Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Obstacle 4

Can we know what was written? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Madison gets to his fourth obstacle which is certainly a doozy! We don’t have any original manuscripts!

Which I don’t think any ancient historian gets in a panic about concerning the ancient documents that we have, to which I don’t know a single original manuscript that we have. But hey, in fundamentalist atheist land, that doesn’t matter. We can know what those other documents said even though we have far fewer copies and those copies are a greater chronological distance from the original.

This isn’t my opinion alone either. Here’s what one New Testament scholar had to say on that one.

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Also in a book he has on the New Testament he wrote:

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

So who was this guy? Bruce Metzger? Dan Wallace? Some evangelical scholar?

Nope. Bart Ehrman.

This is the first reference: Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior: An Evaluation: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998, a revision of a paper presented at the Textual Criticism section of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco. http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Ehrman1998.html

This is the second:

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 481

In this brief part, Madison cites no scholarship. He points to the story of the woman caught in adultery and the long woman in Mark. He is unaware that this is not new information as even the early church knew about these. The fact that we know that these are not part of the original manuscripts is actually evidence about the reliability of the manuscripts that we have.

He also says something about the sloppy copying process, but there is no data for this and nothing to indicate that even though many scribes in early Christianity were not professionals, that we have a significant loss. There is nothing about the number of manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about the dating of the manuscripts that we have. There is nothing about references in the early church fathers.

And this is the kind of material that internet atheists look at and consider to be powerful arguments. These are arguments that sadly Madison wrote in a book because he thought that they were something worth paying attention to. All he has done is just demonstrated his ignorance of the subject matter.

We’ll move on to the next section next time.

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

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Obstacle 3

Is oral tradition unreliable? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Madison begins this chapter, does he reference any of the scholars of oral tradition in history? Of course not. No Bailey, McIver, Lord, Perry, Dunn, etc. Nope. He sticks with Helms, who is not a scholar, and then references Tom Dykstra. I had to do some digging to find out anything about him which took a bit since he is pretty much cited only on mythicist websites.

One site I found had this to say:

First, a little about Dykstra. He is an “Independent Researcher” who lives in Bellevue, Washington. Some of you may be familiar with his blog. The “About” page tells us that he “got a Bachelors degree in Russian language and history; a Master of Divinity from a Russian Orthodox Seminary, focusing on church history; and a Ph.D. in medieval Russian history.” He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Russian history, and published a book based on his dissertation (concerning Russian monks in the 16th century). Tom’s goal is to write “historical fiction,” by which he has in mind novels “meticulously researched and historically accurate,” such as Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts, a book that greatly influenced him. Tom believes that historical fiction brings the past alive in a way ‘straight’ history cannot, if only because we lack many facts and because history is a one-sided account generally written by the winners. So, he finds truth in the loser’s side of the story and appreciates “the flaws of the heroes and the goodness of the villains.”

But now for another crazy theory from mythicists. According to this site also, what is Dykstra’s hypothesis?

But I already digress. What I find remarkable about Dykstra’s book is not that Mark ‘canonizes’ Paul, but how Mark did it. You see, Dykstra argues that Mark patterned his central character—Jesus of Capernaum—on Paul! Now, I’ve not come across that thesis before. But I do find it intriguing.

Dykstra offers well-reasoned and detailed arguments as to why Jesus visits Gentile terrain (as did Paul), sits with foreigners (ditto), rejects Jewish legalism (ditto), has so much trouble with Peter (you guessed it) and, above all, why Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross (I’m working on that)—which event Paul taught was the key to salvation through belief.

By the way, the same site also says Christians park their brains at the church door.

Madison meanwhile contends Paul doesn’t seem to know anything about the traditions of Jesus since He says almost nothing about them.

Well, he refers to them thrice in 1 Cor. Second, why should he? That would have been background knowledge to the audience. There was no need to repeat what they already knew.

Unfortunately, that’s about it for this section. So let’s see, in an argument about oral tradition, Madison cites no scholars of oral tradition, doesn’t even mention any of their names, and we’re supposed to take him seriously?

These guys never seem to know a thing about what they argue against.

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

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 2

Were the Gospel writers trying to write history? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Madison starts off with this section telling us the Gospel writers were more interested in writing theology and not history.

Which is apparent, since, you know, they recorded so many historical events.

His first example is Mark having two verses on Jesus going into the wilderness saying that historians wince at something like this. Unfortunately, he doesn’t name any of these historians. He says it’s because 40 days looks to parallel what happened with Israel, to which we say, “Isn’t it obvious?” Second is that who counted? (As if Jesus couldn’t tell Himself?) Third, Satan and angels are mythological figures. That’s bringing in your philosophy and theology into history to say ipso facto they’re not real.

Madison won’t cite any sources. I will.

The “forty days” recalls Moses on the mountain (Exod 24:18; 34:28), Elijah’s journey to the sacred mountain (1 Kgs 19:8), Jesus’ instruction of his disciples (Acts 1:3), and perhaps even Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (especially Deut 8:2). The word translated “tempted” also means tested, and that is probably the primary idea here. “Satan” is the anglicized form of the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning adversary. Only Mark indicates that Jesus was “with the wild animals.” Commentators divide over whether the animals were favorably disposed toward him and, therefore, symbolize the tranquility of the messianic kingdom after the defeat of Satan or whether they were hostile toward him and symbolize the forces of evil. Mark was concerned with the test itself, not its result. The intertestamental Jewish concept of the desert as the haunt of demons further supports the latter view. Mark did not indicate whether the angels “attended” or “ministered to” (RSV) Jesus during or after the temptation or whether they helped him resist, fed him, or witnessed what he did. Nor did Mark state that Jesus was victorious, perhaps because he looked upon Jesus’ entire life as a continuing struggle with Satan. Perhaps the episode was recorded partly to encourage the original readers/hearers in their trials and temptations.

James A. Brooks, Mark (vol. 23; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 44.

And

For example, the story starts in the wilderness (NIV, desert), not in the holy temple of the holy city (as in Luke) or with the heavenly council of God before creation (as in John). The wilderness image would evoke all kinds of memories for those grounded in the Old Testament. For those reading from translations that refer to “the wilderness” (e.g., NRSV, REB), that word might rouse a picture from a Wilderness Society poster with a lush forest, sparkling streams, snow-capped mountains, and wild animals (buffalo roaming and antelope playing), which cause tourists excitedly to stop their cars on the highway to take snapshots. For Jews, however, the wilderness/desert called forth a host of different images. It was more than just a place on the margins of civilization; it evoked a variety of powerful biblical memories and expectations. For one, it marked the place of beginnings. It was the region where God led the people out and from which they crossed over Jordan and seized the land promised to them. It was the place to which God allured the people to win them back (Hos. 2:14). It was also the place where one went to flee iniquity. According to 2 Maccabees 5:27, Judas Maccabeus fled with nine others to the wilderness and lived off what grew wild “so that they might not share in the defilement.” According to the Martyrdom of Isaiah 2:7–11, the prophets Isaiah, Micah, Ananias, Joel, Habbakuk, and Josab, his son, all abandoned the corruption of Judah for the mountainous wilderness, where they clothed themselves in sackcloth, lamented bitterly over straying Israel, and ate wild herbs.
The wilderness was also considered to be “the staging ground for Yahweh’s future victory over the power of evil.” It was the place where some thought that the final holy war would be fought and won (1QM 1:2–3). The Christ was thought to appear in the wilderness (Matt. 26:24), and it was the haunt of messianic diviners, such as the Egyptian false prophet (Acts 21:38). The wilderness was not only God’s staging grounds for the eschatological victory, it was also God’s proving grounds for testing the people. Consequently, it was remembered as the place of disobedience, judgment, and grace.

David E. Garland, Mark (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 52–53.

He also says that the Sermon on the Mount could not have come from Jesus since it relies so much on the Greek of the LXX. All of this assumes that Jesus could not have spoken in Greek but even if He spoke in Aramaic, a skilled writer could interpret that in the best way in Greek. But then, his source is Carrier for this….

He points out how Jesus did miracles paralleling those of Elijah such as the feeding miracles. (Though it was actually Elisha.) Well, of course Jesus would do this just as He would parallel Israel! He would be out there showing that He was in the same mold, but He was the superior model. He also says the crucifixion was based on verses from the Psalms. Nowhere does that indicate that this was not historical and the crucifixion is one of the surest facts that can be known about Jesus.

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

 

Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans. (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

 

That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate. (ibid. 186)

 

Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan

Madison says all the Gospels were also written after AD 70. No evidence is given for this. (Remember boys and girls, atheists are against taking anything on faith, except their assertions.)

Madison then goes on after quoting Randal Helms to say:

The historical Jesus is not easy to find, but even so, most secular historians accept that Jesus existed. That yes, he was a real person. But that doesn’t mean Christians can breathe a sigh of relief. Priests and preachers don’t make a habit of keeping laypeople up to date on debates raging in New Testament academia—and indeed, there has been considerable debate about what can be known about Jesus. No one has developed a reliable method for identifying genuine history in the gospels. Hence there have been many different “Jesus proposals,” i.e., who and what he actually was—and precious little agreement. Most of these scholars, bear in mind, are devout and have an emotional investment in getting to the bottom of this “Jesus problem.” Most of the folks in the pews are unaware of these problems that plague any serious Jesus study.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 103-104). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

That’s strange because I have been citing non-Christian scholars here to make my case. Madison has pointed to no scholarly works on the historical Jesus or made any comparisons to study of any other figures out there. Again, he likes to talk about evidence, except for when it comes to his position. Madison is still a preacher. It’s just for the other side.

I urge you to avoid knee-jerk reactions like, “Of course, Jesus existed, don’t be silly.” There is indignation at the very idea that Jesus might not have existed, but not enough curiosity. Please do some homework. Find out why there are doubts that Jesus ever lived. Bring some understanding to the debate. I’m a little suspicious of Christians who flame out on this issue but who cannot cite any of the hard facts that point to a mythical Jesus.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 104). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Yep. Did it already. I have read a number of mythicist works, including Carrier’s, and have debated Ken Humphreys on this issue.

Even devout scholars admit there is no contemporaneous documentation at all for anything Jesus said or did.

The teachings and deeds of Jesus—even his miracles reported in the gospels—are not mentioned in the New Testament epistles written well before the gospels.

There is so much folklore, fantasy, superstition, and magical thinking in the gospels. What are the implications of this when we’re trying to figure out who Jesus really was, on the assumption that he existed?

As of yet, no reliable methodology has been developed for identifying, for sure, which gospel stories are actually historical. Exactly where are the certain tidbits of history in the gospels? Gospel experts have arrived at no consensus.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 104-105). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

So let’s go through these.

For the first, this assumes the Gospels aren’t contemporary or the epistles, but even if they aren’t, the same applies to Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and Arminius who was a German leader who won a massive victory over the Roman Empire. We only have one historical source at the time describing the eruption of Vesuvius and it’s only over a century later that another historian mentions that a second city was destroyed.

For the second, yes, because the epistles aren’t written to be biographies. They assume a high background knowledge of Jesus already.

Third, this is just Ancient People Were Stupid thinking.

Fourth, this assumes that history is done in the same way other fields are done. Everyone pretty much plays by the same rules and accepts their papers to others for peer-review and writes books critiqued by others.

Finally, Madison recommends a number of mythicist authors like Price, Lataster, Doherty, Fitzgerald, and of course, Carrier.

One final point; if the Gospels were more interested in theology instead of history, I find it strange that when we get to the resurrection, we see none of that. We see no Scripture citations. We see nothing about the doctrine of the atonement or justification by faith. Surely this would be the best place for that, and yet it is absent.

Strange, isn’t it?

Next time it’s oral tradition.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Obstacle 1

What keeps us supposedly from knowing what Jesus taught? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am going to go through these one-by-one here as this is a part 2 to the book, but first, let’s quote how this begins.

In 2004, devout Christian scholar Ben Witherington III published a 400-page commentary on the apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It includes a 19-page bibliography of other works about Paul and his writings, and Witherington said, “…this list could go on for miles.” Indeed, the output of scholars—the results of their intensive study of the New Testament for decades—is nothing short of phenomenal.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 91). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Why do I cite this? Because I disagree? Certainly not. Because this is the start of a powerful argument? Not at all.

It’s because this is the only time that Madison cites a conservative scholar and even then you don’t get any content of it except “This could go on for miles.”

Really doing the work there, Madison.

Madison starts with asking what we could know about an event like the Gettysburg Address. He talks about all the sources we could cite and then says this:

No such references exist for the Jesus story. The four gospels were written decades after the events depicted, and not once do their authors provide specific details about their sources.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 93). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Because there’s nothing like comparing events that are 1800 years apart.

I mean, the only differences are the location, the time, the place, the languages spoken, the literacy of the people involved and how many of them were literate, the nature of the culture involved, the cost of writing materials, and what it would take to distribute writing materials, and those are just off the top of my head.

You know, little details like that.

And before I comment on that he says:

If you don’t identify your sources and cite contemporaneous documentation, the story doesn’t qualify as history.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 93-94). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

And who made up these rules? Certainly not ancient historians. Will Madison apply the same to Suetonius, Plutarch, Tacitus, Josephus, and many others? While sure some will tell their sources, many times stories will go without what Madison would consider proper footnoting. Many of them also wrote about events long before their time.

He then cites Carrier (Please stop laughing) talking about the long speeches in John. (I at this point have to be careful what I choose to cut and paste since apparently I have got close to my limits.) Naturally, Carrier says that since these don’t show up in the other Gospels, then John must be lying. Yep. That has to be it. Go ahead and attribute the worst motives to the ancient authors.

It couldn’t possibly be there are different reasons. It could well be Jesus taught in both forms and the Synoptics reported what is easier to remember. John wants to make a statement for his community to show why they are different and thus shows more of a back-and-forth dialogue going on on long and extended topics.

But what about Jesus’s words themselves. How do we know we have them right? Was anyone writing them down? Well first off, Matthew being a tax collector very well could have been writing down shorthand. Without that, these parables and stories would likely be told many many times and remembered and ancient people had much better memories than we do. Naturally, Madison doesn’t look at any sources on oral cultures or with modern scholars like Bailey, McIver, or Dunn.

So strike the first obstacle as a no-go.

But were the Gospels meant to be history? We’ll look at that next time.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 10

Is Jesus a false prophet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

With my interest in eschatology, I was quite pleased to see this last of the ten things Christians supposedly wish Jesus hadn’t taught. Naturally, there will be no interaction with orthodox Preterism at all. Madison has the fundamentalist viewpoint throughout the chapter. Let’s go ahead and see what he has.

Madison begins with 1 Thess. 4:13-17 where Paul says that Christ returns, “we which are alive and remain” and jumps to his preferred conclusion.

This is a window into the earliest Christian thinking—at least Paul’s version of it. How can these verses not be an embarrassment? Paul was confident that he would be alive for this momentous event: “…we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them…” The imminent arrival of Jesus was a constant theme in Paul’s letters.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 73-74). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

I am reminded again of the joke where the pastor is filling out his sermon outline and writes in the side at one of the points, “Weak point. Pound pulpit harder.”

Of course, Madison could have consulted some scholars on this to see what was said, but what would be the fun in that?

V. 15 has been a flashpoint in the discussion of Pauline eschatology at least since the time of A. Schweitzer. Here, it is said, we have proof positive that Paul believed that he would live to see the parousia of Jesus. But this overlooks at least a couple key factors: Paul did not know in advance when he would die, and he argues that the second coming will happen at an unexpected time, like a thief in the night. It could be soon, it could be later, and in either case the indeterminacy of the timing is what fuels exhortations that one must always be prepared and alert. Since Paul does not claim to know the specific timing of either his own death or the return of Christ, he could not have said “we who are dead and not left around to see the parousia of the Lord.…” In short, he does not know that he will not be alive when Jesus returns, and so the only category in which he can logically place himself and the Christians he writes to here is the “living.”
What these verses surely do imply is that Paul thought it possible that he might be alive when Jesus returned. As Best rightly suggests, Paul, until he was much older and near death, always had both possibilities before him. We do not hear the language of possible survival until the parousia in the later Pauline letters because one of the two unknowns, the timing of Paul’s death, was becoming more likely to precede the other, the parousia. He did not change his view of the second coming or consider it delayed in the later Paulines because without knowledge of when it was supposed to happen one cannot could speak of it as “delayed.” Paul’s imagery of the thief implies a denial of knowing with that sort of precision

Ben Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 133–134.

Thus, according to Witherington, Paul took the safest route. Had he said they, it would have meant Paul knew it would happen after his lifetime, but he knew no such thing. It could happen during his, he doesn’t know. Thus, the safest thing to say is we.

The objection is nothing new. Calvin even brings it up in his time:

As to the circumstance, however, that by speaking in the first person he makes himself, as it were, one of the number of those who will live until the last day, he means by this to arouse the Thessalonians to wait for it, nay more, to hold all believers in suspense, that they may not promise themselves some particular time: for, granting that it was by a special revelation that he knew that Christ would come at a somewhat later time, it was nevertheless necessary that this doctrine should be delivered to the Church in common, that believers might be prepared at all times. In the mean time, it was necessary thus to cut off all pretext for the curiosity of many—as we shall find him doing afterwards at greater length. When, however, he says, we that are alive, he makes use of the present tense instead of the future, in accordance with the Hebrew idiom.

John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 282.

Moving on from there, we see more of the fundamentalism of Madison.

Apocalypticism is a relic of ancient superstition. Jesus, at his trial, tells the high priest: “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62, NRSV) Obviously, this text has been falsified by history. It didn’t happen.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 76). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Obviously, Caiaphas was to wake up one morning, open the window, and see Jesus sitting on a cloud riding into Jerusalem like Goku on a nimbus. Perhaps he should have looked at the ways clouds are used at times in the Old Testament.

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. Deut. 33:26

“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens[c] shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared[d] on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark[e] rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils. 2 Samuel 22 (Repeated also in Psalms 18)

Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’ Job 22:14

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. Psalms 68:4

Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Psalms 97:2

and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. Psalms 104:3

See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire. Isaiah 30:27

Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined! Jeremiah 4:13

For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near— a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. Ezekiel 30:3

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. Daniel 7:13

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:3

The point is clouds are a symbol of judgment and the coming of the Lord, which are really the same thing. When the Lord comes, it is to judge. The claim is Caiaphas will someday see the Son of Man acting in judgment. This did indeed happen when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.

To get back to Madison:

Hence theologians have retreated to a metaphoric interpretation of these texts: It must mean something spiritual. When I was a teen fascinated by astronomy, I asked my mother where heaven was, and she gave an answer that worked for a while: It is a state of being, a relationship with God. So, even though very pious, she also was savvy enough to know that heaven was not out there/up there to be surveyed by telescopes and rockets. So Stephen’s vision of Jesus standing next to God needs to be taken symbolically. But it’s harder to get away with a metaphorical interpretation of Jesus’ prediction that those attending his trial would see the Son of Man “coming with the clouds of heaven.” There was a passionate belief that the Messiah would show up, in person, real-time in the real world, to—among other things—toss out the Romans. Surely this must qualify as a major thing Christians wish Jesus hadn’t taught—even those who still hope that Jesus is coming back. They have to keep coming up with excuses as to why all of the predictions about the timing of the big day—made through the centuries—have been wrong.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 77-78). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

It’s not an embarrassment at all. If anything, it’s a confirmation. That Jerusalem was destroyed within a generation of crucifying the Messiah just as Jesus prophesied is all the more reason to trust Him.

What about Matthew 24? You can see my series on that starting here. What about Jesus saying that some of those present will not taste death until He “returns”? Right here.

Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28, NRSV) This sounds like a line from a fantasy novel—or science fiction. The gospel writers apparently didn’t check their own storylines for consistency. Surely this is a blunder: You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones? Twelve? This would suggest that Jesus hadn’t yet figured out that Judas wasn’t really on the team.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 84). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Which means it’s all the more likely that Jesus said this. Nevertheless, it’s not a problem. One can include Matthias in that since he was added to the twelve. Some might even want to say Paul is the proper choice. Either way, the twelve came to be a reference to Jesus’s disciples as shown even in 1 Cor. 15.

And here are two Jesus sayings in the same chapter of Mark that can’t both be true. “And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations…” This is something which would not happen for a long time. And “…Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 84-85). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

With regard to the first, Paul thought it had. See what he said in Colossians 1:23.

if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

And as for the second, again, covered in my look at the Olivet Discourse and you can find that here. (link is to part 1)

So this is the end. Right? Nope. Madison closes this part with saying the Gospels don’t count as biographies and aren’t historically reliable and he is going to give some “hope” to struggling Christians now.

The games are only just beginning.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 9

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

For people who claim to follow logic and evidence, evangelistic atheists like David Madison sure make emotional appeals. Consider how in this section he starts with talking about John 3:16. For him, it sounds nice at the start, but then it gets to judgment. Naturally, before too long he gets to the cross.

I do wonder why Christians aren’t put off by this barbaric feature at the heart of their theology. Does it bother you?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 66). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Of course it does, because I know I’m in part responsible. It bothers me that sin is so evil that this is what it takes to redeem humanity. Madison sees it as bothersome, but for the wrong reason.

Another problem with John 3:16 is that it encourages religious arrogance, the assumption that “our religion is the one true religion.” That is, those who don’t believe in Jesus are excluded from the promise of eternal life. This means that the vast majority of humans have missed out on God’s love for the world. Tim Sledge has done the math: A few moments of simple analysis reveal that if we take the words of Jesus seriously, a clear majority of humanity is destined for an eternal address in hell. About 2.1 billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people alive today identify themselves as Christians—about one out of four—which leaves more than 5 billion people headed for hell. When you apply even a remotely similar ratio to previous millennia, according to the Gospels, an all-powerful, all-loving God created a world in which most of the beings made in his image are destined for torture—torture so extreme it would cause instant death in this mortal life.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 66-67). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot here.

First, it’s odd to talk about a religion being arrogant for thinking they’re correct, when it’s not arrogant apparently to think that all religious believers are incorrect and the non-believers are. If thinking you are correct means you are arrogant, then everyone is arrogant. The reason you hold to any belief is you think you are correct in holding to it.

Second, I have read Tim Sledge’s book already, though I don’t know why I didn’t write a response to it, and see him as someone who messed up his own life, had affairs, and then lo and behold decided Christianity was false. That doesn’t mean his arguments are wrong, so let’s take a look at his claim. To begin with, most evangelicals don’t hold to Hell being a place of torture. Sledge still has a fundamentalist viewpoint.

Third, we don’t have the numbers on all of history and many of us don’t think that those who never heard are automatically hellbound. You can read here for instance. Sledge would need to actually show the numbers which we don’t have. Besides that, if he wants to take Scripture as the authority on this point, Revelation also tells us about a great crowd no man could number from all over the Earth.

Finally, what does this have to do with if Jesus rose from the dead? If you are unsure about the status of those on the outside, it seems strange to say you yourself will stay on the outside. If Christianity is true, it doesn’t matter if 1 person believes it or 10 billion people believe it.

Madison goes on to look at other New Testament passages on judgment and says:

These verses undermine the assumption that God’s love is the essence of the New Testament. The wrath of God, so prominent in the Old Testament, is right here as well. And anyone who reads the letters of Paul can easily pick up on his certainty that wrath is God’s default emotion.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 67-68). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Odd. I have read Paul’s letters several times and never thought that, but then again, I also do hold to impassibility so I hold that God does not have emotions. Basically, Madison’s argument is again “God is a judge and I don’t like that.”

By the way, these same atheists will complain about the problem of evil and then when God acts as a judge, they complain about that as well.

But no matter if 3:16 and 3:36 are the words of Jesus or simply the words of John, the author, the wrath motif is by no means rare in the teachings of Jesus. So, it’s no exaggeration to assert that his attitude was: Do what I say, or I will hurt you.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 68). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Which presumes that man is innocent and God comes and says “Hey! You’re doing great! Now do what I say or suffer!” A better analogy is man is on death row waiting to go to the chair for his last moments and God is the governor who offers Him a pardon in return for loyalty.

He then has something to say about the parable of the sheep and the goats.

And isn’t it too bad that quite a few categories of sinners aren’t included in this list of those who deserve eternal fire? What about slave owners, child abusers, murderers, and rapists? It’s easy for religious doctrine to stumble over itself and get into a hopeless tangle. In John 3:16, we read that those who believe in the son of God win eternal life, but in Matthew 25, “inheriting the kingdom” is based on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 70). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Ah. Because Jesus didn’t give an exhaustive list, there’s a problem. Jesus is speaking to day to day people. Most of his audience would not have engaged in child abuse, murders, rapes, and even owning slaves. They would engage in the activities He did speak about.

As for the difference between John 3:16, an ancient Jewish mindset would not understand believing in YHWH and yet not living in obedience to Him. If you called someone Lord, you lived as Lord. If anything, this could be a way of saying that if you claimed John 3:16 and yet did not live it, then you did not really claim it.

The final objection he brings up in this chapter is about the coming judgment of Matthew 24-25, but since that’s the point of the next chapter, we’ll wait until then.

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

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 8

Did Jesus want the message to get out there? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus came into the world to preach the gospel and save the lost. Right? Then why do we find statements like this?

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret [or mystery] of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’ (Mark 4:10-12, NRSV)

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 59). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Madison tells us that devout Christian scholars have been stressed about this verse. Unfortunately, he doesn’t cite any of them. He is correct that some scholars thought about a Messianic Secret. So let’s see what some such scholars say about this passage.

The phrase “in parables” in 4:11 takes on a different meaning from its use in 4:2. It now means bewildering puzzles. Revelation becomes riddles and stumpers to the hardened, shallow, and indifferent mind; and the end result is befuddlement. God’s mysterious revelation consequently reveals the blindness of the world, and that blindness is manifest in surprising groups: the religious authorities, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (2:1–3:6; 3:22–30), Jesus’ nearest relatives (3:31–35), and even his disciples (8:14–21). They are wedded to old ways of perceiving and evaluate things only from human perspectives and potentialities. They see but see nothing special. These persons do not suffer from a thick skull but a hardened heart. The parables are therefore a “two-edged sword” that reveal the mystery of the kingdom to disciples who understand but create blindness in others. Edwards comments that they are

like the cloud which separated the fleeing Israelites from the pursuing Egyptians. It brought “darkness to the one side and light to the other” (Exod 14:20). The same cloud which condemned the Egyptians to their hardness of heart also protected Israel and made a way for her through the sea. That which was blindness to Egypt was revelation to Israel.

Outsiders see no revelation of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ miracles, his teaching, or his death. Only insiders, even if they are sometimes confused by its enigmatic concealment, can see the truth.
The secret is therefore revealed to those who respond to Jesus by hearing and following. Jesus’ charge to hear only occurs in the public parables and not in the private explanations because insiders have already heard and have responded by coming to Jesus to hear more. Disciples are not quicker than others, nor are they able to unravel mysteries for themselves. The mystery is something that is “given” to them. The understanding comes by grace as Jesus’ interpretation unlocks the mystery for them.
The quotation from Isaiah 6:9–10. The citation from Isaiah has long troubled commentators because it suggests that Jesus deliberately excludes people by making things hard to understand with dark sayings that cloak the truth. The context in Isaiah is helpful for interpreting what is meant. God tells the prophet to preach in spite of warning him in advance that it will only harden the hearts of the hearers until God carries out the punishment. That command brims over with irony and scorn. God calls a faithful prophet to preach to faithless people. Jesus’ explanation for the parables has the same ironic tenor and can be translated: “So that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; because the last thing they want is to turn and have their sins forgiven.” In Isaiah’s time the people could not understand the message until the land and Jerusalem were decimated (Isa. 6:11–13). What was true for the days of Isaiah holds true for the time of Jesus. The present time is one of concealment and suffering, and understanding may have to wait destruction—the death of the Son of God and the desolation of Jerusalem.
Insiders and outsiders. What is it that makes one an insider over against an outsider? Kermode objects that the outsider seems to be kept “outside, dismayed and frustrated in a seemingly arbitrary manner.” But this misreads the text, because the key element that distinguishes one from the other is that the insider gathers around Jesus as an honest inquirer (Mark 4:10). Disciples are no different from anyone in needing explanations for the parables, but they are different from outsiders in that they choose to come to Jesus for explanations. They also have to puzzle out the parables, but they ask questions sincerely. The decisive difference is that insiders are not indifferent. At the conclusion of this section of parables, Mark tells us that Jesus explains the parables to his disciples privately because they come to him and ask for an explanation (4:34). The fact that Jesus does this in private does not mean that he intends to exclude the others. Outsiders simply do not regard what he says to be critical enough to bother joining the disciples around Jesus in order to receive illumination.
Being an insider, however, does not mean that one knows everything. Insiders are elite only in the sense that they have knowledge that will save their lives. But insiders can be baffled and deceived and must watch how they listen. Malbon observes, “The resounding pattern is this: Hear. Understand? Listen again! See. Understand? Look again!” Insiders and outsiders are not separated by an unbridgeable chasm, such as the one that divided Lazarus from the rich man. So-called outsiders can become insiders, otherwise “the whole mission of preaching the good news of God’s kingship is a cruel hoax.” “The Twelve and the others around him” (4:10) must not be considered a closed group. So-called insiders can become outsiders; otherwise there would be no reason to caution them to pay heed to how they listen so that they can discern what lies hidden beneath the surface.

David E. Garland, Mark (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 158–161.

And

Some have sought to avoid the conclusion that Jesus used parables to hide the truth by claiming that Mark or someone before him mistranslated Jesus’ Aramaic word “so that” rather than “who.” This is a possible explanation, but a better one focuses on the meaning of the quotation from Isa 6:9–10. God told the prophet to deliver his message even though it would be rejected. The seeing without perceiving, the hearing without understanding, and the failure to turn and be forgiven (Isaiah wrote “be healed”) were the result, not the purpose, of his message. So it was also with the parables of Jesus. Therefore the Greek word hina (translated “so that” in the NIV) at the beginning of v. 12 ought to be translated “as a result.” This is a well-established meaning. Jesus did not speak in parables for the purpose of withholding truth from anyone; but the result of his parables, the rest of his teaching, and even his miracles was that most did not understand and respond positively. He did speak in parables to provoke thought and invite commitment. Therefore parables are more than mere illustrations. They constitute spiritual tests that separate those who understand and believe from those who do not. Still another possibility is to translate hina “that is” (cf. its use in 9:12). This rendering and the translation “as a result” do not differ greatly.

James A. Brooks, Mark (vol. 23; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 83.

Also

Then He quotes Isaiah 6:9–10 to drive home His point and to demonstrate that the Scriptures are being fulfilled in Him: “So that they may look and look, yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back—and be forgiven.” His point is that, just as the sun that hardens the clay also melts the wax, so the Word of the gospel offends the resistant and rebellious while it is enthusiastically received by the receptive. Those outside are not denied the possibility of belief, but if they persist in their unbelief, they will not receive more evidence or revelation. That clarifies verse 25: “For to the one who has, it will be given, and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Love the Word and you will get more satisfaction and understanding in who God has revealed Himself to be. Refuse the Word and even the understanding you do have will be taken away.

Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Mark (ed. Daniel L. Akin, David Platt, and Tony Merida; Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary; Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014), 88.

I could keep going on, but it looks like a number of scholars have an explanation for this. It’s the one I would use. Jesus speaks so that those who really want the truth will work for it. What a shock that we are dealing with someone who didn’t cite any New Testament scholars here and yet speaks about how perplexed they allegedly are.

He moves on then to another passage:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26, NRSV) Which is it? Is it the role of the Holy Spirit to teach “everything”? Or is the Holy Spirit busy sowing confusion to pursue the goal of keeping people in the dark?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 61). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Well since Jesus was talking to His inner circle, like He did in the Markan parables when He explained them, then there’s really no difficulty here.

There are now more than 30,000 different Christian brands because Christians can’t agree on what God is like, what he wants humans to do, and how he wants to be worshiped. Was Jesus wrong in expecting that the Holy Spirit would keep everyone correctly informed?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 62). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Even Catholic sources are coming to realize the 30,000 denominations or however many they throw out is a false statistic.

But hey, it agreed with what Madison wanted to say so why bother researching it?

And it’s not just that God doesn’t want some people to understand the truth. Apparently, he also doesn’t want even his most loyal followers thinking too much. Jesus idealizes childhood, that stage in human development when critical thinking is least likely to occur. He seems to be saying that understanding is of far less value than credulity. Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4, NRSV) The gospels were written well before critical thinking—especially about religion—had come into fashion, well before due diligence and fact-checking were common practice, and before literacy among the common people was widespread. But even today, religions—not just Christianity—are good at aiming their appeals at people who will simply believe and comply. What better audience, in fact, than children, who generally trust parents and authority figures, and adults who have similar levels of naiveté?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 62-64). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Yes. That’s obviously the point. Jesus is telling His disciples to be stupid. It couldn’t possibly be He is referring to the way children trust those above them could it?

Madison. Before you talk to others about critical thinking, make sure you are doing it yourself. You’re not.

And next time, it looks like we cover judgment. Fun.

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

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 7

Can we pull a rabbit out of a hat? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

And for his next trick, Madison is going to try to convince us that Jesus taught we can do magic. Well, of course we can! I mean, it takes years of practice and learning how to trick people but get a wand and a hat and a book of tricks and….wait…you mean it’s not that kind of magic? Oh! You mean he thinks miracles and things like that are automatically magic!

Sorry. I forget evangelistic atheists are just ignorant and like to use the word magic as if that discredits everything.

Now you’re not going to find anything here like a reasoned case against miracles. I mean, at least throw out David Hume or something like that. But hey, when you’re arguing from his position, who needs to make a case for his worldview? It’s just those nutty Christians that have to defend theirs.

So let’s get to something he says about the Lord’s Supper.

The familiar words we know from Mark’s gospel, “this is my body…this is my blood of the new covenant,” are missing from John’s account of the Last Supper. Instead, much earlier in the story, in the 6th chapter of John, after Jesus had fed the 5,000, we find these words—and no matter how familiar you may be with communion—how can they not be disturbing?

 

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. (John 6:53-57, NRSV)

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 51-52). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Let’s agree on one point. These words should be very disturbing indeed! They were so disturbing that a majority of the people who had just witnessed a miracle and were ready to proclaim Jesus to be king turned and walked away. Jesus went straight from hero to zero in their eyes. They were at one moment ready to trust Him as king and the next they gave up any trust in Him.

So for a point, let’s consider Madison is right. We need to really take these words seriously.

Do I think Jesus is talking about the Eucharist here? No. I think instead that Jesus is pointing to the Wilderness wanderings and saying “Just as the manna was their sustenance in the wilderness, so it is that I must be your sustenance in all things.” Now you could say “And that takes place in the Eucharist” if you’re of that persuasion, but it is not a necessity.

Now moving on, we get this little gem:

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, NRSV) Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24, NRSV)

I suspect many Christians know these texts are falsified by their own prayer experiences. I urge you to think long and hard about prayer. How can it not be classified as a form of magical thinking? In many cases, even an attempt at conjuring?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 53). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

There’s a rule of interpretation that is to try to avoid making what your opponent say look as stupid as possible. If you think your opponent is saying something that is manifestly false, you need to check to see if you have misunderstood Him. Unfortunately, Madison has not done that.

For one thing, it should be blatantly obvious Jesus is not offering a blank check because any prayer that would come back unanswered would immediately disprove that. What is He offering then? He is offering that if you are fully in line with the will of God, you will get what you want, and very few people will be in such a place and if they are, they are not going to be asking for selfish things.

Not only that, but ancient Jews spoke in terms of hyperbole. When Salome dances for Herod, he offers her half of his kingdom. She could have just asked for the one that gave her authority to execute John the Baptist and got him executed and a kingdom then. Everyone knew he couldn’t give that literally. He himself knew it. They also knew what the gesture meant.

Madison doesn’t because he doesn’t understand any culture but his own.

But Madison isn’t done with prayer.

But how do the thoughts inside our heads—trapped there by our skulls—escape to be perceived by God? There are no known mechanisms by which that would work, just as there are no known ways by which the popular spells in the Harry Potter stories would work. Nobody even tries to explain how the Fairy God Mother in Cinderella, waving a wand, changes a pumpkin into a carriage—because that’s fantasy. Does prayer amount to waving a wand in our minds? The efficacy of prayer should not be off-limits for legitimate inquiry. Indeed, scientific studies of prayer have not yielded hoped-for results.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 53-54). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

I am sitting here and typing out a response and I am telling my hands through my brain to type. How does that work? I have no idea. Do I conclude then that I am not doing it because I do not know the mechanism by which this works? Not at all. How does God know what I am praying? As a Thomist, I contend He knows all things by knowing Himself, but even if I don’t understand that, a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing I am sure knows what I am thinking.

Madison dismisses prayer studies. I am skeptical of them as well, but then there are researchers like Candy Gunther-Brown and others who have observed miracles after prayer in certain settings. Of course, if Madison were being fair, he would research those, but we all know he won’t.

The last thing I plan to cover is he says there are two things that are troubling about prayer.

The concept of prayer brings us face-to-face, again, with the grim specter of totalitarian monotheism, that is to say, God monitors our very thoughts—the ultimate invasion of privacy for every person on earth. Doesn’t that make God a nosy busybody? Aside from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence to back up this idea—our feelings about prayer instilled since childhood are not the kind of hard evidence required—it’s simply a terrible idea.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 54). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

A terrible idea, therefore wrong. Got it. Besides that nonsense, why should I think I have a right to privacy from God? I owe everything to Him, including my very being. Also, if there is evidence that God exists, and there is, and that He’s all-knowing, and there is, then Madison’s claim is false. God knows what I am thinking. Yes, that should concern me, but knowing He is forgiving should also relieve me and I should seek to get my own thought life under control. Does Madison seriously have a problem with me wanting to have a good thought life?

It is incredibly implausible that a God who manages the cosmos, that is, who has hundreds of billions of galaxies, and trillions of planets under management, would be interested in monitoring the thoughts of more than seven billion human beings—as a way of keeping track of their sinful inclinations, their need for a parking space, or recovery from an ailment. Such an attentive God might have made sense long ago when the earth was regarded as the center of his attention, and when God was thought to reside in the realm above the clouds.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 54-55). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

This is just an appeal to incredulity. First off, the Christians never made the Earth the center of everything. God has always been. Second, God does not have limited resources or strength such that He has to use energy monitoring trillions of planets and everything else.

So alas, Madison again really gives us nothing.

We’ll continue next time.

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

 

 

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 6

Should you watch what you say? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well it looks like David Madison might have finally found something!

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Now why would we wish Jesus hadn’t have taught this? Because Madison is right in his next point.

This is, in fact, a terrifying warning: God is monitoring every word you utter and plans to get even on judgment day. I really do wonder how many Christians take this seriously. Do you live in constant terror of saying the wrong thing, with such horrible consequences?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 43). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

I wouldn’t phrase it this way, but yes, we should be watching what we say. We all know that the best way to tell someone is not by their actions, but by their reactions, when they don’t have time to think out what they are going to say. Anyone can plan out a speech and look good, but to be a person of high character when you are caught off guard is something different.

So would it be easier on us if Jesus hadn’t taught this? Yes. Should we take it seriously? Yes. Does not liking it mean that it is wrong? No. This is something atheists like Madison seem to always go by. It’s an idea of “I don’t like it, therefore it’s wrong.”

Then he quotes this passage:

I say to you, “Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34-37, NRSV)

And says about it:

One positive way to interpret this text could be, “Say what you mean and mean what you say. Just tell the truth all the time.” But, come on, isn’t the rest of this teaching worth a big yawn? Especially from those who place their hands on the Bible to swear, “So help me God.” This is worthless advice anchored to ancient cosmology that views heaven as a throne and the earth as a footstool. And so much trouble has been caused by giving special status to Jerusalem.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 45). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Gotta love the, “It’s boring, therefore false” implication. It would make a lot of church sermons and school lectures easier to deal with. Unfortunately, this is not how hard scholarship works.

Craig Keener says about this passage that:

The point of this passage is integrity. Letting one’s “yes” function as a “yes” and “no” as a “no” seems to employ ancient Jewish figures of speech simply to demand that one be as good as one’s word, that one keep one’s word. Jesus observes that since God witnesses every word one says anyway, one should be able to tell the truth without having to call God to witness by a formal oath (cf. Harrington 1982: 30; Jeremias 1971: 220; Manson 1979: 158–59).
Jesus addresses a popular abuse of oaths in his day. To protect the sanctity of the divine name against inadvertent oath-breaking, common Jewish practice introduced kinnuyim, surrogate objects by which to swear (Vermes 1993: 34–35). Some people apparently thought it harmless to deceive if they swore oaths by something like their right hand (t. Ned. 1:1; cf. its use in agreements, e.g., Jos. War 2.451). Others took all oaths more seriously, but specifically warned against using God’s name lest if one break the oath one profane God’s name (Philo Spec. 2.4–5; cf. 1 Enoch 69:13–16; Pesiq. R. 22:6); sometimes vows could not be fulfilled (m. Ned. 3:1). Jewish teachers had to arbitrate which oaths were actually binding as allusions to God’s name (m. Shebu. 4:13; cf. CD 15.1–5; Smith 1951: 136). The further removed the oath was from the actual name of God, the less danger they faced for violating it (Schiffman 1983: 137–38; Sanders 1990: 53–54). Some later teachers had to insist that all roundabout substitutes for vows were equivalent to vows (m. Ned. 1:1; Nazir 1:1). Sages undoubtedly had to evaluate vows’ validity frequently because they had acquired the role of canceling bad vows (e.g., t. Pisha 2:16), extending an Old Testament privilege accorded male guardians of unattached women (Num 30:3–15).
Thus people swore by heaven and earth (many cite Philo Spec. 2.5; m. Shebu. 4:13), Jerusalem (many cite m. Ned. 1:3; others in Lachs 1987: 102), one’s head (m. Sanh. 3:2), God’s throne (Apoc. Mos. 19.2) and the temple service (Sifre Deut. 1.3.2). Jesus teaches that all oaths invoke God’s witness equally. Just as heaven, earth (Is 66:1–2), and Jerusalem (Ps 48:2; Mt 4:5; 27:53) belong to God (5:34–35), so do the hairs on one’s head (5:36; cf. 10:30); one has no genuine control over their aging (cf. 6:27; Pub. Syr. 215). (The assumption would have been that hair was black and turned white with age—Soph. Antig. 1092–93; Phaedrus 2.2.9–10; Babrius 22.2–3. Only deities and magicians could change colors—cf. Ovid Metam. 11.314.) All oaths implicitly call God to witness because everything that exists was made by him. This implies that for Jesus God was actively involved in all aspects of life; no part of life except sin was purely secular.

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 194–195.

In other words, this is about integrity and not making flippant oaths. It is not a violation to go into a courtroom and make an oath when you are required to do so. Too often, the people you are interacting with there do not know you and do not know a reputation that you have.

In the end, Madison says that:

The requirement that we manage our words perfectly should be deeply troubling to any follower of Jesus.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 48). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes it should be. This brings to mind a saying of Chesterton. Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried.

Perhaps we should ask why Madison doesn’t like this teaching. What are the words he would not want to be judged on?

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

Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Chapter 5

Is remarriage adultery? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So in this one, according to Madison, Jesus says all remarriage is adultery. We can be thankful that at least he went through the work of scholars like David Instone-Brewer and Craig Keener and….

If you’re laughing now, you know what’s coming.

Of course, he didn’t. Who needs to waste time with scholars?

This means that, according to Jesus, adultery is rampant among Christians, given the number of good believers who have been divorced and remarried. And one must wonder whether these followers of Jesus are admitting, when they get divorced, that God joining them together was his mistake?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 40). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

First in response to this, he at first assumes all these divorces are mutual. As someone like myself who is wrongfully divorced, I fought tooth and nail to save my marriage. I also don’t claim all marriages are joined together by God directly, in the sense of God leading people to marry one another, but I do say that even if God does do something, that doesn’t mean we can’t resist His will and go against it. God didn’t make the mistake. We did.

“…except on the ground of unchastity…” Is it possible that even the writer of one of the gospels was embarrassed by something Jesus taught and added a qualifier to tone it down?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 41). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

No. This either something explanatory put in, or else part of what Jesus said in the sermon. If anyone was divorced in Jewish thought, it would likely be assumed that they could remarry. The problem was that there were two schools of thought. One said you could divorce for any reason such as if she burned toast. Instone-Brewer has a quote from one rabbi who says divorce could take place if a prettier girl was found. (I got the book at the library and so am unable to quote it now.) The liberal side was from the Hillel school. The Shammai school tended to say divorce could only be allowed in the case of adultery.

Jesus steps into this discussion which is not about remarriage, but more about divorce. He sides with Shammai, but His case is strong. It needs to be a case of unfaithfulness to the covenant. I have had to do papers here on both the Gospels on divorce and Paul on divorce and came to the same conclusion. Scripture allows for remarriage in the case of wrongful divorce.

Madison goes on to say about Jesus’s command against lust that

So now Jesus is condemning sexual feelings, a teaching that ignores how we are built and has led to unnecessary shame and guilt for centuries. The Greek word translated “lust” in the passage could also mean “longing for” or “desiring.” Even the most devout Christians can’t help noticing when someone comes across to them as “really sexy” and feeling something that is more than simply appreciation. And anyone—Christian or not—who has ever had a partner understands how important sexual feelings can be in creating a mutual attraction between two individuals.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 41). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

No. Jesus is not condemning sexual feelings and desires. He condemns an action in this case. It is looking at another man’s wife with the intention to lust after her. He is right that the word used does refer to strong desire, but He forgets there is an action involved. Why does He condemn this? Because if you are willing to look, it means you are closer to doing. The same could be said for emotional affairs. Open the door for something that seems innocent and it’s not too long many times before it ends in a hotel room.

So once again, Madison doesn’t really understand the passages.

We’ll continue next time.

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