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Books aim to solve famous Atheist Easter Challenge

March 28, 2009

Weekend National Religion News Focus:

Idaho Pastor Claims Successful Answer to Famous Atheist’s Easter Challenge. MEDIA ADVISORY, Mar. 24 /Christian Newswire/ —   Dan Barker was once a preacher and writer of popular Christian songs, but in 1984 he told friends he did not believe in God any longer and walked away from ministry. He is now co-president of the largest atheist group in the U.S., the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF, Inc.) in Madison, Wisconsin.

The group has filed numerous legal suits trying to do such things as removing monuments of the Ten Commandments from city parks and “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. When it comes to Easter, for sixteen years Dan Barker has challenged Christians concerning the reliability of the story from the Bible. His “Easter Challenge” is found in his 1992 book “Losing Faith in Faith.” Using the words of the Bible, Barker asks Christians to begin at Easter and make a list of the events described in all the various stories of who did what, when, and where from the time of the resurrection up to the time of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. His only condition is that not one detail from the Bible be omitted. Barker sees the accounts as contradictory in numerous places, casting a shadow of certain doubt on the truthfulness of the Easter story. According to Barker, few Christians have responded to his Challenge, and none have succeeded.

Now, Stephen Kingsley, a small town pastor in Craigmont, Idaho (population 550), is claiming to have produced a unique and successful answer to Barker’s Challenge. “From the pens of five first century writers, God gave the story of his most important miracle to the world in the form of a literary puzzle,” Kingsley says. “Barker’s Challenge is fairly stated concerning a crucial problem, a complex one; the solution turns out to be quite simple.”

Christian scholars have tried to solve the problem, but most admit the classic attempts seem strained. Some have said the accounts are impossible to reconcile. Kingsley’s construction begins in a different place. “You have to set aside what you think you know and pay attention to exactly what the Bible says. A convincing case can be made that the resurrection happened much earlier Easter morning than we have thought. From that vantage point everything easily falls into place and makes sense. As a bonus, once you have the chronology right, Mary Magdalene’s dramatic story is finally understood. Her story has never been told in this way.”

Kingsley says he sent his solution to Dan Barker over a year ago and that he has yet to offer a rebuttal or his congratulations. “For years Dan Barker and antagonists have enjoyed challenging Christians on this and chiding us for failing to respond. He made the rules and presented a logical challenge. I gave him exactly what he asked for and now I’m challenging him to prove logical fault with it or offer his congratulations.”

How solid is Kingsley’s answer? He makes his case in a book titled, “The Easter Answer.” He put up a “Cast Your Vote” page on his website at where readers of the book can comment on its success or failure. To date, Kingsley is batting 100 percent.

“The message of this season is ‘He is Risen!’ You can not provide proof the resurrection happened, it’s a matter of faith,” says the pastor, “but given the vast potential for contradiction across the detailed accounts, discovering agreement among the writers gives our Easter message of hope and new life a vital boost of credibility; and just at a time when we need it most.”

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