were encountering. His goal was not, therefore, to repeat the Gospel but apply Christian doctrine to the needs in specific churches.


What Paul does do for us is confirm again and again the key part of his Gospel, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. e.g.


the gospel ….. regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who…. was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:2-4)


just as Christ was raised from the dead ….. we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:4)


For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.” (1 Cor 15:3-8)


we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” (2 Cor 4:14 )



Quote 20: p.118


All were then copied and recopied, through many different ‘Chinese Whispers generations' by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas



ACCURACY: More of Richard's consistency. That the various writings were copied and copied, there is no doubt. The fact that there are thousands more copies than any other ancient manuscripts that historians are happy with in secular history, simply confirms the veracity of the originals. In case you didn't take them in earlier, we need to requote some of the world's leading experts:


F.F.Bruce, an world-acknowledged scholar and expert said,

There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”


He also stated,

...the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the NT may be regarded as finally established.”


 F.J.A.Hort, one of the greatest textual critics ever wrote:

In the variety and fullness of the evidence on which it rests, the text of the NT stands absolutely and unapproachably alone among ancient prose writings.


Chinese Whispers is a poor analogy because they refer to things being passed on by word of mouth, and slightly changed each time. These are documents being copied and immense care was taken. It's quite a different thing from passing on word of mouth!


As to, “their own religious agendas” Richard is confusing what went on in the church where there was careful scrutiny by the leaders to ensure accuracy, with what went on among the various heretical cults who, without doubt, promulgated their own distorted writings. You can find more about this if you go to our Apologetics pages.


What perhaps should be added, was that these various writings went through the most vigorous challenges before they were accepted (see our site on the Canon of Scripture) as follows:


50-100 AD      The NT books and letters written

100-200 AD    These collected and read in the churches

200-300 AD    Carefully examined and compared with dubious writings

300-400 AD    Complete agreement as to which books to be included.

The church leaders' highly conscientious approach to checking accuracy of books and authority of books in forming the 'canon' of Scripture, is something that every scholar should know about and should be observed here. That would have been an additional factor against the 'Chinese whispers hypothesis'.


LINK to our Apologetics pages on the Bible background



Quote 21: p.118


John's Gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem




READ CAREFULLY: More careless quoting! Two things here. First Richard is quoting ‘the people' in Jerusalem, and NOT Jesus' followers. Second, and following on from that, he misses John's point completely. John was simply showing the confusion that there was about Jesus which stopped him being either acclaimed king or being arrested. Some of the people assumed Jesus had been born in Galilee because they thought he was a Galilean, having carried out most of his ministry there, because people tended to stay in the area where they were born.



Quote 22: p.119


The city of David




JEWISH CULTURE: Continuing his convoluted arguing Richard now utterly fails to understand the Jewish culture and history as he seeks to deny that Jesus was in any way connected to King David. Little snide comments infiltrate their way in: “David, if he existed, lived….” This almost beggars belief!  But of course Richard is being consistent in his ignorance in taking the uncertainty of the liberal theologians he sided with earlier. Beyond that the biblical evidence is incredible – and we are talking about a multitude of writers.


With this reference to the link between David and Jesus, Richard misses two points – but then he is a biologist and not a Bible scholar (Remember he and his Warden disparage theologians who study these things!). The first point is that hereditary ties and family names were very important to the Jews – especially in a day when their identity (which was very important to them) was being threatened by the Roman occupation.


THE MESSIAH: The second point is that the Jews had been expecting a ‘Coming One' or ‘Anointed One from God' or ‘Messiah' for many hundreds of years. The prophetic scriptures, of which there were many, spoke of this coming one and very closely tied him to the family of David.


Sadly Richard dismisses hundreds of traditional (and this is not a negative word here, but indicates great depth and breadth of scholarship from the early church right through to the present) scholars and sides with theologians who are often referred to as radical, meaning they are off the rails and using Gnostic writings from the early centuries that are:

a) contrary to the body of Scripture agreed by the early church leaders and the historic church and

b) are full of contradictions and what can sometimes only be called fairy-tale ideas of the heretics.


It is sad that Richard rightly pillories those in the present age who he sees are extremist Christians yet uses similar extremist unbelievers from both the present and the past for his own purposes, which smells of dishonesty.

LINK to Appendix 6 - Misuse of Liberal Theologians



Quote 23: p.119


Luke screws up his dating




DATING: Lane Fox's conclusion is hasty and unwise. To be dogmatic over the dating of the census is unwise because it is not clear and scholars of all persuasions have come up with different conclusions.

Possibly one of the most helpful and most wise conclusions would be to say, that wherever it has been possible to check Luke's statements, his accuracy as an historian has been impeccable.

Please note what we've just said: ‘Wherever it has been possible'. This is an unclear situation and the wisest conclusion, in the light of archaeology over the past hundred years is to say with humility, well, there have been other unclear things which have simply been eventually ratified by later archaeological findings, and Luke's pedigree appears so good in all other respects, that we would to well to trust him until clear evidence clarifies this particular point. That after all is what scientists do so often in their investigations! Same rules please.



Quote 24: p.119


the December 2004 issue of Free Inquiry




BIASED SPECULATION: Now Free Inquiry is the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism. Richard has chided scribes with their own agendas yet such a magazine cannot be called unbiased. The nature of the article that he refers to, if it is anything like the quality of his own knowledge and research, could be greatly lacking.

I find myself coming back to this thought again and again, as Richard did with Russell's tea pot(!), to this staggering arrogance or naivety that casts aside the work of full-time open-minded scholars across the Christian world for centuries who do not come up with these same conclusions.

We keep on coming back to the question of authority and pedigree and Richard's resources seem questionable on both counts in the face of the opinion of the vast bulk of Christian scholarship. There is no point making any further comments about this part of the chapter.

LINK to Appendix 6 - Misuse of Liberal Theologians



Quote 25: p.120


Sophisticated Christians …. unsophisticated Christians




SOPHISTICATION: I wonder if we spoke about sophisticated scientists and unsophisticated scientists, which group Richard would fit into. In the light of the way I think he is using this language, I believe he would clearly be an unsophisticated scientist.   Sophisticated Christians, I assume, are those who agree with his way of thinking. Hmmm.



Quote 26: p.120


Do these people never open the book that they believe is the literal truth?




READ THE BOOK: What staggering naïve arrogance! First a point about ‘literal truth' I have a feeling he is confusing those who rashly say the Bible is literally true. The word literal is a wrong word to use because a lot of language, particularly in the many prophetic or song sections, is figurative language, painting a picture. Literal in respect of historical truth - well yes.


As to ‘opening the book', I know a considerable number of Christians who regularly read their Bible and the website is my own testimony to this. I would be the first to agree that there are probably a lot of people who visit the inside of a church building on a Sunday morning who don't read their Bible and Richard's words are apt for them. I would be the first to agree with him there, and encourage them to start reading their Bible regularly.


Unfortunately he goes on to trot out the lay-perception of contradictions in the Bible and I can only refer you to the section in our Apologetics part of this site that deals with those things. No, sorry, he's wrong!


The testimony of Dr. Francis Schaeffer from his book True Spirituality:

“I thus realised that in honesty I had to go back and rethink my whole position….. I walked, prayed and thought through my reason for being a Christian and also what the Scripture taught. I rethought my reasons for being a Christian and saw there were totally sufficient reasons to know that the infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true”.


A good illustration of a highly intelligent man of integrity who sincerely faced up to truth claims.


LINK to our Apologetics pages on Contradictions



Quote 27: p.120


Matthew traces Joseph's descent….




GENEALOGIES: Where does Richard think Bible scholars have been all these years? There are clear indicators from the text, first of all about different purposes behind the two genealogies. One is thought to be Mary's family tree and the other Joseph's. One goes back to Abraham – seen by the Jews as the father of the nation, the other back to Adam, seen as the father of the human race.

The biggest point to be considered is the complete cultural difference between Jewish culture and ours. If we produce a family tree, we try to include everybody. The Jews were not taken up with completeness as we are; they were simply concerned to pick up various ‘milestones' along the path, hence it is likely that in both, there are a number of names missing. This was no big issue to them. It's not a matter of error; it's a matter of culture.



Quote 28: p.120


The American Biblical scholar…




DODGY FOUNDATIONS: I have already commented on Richard's preference to pick up theologians who have drifted into the gnostics' camp. Rather than make lengthy comment here I would prefer to direct you to ‘The Books the Church Suppressed' by Dr. Michael Green which, although dealing with the Da Vinci myth by Dan Brown, covers the same area as here, showing why the so-called Gnostic Gospels do not stand up to scrutiny and why the early church rejected them. The remaining pages of this section, for this reason, require no further comment because they are merely further padding of this confused school of thought.

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Part 6: The Argument from Admired Religious Scientists




VARYING BELIEFS: It is difficult to pick up on specific quotes is this section because most of it is open to considerable debate. On one hand Richard acknowledges that a number of famous historical names were scientists and Christians – but writes them off as conforming to the prejudice of the age. With others, he speculates as to whether they are genuinely Christians, and others, from his own side to the fence, he quotes to rubbish the beliefs of his colleagues in the scientific world who don't agree with him.


It may be worth quoting a letter to the Times on February 15th 2007 where four renowned British scientists wrote as follows:


Sir, In his letter, Richard Dawkins professes to agree with his “hero Sir Peter Medawar on The Limits of Science” on the grounds that there is a lot we don't know. But lack of knowledge was not Medawar's point. According to his widow in her Life with Peter Medawar, his aim in The Limits of Science was to stress “that science should not be expected to provide solutions to problems such as the purpose of life or the existence of God, for which it was unfitted”. We are scientists from different disciplines who entirely agree with Medawar's argument and completely disagree with Dawkins that science can rule out the supernatural. Our faith in the existence of the God revealed both in creation and in the person of Jesus is not diminished or contradicted in any way by our scientific understanding. On the contrary, as Alister McGrath explained in his article (Faith, Feb 10), putting together science and faith leads to a fuller and deeper picture of the whole of reality.


That was a welcome breath of humility.


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Part 7: Pascal's Wagner



Quote 29: p.130


The great French mathematician Blaise Pascal…




LOGIC: If my understanding of this part is right, Richard objects to Blaise Pascal's assertion that logically, if you are unsure, it's better to opt for belief in God than against it. Knowing that Pascal was a serious thinker, I don't believe that he was putting this forward as a proof of God, only as a wise path to take. It seems a smart thing to do when you think about it.


Richard objects to this on the valid supposition that you cannot make yourself believe, which is correct – but you can search for truth in the evidence with an open mind. Richard does have the honesty to later say that he is joking so this section can be seen as just a page filler.



Quote 30: p.131


‘Not enough evidence, God'




SILLY QUIPS: This was Bertrand Russell's well known, but foolish quip. A more honest quip would have been, “Not enough evidence God to convince my closed mind.” Little changes in two thousand years.

John records in his Gospel, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” (Jn 12:37).

One of the things John does in his Gospel, having reflected on it long after the others as he writes his Gospel in old age, is show that actually Jesus' miracles were signposts to God for those who are searching with an open heart. Yet, despite the abundance of signs, the abundance of the evidence, the religious leaders of the day, whose hearts were set against Jesus, just ‘could not see'. Enough said.


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Part 8: Bayesian Arguments



Quote 31: p.132


.. Stephen Unwin…. The Probability of God.




PADDING AGAIN: Richard derides this and I think most of the rest of us would too. He did hesitate in including it, and it is just another page filler with little or no significance. Deride real faith by association, appears to be the idea here. Not a good idea.


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NB. In what follows Q stand for ‘Quote'


Part 5: The Argument from Scripture


This is a deplorable section that reveals the stable from which Richard is coming, or at least on which he relies. Unfortunately it is not a reputable stable as we shall see.


Along the way I have pointed out that:

  • To speak of Jesus being mistaken about himself, reveals a complete absence of knowledge of what the Gospels say and what they reveal about Jesus. (Q.14)
  • Richard's denial of historical evidence again shows a sad lack of knowledge. (Q.15)
  • Richard has little idea of the study or scholarship involved among the Christian community and therefore draws very wrong conclusions. (Q.16)
  • Richard's questions about the New Testament writers reveals further lack of both knowledge and understanding otherwise he would recognise integrity when he saw it. (Q.17)
  • Richard's suggestion that scholars have rubbished the New Testament, relies entirely on those today who follow Gnostic writings, contrary to the scholarship of the many. They are in fact untrustworthy resources. (Q.18)
  • Richard's denouncing of the Gospels and Paul's writings, comes from lack of understanding why the Gospels were written when they were, and why Paul wrote. Again an obvious lack of credibility in his comments which come with lack of knowledge and understanding. (Q.19)
  • Denouncing the copying of the original NT documents by reference to ‘Chinese Whispers' fails to understand the nature of the copying and checking process and the incredible scholarship that has gone into authenticating our existing New Testament documents. (Q.20)
  • Misquoting and wrongly applying quotes from John's Gospel only further shows lack of knowledge and understanding. (Q.21)
  • Decrying a link between Jesus and King David reveals a colossal lack of knowledge and understanding about Jewish historical culture implications as seen in the Bible (Q.22)
  • To question Luke's dating when a particular situation is unclear, fails to account for Luke's impeccable record as an historian for all those times when his writings are able to be validated (Q.23)
  • Quoting from a humanistic magazine, whose results fly in the face of centuries of study and scholarship does little for his cause. (Q.24)
  • Trying to distinguish between sophisticated and unsophisticated Christians is a subjective meaningless emotive exercise which is as valid as distinguishing between sophisticated and unsophisticated scientists and suggesting that Richard is the latter. (Q.25)
  • Richard's assumption that Christians never open the Bible and question what is there is based solely on his own prejudices and not on fact. (Q.26)
  • His comments about the family trees of Matthew and Luke indicate yet again an absence of knowledge and understanding about Jewish culture and the point of what was written. (Q.27)
  • Richard's preference of Gnostic-leaning modern scholars is easily countered by reading the finer scholarship that is available in large measure in many Christian bookshops. (Q.28)


Part 6: The Argument from Admired Religious Scientists


This section acknowledged scientists who were Christians, challenged those who might not have been Christians, and quoted the cynics who clearly weren't. It really did nothing to further the proposition that the title of the book supposes, that belief in God is deluded. Therefore little of value here. I simply quote a letter from four prominent scientists who disagree with Richard.



Part 7: Pascal's Wager


Here Richard picks up on a particular light hearted comment by thinker Blaise Pascal but has the grace to say that he is joking by including it. No value. (Q.29)


Along the way he passes comment about Bertrand Russell's failure to find enough evidence for Christianity and I basically point out that there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. (Q.30)



Part 8: Bayesian Arguments


Commenting on a risk management consultant's rather bizarre ideas, is rather like getting Homer Simpson to sit in on a panel of experts about God. A pointless page-filling exercise. (Q.31)



Overall Comment:


The second half of this chapter is weird! Please bear in mind that it is a chapter about Arguments for God's existence. Now Richard does chide those of us who might say, “Oh, he believes in a God I don't believe in” and yet much of this who chapter is founded on exactly that sort of thing.


Parts 1 & 2 were aiming at straw targets.

In Part 3 (beauty) he misses the point.

In Part 4 (experience) he simply fails to convince.

In Part 6 (friendly scientists) he again simply fails to convince in any way at all.

Part 7 he adds as a joke, as he must have done for Part 8.


In the biggest part, Part 5, which is naturally the largest and which you would expect to be the best researched – on the role of Scripture – he indicates a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the New Testament, and relies for his credibility upon those scholars who fly in the face of two thousand years of examination and the immense volume of modern scholarship. It is rather like going into a classroom and choosing a child who has refused to use a textbook or listen to the years of wisdom of the teacher, and use that child as the one upon which to base our life assumptions. It is a bizarre approach!


I have to say that I am convinced of his sincerity but it is a misguided sincerity. How sad.


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