Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 4

Is Jesus YHWH? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

What dose it mean to say Jesus is included in the divine identity?

If we consider relative identity (‘a is the same F as b’),45 it doesn’t seem that this framework will give us
an understanding for inclusive identity. Logically, two are one (the same) relative to their satisfying a
categorical predicate (‘the same F’; Fido and Pooch are the same breed’). Does Paul think that Jesus is the
same God as Yahweh? One doubt would be that he distinguishes them in terms of ‘God the Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ’. However, putting this doubt aside, if Paul believed that they were the same God,
this doesn’t necessarily imply that he is ‘including’ Jesus in the divine identity of Yahweh/God of Israel

Yet Perry never seems to define what is meant by this. Do we mean they are the same God? If you mean they are the same person, then no. I am not surprised that Jesus is differentiated from the Father. If anything, this convinces me. They needed two different ways to speak of them to avoid confusion.

The language of the divine nature deals with this. There are two persons at least that share the divine nature. Again, what that is needs to be fleshed out for us, but for the ancient audience in a high-context society familiar with Jewish thought, that would have been much better understood.

If we think of shared identity or group identity, these are examples of ‘inclusive’ identity. We might say
‘a is a member of the same class as b’. There are many gods and many lords and these would be classes in
which we might place the God of Israel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Putting it in this way, doesn’t
obviously include Jesus in the class of many gods, but rather the class of many lords. In fact, 1 Cor 8:6
doesn’t lend itself to an inclusivity thesis, since Paul would seem to affirm that the “tous” class of gods
has only one member and likewise the “tous” class of lords. He assigns deity to the Father and lordship
to Jesus

IF Perry goes with this, then he would have to deny that the Father is Lord since the Father is not in the class of Lords but Jesus is. If Jesus not being in the category of gods means He cannot have the divine nature, then the Father not being included in the category of lords means He cannot have the nature of Lord. Is there any Jew that would remotely think that possible?

It is one thing to claim that Paul includes Jesus within the divine identity of the God of Israel; it is another
thing to show this worked out in his writing. We have noted the declarative quality of Christological
Monotheism. For example, we might ask whether (for Paul) it was God the Father that included Jesus
within his identity. If this were the case, and suppose that he did so through the bestowal of his Spirit
upon Jesus, does this have any implication as regards intrinsic deity in respect of Jesus? If Jesus is
included within the divine identity of the God of Israel, is the identity nevertheless still retained by the
God of Israel as his identity in such an inclusion?

Perry is responding more to adoptionism in this case than to Trinitarianism. First off, there is nothing that says Paul has to work this all out in his writing. In his society, his listeners would be expected to work that out and know the background knowledge to do that. Perry wants an ancient writing to read like a modern one.

Next time, we will look at some verses that seem to identify Jesus with YHWH in the New Testament.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 3

What about the Shema? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Perry begins this section with this:

J. W. Adey comments, “The ‘one God’ of Biblical revelation is a single ‘person’ God, the Father only,
unambiguously unitarian or monotheistic…” The Shema would seem to be a clear expression of that
monotheism. The singleness of God is not about his (compound) unity, but about there being a sole
God.

We all agree that the Shema refers to one God, but thus far, that does not equal one person in the one God. I have long said that the biggest mistake Arians make is the assumption of unipersonalism. Every Trinitarian agrees that there is one God.

Christological Monotheism holds that Jesus is included within the divine identity of the God of Israel. As
a second move it affirms a continual adherence on the part of Paul to Jewish Monotheism. The two
propositions introduce a confusion into the definition of monotheism between what is one and unity.
Jewish (as well as scriptural) Monotheism is not about unity but about there being a single God. The
compound unity of the Father and the Son is not informative for Paul’s use of the Shema

Perry can say all he wants that this introduces a confusion, but what is meant? If he means hard to understand, that applies to most everything about God. God is omniscient and people have free-will. God is eternal and acts in time. Now if he could show something was a contradiction, that would be a problem, but thus far, he hasn’t. If his point is that there is a sole God, then he is not arguing against Christological monothiesm. We hold to that.

This observation introduces a requirement for Christological Monotheism: it needs to show that
‘inclusion within the divine identity’ is actually relevant to a characterization of ‘monotheism’. The contrary
challenge is that we can characterize Jewish Monotheism, Scriptural Monotheism and Pauline
Monotheism, referring to the singleness of God, as well as showing that Jesus is included within the
divine identity of the God of Israel but without this being a matter of monotheism and instead being a
matter of cosmology. The drive to have ‘inclusive identity’ part of a definition of monotheism seems
anachronistic and based in the needs of Christian theology rather than an accurate description of NT
history.

Even if Perry was right about motives, so what? The data is what matters. Besides that, the assumption is that the later Fathers got a Christology in mind and then went back and plugged that into the New Testament. Maybe, just maybe, they read it out of the New Testament?

If we want to be faithful to the etymology ‘mono/theism’ (mo,noj/qeo,j), then we should include the
following Pauline ‘mono’ texts ‘only God’ (1 Tim 1:17; cf. Jude v. 25) and ‘only Sovereign…who only has
immortality’ (1 Tim 6:15-16). These texts, coupled with the distinction between the Son and the invisible
God in Colossians, gives us a consistent monotheistic pattern in Paul’s thought that doesn’t include the
Son.

Yet a Christological monotheist can say the Son is included in the divine identity and so when we speak of the only God, then that is what is going on. Does Perry do the same though when we get to Jude 4 and Jesus is our only Lord? Based on what is said here, if Perry interprets that the same way, then the Father cannot be our Lord.

We should ask whether it is possible for the Shema to be rewritten or rearranged so as to include Jesus Christ
within the divine identity of the God of Israel. The question here is whether the semantics of ‘one’ (dxa,
́eHäd) in the Shema allow this possibility. Our argument is that they do not, because ‘one’ is about
singleness and not unity whereas ‘inclusion within the divine identity’ is about unity, i.e. requires a sense
corresponding to ‘unity’ in the Shema.

Okay. Let’s see then.

A quotation of the Shema in Zech 14:9 assists this analysis.
And Yahweh shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be Yahweh one, and his name
one. Zech 14:9 (KJV revised)
Adey comments on this text, “the way
́HD qualifies Yahweh and ‘Yahweh’ in Zech 14:9, classifying but not
(it is said) identifying, connects and complies syntactically and semantically with reading
́HD as a numeral
‘one’ in the Shema.”35 And a further quotation,
Have we not all one father? Hath not one God ( ́ē
l) created us? (Mal 2:10 KJV)
Adey’s comment on this text is, “The singularity of ‘God’ is further emphasized by the grammatically
singular form ́ēl”.36 The singleness of Yahweh is also seen in the complementary statements that God is
alone God or that Yahweh is alone Yahweh (2 Kgs 19:15, 19; Neh 9:6; Ps 83:18).

And the problem is? I don’t see it. We all affirm that there is one God. What is the problem?

Where ́eHäd might be used for ‘oneness’ or ‘unity’, then there is a two that remains two, as for example in
the case of “the two shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Adey observes,
“…whilst ‘one’ in the appropriate context may be transposed into a metaphoric sense as ‘unity’
(‘oneness’), dismantling ‘one’ as ‘unity’ does not end up with ‘one’ (thing). ‘Unity’ requires at least two (parts or persons) for its meaning. In Deut 6:4 the only theistic party is Yahweh. The text has
none other that is God but He, and this justifies asserting that the given four semantic units in the
Shemastatement are insufficient to provide for or even evoke the concept of (some pluraloneness
as) unity.

And again, I don’t see the problem here. Unity requires at least two. That’s what we have. At least two persons. Thus, God can be a unified one since He has three persons.

That’s all to say about the Shema for now. Let’s see what comes up next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Andrew Perry on 1 Cor. 8:6 Part 2

Is Jesus in the divine identity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So let’s just jump right back into it.

Wright asserts that Paul has taken kurios from Deut 6:4, but offers no argumentation for this proposal.
He then concludes, “There can be no mistake: just as in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1, Paul has placed
Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic
texts…producing what we can only call a sort of christological monotheism.” We have criticized
Wright’s exegesis of Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 in previous articles, but only Philippians 2 uses a
characteristic monotheistic OT text (Isa 45:23). We might agree that Phil 2:10 places Jesus within the same
eschatological situation as Yahweh in Isa 45:23, but placement within a situation is not the same as
inclusion within the divine identity and so Wright’s comparison is false.

This seems to be too easy a dismissal of Wright. YHWH is the one who won’t share His name with another and for all the talk that Perry made last time about there being no parallel to the Shema for Jesus, can he find a parallel where everyone else bows at another name besides that of God? If it works one way, it ought to work the other way too.

The case for the christological monotheist is based around the claim that kyrios is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from
Deut 6:4 and using this name for Christ, thus identifying Jesus with Yhwh in some sense. The first
counter-argument to this claim is that, even if Paul is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deuteronomy, bearing the
name ‘Yhwh’ doesn’t imply an identification of Jesus with Yhwh. This is shown in two ways: first, the
name that is above every name was given22 to Christ by God (Phil 2:9); and secondly, the name was also
given to the Angel of the Lord who led Israel through the wilderness (“My name is in him”, Exod 23:21).

For the first objection, this is an assumption of unipersonalism whereby if a name is given, then that person cannot be in the identity, but this is not explained why. Jesus is given this name as a public vindication of what He had done publicly. Had He not done a public act, He would not have been known in this way.

For the second, I have regularly pointed to the Angel of the Lord as a Trinitarian precursor. He acts in ways that only God can act. He is the one speaking in Exodus 3. He appears to Hagar in Genesis 16 and she refers to Him as the God who sees me. Rather than demonstrating the point is incorrect, Perry is actually with this demonstrating the point is highly accurate!

The Angel of the Lord is a type of Christ leading his people through the wilderness. In the same way that
he bore the name, so too Christ bears the name. Hence, any basis there might be in the possession of this
name for identifying Jesus with Yhwh would also apply to the Angel of the Lord. Yet the Angel of the
Lord is distinguished from Yhwh in the same way that Paul distinguishes ‘one…and one’ in 1 Cor 8:6.

Obviously, great scholars like Bauckham and Wright never noticed that there was a distinguishing here. The Angel of the Lord is often treated as YHWH, but yet somehow is seen as a servant of YHWH. Consider how in Genesis 19:24 we read that YHWH on Earth rained down fire and brimstone from YHWH out of Heaven. If you come in with the assumption that God must be unipersonal, you have to read the texts in a way to avoid any plurality in the Godhead. If you dismiss that, you must remain open to the idea that perhaps God is a unique being in a sense that He is multipersonal while we are unipersonal.

However, before we reach this conclusion, we should ask, as a second counter-argument, whether
kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is actually picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deut 6:4 in the first place. ‘Yhwh’ is a proper name,
but kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is not being used here as a proxy for this proper name precisely because it is
modified by ‘one’. The ‘one’ is in a semantic contract with the ‘many’ of v. 5, which in turn has the
plural of kyrios. This in turn brings that plural into a semantic contract with the singular of v. 6. Thus,
because the plural is functioning as a descriptive title, so too kyrios in v. 6 is functioning as a title and not
as a proxy for the name ‘Yhwh’. Accordingly, we can observe a symmetry between the two clauses: just as
‘God’ is not a proper name in ‘one God’ so too ‘Lord’ is not serving as a proxy for a proper name in ‘one
Lord’.

I am unclear as to what difference this makes. It is as if Perry is treating YHWH as a personal name. (By the way, aren’t all names given to someone?) Paul is making a contrasting statement indeed saying that the pagans have many gods and many lords, but we only have one. If he submits two different beings here, then he has a sort of ditheism going on. If he has one God with at least two persons here as both are in the divine nature somehow, then he does not.

Even if we went to the Shema, saying Lord as a proper name wouldn’t make sense. Did the Jews need to know there was only one YHWH? Even when they were  living in idolatry, they could say there was one YHWH, but there was also one Asherah, one Molech, etc. Yet if they say there is one God and one Lord and those are combined, then they have monotheism.

If the first clause, ‘there is one God, the Father’, is monotheistic, what type of clause is ‘there is one Lord,
Jesus Christ’? Is it possible to have a god and a lord within a scriptural faith? Is this conjoining of the Father and the Son so innovative that it redefines Scriptural Monotheism and Jewish Monotheism? Is the
associative partnership implicit in ‘of whom are all things’ (the Father) and ‘by whom are all things’ (the
Son) actually (or still) monotheistic?

But this is just begging the question. It is saying that if we go with the understanding of Bauckham and Wright and Capes and others, then we are redefining monotheism. It’s kind of hard to redefine a term that means “There is only one God.” The Trinity necessarily has it that there is only one God. Perry also since he is refusing to look at intertestamental literature is ignoring any data that Jews had to the contrary in pre-Christian thinking. Once again, if anything is redefining it, it is somehow having Jesus being a being that is separate and yet somehow Lord. By framing the Shema in this way, Paul is saying that you can’t have one without the other. If the Son is exclusively Lord, then the Father is not, but if the Father is exclusively God, the Son is not. Putting them both in the same identity avoids the problem.

Our two clause reading of 1 Cor 8:6 is immune to Bauckham’s reasoning for Christological Monotheism.
He says, “there can be no doubt that the addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema‘
would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter…The only possible way to understand Paul as
maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God
affirmed in the Shema‘.” All we have to observe here is that the second clause is not ‘adding to’ the ‘one’
of the monotheism in the first clause and that ‘one…and one’ does add up to two! We do not have to
maintain Paul’s monotheism by deploying a late-20c. theological construct like ‘included in the divine
identity’. We can maintain his monotheism by confining his avowal of monotheism to the first clause.

The language is 20th century, but is the idea? That is the question. We could just as well ask if anyone in the time of Paul was going around talking about Christological monotheism like Perry is. Would that invalidate his case? Absolutely not.

One and one does indeed add to two. So you either have two persons in the divine identity, or you have two beings, one distinctively God, but then the other must be distinctively Lord. If this is the Shema then, it is Perry that is dividing it and not Bauckham.

We will continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 10

Can we expect miracles today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

David Johnson begins this chapter telling you about a miracle he wants to tell you about. This miracle is mind-blowing. Not only that, but it specifically confirms the existing of the God of the Bible. He would love to tell you, but unfortunately, that miracle doesn’t exist.

I would also like to tell you about a mind-blowing chapter I read. In this chapter, Johnson takes on the best cases of Craig Keener and Candy Gunther Brown. He looks at the best evidence of Near Death Experiences. He takes on the best philosophers defending miracles today. He deals with all of them in a breathtaking display.

Unfortunately, like the miracle Johnson wants to speak of, this chapter does not exist. At least, it doesn’t exist in this book.

Instead, consider the way how Johnson thinks Christians argue:

That is how the Christian treats his god. They know that if their god could be disconfirmed, he would be. So they try to talk about god and his actions in ways that can never be challenged.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This is from Johnson’s background in a cessationist movement. It’s not the way Christians have always argued. If anything, the early Christians violated this rule right from the start. It would be nigh impossible to disconfirm a spiritual resurrection. “Yes. Jesus is dead, but His spirit has been ascended to the right side of YHWH.” How would you argue against that? Instead, they went the hard route, that of bodily resurrection.

Then, suppose you wanted to argue that. Well, it would make sense that if you were telling a falsehood, that you got away from the area where it would not be as easy to confirm. Maybe go to Rome or Athens or Alexandria. Nope. They stayed right in Jerusalem. Not only that, they stayed where their enemies could easily find them.

But hey, Johnson has to go by his personal experience which, since it’s his, is normative for everyone. He could have cracked open a book describing miracles with documentation that take place today. He could have looked at philosophical writings on the topic. Nope. Atheists never seem to tire of talking about their personal experiences. (By the way, those are always normative, but when a Christian experiences something, that’s just a delusion.)

So here are some of the problems Johnson sees with miracles:

Free will is violated. On the one hand, Christians claim that bad people have to be free to do bad things despite the harm done to good people. So if god ever intervenes, he is thwarting free will. Violating the laws of nature implies a problem with the laws of nature. If god could have set things in motion to achieve a certain outcome, why didn’t he? The fact that god ever intervened suggests that the world is exactly as he wants it to be. If god intervenes to make sure his will is done, then we have to believe that everything is going according to his will. Otherwise, he would intervene some more.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Having free-will only means you get to make your own choices. It doesn’t mean someone can never step in and interfere with your choices. That only takes a little bit of thinking on the topic, but alas, people like Johnson stop at the objection and don’t bother thinking about it.

The second is asking for a  non-miraculous miracle. God should have worked the laws of nature in such a way that they would always confirm to what He wanted. Why? It is saying miracles should have been built into the system. Also, the world is not the way He wants anyway.

The third doesn’t even make sense. God intervenes because the world is going the way He wants to? How many times do you intervene in something when it’s going the way you want it to?

He goes on to talk about why Jesus didn’t do mass healings like remove all leprosy from the world or have it that a hospital would never be needed.

This would be a powerful confirmation that simply does not exist. I am left cold by the healing miracles of Jesus. He did no more to improve health in his time than televangelists do today. Even if his healing was real, it was useless.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

So if Jesus did really heal someone, then that means what? In some cases, some miracles could be psychosomatic, but when you have people recovering from paralysis, blindness, and coming back from the dead, guess what that means. A miracle has taken place. Johnson’s argument is “Well that doesn’t count because it’s not the miracle I want!”

Nothing like moving the goalposts is there?

Why did Jesus never grow back an arm, or a leg, or a missing eye?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, He did grow back a missing ear. Could it be maybe He didn’t meet anyone with those conditions? After all, it could be if you lost an arm or a leg, you would have bled out and died awfully quickly in Judea.

He then talks about two cases of resurrection in Acts, that of Dorcas and Eutychus:

There is no explanation why she was singled out for the gift of resurrection. But she was because some people pestered Peter into doing it.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And

I guess Paul felt guilty, and healed the man back to life. There was nothing special about this man or this occasion.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Which again is “God didn’t do a miracle the way I’d want him to!” We shall alert the Almighty that He doesn’t measure up to the standards of the Great and Powerful David Johnson. I’m sure He’ll get right on that!

Johnson also asks why Christians don’t talk about these miracle claims as much and others like Matthew 27. As he says:

When examined a little more closely, Christians don’t care about resurrection at all per se. They only care about one resurrection event.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, yes, because this resurrection is different in kind and degree. Why should I take Johnson seriously as an ex-Christian when he doesn’t even understand this basic theology? If our people are this little trained to know the importance of the resurrection of Jesus, then is it any wonder they fall away? Hint. It’s not just “Now you can go to Heaven when you die!”

He goes on to talk about 1 Cor. 15:12-20 and says:

First, Paul only seems to care about the resurrection of Jesus because that is the mechanism by which sins are forgiven, not because resurrection is such a great and convincing miracle.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

That’s certainly part of it, but yes, Paul was not trying to convince people that God exists or that miracles are possible per se. He was trying to convince them resurrections were and that Jesus isn’t just an exception to the rule. Jesus’s resurrection is the basis for any other resurrection.

The second thing of note is that Paul failed to mention any other resurrections. This passage focuses only on one resurrection. There is plenty of space to speak of other resurrections such as the one he supposedly performed, or Lazarus, or any of the others, especially the mass resurrection.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Because if they don’t believe in resurrections, other stories won’t matter. If they do already accept Jesus’s resurrection though, he will begin with the one they accept. They could also just as well say “Well, those resurrections are exceptions because Jesus did them directly.”

This may explain why they are unimpressed with contemporary stories of resurrection, as in the resurrections performed by Sathya Sai Baba. He purportedly raised at least two people from the dead in our lifetimes. Christians don’t even care enough to bother denying it. Because for them, there is only one resurrection and one empty tomb that matter. The rest don’t really register at all.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Okay.

So Mr. Johnson, why do you not believe the accounts of Sai Baba?

Oh, wait. I know why! Because the evidence doesn’t matter for them. You have a dogma that says they aren’t allowed to happen. As Chesterton said:

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

For my part, Johnson is free to present the evidence for Sai Baba’s claim. If somehow he raised them from the dead, great. That just gives more evidence that a God exists who can perform miracles. If not, oh well. Unfortunately, Johnson doesn’t understand the concept of “looking at the evidence.”

There were 9 resurrection events in the Bible. Take away the mass resurrection of Matthew 27, and you have 8. This includes the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s a shocker: 3 of them were in the Old Testament performed by two different prophets, one, while he was dead. The most impressive resurrection story is of a man whose body was tossed in with the bones of Elisha. After making contact with Elisha’s bones, the man came back to life. Now that’s a resurrection. I suspect 90% of Christians don’t even know about this supposed event.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I know about it, which is why this wasn’t a shocker to me, but it does tell me that Johnson hopes his readers are just as ignorant as he is.

This is why Stevie Wonder is still blind. No one is going to try to heal a known blind person. They know they can’t do it any more than they can raise the dead. No one is going to try and publicly pray some famous person out of their wheelchair. No one is going to try to pray back a missing limb. These are the types of miracles that expose miracles as frauds.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Here are some of the miracle claims Keener documents:

  1. “a sudden disappearance of a child’s massive brain tumor after prayer, before any medical treatment could begin.” The tumor covered almost one-fourth of the girl’s brain, with MRI confirmation from both before and after (vol. 1, 428).

 

  1. An eight-year-old boy had two holes in his heart, a condition that also impaired his lungs. After prayer he was taken to surgery.  But before and after tests showed that the holes that were there the previous day had now been healed.  He did not need surgery and was cleared to play baseball just two days later (vol. 1, 431-432)!
  2. A physician related that a patient was “immediately cured from metastasized breast cancer after prayer” including before and after medical evidence (vol. 1, 435).

 

  1. Another physician confirmed that a woman with tuberculosis was healed after prayer. The physician could confirm that her cure was permanent, because they were later married and spent the rest of their lives together (vol. 1, 435)!

 

  1. While away from home at a Christian retreat, a man broke his ankle badly, and went to a hospital, where an orthopedist set the ankle in a cast. Upon arriving home the next day, several states away, he was sent by another physician to another hospital for X-rays.  After studying them, the physician informed the man that his ankle was never broken, as indicated by the lack of a break or even tissue damage where the break had been.  But the earlier X-rays were ordered and clearly confirmed the break.  A set of the radiology reports were also sent to the author, Craig Keener (vol. 1, 440).

 

  1. A hospital physician reported watching as a ten-year-old girl’s club foot “straightened before my very eyes” while the girl was being prayed for (vol. 1, 463).

 

  1. A woman’s spleen was removed by surgery but when she was later examined, she had another spleen in its place (vol. 1, 491)!

 

  1. A baby was born without hip sockets or a ball at the end of her bone. It was determined that she would need a cast throughout her life.  But the church prayed and, when she was examined again before being placed in the cast, contrary to the earlier X-rays, she now had both hip sockets and the ball at the end of the bone (vol. 1, 503).

 

  1. Forty physicians confirmed the specific case of a cure from Lourdes, France “of a medically incurable, quadriplegic postencephalitic idiot—a child who went from complete insensibility and lack of control to intelligent normalcy” (vol. 2, 680)!

 

  1. In another case, cancer had spread and the patient was given up by physicians, but was cured instantly with damaged organs reforming (vol. 2, 682, note 206).

We can be sure Johnson will not look up any of these. His dogma won’t allow it.

By the way, as an aside, here is one last part of this chapter I want to share.

The whole point of all these milk toast prayers is to keep prayer, itself, from being falsified. It is to keep non believers like myself from being able to say that prayer does not work.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. He says Milk Toast prayers. Not only did he not realize this, but whoever edited this book did not realize the term is milquetoast. I suspect Johnson wanted to say something to look really sophisticated and failed miserably.

Unfortunately, next time, he’s back to talk about spiritual warfare.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 7

What’s it like for someone falling away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, we return to Sophie and her testimony. I really don’t want to speak ill of her at all. If anything, I have sympathy for her, especially since I think she was sold a false bill of goods on what the Christian experience was to be like. A lot of that will be in the conclusion. For now, let’s see what all she has to say. This one is about the dealbreakers.

With regards human suffering, Lane Craig and other theists on the Unbelievable? show, ultimately concede at some point, that we don’t know why there is so much horrendous suffering in the world but that it must be justified to some extent, as in God must have his reasons, or at the very least, things will be made right in the future. This, of course is conjecture, rather than any type of evidence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yet how is this conjecture? If you accept that for the sake of argument there is a God who has the omni traits, then yes, there has to be a good reason why He allows this evil. It is up to the skeptic to show that there is no good reason, and that’s a hard sell to do. Not only this, but what do you gain in the problem of evil if you remove God? The evil is still there. You’ve just removed the solution. How is this a help?

Epicurus puts it best with his idea rejecting the notion of evil with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. It can of course apply to suffering too. If God willing to prevent suffering, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
If he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
If he both able and willing? Then why is there suffering?
If he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? No amount of books, explanation, sermons and teaching will ever make theodicy go away for Christianity, nor can it, or the issue would be put to bed by now. It’s a continual stumbling block to belief, which is never truly answered, much less an explanation given as to why it has arisen in the first place. And this brings me to my next deal breaker.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except it has as even atheists will admit. This is the logical problem of evil and it hasn’t really been used since Plantinga wrote his work on the topic. There are still other versions of the argument from evil, but this one is not really used anymore except on the internet.

With no Satan, hell or human fall, there is no real explanation as to why evil and suffering exist. Even, the free will argument which somewhat relies on these constructs, and states, that if there is no possibility to sin, you cannot have free creatures who liberally come to love you, doesn’t work. This argument, often brought up on the show, completely misses the fact that God can in fact arrange paradise, with free will and exempt from suffering, pain and the devil. It’s called heaven.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But everyone who is in the blessed presence of God is there by choice. That is a huge distinction and it is one atheists meet regularly. The first time I ever encountered this question was in a systematic theology class when a student asked it and that was over 20 years ago. I thought of the solution then and have spent more time refining it and I still haven’t seen a response to it.

Besides, like human parents, let’s be honest, God could just choose to forgive us. There is no need to murder anyone. It was making less and less sense.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And again, questions like this have already been answered.

The gospels were oral traditions written decades after the death of Jesus with the earliest being Mark dated at around 70CE and ending with the discovery of the empty tomb, and the latest gospel being John, possibly as early as 90CE. They are all of anonymous authorship and certainly the earliest manuscripts didn’t include the title by which we know them today. They do not claim to be authored by eyewitnesses to any of the events they describe. They are not written by people who knew Jesus. We do not have the originals, only copies of copies of copies of copies of copies. They are written in Greek by educated people living in a different country to Palestine. Jesus’ disciples would have spoken Aramaic, were quite possibly illiterate and were living in Palestine. Jesus himself, other than some writing in the sand, leaves no written record (which would have been very helpful), nor did He ask anyone to make notes as they went along. In addition, major events are undocumented by other sources, such as when the graves spill out their dead onto the streets after the resurrection mentioned only in Matthew. If these are in fact gross error or made up, how are we to distinguish what else is or isn’t invented or erroneous in the text?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot here and I have written plenty on it elsewhere. Does Sophie know the dates of when other books in the ancient world were written and when the earliest manuscripts are and how far apart the events are from the writing? The Gospels are a goldmine by comparison to most ancient literature.

The books were supposedly anonymous. Are we to think that no one knew who the books came from? Someone delivering the scrolls would say who they were from. We only know who wrote Plutarch because one of his descendants tells us. Other sources are also silent on major events, such as the eruption of Vesuvius and that TWO towns were destroyed in the blast. I plan on doing a series on the Gospels eventually so I will save this for then.

There is a lot of stuff I am going to skip over as I have addressed it elsewhere, but I want to say something about this:

And, it doesn’t even begin to explain why God would prefer to continue hiding when He is apparently desperate to have a relationship with us.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This is a great reason why I oppose the personal relationship model in that Christianity is about Jesus wanting to have a personal relationship with you. Christianity is about Jesus being king. There is not a lonely God out there who is desperately seeking to find someone to love.

I hope Sophie finds out sometime soon more information than the atheists have sold her. It’s a shame there weren’t better-informed Christians in her life.

Brace yourselves because next time it’s David Johnson again. *Groan*

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 6

Did Jesus rise from the dead? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is about the resurrection and it is written by Ed Atkinson. He and I had a few debates on the Unbelievable Facebook page when I was there. It was kind of reliving the past to go through this chapter. Let’s look at an early part right off.

First, let’s step back for a moment. How can we know, with even remote certainty, what happened 2,000 years ago? Let’s imagine the parallel idea from Derren Brown that Justin quoted, and expanded here with my imagination. In about 1940, in an African outpost under the control of the British Empire, a new sect emerged. It was claimed that their leader had come back from the dead after being killed in the War serving the Axis Powers. Furthermore, it seems that he had apparently appeared and even had meals with some of his followers before vanishing permanently. Unfortunately, we have no records from the time but there is an authentic letter by a follower who was close to the original witnesses. This letter, stamped 1965, briefly lists the leader’s appearances1. Then there is silence until the 1980s, at which point, religious tracts about the affair start to be published in London. These now describe a missing body as well as post-death appearances but there are large discrepancies in their description of the events. The first outsider to write about it that we know of was a specialist historian2 who was native to that country – he was born in the 1940s, left for London in 1980 and wrote about it in the 2000s but there is good reason to think his words have been corrupted by sect members. That story roughly matches what we have as source documents for the resurrection, but with a change of geographical setting and with the dates moved from 30AD to 1940.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This might sound similar to some people, but it’s hardly an analogy seeing as we are talking about different types of cultures. The 1940’s is a post-Gutenberg time and the 40’s would have some basic abilities with cameras and even some video cameras. Nothing sophisticated, but certainly far different from the time of Jesus.

Jesus lived in an oral culture and what we get is within the first century, four biographies about His life, a historiography written as a continuation of one biography, and numerous epistles. We have far less for figures that we don’t really doubt at all and most ancient historians would be thrilled to have something like this.

Historians of the classical world don’t even make a tentative conclusion when the evidence is as weak as this. One example is the death of Nero’s mother Agrippina. There are surviving stories by respected Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius who wrote 60 to 70 years later, which is equivalent to the time gap between the resurrection and the last of the New Testament gospels, John. However, modern historians consider the circumstances of Agrippina’s death as largely unknown because the accounts contradict each other, are generally fantastical and display anti-Nero bias.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, these historians are not named and we are talking about one incident in one person’s life as opposed to a whole account of the life. Our biographies of Alexander the Great come centuries later and they are based on accounts that we don’t have access too and yet, they are considered reliable. Again, most historians would love to have four biographies like this of any figure in the ancient world within at the most two generations. The dating of someone like John A.T. Robinson in Redating the New Testament has not been answered.

Atkinson goes on to write about Gary Habermas’s data for the minimal facts saying:

Meanwhile Gary’s website says “there is approximately a 3:1 ratio of works that fall into the category that we have dubbed the moderate conservative position, as compared to more skeptical treatments.” So 75% of scholars are conservative Christians and 25% are everyone else: non-conservative Christians, agnostics and unbelievers.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I emailed Gary about this who referred to this as a bad reading of his work. There are non-conservative Christians who hold to the Empty Tomb and a strong view of the resurrection. There is also a confusion between moderate and conservative. With Habermas’s works being published on this book by book, we can expect there will be more coming. (I do have a copy of the first book and will start it after finishing the Larry Hurtado one I’m reading.)

Atkinson talks about the creed in 1 Cor. 15 and says

Paul is probably quoting a creed which implies that it should be dated well before the approximate 55AD date of this letter, but I don’t see why that means ‘the very inception of the church’ as Justin claims.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, let’s see if there are any historians that disagree with this and think it goes back to a very early time.

Michael Goulder (Atheist NT Prof. at Birmingham) “…it goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” [“The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in Gavin D’Costa, editor, Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, 1996), 48.]

Gerd Lüdemann (Atheist Prof of NT at Göttingen): “…the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” [The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. by Bowden (Fortress, 1994), 171-72.]

Robert Funk (Non-Christian scholar, founder of the Jesus Seminar): “…The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” [Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus, 466.]

 

The answer is no. Because there is no refutation of this claim—other than “maybe possibly it originated later,” which is the logical fallacy of possibiliter ergo probabiliter (“it’s possible, therefore it’s probable,” see Proving History, index). In fact the evidence for this creed dating to the very origin of the religion is amply strong; and there is no reasonable basis for claiming otherwise.”- Atheist apologist Richard Carrier. https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11069?fbclid=IwAR117qqt7FpRYjhse2w4Gf3R7foF26MVFPfJeMIoEP4FtP0hnNM-WayuXAY

None of these are Christians. James Dunn even says it comes within a few months of the Easter event.

When Atkinson gets to his explanation of the appearances, it’s to no surprise, hallucinations.

I will nail my colours to the mast and use the scientific term ‘hallucination’ for a vivid vision of Jesus. The first thing to say is that hallucinations are common: about 15% percent of the global population experiences them. They are more likely to occur with increasing age, which seems not to apply here, but they are also associated with factors such as stress, grief, trauma and anguish which do. The two most frequent types of hallucination are of a recently deceased loved one (usually a spouse after a long marriage) and of a respected religious figure.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except hallucinations like this don’t lead to the belief that the person is alive. They more lead to the belief that the person is dead. Besides this, it’s usually shortly after that unless a person is in an advanced state of dementia, they know they had a hallucination. We knew my great aunt was in such a state when she kept insisting she had four cats that she saw when she only had one.

Research by resurrection proponents such as N T Wright has shown that first century Jews, like the disciples, generally had a physical understanding of resurrection, and so a ghostly vision is probably not sufficient. But hallucinations are not mere ghostly visions. The American Psychiatric Association’s well-known manual, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, describes hallucinations as ‘a sensory perception that has the compelling sense of reality of a true perception but that occurs without external stimulation’. (Note that sensory perception includes all of the senses, not just vision.) And here is a quote from ‘Tara’, a contributor to the discussions on the Unbelievable? show’s website, she wrote after the October 2015 episode on the resurrection: “I’ve had two new patients just this week that have told me about their ‘visiting’ spouses. By the way, no one yet has talked about them as appearing ghostly ……. and I’ve heard dozens of accounts. Instead, they describe them as seeming very lifelike, as if the spouse is there in complete physicality.”14

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But did Tara talk about anyone going to dig up the coffin and see the dead person was no longer there? No one is doubting hallucinations happen. What is being doubted is that they are capable of explaining the data.

Hallucinations are only individual experiences and group hallucinations with the same content are not reported in the scientific literature. But the key,1 Corinthians 15 creed mentions at least one group experience and the passage it sits within has two more group experiences, one of which is an appearance to more than 500 people. Even if the appearance to the Twelve means one by one, it is seriously implausible that they each had a hallucination of Jesus. This is the reason Justin gives for completely dismissing hallucinations as an explanation. To me the best explanation is that the first individual experiences of ‘the risen Jesus’ would prime the others. I use ‘priming’ here partly because it is a jargon term from psychology, where it refers to how our behaviour or judgements can be changed by subtle stimuli including the behaviour of others.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except Atkinson has it backwards. The first data we have here is the largest number of appearances and yet when we get to the Gospels, the number of people seeing Jesus doesn’t get larger, but rather it gets smaller. If the “legend” was being built over time, why would it be this way?

There are many potential examples in recent history, such as appearances of the Virgin Mary to crowds of believers. Once the expectation is set up that Mary will appear, then the slightest stimulus will be interpreted as an appearance and reported as such to others. That is just human nature.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But here, Atkinson can be arguing what he wants to demonstrate. Let’s take a Marian apparition. It is up to Atkinson to demonstrate absolutely nothing was seen. Can he do that? Even a Protestant like myself could say something was seen. Perhaps it was a demon even. That still would be something that would be seen. I can’t speak for any one vision. I would have to see them on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, no skeptical account would be complete without those two favorite words that skeptics love to use.

There is another possible factor to throw in the pot here: Cognitive Dissonance. It can be summarised: “A key tenet of cognitive dissonance theory is that those who have heavily invested in a position may, when confronted with disconfirming evidence, go to greater lengths to justify their position.”24. The study of cognitive dissonance began with Leon Festinger’s 1956 book, “When Prophecy Fails”25. Leon and fellow researchers heard of a cult led by a Chicago housewife. The cult believed that they had received messages from a planet named Clarion, and these messages revealed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954, and also that a UFO would rescue the group of true believers. Festinger and his colleagues joined the group. Then the appointed time came ……….. and …………. passed without incident. The cult members faced acute cognitive dissonance: had they been the victims of a hoax? Had they donated their worldly possessions in vain? Most members chose to believe something less dissonant in order to resolve their inner tension: they believed that the aliens had given Earth a second chance and that the group was now empowered to spread the word that Earth-spoiling must stop. The group dramatically, and immediately, increased their proselytising as a direct response to the failed prophecy.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, I have read When Prophecy Fails, which is the account of this event. Unfortunately, it was hardly a valid study in some ways because the researchers actually actively interfered in the events. That is not to say the theory is not without any credibility, but this is not the best instance. Not only that, but normally when this happens, the group doesn’t grow beyond its number at the start. The exact opposite happened with Christianity.

As for Paul:

However, there is still the need to explain Paul’s experience. We can assume that there were many early opponents of Christianity, all of whom were exposed to the preaching, hope and fearlessness of the apostles. And people do convert. So it should not be a surprise that one of the opponents converted. Paul himself seemed to be prone to visions: he was later “caught up to the third heaven” in a visionary experience, so his conversion being prompted by a vision is not so remarkable. An alternative, more cynical take, is that both Paul and his ‘biographer’ in Acts, needed to emphasise his credentials as a leading apostle and being an eyewitness of the risen Christ was one key criterion.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But what could we assume this based on? How do we know there were many early opponents doing what Paul was doing? We have no record of them at all. If such was actively going on regularly, why would Pliny write years later unsure of what to do about these people instead of just following regular protocol?

As for a vision, why would Paul have this vision of Jesus? A guilt complex is not fitting in the ancient society of Jesus. Our idea of a guilty conscience would not be understood by the people of the time. Paul also had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

There is material on the empty tomb. Unfortunately, like Bart Ehrman’s work in How Jesus Became God, there is no interaction with scholars in the field on this. Ehrman doesn’t cite any scholars specializing in Jewish burial practices at the time. Neither does Atkinson. I will not play that game.

“Jesus came from a modest family that presumably could not afford a rock- cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered to accommodate Jesus’ body his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts) Jesus likely would have been disposed in the manner of the lower classes: in a pit grave or trench grave dug into the ground. When the Gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea offered Jesus a spot in his tomb, it is because Jesus’ family did not own a rock- cut tomb and there was no time to prepare a grave- that is there was no time to dig a grave, not hew a rock cut tomb(!)—before the Sabbath. It is not surprising that Joseph, who is described as a wealthy and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin, had a rock-cut family tomb. The Gospel accounts seem to describe Joseph placing Jesus’ body in one of the loculi in his family’s tomb. (Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, pg 170)

“There is no need to assume that the Gospel accounts of Joseph of Arimathea offering Jesus a place in this family tomb are legendary or apologetic. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s burial appear to be largely consistent with the archeological evidence” ( Magness, pg 171)

“When every argument has been considered and weighed, the only conclusion acceptable to the historian must be that the opinions of the orthodox, the liberal sympathizer and the critical agnostic alike—and even perhaps of the disciples themselves—are simply interpretations of the one disconcerting fact: namely that the women who set out to pay their last respects to Jesus found to their consternation, not a body, but an empty tomb.”
-Geza Vermes Jesus the Jew 41

There is also the idea that Arimathea means best disciple town. The Greek word for disciple is mathetes, but that is as far as this idea goes. The idea has never really caught on with Greek scholars and Atkinson gives no sources for this claim.

In conclusion, I remain unconvinced by Atkinson.

Next time, we shall return to Sophie who continues her testimony.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Unbelievable Part 5

Is the gospel good news? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the first chapter by David Johnson and would that it had been the last. For some reason, Johnson was given multiple chapters to write which befuddles me since I got so tired of highlighting after awhile in my Kindle because so much was wrong. Well, let’s dive in so I can demonstrate my point.

In this chapter, Johnson is going to accept everything about Christianity is true but argue that it isn’t good news. Some of you might be wondering how that could be. I finished the chapter and I’m still wondering. Let’s start at the beginning with a Scriptural citation.

Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it. Matt. 7:13-14

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Johnson argues that this means the majority of the human race will not make it to the presence of God.  Now someone wanting to study this might look and see if this has always been understood to mean that very few people overall will make it, but nah. Why bother doing that? If one wanted to take in all of Scripture, you could go to Revelation 7 with a great crowd no man could number from every people group, but no, we have an agenda to fulfill.

I contend that Jesus is speaking about His immediate audience. He is not speaking on a global scale. He is saying of the people listening, few will find the way.

And then he told them, “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse to believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16 That is quite the sales pitch. Believe or be condemned! I’m not sure how that differs from conversion by sword. Believe or perish! Just to add some modern context, Grant me sexual favors or be fired, might also go well on the list. Any talk of hell renders all other motives for faith moot. If you learn of the tortures of hell as a child, you are going to do everything in your power to avoid it. If that means you have to believe with all your heart things that don’t seem to make sense, you are going to believe them with all your heart.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Let’s leave aside that it’s doubtful Mark 16:9-20 is original. Atheists regularly tout this out not getting they’re misrepresenting the story. It’s not “Love me or burn!” It’s more “You are already guilty of a crime and if you pledge loyalty, I will set you free and give you great benefits.” Not only that, but most evangelicals today do not hold that Hell is a fiery torture chamber.

And the coercion doesn’t stop there. The manipulation continues: If you really love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands. John 14:15 I like the way the Amplified puts it because it is more in keeping with the way we would say it today. And it makes it easier to recognize the manipulative nature of the passage. Just think of all the evil, twisted, manipulative things that started with, if you really love me.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Meanwhile, think about all the true things that start with this conditional statement.

If you love your spouse, you will be faithful to them.
If you love your children, you will provide for them.
If you love your parents, you will respect them.

All of these are true. So it is with Jesus. If you call Him Lord and don’t do what He says, it is right to question if He is Lord or not. That the statement can be misused does not mean it is never properly used, unless Johnson wants to question the above three statements I have.

When speaking about how Hebrews say without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Johnson says:

Try to put this into a modern context so that you can fully grasp how dark this is. What civilized culture still believes that there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood? How would that even work?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Considering a lot of civilized cultures today believe you can mutilate a child’s body and change their sex or rip apart a child in the womb, saying a civilized culture doesn’t really mean much. It boils down to him saying “We don’t like this, therefore it’s wrong.”

In reality, what is being said is that capital offenses require a capital payment and to forgive a capital offense also requires a capital payment. Why do I not need that to forgive you? Because you haven’t committed such an offense against me. For any sin against God, it’s divine treason. Johnson has a view more that God is Superman than God.

God was really big on punishing the children to the third and fourth generation for the sins of the father. The staggering weight of this unfair system is readily apparent. The curse would never be lifted as there would never be four generations of people who didn’t sin. No wonder people were so desperately begging for mercy.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Desperately begging for mercy? Not really. If they were doing that in the Old Testament, they sure had an odd way of doing that by running around constantly committing idolatry and adultery. As for the New Testament, you don’t see that either. About the only exception I can think of is the repentant tax collector in the parable. Johnson is telling more about himself than the world of the Bible.

As for the passage, yes. We still see this today. Many families bear the sins of the fathers down through the past. Lessons of abuse and alcoholism are easily passed on.

If humans could get unmerited guilt, they could get unmerited grace. This means that a person who spent his life murdering and destroying can ask for forgiveness just before he dies, and he will end up in heaven. This, while another who spent her life as a good person will burn in hell because she was raised in a muslim country, unable to do anything but follow tradition in her region. What could be more unfair?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Ah. That little word fair. One of the most overused words today. If the claims of God were true and He was fair, no one would enjoy His loving presence. Can a repentant criminal be forgiven on his deathbed? Yes. Would Johnson prefer he wasn’t? As for those who have never heard, Johnson acts like this is an open and shut case. Not really. Consider many in Muslim countries are having dreams and visions of Jesus. Also, it is debatable whether those who never heard through no fault of their own are automatically lost, see here.

Johnson also says the message is unclear. Consider how many differences there are:

Catholicism vs. protestantism • Calvinism vs. Arminianism • Baptism? Sprinkling Pouring Immersion • Old Testament laws and observances • Salvation by: Grace alone Grace and faith Grace, faith, and other works • Women in authority • Marriage, remarriage, and divorce • Speaking in tongues: Actual language like Chinese you have studied? Unknown language that only the spirit understands?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

However, very few in these groups will say that everyone else is automatically lost and condemned. We agree on far more than we disagree on.

In the paper, M. Bar-Ilan, ‘Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the First Centuries C.E.’, we learn that the literacy rate among Jews in the Christian century would have been no higher than 3%. For a people of the book, there were precious few of them capable of reading it. (M. Bar-Ilan, ‘Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the First Centuries C.E.’, S. Fishbane, S. Schoenfeld and A. Goldschlaeger (eds.), Essays in the Social Scientific Study of Judaism and Jewish Society, II, New York: Ktav, 1992, pp. 46-61.)  https://faculty.biu.ac.il/Given this low rate of literacy, it is curious that god would make a highly complex and intricate set of texts the primary way god delivered his message. The vast majority of Christian truth claims can only be found in the Bible. So it is critical to understand it well. It is somewhat ironic that the people least capable of synthesizing written information are the ones most called to do so. That situation has not changed in the modern era. Psychology Today reports that from a review of 63 studies, there is a negative correlation between religiosity and education. Again, the world’s most religious people have the least education to support it.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I am not surprised on the supposed connection between religiosity and education seeing as much of education is extremely anti-religious. Getting to Johnson’s main claim, what would he propose instead? A book is a steady and objective form of communication. Would he prefer constant personal communication like many Mormons claim? Were Christianity based on people allegedly having God talk to them regularly and tell them about the life of Jesus, are we to think Johnson’s skepticism would disappear?

Not only that, but the Bible has led to the rise of literacy throughout the world. Christians have been known as people of the book and developed the codex to aid in reading and set up educational facilities and universities for study. Since Johnson can read, he should thank the church.

On another point, he later says:

And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) Justin puts a lot of stock in the resurrection of Jesus. But he, like many others, is focusing on the wrong resurrection. They should be talking about the one where many dead saints came out of their graves in the big city, and appeared to many people. This should be the most well-attested, undisputed resurrection miracle of them all. It isn’t. The reason why Christians do not focus on this resurrection story is because as a historical event, it is completely made up. It simply never happened. What’s more, they know it didn’t happen. And they are embarrassed by it.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Ah yes. Christians never talk about that because it never happened. Never mind that up until this point, we have been accepting that Christian claims are true for the sake of argument, but I guess that Scripture is wrong was suddenly inserted in. It’s almost like Johnson is inconsistent.

So why do Christians not talk about this? Because what difference does it make? Let’s suppose we never knew about the resurrection of Lazarus. Have we lost anything ultimately in Christianity? Has Christianity changed fundamentally? Not at all. That’s because Jesus’s resurrection is different in kind. A resurrection alone doesn’t bring salvation and change history. Jesus’s did. Jesus began new creation by a resurrection of a different nature and verifying His claims.

Not only that, but we just don’t know a lot about the Matthew 27 resurrection, assuming it to be a historical event. How many people were raised? With what kind of bodies were they raised? Did they just pass through or did they keep living? The text doesn’t tell us.

There is no need to quote it here. We all know the saying about the mustard seed. Jesus was making a point about the kingdom, and highlighted the mustard seed as the smallest seed of them all. In fairness, this is exactly what any Palestine man might have said who knew anything about botany.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

It could be entirely that Jesus was saying that it was the smallest seed that they used. That would not be a problem. However, the word micros is also used to describe children, which doesn’t mean the smallest child is the most valuable. It is saying that for the people of the time, the mustard seed was the least valuable seed, but it still could grow into something great. Either way works fine.

One of the easiest examples is this little nugget: Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you. Luke 6:30 A shorter and surer road to poverty, I have never seen. There is no context where any part of this advice makes sense. And Christians know it. Not one of them lives this way. Watch how I improve this advice just by saying the opposite:

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yet in the world of Jesus, if someone was bigger than you, what could you do? Run to the police? Especially if the person was a Roman, they were the police. What is being said here is to not escalate violence. Johnson takes this from one setting, puts it in another, and then declares it invalid.

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:16-21 Ask yourself: What did the man in the story actually do wrong? Was it the fact that he had worked hard and done well for himself? Was it the fact that he could retire with confidence and enjoy the rest of his life without excessive labor? What was his real crime? It was that Jesus thinks savings are bad because one is relying on his own work, and not god’s providence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

What did he do wrong? Greed. This man was only thinking of himself and what he could do and didn’t care about God or the world around Him. It is nothing against savings, of which the average person in Jesus’s audience would have none of.

Now Johnson could have studied any of these, but alas, we have an agenda.

When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, my imagination abandons me as I try to come up with something even stupider to say. Even if you don’t want to tell a person to fight back and defend yourself, here are a few other things one could try: • Run like the wind. • Fall to the ground. Curl up in a ball. And cry like a baby. • Beg for mercy. • Start praying for your enemy right there on the spot. Are any of these great pieces of advice? Probably not. But they are all infinitely better than defiantly turning the other cheek so that it makes an easy and inviting target for further assault. What Jesus says on this matter can get you killed. Do not do it at any time, for any reason.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

A slap on the cheek was a personal insult. It was not a cause of assault. Jesus is again telling people to not escalate violence. Yet if all of these show the intense ignorance of Johnson, the next one really puts it in full display in flashing neon lights.

Do you have two eyes and two hands? Jesus might wonder why. He famously said that if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it right out of your head. And if your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off with a sharp blade. Why are there so few one-eyed, one-armed Christians who have self-mutilated? Because they are not stupid enough to follow the advice of a mad man.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Every atheist and agnostic who contributed to this book should be ashamed to have their work alongside someone who writes like this. Jews spoke in hyperbole. They would have understood the point. Get to the root of the matter. No one would have understood Jesus as telling them to mutilate their own bodies.

Did you know that if you as much as looked at a woman with sexual desire in your heart, Jesus deems it the same as the physical act of adultery? That was a particularly incendiary thing to say in a place and time when adultery was a death penalty offense. Did you know that hating a person is the same as physically murdering a person? It is to Jesus. He said so. Do I even need to say more about the moral intuition of a person who can’t work out the difference between hating and killing?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Jesus says that if you look at the woman with the purpose of desiring her, it is as adultery. He also says similar about hating your brother. Why? Because if you do these things in your heart, what will stop you from doing them in real life? The moment you think the benefits outweigh the consequences. Again, deal with the root and you can avoid murder and adultery both.

Unfortunately, this is not the last chapter by Johnson. He seems to have more than anyone else in the book, which is a shame.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 2

Did Jesus exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book sells itself as a thinking person’s response. Right now, I’m wondering when the thinking person is going to start responding. Mills’s book is full of cliches and straw men that should be seen as an embarrassment to the atheist community.

So let’s get back into it and brace ourselves for what’s coming.

So how about the simple question of if Jesus even existed:

Probably not. If He did actually live, then He was almost certainly illiterate, since He left no writings of his own—at least none that we know about. At the time that He supposedly lived, however, most people were illiterate, so I don’t mean to be critical of Him on this point. I too would have been illiterate. But it is curious to ponder an illiterate God.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 35). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

If the answer to if he was illiterate is “Most people were” then you might as well say everyone was illiterate. Was Socrates illiterate? He didn’t write anything, but most people were so he probably was. Was Seneca illiterate? Well, we have some writings of him, but most people were illiterate so he probably was and these were by someone else. Why not?

Fortunately, for once, the interviewer had a pushback that was decent. What about secular references to Jesus?

And as per usual, Mills gave a reply that shows his ignorance on the topic.

You’re correct that there are secular historical references to Jesus. For example, Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Seutonius, Pliny, and Justin Martyr all make reference to “Christ” or “Jesus Christ” in their historical accounts. But there is one monumental flaw in this argument: Not one of these secular writers was born until decades after Jesus’ alleged crucifixion. Thus, none of these writers could possibly provide firsthand knowledge of anything having to do with the life of Jesus. Their historical references to Jesus do provide evidence that the Christ legend was extant during the period in which they wrote. But that’s about it. Moreover, many of these secular sources who allude, decades afterward, to the life of Jesus also detail the lives and folklore of numerous other “miracle workers” completely apart from Jesus. Tales of mystical hocus-pocus were widespread in the ancient world and were incorporated into the holy books of many different religions. Such credulity naturally provided fertile ground for the acceptance and growth of Christianity as well.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 35-36). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Don’t tell Mills that the overwhelming majority in the ancient world if not everything was written “decades after” the events took place. The majority of biographies of great people could even be written well over a century after they lived and are still considered valid. As for miracle-workers, Mills doesn’t give us any names. Note that many such miracle-workers would have been looked at with disdain by the elites of the time. Naturally, this leads to the idea of ancient people were stupid.

Reading Mills’s book, it looks like more modern people actually are.

The interviewer asks about contemporary references.

There is not a single reference to a “Jesus” or to “Jesus Christ” written by any secular source who lived during the years in which Christ supposedly walked the earth. To me, this fact is very revealing, since these years represent one of the most thoroughly documented periods of antiquity. Wouldn’t Jesus’ miracles have drawn the attention of hundreds of contemporary writers and record-keepers? Why is there no mention at all of Jesus’ existence? Why is there no historical record of Herod’s alleged Slaughter of the Innocents [plagiarized directly from Exodus] or of Matthew’s assertion that, following Jesus’ death, living corpses from nearby cemeteries were strolling the streets of Jerusalem? Were these “facts” too humdrum to be noted by historians of the day? To summarize my position on the “historical” Jesus, I once wrote a poem:

Today some say that Jesus died,

And still remains quite dead.

But these who speak have surely lied.

The real truth is, instead, T

hat Jesus Christ, Whose blood was spilled,

Is no corpse, I insist!

For how could someone have been killed,

Who never did exist?

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 36-37). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Somehow, I doubt there will soon be poetry seminars for Mills’s work.

As I have said in an earlier post, contrary to Mills’s thinking, Jesus was not worth talking about in His time. Mills says this is the most documented time, but gives no basis for that. I’m not saying he’s wrong, but he gives me no reason to think he’s right. The slaughter of the innocents would likely kill a dozen infants at most, hardly the most telling instance of Herod’s life. As for the rising of the saints, even if taken literally, it would likely be dismissed by anyone who wasn’t there.

At this point, even the interviewer doesn’t think he’s being fair and asks about someone like George Washington’s existence. Hardly a good parallel. Washington lived in a time where literacy was far more common and writing was less expensive. Better parallels could be people like Hannibal or Queen Boudica. Mills is right to point out the far better resources we have for Washington, but then he also says Washington has no miracles to his name. Naturally, this comes out. Dismiss all ancient claims of miracles and then say miracles have never happened. Really easy to do.

The interviewer then asks who moved the stone from Jesus’s tomb, which seems to me like a profoundly ignorant question to ask if the person you are talking to says He never even existed, to which Mills lists all the events he doesn’t believe in involving Jesus. Not really much new to cover.

And with that, we will be done as the historical Jesus is not the theme from now on, and we are still just in the first chapter.

I would like to say the worst is behind us, but with atheist books, you never know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

1 Cor. 8:6 and the Trinity

Does this verse demonstrate that Jesus is included in the divine nature? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m a member on Facebook for a group to debate the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sadly, many witnesses really do not know what they’re arguing against when it comes to the Trinity. Most arguments against the Trinity are arguments against modalism. Also sadly, too many Christians outside of this group that are lay Christians would probably explain the Trinity using modalistic descriptions.

One passage that can regularly come up from JWs is 1 Cor. 8:6. They seem to think it really makes the case. Let’s look at it.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

There you have it! There is one God, the Father! Jesus is not that one God. Jesus is Lord, but He is not God. On a surface level, one can say, “If that’s the case, then the Father is God, but He is not Lord.” That is indeed problematic enough, but let’s go further in looking at this text.

There are two parallel themes.

1A: For us, there is but one God, the Father.

1B: From whom all things came and for whom we live.

2A: And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ,

2B: Through whom all things came and through whom we live.

There is indeed parallelism here, which is fascinating, but could there still be something more. Imagine that a Jew makes a statement that there is one God. What will other Jews immediately think of? The Shema, Israel’s great monotheistic statement.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

The terms Lord, God, and One, are all repeated here. Paul is using intertextuality to call to mind an Old Testament text. The same takes place in Romans 1. Paul uses terms like creator, and “male and female” to point to Genesis 1 as the basis for his argument for divine revelation in creation and for the wrongness of same-sex erotic practice.

What then Paul is doing is he is taking Jesus and he is slipping him into the Shema, Christianizing it and putting Jesus in the divine nature. Rather than denying the deity of Christ, Paul is emphasizing it in strong terms. Also, Jesus is presented as the means of creation, which is incredible since in Isaiah 44:24, God is said to have done creation alone.

“This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:

I am the Lord,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,

Some can see this as wisdom, but if you read Jewish writings like the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom was taking on a more and more role of deity as a hypostasis of God. The formula is always the same in the New Testament be it John 1, 1 Cor. 8, Hebrews 1, or Col. 1. The Father is the source and the Son is the means.

I have presented this several times asking JWs to show where my exegesis is wrong. To date, no one has. Let’s look at some objections that are brought up.

“But Jesus is not His Father!”

Which shows the person doesn’t understand Trinitarian thinking. Saying Jesus is God is theological shorthand. It really is saying Jesus fully partakes of the divine nature. It in no way means Jesus is the Father.

“But the Shema never mentions Jesus!”

True, and irrelevant. This is progressive revelation. This assumes God had to reveal Himself as triune from the get-go or else He isn’t.

“But what about these passages that show Jesus is not God?”

And whatever passage is brought up needs to be discussed, but unless a JW wants to deny inerrancy, which I don’t think they do, then they need to explain this passage as well and show where my exegesis is wrong. If not, then you are saying this one passage teaches X and the other one teaches non-X, which is a denial of inerrancy.

The gauntlet has been cast down. I wait to see if any JWs are willing to pick it up and take the challenge. Show where the exegesis is wrong.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Book Plunge: Obsessed With Blood Part 5

Does Baker have a case with the New Testament? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is easily the worst chapter of the book. There’s really not much about blood in here. It reads more as a compendium of bad arguments against the New Testament. What am I talking about? Well….

Josephus never mentions anything about Jesus of Nazareth, Paul or the Acts of the Apostles in any of his historical records. In reading the gospels and the book of Acts, the events that occurred would surely have been known by everyone, including the historian Josephus. The known world was still a very small place and events of this magnitude would have definitely been noticed. Christians and non-Christians alike, would have recorded them. Yet not surprisingly these things are only recorded in Christian writings.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 87). Kindle Edition.

The first part is just wrong. Most scholars agree that while the Testimonium has some interpolations in it, there is a part of it there that is accurate and part of what Josephus wrote. The second reference is not nearly as debated at all. Both of these refer to the historical Jesus.

For the second one, he gives us no reason why anyone would write about these events. He just assumes it. I often present skeptics today with many claims of miracles taking place all over the world today. How many are investigated? None. The ancient Roman world was also not interested in claims they would deem bizarre coming from communities that were full of the ignorant. Some things never change.

Not only that, very few people could write in the ancient world and if they could, there were many other things they were interested in. What about Josephus? Josephus was interested in things relevant to Jerusalem and Judaism. Why would he care about saying anything about miracles going on in a sect that was deemed heretical by Jews at the time? As I have said before, in the ancient world, Jesus was not worth talking about.

It is very important to understand that not one of the New Testament writers actually witnessed the events they wrote about. In other words, they were writing hearsay. Secondhand accounts as told by supposed witnesses of the events recorded in the Gospels and Acts. Certainly, this cannot be considered as reliable information. The followers of any leader, religious or otherwise, most definitely exaggerate the character of the people they follow.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 87-88). Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, not a single citation about this is given and if this was even true and Baker went with this consistently, he would have to throw out the majority of ancient history. However, there is no interaction with works like Redating the New Testament. There is no interaction with conservative arguments for early dates or even people like James Crossley, an agnostic who argues Mark was even written in the 40’s.

Fortunately for the writers of the New Testament, several of the Old Testament prophets spoke of a messiah, a savior who would put to death the enemies of God. So all the followers of Jesus had to do was start spreading the word that He was the prophesied messiah, the Son of God! Even though this was a slap in the face to many Jews, those desperate for change and freedom after years of oppression from the Roman Republic would easily follow such a belief. The early Christian church was still predominantly a Jewish sect that had simply added the belief Jesus was the prophesied messiah. Followers of this teaching were called “Jewish Christians.”

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 89-90). Kindle Edition.

Again, no citation is given for any of this. Why would they believe they could get freedom and oppression from Jesus? He was crucified by Rome. That was a dealbreaker. The only reason they would is they believed Jesus had already conquered by rising from the dead. Baker does not understand the social culture of the ancient world at all.

In the book of Acts we see Saul, a Roman and supposed persecutor of Christians, have an encounter with the long dead Jesus while travelling to his home in Damascus. Saul was convinced by a blinding apparition of light and a heavenly voice to take the message of Christ to the Gentiles. After a rather dubious miracle that restored his eyesight, he changed his name and became the Apostle Paul, writer of more than half the New Testament.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 90). Kindle Edition.

I am curious what he means by a supposed persecutor. I don’t know any scholar in the field really who doubts this. It is also unclear what is meant by a dubious miracle. I can understand saying “I don’t think the account is historical”, but I think if someone loses their eyesight and suddenly upon prayer has it back, it’s not dubious to think a miracle has taken place.

Although places like Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth and Athens looked magnificent, they were also home to tens of thousands of poor, desperate people who were the perfect audience for the Christian message of eternal life by faith, and not by works.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 91). Kindle Edition.

Look. I am fully Protestant apologist and I do believe in justification by faith definitely, but that was not the main message that would be preached, but rather the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of Jesus. Also, Jews at the time would actually think that they were not saved by works either. They were saved by being part of the covenant people. They would have to ask if they would truly be part of the covenant people if they became Christians. I actually recommend Baker read Paul Was Not A Christianwhich I have reviewed here. It is written by a non-Christian Jewish New Testament scholar and clarifies a number of points, even though I have a number of criticisms per my blog.

In much the same way, we have seen the prolific increase in the past century of religions such as the Latter Day Saints and Christian scientists. They have a basis in Christianity, yet their teachings differ, sometimes greatly, from the original. But still having recognizable themes interwoven throughout their theology makes them more readily acceptable. The one true God, that both Jews and gentiles alike were familiar with, began to evolve into something totally different.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 94). Kindle Edition.

Both of these groups also arose in America which has very different ways of handling movements like these than the Roman Empire did. In the Roman Empire, not embracing the Roman gods in any way was treason. Jews being an ancient sect were granted leniency so long as they at least sacrificed for and prayed for the emperor. This has not been the case in America.

It is also true the Mormons had some persecution, but they also had soldiers known as Danites who were willing to fight for them. Not only that, they could easily pick up and move somewhere else. Eventually, they moved all the way out west to Utah. As for Christian Science, it was never really a movement that presented the problems that Mormons did so it was live and let live.

The ancient world was not like this.

Now, let’s talk about the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

I recently read a popular Christian rebuttal for this fact, and in the interest of fairness; I thought I would share it with you:

“This sort of objection [Paul not mentioning the virgin birth] demonstrates a lack of realization that there is NO relevance for the virgin birth in the places where it is lacking mention. Remember, the NT materials were written to people who ALREADY believed the Gospel. By the time they were reading this stuff, they had already accepted all of the basic tenets, and already had all the basic information.”

This would be a good defense except the Bible is supposed to be inspired for instruction and teaching – Surely God would want believers who were not around at the time of Paul’s writing, to also learn about this important point concerning His Son! If these believers already knew all the basic teachings, why did Paul say he could not write to them as spiritually mature but as mere infants in Christ?

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 97-98). Kindle Edition.

Baker might not realize it, but he isn’t even touching the argument. It is as if the audience of Paul can only believe what they read in a letter from him, which is Scripture, and get absolutely nothing from oral tradition. So, if the virgin birth is part of background knowledge, Paul would not have needed to mention it. Baker is assuming though that it wasn’t and then saying “Paul didn’t mention it so it couldn’t have been part of their knowledge.” He is essentially using circular reasoning.

Finally, why could Paul say they were not being spiritually mature? Simple. Maturity is not about having a lot of knowledge. Fans of a show like The Big Bang Theory can easily say Sheldon Cooper has a lot of knowledge. Does he have a lot of maturity? Not at first definitely. Fans of the series like myself see him growing throughout the series. Knowledge does not equal maturity.

During this translation from Hebrew to Greek it appears the translator made a mistake. Erroneously translating the Hebrew word almah into the Greek word parthenos which means virgin. Almah actually means, a young women or maid. There is even one case where the word almah is used to refer to an adulteress.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 99). Kindle Edition.

There is no citation here from Baker and I cannot find where the word Almah is used to refer to an adulteress. The only possible reference could be the way of a man with a maid in Proverbs 30 not being understood, but that does not mean an adulteress. Men do crazy things around women they’re just attracted to.

So we have no reason for thinking this is a mistranslation then.

The writer of Matthew, familiar only with the erroneous Greek translation jumped to the crazy conclusion that Jesus, being the prophesied messiah, had to be born of a virgin. His understanding of Greek Mythology, which had several gods born of virgins, may have added to this delusion.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (p. 99). Kindle Edition.

Baker then assumes that Matthew made this up since this had to be the case for the Messiah, but no reason is given why he would do this. This would automatically be admitting Jesus was born out of wedlock. It would be a mark of shame to skeptics and would only be accepted by people who were believers, that is, those who already believed in the virgin birth, which I do affirm.

Finally, we have this:

If Jesus really was the messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, don’t you think that the Jewish people would have accepted him as such? The Jews had been living and studying the prophecies regarding their messiah for the previous 700 years or so – surely they would have been in the best position to verify this claim. They didn’t. They never have.

Preacher, Ex; Baker, Barnaby. Obsessed with Blood (The Crazy Things Christians Believe Book 1) (pp. 103-104). Kindle Edition.

Well, no. I don’t. Jews sadly have a history of rejecting YHWH and His prophets. Why think when the greatest one of all who was YHWH Himself that things would be any different? Baker gives us no reason. He just assumes that they would be right about who the Messiah was.

By the way, this is also someone who claims to be a freethinker but apparently wants those people who had “bronze age beliefs” to determine what he should think.

Amusing in a sense.

We shall continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)