Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Why you can believe the Bible - Voddie Baucham" - A Pseudo-Rebuttal

Recently, while checking Twitter, I ran across this post.
I'm not opposed to watching these types of videos, so I figured I'd give it a try. I don't think it does what the title claims, nor what Olivia believes it does. She asked me to explain why, and I agreed to write something here. To be brutally honest, I'm not feeling the desire to write much tonight, so I'm not going to cover each and every point he brings up. The video is close to an hour long, and there's a lot in there. I'm only going to point out a couple things and call it good.

The Positive

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the good things about this video.  First of all, Voddie Baucham is a great speaker. He comes across as very likable and trustworthy. This does make some of the things he does more annoying than they would normally be I think. Maybe that's just me.

He also acknowledges that many of the arguments that are made in favor of religion are pretty weak, and points out why.

The Negative

On to the negatives about this video.

First off, and this is a biggie, this video is incorrectly named. It's titled "Why you can believe the Bible", but that's not what this video is. Baucham fully acknowledges that around the 12:35 mark.

"My goal here is not to prove the Bible. My goal here is to answer the question. The question is, why I choose to believe the Bible."

This isn't why I can believe the Bible, it's why this particular speaker does. And he quotes the Bible. Continuously. He states:

"There is no higher authority than the Bible."

This kind of statement only makes sense if you already believe the veracity of the book. If you don't, then we're already on different pages.

I'm not going to go into each and every thing he quotes from the Bible. I just want to look at his overall argument, which he breaks down into easy to remember blocks.

It's a reliable collection of historical documents
written by eyewitnesses
during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses
they report supernatural events
that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies
and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.

I'm going to answer each of these by themselves just as he makes them.

  1. "It's a reliable collection of historical documents." Baucham expends considerable effort to show that it's a collection of documents. Everything else about that statement is assumed and/or unsupported. "Reliable"? By whose estimation? I don't find them reliable at all. Some of the books are blatant fiction, such as Genesis, where we have so much evidence to the contrary it's ridiculous to think that it's real. Exodus has been disproved as well. These stories are not reliably historical. 
  2. "Written by eyewitnesses". No, it really wasn't. He doesn't show that it was, just claimed that it was written earlier than has been suggested by analysis of the text. The names that are assigned to the gospels were done so after the fact. They weren't signed. We don't know specifically who wrote them. Claiming that they were written by eyewitnesses is a huge reach that is unsupported.
  3. "During the lifetime of other eyewitnesses". Again, this is almost surely wrong. He reads a claim in the Bible that there were 500 eyewitnesses and some of them were still alive. This an easy claim to make, but it's not independently substantiated. There are no writings that survive from these witnesses to corroborate this claim in any way.
  4. "They report supernatural events". No, the author or this text claims that they reported supernatural events. Just like any writer can make any of his characters make any claim he wants. What these individuals "report" isn't relevant and proves literally nothing of substance. Not even that these individuals actually existed.
  5. "That took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies". Fulfillment of a prophecy is easy when you're aware of a prophecy and you're trying to make a character fulfill those prophecies. None of these prophecies are anything that can be independently verified. They're things like, Jesus said something. He didn't create something that still exists today or anything like that. 
  6. "And claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin." Who cares that they claim? They want you to believe that they say is true. What better way than to shift the authorship from fallible humanity to infallible deity? Of course it would be true then, right? No matter how you look at this part, it's just a claim. It's completely unsubstantiated, and it's no different than the claims of other religions. Joseph Smith claimed that he merely translated the word of "God" inscribed on golden tablets. Most Christians don't believe him. Why should I give these claims any more credence than I give the claims of Joseph Smith?

Special Mention: Straw Man

I wanted to also bring special attention to the blatant use of a stereotypical "Professor" paradigm. This is a common trope used by apologists, and it was quite annoying in it's transparency. Apologists love dredging up "The Professor" and ingratiating themselves with their audience by knocking it down.


There's a lot of stuff in this video, and it's quite long. I know I didn't cover half of the things I saw in the video, and I'm not planning on it right now. I will say that it didn't accomplish anything that I think that Olivia wanted it to accomplish. I think it did fine doing what Baucham intended it to do, but it's being used in a way that he didn't intend. All in all, I found it unconvincing as a justification of why I can believe the Bible.