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Timothy McGrew on the Gospels and Acts as History

In November, my husband had the great opportunity to give a talk "in" Belfast by Skype on the subject of the Gospels and Acts as history. (The world is getting so complicated that we need a new vocabulary. He was giving a talk in Belfast, but he was really not in Belfast at all. This is starting to sound like magic.) The sponsoring organization was Brian Auten's group, Reasonable Faith Belfast. I've been meaning to get the audio of the talk up here but am just getting to it now.

Here is the Youtube. The Skype talk (followed by interactive Q & A--technology is wonderful) originally did, as I understand it, allow the attendees in Belfast to see Tim talking with a bookshelf behind him, but the Youtube "video" is composed entirely of the Powerpoint slides.

If you want just the audio, it's here.

Happy listening!

Comments (12)

Lydia, thanks for making this available. And pass on to Dr. Tim a hearty thanks for such a clear and effective presentation of the topic, it's really top notch. I have been listening to audio presentations of Christian (and non-Christian) discussions and debates on topics like this (during my commute, mostly), and very few of them come up to this level of competence and clarity. Tim is a real asset to us.

Thank you, Tony. I agree. :-) I will make sure he sees your comment.

Tony -- thank you for your kind words. The subject matter is incredibly important, and I wish more people would give it the attention it deserves.

I haven't had time to watch it yet, but I already know it'll be good. I hope every Christian who reads this site will take a look. Non-Christians too, come to think of it.

He not only gives talks but writes pretty well too: http://www.christendomreview.com/Volume002Issue002/signs_of_grace_001.html

I'll bet he's nearly as smart as his wife.

The subject matter is incredibly important, and I wish more people would give it the attention it deserves.

Absolutely true. The modern notion for how society as a whole ought to deal with religion is derived mainly from 2 sources, with a third source as the gradually fading of yesteryear's standards.

(1) Religion is entirely a personal matter, an internal and wholly subjective reflection towards what is better. This is the result of Kant and his progeny, with other factors: a turning of religion away from objective standards.

(2) Religious theories about past religious "events" are, basically, myths told to explain the non-historical (subjective) "truths". Bultmann typified this well, although others took it even farther than he did.

Taking these two sources together, religion is considered, socially, like a superstition. When it is harmless, you can practice it all you want in private, but you can never assume that your superstitions have any bearing on another person. When it interferes with any public good, however, the state can step in and limit your expression.

(3) The dregs of old traditional feeling about religion are still seen in laws that support religion as one of the public goods, such as the First Amendment, the tax deduction for religious donation, and so on. This support is being whittled away as the other 2 forces encroach year by year.

What Dr. Tim McGrew is doing (along with others, of course), is showing that the second point above is simply wrong. There is excellent reason - on non-religious standards of history - to accept as historically accurate the main parts of the Gospels, and thus the "myth" myth is busted. Furthermore, the theological drift of the first point above is forced to the defensive: if the accounts of Jesus are eyewitness history, then there is lots about Christianity that isn't simply subjective, even if the moral, spiritual, and theological meaning of those accounts can be debated.

Tony, have you read this article of mine on the concept of the naked public square, written for The Christendom Review? I think you would like it.


I'll bet he's nearly as smart as his wife.

Now, Bill, you're forcing me to speak truth: Smarter. Also nicer. :-)

As long as the truth doesn't hurt.

That's a fantastic article, Lydia! We don't have enough people--excuse me, philosophically sophisticated people like yourself--working on the relationship between religion and the public square.

Thank you, Jonah. Please make the link available to anyone you think might be interested. The editors of The Christendom Review would be very happy to have it reprinted or anthologized, but as you know, journals do not permit submission of works that have been previously published, so it will find a wider audience only either by the spreading of the link or by its being picked up for book anthologization (while permitting it to remain available at TCR, of course). I daresay, too, it's a case of "neither fish nor fowl" as far as republication genre is concerned. A bit too passionate for most philosophy books or journals, and takes the pro-life position for granted as a source of illustration at various points.

Lydia, that's a very good article.

A couple of additional points could be made along the same lines, that would bolster the position. For example, Christianity has always held that there are rational supports for believing in Christ, and thus the Christian has as much reason to argue that the non-Christian is imposing IRRATIONAL beliefs on others when he proposes policy that contradicts Christian standards. Why should religionists have to put up with irrationally-based ideas as the source of policy?


Great - I was really sorry to miss Tim's talk in Belfast. Brilliant to see that this is available online.

Good article too. I remember reading "Religion in the Public Square" and wondering how on earth Audi would respond to an evidentialist.


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