Gary Lenaire's Infidel Manifesto: A Critique

"He who puts the Lord on trial puts himself on the stand."

- Gary Lenaire, former Christian musician, in "Theodicy on Trial"

Gary Lenaire calls his book, An Infidel Manifesto, an "eye opener" but it is only that to those to whom the grace of serious education has not been granted. Here are examples of errors found in the book, which we present in summary form as an "answer key".

Lenaire says his purpose was not to change or confirm your beliefs?" [14] and yet he had opened a web domain specifically to promote his book (it is defunct as of June 2009); has a MySpace page for it; and spent a good deal of money to get it printed. Did he invest this much time and money to NOT change minds?

Lenaire says there is absolutely no historical evidence that the Jewish people were ever enslaved by the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt" [14] -- see here. Lenaire's likely source is Tim Callahan's Secret Origins of the Bible, which is far from reliable.

Lenaire says the Virgin Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the Bible" [14] though what this is supposed to prove, we aren't told.

Lenaire says 'Biblical commentaries are often theological distortions using contemporary language to paint a picture that was not originally meant.' Unfortunately he seems to think that Arthur Pink is at the forefront of evangelical scholarship. For someone who claims to respect the truth and be big on scrutiny and to verify what [you] have written, and for someone who claims to want to be fair and respectful, he certainly seems to have done very little to show it.

The only thing that comes close in his source listing [228-230] to a serious work is a single note to Burton Mack, whose ideas are considered fringe. He uses Callahan far more than any other source (he calls Callahan a "Bible scholar," a title he does not deserve), and it doesn't get better from there: Robert Ingersoll, John Remsberg -- whose name he spells "Remsfield" for some reason -- Thomas Paine, Dan Barker, and Sam Harris.

Lenaire claims that language is a limited form of communication [15], yet this didn't seem to stop him from publishing his book.

He says [22]: From 586 C.E. to around 400 B.C. there was a lot of action taken by the Jews to redact, interpret, edit, and consolidate their holy books. But he provides no textual or other evidence for this conclusion.

He cites Ingersoll as a source for the names of demons among the Jews, unaware that Ingersoll's source says that those names were created very late, hundreds of years after the time of Jesus, not at the time of the Babylonian exile as his text implies.

Lenaire offers the usual about OT creation and flood stories being ripped off; see this and this.

Also the usual about Exodus logistics.

Lenaire's most oft-repeated error is to claim more importance for the Council of Nicaea than it had. He claims it published the New Testament Bible in 324 C.E. This is taken directly from Paine and is badly wrong. Nicaea was all about the nature of Christ: whether he was an eternal being or a created one. The canon was NOT dealt with at all at Nicaea. That is nonsense.

Usual end-times arguments that don't bother me as a preterist.

Usual incorrect definition of faith.

Lenaire offers ideas about the Bible speaking of a "line of Seth" and a "line of Cain." This teaching probably came from Arnold Murray, a seriously wayward Christian teacher, and may well speak of how uncritical Lenaire was as a Christian.

The usual on the problem of evil, but with much less depth.

We're not going to deny that Luther and Calvin had flaws [36f], including the serious flaw of anti-Semitism, but we can find anti-Semitism just as rampant in a Skeptic like Stalin. So what religion will Mr. Lenaire pick up next, now that that well has been tainted?

Lenaire gives notice of the 'Dark Ages' [41] saying that Luther and Calvin's ideas 'thrived on the religious oppression and cruelty of the Dark Ages.' I'm not sure how this could be so given that the so-called 'Dark Ages' ran from 420-1100 AD and Luther and Calvin lived in the 1400s and 1500s. We'd also like to quote a more reliable source about the 'Dark Ages':

First off, we should note that modern scholars no longer talk about the Dark Ages because they were not very dark. Instead they are called the early middle ages as this is less judgemental. In fact, the reason learning collapsed outside the church is that the brutal military despotism of the Roman Empire, that could support a tiny cultured elite by exploiting the vast proportion of the population was destroyed by invasions of Germanic people like the Angles, Saxons, Franks, Vandals and Goths. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for leisure is 'studios' and the Roman word for 'school' means 'games'. For Greeks and Romans, learning was for the leisured upper classes and once they were overthrown, learning disappeared except in the church which preserved it. For this we should all be extremely grateful.

The usual on original sin.

Lenaire suggests that the Apocalypse of Peter was probably "rejected from the final New Testament canon" [44] because it taught universalism. That document never even was a candidate for the canon at all (nor was it "widely accepted" [90] as he later claims), because it was written around 125-50 AD, and so obviously could not have been by Peter.

The usual argument by outrage -- Elisha and the bears; Jepthah's daughter, the Amalekites; slavery ; hell -- but no explanation or defense, much less any interaction with scholarship on the issues.

Lenaire's quick and dirty argument against theism: "...because there is no way of actually verifying that a personal God does exist, there are immediate grounds for dismissing any book claiming divine authority." [70]

I suppose I'll just have to discard everything I have by Swinburne and Plantinga, then. Mr. Lenaire's single sentence has convinced me.

On Biblical books: "There is little evidence...that many of the authors' names are accurate since the books were written long after the actual events are said to have occurred...." [71]

So when will Mr. Lenaire come up with some defense against this? Or this? Or this?

Lenaire says not to trust the Bible "because of its many copies, fusions, edits and alterations," [72] of which, again, he seems not to have any specifics. He claims that nobody knows what the originals said [73] but I don't see any refutation of textual criticism.

Lenaire accepts Mack's version of the Q hypothesis. Apparently it never occurred to him to 'inquire rationally' about the validity of Mack's premisses, and of Q itself.

Lenaire goes to great lengths to assist Mack: "Because hundreds of books were excluded (rejected) from the Bible, the Q manuscripts could have been destroyed or lost."

How very convenient for Lenaire. How very convenient also for Mack that all evidence of these alleged "communities" left behind not a trace of evidence, literary or archaeological or any sort whatsoever. But Lenaire gives the Q hypothesis breaks he no longer allows for the Bible. No evidence? Well, that's because it was all destroyed, of course.

Lenaire says he used to accept circular reasoning a lot, and he still does: This acceptance of the "cow eating grass" tale of Q is just an example of one he now accepts as a Skeptic. He claims that evidence from all sides, like the heretics, should be heard; but it never occurs to him that the heretical evidence was rejected precisely because it was worthless.

Copycat claims offered for Adonis, Dionysus, Osiris and Attis who all "died and allegedly rose to life before the time of Jesus."

Lenaire commits the classic confusion between manuscript evidence and historical evidence when he says:

Some Christians claim that Jesus is the most authenticated person of antiquity. That is simply not accurate. Many Christian writers have rightly noted that the earliest writtern attestation of Jesus dates from within 400 years of the claimed crucifixion; much earlier than Aristotle's manuscripts...or Caesar's Gallic Wars. This is all true. However, what fundamentalists don't usually mention is that there are other objects of attestation found in archaeology. [79]

Lenaire does a subpar treatment of Josephus; among his statements:

" 'Roman records give us no verified indication of an arrest or crucifixion of Jesus.' [80] Aside from that we have no Roman records of the arrest or crucifixion of ANY Roman prisoner whatsoever, this ignores the testimony of Tacitus and Lucian, even if we merely dismiss the Gospels as full of mistakes as Lenaire does in summary.

Lenaire uses the canards that Josephus spends 'whole pages' on 'simple robber and trivial leaders,' but he doesn't give a single example, much less explain the problem. Other teachers like Banus and John the Baptist are given the same or less space than Jesus. [80]

Lenaire quotes badly outdated authorities like Lardner [1684-1768] and Giles [1800s] while making no use of modern authorities like Feldman who have answered the arguments presented by the likes of Lardner.

Lenaire intimates that the testimony of Tacitus and Pliny about Jesus are forged: 'Other historians such as Pliny the Younger and Tacitus were subject to the same kind of criticism. Christian scholars and teachers could easily see the forgeries and interruptions in the text flow of these historians.' [83]

Lenaire is far behind the times; Greco-Roman scholars do not hold to such views of the texts of Tacitus and Pliny at all.

He offers the usual argument about silence concerning such matters as Matthew's saints.

He offers the usual recital: 'War and violence has marked Christianity throughout history. Violence and biblical religions go hand in hand.' [84] Strange then that over 90% of all wars in history have no discernible religious cause. And what about the violence and war that has marked atheistic regimes?

Aside from repeating his same errors about Nicaea, Mr. Lenaire makes issue of Constantine being a "family murderer" [85] for killing his wife and son. What he forgets to tell you is that his wife was executed for treason and the son was executed because the wife caused it to happen. 'At the same time Constantine created as Caesars CRISPUS (317-324), his son by his first wife Minervina, and CONSTANTINE II (317--337), his three year old son by his second wife Fausta. Fausta was so jealous of her step-son Crispus that she fabricated a plot in the name of the unsuspecting Caesar who was arrested and executed. When the guilt of Fausta was soon afterwards unveiled, the furious Constantine had his wife executed by being thrown into boiling water.'

He offers the 'Hitler was a Christian' [86] argument, which even sources with no stake in the matter do not uphold as true.

He spells the name of King Solomon with an A. [87]

He expands greatly on his error of claiming Nicaea decided the canon, revealing Paine as his source [88] while ironically telling his readers to "look at this topic in a deeper manner." [89] Presumably, the same way he did when he accepted Paine's analysis.

He repeats his prior points about books not included in the canon, defending none of them save the aforementioned bit about the Apocalypse of Peter and that certain ones were "read and loved buy thousands of Christians" [89] -- though how this means they deserved canonical status is not explained; perhaps Lenaire thinks the Left Behind series should be canonized too.

The biggest error is his defense of the Gospel of Thomas: '...though omitted from the Bible, [Thomas] was later included in the Quran alongside the noted virgin birth of Jesus.' [89] Really?

Lenaire claims that the church father Jerome questioned the authenticity of Daniel and dated it around 200 BC. [98-9] I think he is confused; Jerome actually defended against that claim, as made by the pagan writer Porphyry.

As a Christian, Lenaire tried to resolve issues surrounding the capture of Jerusalem [102] with some unusual eisegesis -- the simple answer never occured to him that simply because you capture a city's king in battle does not mean you also capture the city. The practical difficulty of siege warfare is a far better answer for why it was so hard for Israel to capture and keep Jerusalem.

Other issues raised:

JEDP theory: general, including review of Friedman; Numbers 12:3 and other anachronisms including the Philistines and Ur

Two creation accounts

Cain's wife -- I am not sure why Mr. Lenaire thinks it requires 'mental acrobatics' [104] to argue that Adam and Eve would also have female children, or why he thinks later Jewish laws against incest have any bearing on this much earlier recorded time.

Ark beasts

David's census

2 Kings 8:26 and 24:8, see entry

Ps. 145:9

Prov. 26:4-5

Michal -- It speaks for itself that Mr. Lenaire accuses some Bible versions of hiding this problem; clearly he is without knowledge of the text-critical data that supports the reading, and speaks of scholars 'fixing' the problem of Jehoiachin's age [109] and of the change being a convenience.

Rabbits and cud

sins of the fathers

2 Sam. 24:13, see entry.

The geneaologies of Jesus; plus here

birth narratives

location of first sermon

good deeds

Jesus' return

death of Judas

Lenaire pits Matt. 27:14 against John 18:33-6. Apparently he doesn't see different stages of the trial of Jesus. He was silent when accused by his accusers of a crime, but not when asked other types of question by Pilate that were not accusations.

hour of crucifixion

cross carrying plus Matt. 27:9-10

last words of Jesus - Mr. Lenaire also needs this for things like the number of mockers and who was at the tomb. and the resurrection accounts.

the Twelve

1 Cor. judging

Paul's conversion, plus what he said about Jesus' resurrection nature

1 Cor. 10:8 (see entry)

seeing God

God tempting

Jesus vs Elijah Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. [118] He asks, which is it, remember or forget?

Isn't it rather obvious that they are being told not to forget what they are to do to Amalek in the future?

The usual on prophecy we have all seen refuted before.

The usual use of 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 passages as 'anti-woman' when those have been answered time and time again.

The Numbers 31 issue. See this.

A familiar on 1 Corinthians. [174] Lenaire refers to 'many redactors and editors' who wrote 1 Corinthians but of course has no textual evidence. [175]

Usual on the Spanish Inquistion and the Crusades

I think these samples will suffice to show that Lenaire is not a serious opponent of Christianity.