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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Review of Religulous: Ridiculous?

Dr. Craig J. Hazen, director of the graduate program in Christian apologetics at Biola University, recently reviewed Bill Maher's Religulous.

Hazen's review can be read here:

Religulous is not the brightest film, and it certainly lacks the courage to engage with thoughtful Christians, but as Hazen notes, "If there is one important lesson for Christians of all sorts to learn from this movie it is this: we have got to start talking differently about 'faith.'"

Unfortunately, we have let the secular world and antagonists like Bill Maher define the term for us. What they mean by "faith" is blind leaping. That is what they think our commitment to Christ and the Christian view of the world is all about. They think we have simply disengaged our minds and leapt blindly into the religious abyss.

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Blogger Joseff said:

Thanks for your review, Dr. Hazen!

I think you are right on the money concerning how "faith" has been sabotaged today and how we need to publicly regain this ground by showing that Christian faith is rooted in knowledge. For Christianity is a knowledge tradition!

A good conclusion and challenge:

"Maher and Charles successfully put some of the goofiest strands of the Christian movement on public display for cinematic ridicule. Great skill, intellect, or cleverness, that did not require. The greater feat would be for the two documentarians to jump out of their own shallow presuppositions and prejudices to get a fresh look at what has made Christianity attractive to some of the greatest minds in human history. But I think it's a good bet that they don't have a sequel like that on the drawing board."

By Blogger Joseff, at October 8, 2008 3:07 PM  

Blogger Samuel said:

Francis Collins, who is interviewed briefly in the film, now admits that "I felt a bit misused" (

One of the failure of the film, I think, is that it was pitched as a comedy, but it was notably preachy in many parts, especially the climatic last few minutes.

By Blogger Samuel, at October 8, 2008 4:00 PM  

Blogger BillHays said:

As usual, Dr. Hazen has missed most of the important points.
In the Gospel of Mark, an invisible demonic spirit (pneuma) identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God. This story was added to the Gospel of Mark after the leaders of the synagogues banned Christians from recruiting new members in their synagogues. The description of a member of the synagogue "having an unclean spirit" was just an insult, not an actual exorcism. Or an actual event, for that matter.
The Gospel of Mark is a Sales Pitch. It is NOT a history text, and it doesn't describe anything that actually happened.
For two centuries, the Pharisees had been trying to add a belief in resurrection to Judaism. After the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD, many End of the World scenarious took off. There was no longer a central authority to prohibit them.
Christians talk about "Faith,' but they lack the wisdom and education to tell the difference between a legitimate historical account, and a piece of propaganda written to attract new victims to a cult. Here's the Correct Answer. Peter told his followers they were living in the last days. 1,900 years later, we KNOW they were not living in the last days. It was a sales pitch, based on resurrection, to fool victims. The Son of man was a character from a popular book called The book of Enoch, and the Son of man never appeared in the clouds with angels, as predicted by the words of Jesus. We KNOW the Gospel of Mark is false. The facts prove it. And any intelligent person should raise a red flag when they read about an invisible demon calling Jesus "the Holy One of God." Why? Demons don't exist.

By Blogger BillHays, at October 8, 2008 7:00 PM  

Blogger It's not about me. said:

Even though I went to church as a child, I was never around true Christians, walking the walk, till I had teenagers. I wasn't even aware there was a difference.

I wonder if Bill Maher's understanding would be affected if he spent an hour just chatting with JP Moreland.

Kyrie Eleison

By Blogger It's not about me., at October 8, 2008 8:27 PM  

Blogger Rob Bowman said:

Bill Hayes claims that the story of a demon identifying Jesus as the Holy One of God “was added to the Gospel of Mark after the leaders of the synagogues banned Christians from recruiting new members in their synagogues.” However, there is no evidence that the Gospel of Mark ever circulated without the account of the demoniac. Furthermore, most non-conservative scholars date Mark to the early AD 70s, whereas synagogues began banning Christians around 85-90.

Hayes’s description of Mark as “a Sales Pitch” that “doesn’t describe anything that actually happened” is false. Virtually all historians agree that the following events reported in Mark actually happened: John the Baptism’s ministry in the Jordan river; Jesus coming from the home town of Nazareth; John’s baptism of Jesus; John’s imprisonment; Jesus gathering followers from the common people of Galilee, including Simon (Peter), James, John, and others, and leading them on an itinerant ministry; Jesus being reputed during his itinerant ministry to be someone who was casting out demons and healing people; Jesus touching and ministering to people typically regarded as unclean or wicked (lepers, tax-gatherers, prostitutes, Roman officials, etc.); Jesus telling stories (parables) to illustrate his messages; Jesus being rejected by most of the people of his home town; Jesus having a mother named Mary and several brothers (James, Joseph, Judas, Simon) and sisters; John the Baptist being killed by order of Herod (Antipas); Jesus going to Jerusalem for the Passover; Jesus driving out the moneychangers; Jesus speaking about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple; Jesus being arrested, tried before Pilate, and executed by crucifixion; and Jesus’ death cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a considerable core of historical fact, whatever one thinks of various details of the Gospel narratives.

The “Son of Man” in Jesus’ teaching (and the evidence strongly supports this going back to Jesus himself) refers back to the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14. Bill’s comments on this issue and the “last days” shows a lack of understanding of Jewish thought. His claim that “any intelligent person” knows that “demons don’t exist” reflects a naïve anti-supernaturalism that is not in keeping with the facts, even in the modern world.

As an antidote to this sort of reasoning, I highly recommend The Jesus Legend, by Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd.

By Blogger Rob Bowman, at October 13, 2008 2:38 PM  

Blogger BillHays said:

Rob Bowman is confusing historical evidence with silly Christian stories.

Let me explain this in simple terms. The early church was an End of the World cult. They invented whatever stories they wanted, in order to fool people into thinking the world was about to end, and the dead were about to be resurrected.

There are no legitimate historians who think the Gospels describe actual events. Nothing in the Gospels are supported by independent histories. What Rob doesn't seem to grasp is, the people running an End of the World cult are willing to LIE and make up stuff to attract new members.

John the Baptist? Maybe there was such a person, but there's no reason to think Jesus ever met him. That's just embellishment.

Rob has a problem. The usual Christian problem. He's the victim of a scam. He can tell me all the things that the scam wants him to think, but he can't see the Truth.

Every book that written from the premise that the Gospels are credible gets it wrong. Every book and Christian scholar that Bowman can quote is wrong. Demons don't exist.

By Blogger BillHays, at October 14, 2008 12:18 PM  

Blogger Ranger said:

Bill Hays:
I originally had a lengthier post refuting your radical claims. After thinking about your comments more, I decided to instead focus on your fundamentalist mindset which I believe is hindering you from looking objectively at the evidence.

Claim 1: "There are no legitimate historians who think the Gospels describe actual events."

You seem to have a presupposition which rejects credible historians who do think that the Gospels describe actual events, no matter their caliber as a historian. There are plenty of credible ones though, and your claim is simply false. Edwin Yamauchi at Miami (OH) would be one, or how about Rodney Stark at Baylor? I'm not even sure if he's a Christian or not, but he's one of America's finest historians and agrees with much of the NT account of Christian origins. There are literally thousands of Ph.D.'s who studied history at the world's finest universities and now apply that knowledge to New Testament study. Scholars (to randomly list a few) like Larry Hurtado (Edin.), Simon Gathercole (Camb.), Martin Hengel (Tubingen), etc. are historians trained in the finest, most prestigious universities in the world, yet hold that most of the New Testament is true. In many cases, their historical inquiries have only strengthened their faith. You seem to not be looking at the issue objectively, but with a fundamentalist mindset which says even if the best historical analysis leads to the Gospels containing truth you will not accept it. The only reason to say that "no legitimate historians" claim the Gospels have truth would be either ignorance of scholarly New Testament works by legitimate historians, or a fundamentalist mindset that only accepts evidence and analysis that agrees with your own worldview. Neither are to be admired in academic study.

Claim 2: "Every book that written from the premise that the Gospels are credible gets it wrong. Every book and Christian scholar that Bowman can quote is wrong."

This simply proves your fundamentalism. I admire that you are honest enough to admit your presuppositions. Yet it seems that no matter the academic quality or rigorous historical analysis, you have already made up your mind. If you aren't willing to assess historical work with an open mind, and be willing to admit that you might be incorrect in your assessment, then you shouldn't even take up the task of searching.

You argue that the New Testament documents contain nothing verifiable outside of the New Testament, or that the early church was an end of the world cult that was willing to lie and die about it simply to gain members, or that the connection between John the Baptist and Jesus was simply embellishment, or that the New Testament is full of embellishments for that matter. I would say in response that most of your propositions are simply not true, and that even an introduction New Testament background textbook (I'd suggest DeSilva) show convincingly your error. Furthermore, your claim that the early church "invented whatever stories they wanted" simply betrays the last twenty or thirty years of scholarship in Christian origins, oral transmission, memory analysis and overall New Testament scholarship. I'd suggest you read Bailey, Dunn, Bryskorg, Bauckham, et. al. on the topic before making such a claim again, because even if you read your fundamentalist presuppositions into their work, you will at least learn something and be able to make a more nuanced claim that doesn't come across as an antiquated call back to the New Testament scholarship of the early 20th century;

By Blogger Ranger, at October 19, 2008 2:07 AM  

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