Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 38

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

In this chapter, Glenton Jelbert responds to Tal Davis on if Jesus is superior to all other religious leaders. I really have no interest in prooftexting from the Bible and such. If the Biblical view of Jesus is true, such as Him being fully God and fully man, I think He is ipso facto superior to all other religious leaders. None of the rest of them could claim such a thing. What I am interested in are the ways that Jelbert gets Jesus wrong.

Jelbert wants to know the evidence that Jesus is perfect and sinless. Of course, as a Christian, I point to the resurrection as the validation of His specific claims about Himself. Jelbert doesn’t accept that. If one does not accept Christianity as true, they will not accept Jesus as sinless. They will definitely not accept the resurrection.

From here, Jelbert goes into the idea that if Jesus does anything as a perfect person, it must be good. This is so. It doesn’t mean that it is for us. It is just fine for Jesus to stand up and proclaim Himself as God. It would be blasphemy and/or idiocy for me to do the same thing.

Jelbert brings up supposed genocides in the Old Testament as another example of this. The difference I see here is that not only does God command war in the Old Testament, but the Israelites had abundant evidence to think it was God doing it. After all, they had seen Egypt destroyed by plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from Heaven, Mount Sinai burning with the presence of God, and numerous other miracles. If you want to claim God has told you to do something that seems contrary, you’d better have just as good evidence.

Jelbert also says that going with revealed truth requires suppressing intelligence, rationality, and one’s moral compass. No argument is given for this statement. I see no reason to accept it and think it just implies Jelbert is saying that Christianity requires checking ones’ brains at the door. No doubt, some Christians do, but it is not a requirement.

Jelbert also writes about the atonement. He has a series of questions.

Why does God need to kill Himself/Jesus because of our sins?
What is the mechanism by which this works?
If Jesus and God are one, how did Jesus die and God not?
What does death even mean when applied to an infinite being?
Why would God be satisfied by this?

Jelbert says that none of these questions have meaningful answers and the produced doctrines just assert that no contradiction exists. Well, thus far, no contradiction has been presented. Asking questions is not the same as presenting contradictions.

Also noteworthy is that Jelbert does not interact with ANY theories on the atonement. There are multiple ones. Jelbert just accepts that none of them work. This is hardly the way to do research.

But hey, let’s look at these questions.

First off, God doesn’t kill Himself at all. Jesus gives Himself because our sins put a barrier up between us and God. Sin has to be taken seriously and sin is rebellion against a good and holy God. For God to ignore sin is to put creation above Himself. That would be treating us as greater than God. Meanwhile, we could not pay such a price. It’s not so much guilt as it is a debt.

What is the mechanism by which this works? There are many different ways, but let’s suppose I just said, “I don’t know.” Meanwhile, I do know that Jesus rose from the dead and is God’s chosen king. Am I to reject Jesus just because I don’t know how atonement works?

If Jesus and God are one, how did Jesus die and God didn’t? Jelbert assumes that Jesus and the Father are one person. They are not. The Son experienced death in that He was separated from His body on the cross, which wouldn’t apply to the Father since the Father has no body.

What does death mean when applied to an infinite being? For Jesus, it means the separation of His soul from His body. That doesn’t have anything to do with infinity.

Why would God be satisfied by this? See the second answer.

With this, I have answered Jelbert’s questions. Perhaps my answers aren’t all right. Okay. However, they are answers. Others will have different answers. Even if one can’t be proven, they can still be seen as coherent.

Jelbert then goes on to list some problems with Jesus. One is that Jesus was wrong about the time of His coming, which we saw earlier was actually false. He also says this led to unwise advice such as not worrying about tomorrow since it will take care of itself. How this is unwise is not stated. Jesus also could not have been talking about saving up since most people were day-wage earners and had nothing to save up. He was just telling such people to trust in God for tomorrow.

Of course, there’s something on eternal punishment. Jelbert apparently takes a one size fits all approach to hell and heaven. Some people in each place will be better off and worse than others. If Jelbert is aware of this, he shows no knowledge of it.

He points to calling the Canaanite woman a dog in Matthew 15. He says he doesn’t find it funny, but the key is the woman herself was not offended by it and saw it as a challenge from Jesus to rise up. Jesus was not joking, but offering the lady a chance to show herself. I think He was also speaking the way His apostles would speak and then letting the woman show herself even better than they were, and in turn, He did heal her daughter.

He speaks about the pigs being slaughtered and how the owners weren’t compensated, but in this kind of area, pigs would not have been a herd that should have been there. As for the fig tree, I just think we’re getting into bizarre areas when people are concerned over a fig tree. God as the Lord of Life can restore or kill a fig tree whenever He wants.

In the end, I find Jelbert’s arguments again weak. Maybe he’ll do better next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Our Concept of Perfection

Are some terms a bit too vague? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A question came to me recently from someone wanting to show a Muslim about how grace is essential to get to be in the presence of God and started with saying God is perfect and cannot allow imperfection in His midst. When I saw this, I got a slight bit of concern here. Is it because I dispute God is perfect? Properly understood, no. My problem is I want to know what it means to be perfect because usually the term is too vague.

Let’s suppose we say God can only allow perfection in His presence. Okay. What about angels? All Christians would agree that some angels are in the presence of God, but are they perfect? In a sense, but we do not mean that they are perfect as God is, so they do indeed lack some perfections. If that is true, does that mean that they are imperfect? In a sense, we would have to say yes.

We also know some angels are not in God’s presence and so for that, I want to be clear what I mean by presence. When I speak of the presence of God, I do not mean omnipresence in that God holds all together by His being and His being fills everything. I mean by presence the idea of favor. Only those who are holy can dwell in the favor of God.

When I say God is perfect then, I mean that God lacks nothing in accordance with the nature of His being. As a Thomist, I contend that God’s nature is in fact being. God lacks nothing in the area of being. Whatever it means to be, then that is what God is. No other being can be like God then.

When we say that, then we can discuss the aspect of being, and this is something difficult to do, but it has been done. Most notably, it’s done at the start of the Summa Theologica by Aquinas. This is a way we can fill our concept of God with substance instead of relying on an idea that is often more subjective.

What about angels and us then? That would mean that we also lack nothing that would be fitting for us to have and this is something that is a gift from God of course. Angels have kept their standing before God and continually do so. We will do so by submitting to the grace of God that has been revealed in Christ. (In fact, I would contend one of the great problems of our age is that we no longer take concepts like virtue and holiness seriously. We have replaced them with a modern view of happiness.)

Theological thinking is difficult for all of us and we all have a theology. (Even the atheist has a theology. They have a very distinct idea of any kind of deity they think doesn’t exist and often argue against a specific being that doesn’t exist.) Perhaps my approach might be more difficult in some ways, but that could just make it more worthwhile. The more substance we pack into our concept of God, the clearer we can see Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters