Mr. Jackson's duty in this debate is to prove that the Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant word of Jehovah God. I remind the readers of this, because they could easily forget it in the maze of tangents that he has been leading them through. He keeps raising the issue of my agnosticism as if it were somehow the focal point of the debate, but my personal philosophical beliefs have nothing at all to do with whether the Bible is the inspired word of God. The Bible existed long before I did, and whatever it is, whether a book truly inspired of God or just another religious hoax, it is what it is separate and apart from anything having to do with my own individual outlook on life. If I were a Moslem, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Zoroastrian, that would not in any way alter facts about the Bible's origin, so, in the same way, I can be an atheist or an agnostic without either position affecting any facts about how the Bible came to be. I could even be a liar, a thief, a murderer, and, in general, the most despicable specimen of humanity ever to walk the earth, and none of this would in any way change facts related to the origin of the Bible. My personal character, in other words, has nothing to do with either the truth or the falsity of Mr. Jackson's proposition. It must stand or fall upon its own merits or lack of the same.
Why then does Mr. Jackson keep making an issue of my agnosticism? I suspect the answer can be found in an anecdote that I heard while in ministerial training at Freed-Hardeman College. To emphasize the need to provide scriptural support for all doctrinal statements in a sermon, a Bible instructor told his class the tale of a preacher who was preparing an outline for a sermon on a popular but unbiblical hobby. Having reached a place in the outline where he could find no scriptures to use, the preacher thought for a moment and then wrote, "Point is weak here; pound the pulpit."
This is what Mr. Jackson has been doing. With no evidence to support his proposition he has, in a figurative sense, been "pounding the pulpit" with frequent innuendoes and accusations about my character. So far, he has managed to associate me with Madalyn O'Hair and to weave reminders of my agnostic beliefs into practically every paragraph of his first two affirmative presentations. These are obvious attempts at character assassination that do nothing to prove the truth of his proposition. It is a fallacious approach to argumentation that logicians even have a name for, so while Mr. Jackson is reading that textbook in elementary logic to find out what begging the question is (as I suggested in my first rebuttal), he might also take the time to see what it says about argumentum ad hominem. This fallacy occurs when a debater, rather than dealing directly with the issues at stake in the discussion, resorts to name calling and personal attacks on the character of his opponent. If Mr. Jackson chooses to continue this tactic, I will have to insist that he explain to our readers exactly what my personal character has to do with whether the Bible is the inspired word of God.
Mr. Jackson is free to conduct his side of the debate as he sees fit, but legitimate argumentation is the only approach that will prove his proposition. Properly developed arguments may contain several elements, but they absolutely must contain at least two: claims and evidence. Mr. Jackson is certainly skilled at making claims, but he has shown no talent at all in presenting evidence to support his claims. If the Bible is as obviously inspired of God as he would have us believe, one would think that he could easily produce some kind of compelling evidence that would settle the matter, but so far he hasn't done that. Could it be that he hasn't because he can't?
An analysis of Mr. Jackson's contributions to the debate will show that he is also good at knocking down straw men. This is an evasive tactic that occurs when a debater tries to leave the impression that he is answering an argument when in reality he is dodging it by attacking something deceptively made to look like the argument. In my first rebuttal, I said that Mr. Jackson has the same obligation toward the Bible that believers in Islam, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism have toward their "inspired" writings. "He must show us why we should take his claim for the Bible any more seriously," I said, "than similar claims of inspiration that are made for the many other allegedly sacred books." Mr. Jackson has responded to this with a ridiculous challenge for me to prove "by the internal evidences that these other volumes are inspired."
This is a flagrant attack on a straw man. I referred to the claims of inspiration that have been made for the Koran, the Avesta, and the Vedas for analogical purposes only and certainly not because I believe these books were actually inspired of God. If an Islamic missionary came to my house claiming that the Koran was Allah's inspired word, I would insist on seeing evidence to prove the claim before I would even consider believing it. Any reasonable person would. If I suggested to this hypothetical Islamic missionary that he was making the same claim for his book that Zoroastrians make for the Avesta, would I have to show "by the internal evidences" that the Avesta was inspired of God before I could legitimately present the analogy? Certainly not, and I'm sure even Mr. Jackson can see that I wouldn't. By the same token, I have the right to insist that he present evidence to prove his claim that the Bible is inspired of God, and in making that demand I can analogize his claim with those of Islamics, Zoroastrians, and Hindus without being obligated to defend their "inspired" writings. So I renew my challenge for Mr. Jackson to explain to us just why the readers of this debate should take his claim for the Bible any more seriously than the claims of inspiration that other world religions make for their sacred books.
Having received a letter from me in which I said that archaeology offers strong evidence against the Bible inerrancy doctrine, Mr. Jackson wondered why I didn't zap him with the evidence and silence him. I didn't for a simple reason. The short format that he wanted for our manuscripts left me no space for this information. By the time I had made a reasonable attempt to respond to the few semblances of argument I could find in his first defense, I had no room left to rebut his unsupported claim that "archaeologists have yet to find a single fact in contradiction to what the Bible has said." If he will present some kind of proof for this claim, I will gladly zap him with my evidence, but until he does offer supporting evidence, he doesn't have an argument. He has only a claim.
He accused me in bold letters--He was silent!--of ignoring his "argument" based on the antiquity of the Bible. This made me wonder if he even read my rebuttal, because I did address this issue on the last page. I pointed out that he failed to explain why the antiquity of the Bible would necessarily prove anything about its origin. I then proceeded to show that if antiquity alone proved divine inspiration, he would have to believe that the sacred writings of the Sumerians, Hindus, and Zoroastrians were also divinely inspired, because they are just as old and in some cases even older than many books in the Bible. "If he will just explain why he thinks the Bible's antiquity proves its inspiration," I concluded, "I will be happy to examine his argument and write a response to it." He can hardly call this responding to his argument with silence.
The point I am making is that I cannot rebut arguments until Mr. Jackson gives me arguments to rebut. He accused me of saying nothing about his claim that prophecy fulfillment proves the inspiration of the Bible, but the charge simply isn't true. On the final page of my rebuttal, I mentioned his reference to prophecy fulfillment to point out that the statement was just another unsupported claim; hence, it wasn't an argument, only a claim. I assured him that "when he delineates a specific example... of prophetic fulfillment... in the Bible that suggests divine intervention in its writing, I will gladly respond to the argument." That promise still stands.
The closest Mr. Jackson has come to advancing an argument is his claim that the Bible abounds with examples of "foreknowledge" demonstrated by writers who apparently understood scientific facts that were not discovered until long after their time. Here he at least attempted to develop an argument by citing several scriptures that he sees as supporting evidence for his claim. He made no effort, however, to prove that these scriptures actually mean what he interprets them to mean. Isaiah 40:22, for example, refers to God sitting above "the circle of the earth," and Mr. Jackson presented this as proof that Isaiah knew the earth was round in a time when people thought it was flat.
There are several problems that Jackson must resolve in order to legitimize this argument. For one thing, he must prove that in referring to "the circle of the earth," Isaiah was speaking literally. Isaiah also spoke of "the four corners of the earth" (11:12), but if I should cite this passage as evidence of a scientifically inaccurate statement made by a Bible writer who thought the earth was square, I'm sure Mr. Jackson would immediately demand proof that literal meaning had been intended in the statement. I make the same demand of him relative to Isaiah's reference to "the circle of the earth." Then, even if he could determine that the word circle was intended literally in this passage, Mr. Jackson would have to prove that it meant circle in the sense of sphere. Plates and disks are circular in shape as well as spheres, and, as practically any general encyclopedia will confirm, some ancient cultures during and prior to Isaiah's time believed that the earth was a flat disk. To give his argument credibility, then, Jackson must prove that Isaiah was referring to a spherical rather than a discoid circle. I seriously doubt that he can do that, but until he does, he really has no argument.
The most telling weakness in this argument, however, is the fact that the shape of the earth was known in Isaiah's time. In discussing the spherical era of the earth's history, the Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 6, 1978, pp. 1-3) explains that ancient astronomers determined that the earth was round by observing its circular shadow move across the moon during lunar eclipses. The Egyptians and Greeks as far back as 2550 B.C. (more than a thousand years before Moses) knew not only the earth's spherical shape but also its approximate size. The Grecian philosopher Pythagoras, who was born in 532 B.C., wrote a convincing defense of the spherical theory that he based on observations of the shape of the sun and moon. If this information was generally known by educated Greeks and Egyptians before and during biblical times, how can Mr. Jackson be so sure that Isaiah couldn't have known it too? Perhaps he will tell us. If space permitted, I would discuss the other claims of "scientific foreknowledge" that Mr. Jackson has made, but they all exhibit the same weakness as the one just examined. None of them was supported with evidence. Mr. Jackson assumes and then expects us to assume too. He accuses me of not liking the word how but he is wrong. I love the word. Now if he will just explain how he knows that "the seed of woman" or "the paths of the sea" mean what he seems to think they mean, I will respond to his argument. For the sake of the debate, let's hope he accepts my challenge.
Go to Jackson's Third Defense.