An interesting letter...from a recent believer

He wrote:

Dear Glenn,

Thanks for the response. I really appreciate the effort involved in answering my question (not to mention the response itself). Since originally posting the question I began to get a feeling - from a growing recognition of and respect for God's justice throughout history - that the answer to this specific question would approximate what you set forth. This has led me to some topics I would like to ask you about (no, not more TQ's; more like personal musings and requests for direction):

Being a recent believer, though a fertile bed for the truth for a long time, I have not read the Bible itself very much and am currently working on my first complete reading (with occasional side tracks). Thus, I don't have extensive background knowledge of the Bible. However, with a better-than-average knowledge of archaeology and ancient history, I feel that I, with access to good references, perhaps, could (should?) have done much of the research you did.

This brings me to my first question: Could you recommend some (few) good Bible reference(s), especially concordance-type resources (short of amassing a large library like you have), that would help me in researching similar questions in the future?

Recently my brother, a devout scientific skeptic/atheist/agnostic, gave me a copy of Bloodline of the Holy Grail (I don't remember the author) to get my response to the book's thesis: a variation on the Jesus-married-Mary-Magdalene-and-had-kids story. I find the book's arguments and methodology to be almost too easy to discredit and have had an entertaining and stimulating time (both intellectually and spiritually) researching it (BTW, your Tank has been a great resource in this endeavor). Since getting the book I haven't had occasion to relate my new-found belief (which I plan to include with my critique of the book) to my brother, but I have to make sure that my research is thorough and robust so I can't be accused of taking leave of my senses "the hour I first believed."

Anyway, one of the primary sources cited extensively by the author is Jesus the Man by Barbara Thiering. I have found (on the Internet) several oblique or very general references to this work that I can use, but I haven't found enough addressing her specific points to thoroughly refute it. Although I can discredit Bloodline pretty effectively on its own merits (or lack thereof), I would also like to be able to raise doubts about one of its foundational sources. Thus my second question: Do you know of any work or can you point me in a direction that may be useful toward this end (notice I'm not asking you to do the research this time)?

Now for some personal reflections of dubious value which I feel compelled to share with you:

I have always been an inquisitive intellectual type with particular interests in archaeology, ancient history, religion/mythology, and mysticism - hence my job as a software engineer ;). Over the years I read a lot ABOUT the Bible, mostly non-positive (i.e. not actively hostile), derived from a secular/historical or mystical perspectives, but I rarely read the Bible itself (except for Revelation). I was never an atheist (I always felt atheism to be dead and ultimately empty) or even an agnostic (I always felt sure that God IS real); I was essentially a syncretic (syncretistic?) theist grounded in basic ethics (a very convenient philosophy, BTW). I used to feel that "I know too much about history and religions to take the Bible at face value." (Boy, talk about hubris!)

It was with this mind-set and world view that I first began poking around on the Internet. I was amazed at the amount of thought (good, bad, ugly, horrific, sublime,...) floating around "out there." Once in a while I came across a truly well done and reasoned piece that addressed some of my areas of interest. One such piece exploded one of my long-held beliefs (I'm too embarrassed to say which). The episode got me to admit that my thinking and reasoning were not as critical and robust as I liked to imagine. I realized that much of my belief was based not so much on the quality of the research presented (as long as it LOOKED well-researched) as on how well it fit into or enhanced my world view (probably pretty typical scenario for people like me). If I had a background in formal philosophy I could probably make that last statement sound MUCH more profound ;).

With this new insight I began to "critically examine everything," including my basic beliefs about the Bible, and I began applying the model of my previous faulty thought processes to most things I read - and found most of them, including many Christian views, to exhibit the same weakness. (That isn't to say that I am a paragon of clear thinking now, but I'm a lot better than I was.) Through this process I began to gain much more respect for Christian claims and the reliability of the NT texts (a particular "sore spot" I used to have). BTW, some of this respect came through the "back door" via atheist and satanist apologetics sites.

At this point I had something of an epiphany that broke down the last barriers of my unbelief and forced me to take a stand. Soon after this, however, the old intellect began nagging at me and implying that I had had an emotional reaction and I shouldn't take it too seriously. I began REALLY reading the Bible for the first time, and I prayed for support (almost daring God to make good on His claims); that is when I found my way to this and other similar sites. In addition to girding up and cementing my belief in Christ these sites have helped keep me from becoming intellectually lazy in my new beliefs. It is comforting to know that an intellectual Christian is not an oxymoron. Ironically, one of my greatest regrets is that I never discussed my doubts and feelings with my earthly father who was one of the most intellectual yet TRULY Christian people I have ever known.

So that is where I stand today at 3X years old, growing in my faith every day yet still a babe! Through the exercise of critiquing Bloodline of the Holy Grail I have found that I enjoy this type of apologetics activity, but I also realize that I am not yet ready to take on the Goliaths of unbelief. I have been praying that God will show me how I am to be used (in His time), that I have the discernment to recognize His call and the strength to follow it.

Sorry to impose this long response (almost as long as some of yours) on you; feel free to use any of it in your Tank if you see fit.

Yours in Christ,


I replied...

Now to some of your other questions---

  1. On the Barbara Thiering references: the two starting points are (in my abbreviation list): WWJ and JAAC.

  2. On a starter mini-library: this is a much more difficult issue, since you asked the question about a launch-pad for doing research...that requires actually a different set of books than the real 'content' ones to explain the content...and so much depends on the ARENA of research (OT, NT, history, etc.)

  3. The starter content (with SOME pointers elsewhere) would consist of: (biblical issues ONLY--not science, consciousness, philosophy, etc.): ABH, AILCC, EBC, PCE, POTW, RKH, BBC, BLOM, BNTH, CMM, GNTI, JNTC, JUF, NWNTI
Hope this helps...and doesn't over-answer the question...


The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)