A few months back we introduced what was referred to as the Masoretic-Greek Hypothesis (MGH), the purpose of which was,
..both to avoid the pitfalls of doctrinal quibbling and to cover all the ground DD has missed, [and] finally prove my case that DD's Evidence Against Christianity relates only peripherally to Christianity.
M represents the work of the Masoretes, Jewish scribes and scripture scholars living roughly 3,000 years ago in what today would be Jerusalem, Tiberius or even what we would consider modern-day Iraq (then Babylon, Babylonia). M represents the Hebrew rendition of the Tanakh, and many if not most Protestant and Catholic Bibles sample from M, as does the Septuagint (39 books of the OT + select Apocrypha) from which the New Testament writers sampled. G is the New Testament derived as described.
This way, we arguably start as close to the actual events and oral traditions as possible, then apply our collective powers of reason to ascertain the set of reasonably permissible predictions – thus hopefully avoiding doctrinal pitfalls like DD intended – but with the added bonus of a positive hypothesis we can have the courage to call Christianity.
For newer readers who might not have the full context, many of us were involved in an ongoing discussion at Deacon Duncan's blog, Evangelical Realism. This MGH of mine has a twofold purpose. The first is obviously to function as an adequate response to DD's so-called Evidence Against Christianity, a post-series based on the idea of crafting hypotheses entailing predictions of what the world might look like if either the "Gospel Hypothesis" or the "Myth Hypothesis" were true. I also intend the MGH to stand on its own as a structured set of systematic proofs for theism in general, some version of biblical Christianity in particular. This does not entail the idea that "all other religions are false," because the situation is quite simply more complex than that. Note that we're going to begin by throwing out all presumptions, theologies, dogmas, etc., starting (hopefully) from a shared set of premises eventually building to a crescendo.
So, where do we go from here?
First, I'd like to reiterate what I felt was the central difficulty preventing resolution of the discussion at DD's: his so-called Gospel Hypothesis included just enough baseline doctrine give the appearance that he'd made his case, but not enough baseline doctrine that his Myth Hypothesis constituted a reasonable basis for rejecting the truth claims of Christianity. IOW, it was one big, elaborate strawman argument, in which DD encouraged strong disagreement before the outset of the dialog by arbitrarily setting the parameters of the discussion.
To contrast, I'd like to offer a slightly rewritten version of two paragraphs from Strategy, where we discussed my proposed solution to this problem:
First, we (meaning all of us active in this discussion) need to converge on our baseline set of MGH statements —notice, not all MGH statements — for example, at least not from the outset, let's not argue over hygienic admonitions regarding how to wash oneself after touching dead birds, how old the Earth is, how tall the Nephilim were, where Enoch went or what our particular stance on penal atonement theology might be. Instead, let's start by agreeing on the most bare-bones, rudimentary statements that the least amount of reasonable believers are likely to deny. In this manner — beginning and proceeding by agreement — we allow ourselves the ability to incrementally construct a positive hypothesis that suits everyone in this discussion.
For example, as the most basic starting point, we could say the MGH's foundational premise is that defined simply as the Creator of all things (for now, at least), God exists and purposely created the world, the current universe and human life. Provided we begin from the premise that what the Hebrews and Greeks recorded were intended as accounts of real events, we're all likely to agree the MGH logically requires at least that much, correct? Whether it happened in a week or billions of years is an interesting discussion I'm always willing to have, but it's a useless question at this point in the discussion.
IOW, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or some sub-variant of, your average monotheist is near-guaranteed to accept the beginning premise that "God (or YHWH or Allah) exists and created the world and human life for some purpose" as a baseline statement, right? I think we can all say the answer is yes, and that proves it is in fact possible to begin and proceed by agreement.
So, proceeding along these lines, I'd like to introduce the next logically required premise of the MGH. It is perhaps the second most foundational claim of the monotheist religions, not to mention many others from Eastern mysticism to modern Aquarianism: the idea that there are more levels of existence than just this physical plane — IOW the dreaded word — that something akin to a supernatural realm exists.
Very plainly one can see that without this "other world," the foundational claims that flow from the monotheist religions all seem to unravel from the core and reduce to metaphor at best. If standard materialism is correct, then there are no spiritual beings at all. Life and consciousness reduce to an arbitrary dance of molecular activity follow by permanent atomic dispersal. Thoughts, emotions and feelings are the mere results of brain chemistry, there is no free will, and all our decisions become akin to something like peculiarly well-timed forethoughts. This, in essence, are the core principles of what I refer to as cerebro-centric hypothesis (CCH) of consciousness, in which the brain is given ultimate superiority as a causal explanation.