July 28, 2014

The Jesus Myth – part 1: Tomb Raiders

Posted in Jesus, Salvation, Satan tagged , , , , at 2:43 PM by E. M.

Jesus myth1

YOU CAN ONLY TAKE A CON SO FAR

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in Christian history. The Apostle Paul himself states that if the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christians are even bigger fools than atheists think we are.

Fortunately for Christianity, there is a great deal of documented evidence of the resurrection from eye witnesses, historians, and even from the enemies of Jesus. Christ’s victorious death and resurrection are a matter of historical and spiritual fact. Satan can’t change that. The Meaning of Life WILL happen. The only thing he can do is try to keep as many people as possible from accepting salvation.

Satan and his assorted Mystics throughout the ages have engaged in great feats of logical acrobatics in futile attempts to convince the world that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Their alternate theories to explain away the empty tomb range from the improbably to the downright silly. We’ll look at a couple of them and this post, and two more next time.

Myth 1: Jesus’ Disciples Stole the Body

This myth states that the distraught disciples wanted to save face and/or comfort Jesus’ other followers after His death, so they faked the resurrection by stealing Jesus’ body after it was buried. They then spread the rumor that Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead. Supposedly, this “lie” became so popular and pervasive that is spawned the movement we call Christianity.

The seeds of this myth were actually started by the local mystics (Pharisees) before Jesus was even buried. They knew Jesus said He would rise again three days after His death (something the disciples themselves seemed a little slow to pick up on) and they figured the disciples would try something sneaky so they encouraged Pilate to set up a Roman Guard to watch over the tomb.

This is where this myth falls apart. A Roman guard is no joke. It consists of 16 soldiers who sleep in shifts of four. So at any time, Jesus’ tomb was guarded by 12 very alert, well trained, well-armed military men. Furthermore, since the tomb was under Roman guard, the 2 ton stone that would have sealed the tomb would have had a roman seal in the crease. If that seal was broken (by someone moving the stone), the penalty was death for the perpetrator. Moreover, if the guards failed in their duty, ALL of them would be executed!

So the proponents of this myth would have us believe that a group of 11 distraught fishermen (and a tax collector) managed to sneak by 16 of the best trained soldiers on the planet (who were motivated by the death penalty to do their job), roll away a gigantic stone – the act of which would mean their execution – and abscond with Jesus’ dead body, thus accidentally causing the spread of the greatest spiritual movement in history.

Sound feasible to you? Me neither, but the Pharisees didn’t let something as irrelevant as “logic” get in the way of a good myth.

Myth 2:  The Disciples Made the Whole Thing Up

This theory picks up on the one above but goes to the extreme of virtually denying the Jesus of the Bible. This view was embraced by secular academics beginning around the time of the “Age of Enlightenment” in the 17th century and is still taught to some degree today. The theory states that there was probably no historical person called Jesus of Nazareth. And even IF there was such a person, he bears no resemblance to the guy in the Bible.

In all likelihood, “Jesus” was just one of many itinerant backwoods preachers wandering ancient Judea futility speaking out against the lapsed morality of the Jews and corruption of the clergy. He was little more than a first century version of the crazy guy on the corner holding a “The End is Near!” sign.

It was his disciples that invented the “Son of God” mythology. They created or greatly embellished the narratives of Jesus’ life, mission, miracles, and divinity.

Why would they do this? Fame and fortune of course!

They knew that there are few better ways to gain wealth and power than by inventing a nutty religious cult, get the masses to buy into it, and set yourself up at the top of the spiritual pyramid! (Basically the disciples were L. Ron Hubbard’s inspiration).

But this myth has some very serious problems. First of all, Jesus’ life is one of the most well documented in history. Not just by the Bible, but contemporary secular sources as well. Flavius Josephus, the official regional historian in the first century appointed by the Roman Empire, wrote extensively about Jesus – including His supernatural attributes. Rome was antagonistic to early Christians (that antagonism expressed through three centuries of persecution), so there was no benefit in them sanctioning the documentation of the “myth”. Same with the Babylonian Talmud, another contemporary historical document, this one written by orthodox Jews (who shared Rome’s position on Christianity) that confirmed the life of Jesus.

Secondly, if the disciples made up the narrative of Jesus in the Bible to convince people to join a fraudulent religion, they seem to have gone out of their way to make it a tough sell. I mean if you want people to follow a religion, it’s probably not a good idea to tell them it will make their lives more difficult, that it will alienate them from their families, that it will make them hated everywhere they go, and they’ll probably get killed for it.

Also, if you are going to spread a story about a guy improbably rising from the dead, it’s probably best not to say that a woman was the first eyewitness (women were not allowed to be legal witnesses at the time). It’s also pretty convenient that EVERYONE who saw Him post-resurrection happened to be His close followers.

Lastly, if the disciples WERE just con-men looking to make a quick buck off a fake religion, they were REALLY bad at it. None of them became wealthy, and any fame they gained was not what they’d have wanted. The Jewish leadership (and later the Romans) persecuted Christians furiously in the first century and beyond. But all disciples they had to do to avoid imprisonment, torture and death was simply deny Christianity. If they just said “Hey, sorry folks, we made the whole thing up”, they could have lived. Yet all the disciples willingly endured persecution, and all (with the possible exception of John) were gruesomely executed by beheadings, stoning, being boiled in oil, and even crucified upside down! Why would con-men be willing die for something they knew wasn’t true?

The obvious answer is – they wouldn’t.

The sad thing is that the two myths above are actually the most “reasonable” counter arguments against the resurrection. The rest are even more preposterous. We’ll look at one of the more ludicrous theories in the next post, as well as one of the most subtle and insidious ones – a resurrection myth so seemingly innocuous that it is almost universally accepted and endorsed by Christians! Next time…

 

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August 7, 2013

The Law Myth – part 1: Generous Oppression

Posted in Religion, Terminology, The Dispensations, The Law tagged , , , , , , , at 12:24 PM by E. M.

A mild over-reaction to the Law

A mild over-reaction to the Law

In the 5th Dispensation, God gave His nation, Israel a volume of commands and instructions collectively called the Law.  The particulars of the Law are very detailed and specific, and Israel’s compliance with them was non-negotiable (they were commands after all).  The Israelites were promised great blessings and prosperity if they obeyed the Law, and severe punishment if they disobeyed.

In the last post we saw that one of the purposes of the Law was to help men understand God’s standards of righteousness and what constitutes sin.  And while there is much in the Law regarding morality, there are also detailed rules on things like personal conduct, property rights, ceremonial procedures, worship instructions, food safely, litigation, hygiene, and medicine.

Many of the commandments of the Law can sound pretty strange and overly restrictive to modern ears, and when filtered through contemporary agnostic perspectives, can lead to misunderstandings about the nature and purpose of the Law.  In this post, I want to address some of the myths that arise from these misunderstandings.

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with an atheist friend about God and the Bible (its funny how atheists claim they don’t believe in God, yet they always want to talk about Him.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus yet I almost never bring him up in casual conversation).

Anyway, as with most discussions I have with atheists, her point was not to gain knowledge, but rather to point out something so illogical or abhorrent about God that it would justify her decision not to believe in Him.  In this case, the discussion veered toward the Law and how “oppressive” it was to women and how it advocated slavery (therefore I must be crazy to believe in God because He’s such an a-hole).

At best, this argument showed that like most atheists, she had barely more than a superficial understanding of the Bible, and was so quick to let her shallow perceptions color her beliefs that she failed to do the due diligence required to truly understand the subject matter (sadly, this is a trait that many Christians share, which is why they have trouble handling these arguments).

Although the Law does have commandments that specifically address women, they are hardly oppressive.  In fact, the Law was revolutionary in the fact that it guaranteed women certain rights that were unheard of in that part of the world during that time.  The Law gave women rights in a divorce, it mandated special care for widows, and allowed women to own land, and it gave women the right to inherit land and property (all without any input from Gloria Steinem).

As for “slavery”, the issue is a matter of contemporary nomenclature.  The slavery mentioned in the Law is not chattel slavery as we think of it today, rather its more like indentured servitude.  For example, if you owed a man a debt that you couldn’t pay, under the Law, you would work for that man and your wages would incrementally relieve the debt.  Once the debt was paid, you’d go free (incidentally, this is the same arrangement you have with your credit card company).

There are many other so called “oppressive” aspects of the Law which, while unprecedented during the era, would be simply considered common sense today.  Under the Law, certain animals are considered “clean” and “unclean”.  This is based on which animals are most likely to carry and cause disease.  God was trying to keep the Israelites healthy, not be a diet Nazi.

People with certain diseases like leprosy or open wounds were considered “unclean”.  The Law requires that they be separated from heath society and sanitized – things that are considered standard procedure for quarantine of communicable diseases and infection treatment to this day.  So if the Law is oppressive, then so is your doctor!

Of course this is all well and good, but all this still begs the question, why did God give the Israelites all these rules as a part of the 5th Dispensation?  If the purpose of the 5th Dispensation is to usher in the advent of the Redeemer, what does Israel get for all their troubles?

Rewards!  If they follow the commandments of the Law, Israel was promised fantastic material prosperity!  Prosperity that would make them the envy of all the other nations in the world.

But again, what does this have to do with the purpose of the 5th Dispensation.  It’s all about Israel’s intended role as God’s ambassador nation.

Here how it was to work, God gave Israel the Law, which gave them the standards to follow that would make them a healthy, equitable, and civilized society.  The Law also gave them ceremonial rules that would memorialize the advent of the Redeemer in advance (more on that in the next post).  As Israel obeyed the Law, they would become wealthy and prosperous.

Other neighboring nations would see their prosperity and say, “hey, how’d you guys manage to get all that stuff?”  This would give Israel the opportunity to tell them about God, the Law, and the Redeemer.

If the neighboring nations submitted to the Law, they too would become prosperous, leading their neighbors to ask about their wealth.  Submission to God’s Law would grow exponentially, and by the time of the advent of the Redeemer, the entire world would be ready for Him, and God could quickly implement His plan.

But there was also a flip side.  You see, God had to set things up so that if Israel disobeyed God’s Law and acted unrighteous and unjustly, they would be cursed as spectacularly as they would have been blessed for obedience.

The reason for the harshness of the curse is they same as the reasoning for the great blessing – They were God’s acknowledged representatives on earth.

If other nations saw Israel acting immorally without any consequence, they would assume that God was ok with their evil behavior.  So God had to punish disobedience severely so that the nations would know that evil was not acceptable to Him.

Sadly, Israel chose the path of disobedience to the Law more often than not.  Thus much of the details of the 5th Dispensation in the Old Testament consists of the sad narrative pattern of Israel screwing up, God punishing them, Israel repenting, God restoring them, and then Israel going right back to screwing up.  Ultimately resulting in the tragic screw-up where they failed to acknowledge the Redeemer and failed the dispensation.

I mentioned before that in addition to the rules regarding health and conduct, the Law contained many commandments that were sacramental in nature – dealing with blood sacrifices, the priesthood, etc.  These rules are often confused for religion, because frankly, they look like religion.  But they actually served a very practical purpose in preparing people for the advent of the Redeemer.  More on this next time.

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February 20, 2011

Faith part 3: The Ballad of Jungle Joe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , at 4:20 PM by E. M.

God has all the knowledge in existence.  In order to fully know God we would have to have all the knowledge in existence.  But since we don’t, we can only believe in God by faith. And as we saw in the last post, faith in God can be considered reasonable faith because it is based on knowledge and experience.

But God doesn’t JUST ask that we believe in His existence, He wants us to believe in in Him TOTALLY!

Based on the fact that there are almost 400 references to faith in the Bible, faith is obviously a critical part of a fellowship with God.  Why is faith so important to God’s plan?  Let’s look again at the components of faith.

Rational faith seems to be the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of, based on some degree of prior knowledge/experience that we have had with the object of faith. In order to have faith, you must intentionally choose to ask the question “what don’t I know?”  That is a contrastive question!

The reason that faith is so important to God’s plan is because Reasonable faith requires humility and contrastive thinking.  And contrastive thinking is the way to become more righteous.

On the other hand, comparative thinking is antithetical to faith in this case because when you are comparative, you are relying only on what you do know. And again, since our knowledge is limited, we cannot fully believe in God if we are comparative.  This is the reason why the second dispensation failed!

If a person should reasonably believe in God because of their knowledge and/or experience of God, then the converse must also be true – one should NOT reasonably believe in God if that person has NO knowledge or experience with Him.

This brings up one of the skeptics’ favorite “contradictions” concerning faith in God and salvation.  It takes a form similar to the encounter below, which I have heard so many times I have come to refer to it as “The Jungle Joe Paradox”.  It goes something like this:

“You Christians say that all people are doomed to Hell from birth and the only way to be saved into Heaven is to believe in God.  Well that’s fine for people in America where there is a church on every corner and 24-hour Christian television, but what about the people who live in primitive jungles?  They may go their entire life without ever meeting a Christian or reading the Bible.  According to you, God is going to send them all to Hell because they never believed in Him.  That’s totally unfair and I can’t believe in a so called “loving God” who would operate like that.

When a cynic or an atheist presents this argument, it is usually not out of a sincere desire to know God’s plan, but more as a deflection to take the focus off of their personal unbelief and project it onto the hypothetical “Jungle Joe”.

The silliness of that objection can easily be shown by asking them a few questions.  I first ask them if they’ve had an opportunity to choose a college, a career, a place to live, and a spouse during their life.  The answer is usually yes.  Then I ask them if the relative predicament of an anonymous person living in the jungle played a role in any of these decisions.  The answer of course is no.  Thus they acknowledge that they are fully capable of making choices that have great impact on their lives without taking Jungle Joe into account, and the decision about their eternity should be no different.”

However, essence of the dilemma does deserve to be addressed.  If there are people who have no knowledge or experience with God, it would be unjust of God to hold them accountable to have reasonable faith in Him. However, the Bible makes it clear

For what can beknown about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-21 ESV

What this verse is saying is that the nature of creation itself testifies to God’s existence.  The first 8 posts in this blog proves God’s existence based solely on logic and reason. The reason Jungle Joe can be held to the same level of accountability as someone in the “civilized word” is that man has an innate knowledge of God whether he has been exposed to organized Christianity or not.

No matter what geographical, political, or social situation in which a human being exists, they are universally aware of six things

  1. There is a transcendent being who is all powerful and created the universe – People are inherently theistic, you don’t have to convince a young child or “uncivilized” man to believe in God; it’s natural to them.  Atheism has to be taught.
  2. This transcendent being is not indifferent to his creation and interacts with it/us – People in primitive societies acknowledge that deity(s) intervene in their lives.  There are no deists in the jungle
  3. There is an absolute right and wrong (good and bad). – Moral relativism is another creation of “civilized society”
  4. The rightness (righteousness) originates in the transcendent being and wrongness (unrighteousness) is all that is in opposition to him – We all inherently know that we need to be justified
  5. Like righteousness, justice exists, is absolute, and is mediated by the transcendent being – We all inherently know when we are being treated unfairly and we all expect justice to be equaled out.
  6. Man’s natural tendency is to be unrighteous and unjust (sinful) – all societies and cultures have to impose rules/laws to enforce good behavior.

Here’s the most important part – if, after realizing that it is impossible for him to be always and completely righteous and just by his own power, Jungle Joe contrastively appeals to the transcendent being (and Him alone) to rescue him from his unconquerable desire to do evil, then he has shown the faith that God desires, and it is counted to him as righteousness in the same manner as the Old Testament saints [Galatians 3:6-9]. But if he decides to justify himself and/or appease the deity by his own actions, his situation is no different than any other unbeliever.

Everyone has enough knowledge of God to have reasonable faith in Him.  Whether or not we choose to have faith is up to us.

Biblical faith is based on hope that something good will occur.  But there is a darker form of “faith” that is actually the opposite of Biblical faith and can result in evil.  Next time, we take a look at “fear”.

April 26, 2010

Its All Your Fault

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , , at 12:15 PM by E. M.

In the last post we looked at the mechanics behind the origin of the universe and used all kinds of science-y concepts to explain how something can come from nothing (with the explanation that what we think of as “something” really is “nothing” because…oh, just read the last post. I don’t want to go over it again).

We have an explanation of all the “stuff” in the universe, but what about us? Apparently there is something special and unique about man.  The Bible spends a couple chapters and verses here and there about the creation of the universe, but it has volumes of information about the make up of humanity.  In Genesis 1:27, it is said that we are made in God’s image (well actually it only says that the first man and woman were made in God’s image.  Technically, the rest of us are in their image.  I’ll deal with that in a future post).

What is it that makes humanity so special?  What do we have over the rest of creation?  The ability (that most of us have) to think – understand and apply knowledge – definitely puts us in a different category than the vast majority of matter in the universe.  But many animals also have the ability to think.  Some people even believe that dolphins are more intelligent than humans.  Of course that doesn’t explain why they keep getting caught in those tuna nets.  How smart do you have to be to swim around a net?

If we bear any “resemblance” to a being whose nature is composed of principles (God), then that means our true nature – the real“us”, is made of principles (we discussed this a few posts ago). Unlike God however, our principles are NOT always and completely Right and Just (listening to a politician or lawyer for two minutes will bear that out).

The principles that make up our nature are unique to the individual.  Your principles are the first cause of your personality.  Everything that makes up your personality, temperament, reactions, values, and psychology are an effect of your core principles.  I can think of few causes more worthwhile than discovering and living out your individual principles.  Here is a link that will greatly aid you in this endeavor.

Incidentally, my principles are “understanding” and “sharing” – At my core is the desire to understand things and then to share what I understand with others.  Hence, this blog.

Whatever our individual principles are though, it is important to keep in mind that our basic nature is NOT always and completely right and just.

We are also different from God in another very important way: God gave us free will.  Free will (or volitional will) means that we have the ability to intentionally act outside of, or contrary to our nature.   So while it is not in our nature to be right and just, we can choose to be.

Interestingly, this is not an ability that God has.  That’s right; God does not have free will.  Before you accuse me of sacrilege, consider the implications.  If God could choose to not be always and completely right and just, then He would no longer be the First Cause of creation.  Which is impossible according to the law of non-contradiction.

Ok, so why would God create humanity this way?  Apparently God has some special purpose for us.  We intrinsically know this.  We know that we have a “higher purpose”.  It causes us to ask, “what’s the point?” and not be satisfied until we get the answer.

God wants something from us.  Dare I say, He desires something from us.  But how can a perfect being have desires?  Does that mean that God is lacking something?  Isn’t God “complete”?

Yes, He is complete, but there is something that a being who lacks nothing can desire without diminishing His completeness – He can desire more of what He already has! (I’ll address this next week)

The Biblical narrative makes it clear that God wants us to choose Him.  More specifically, He wants us to choose to love Him.  We’ll explore why God wants us to love Him and why our love is so important to Him in next week’s post.  But for now, we’ll go with the supposition that God wants us to love Him, and that this desire is Right (since that’s God’s nature).  Let’s look at the mechanics and implications of God creating us with the ability to love Him.

As we saw in this post, love is not an emotion; it is not an involuntary feeling or reaction.  Love is a choice.  In order for a choice to exist, there has to be at least two options in existence, as well as a being of volitional will to make the choice.

So God, being Just, must present a just situation in which His creation can exercise the choice to love Him.  For this situation to exist, God would have to:

  1. Create a being with free will.
  2. Present the choice to love or not love Him.
  3. In the purest sense, not interfere with, or act on the choice until after the choice is made. (There are circumstances where God can intervene prior to a choice being carried out in response to justice, but the vast majority of the time, He has to allow the choice to be carried out before He can act).

The only way we can truly love God is if we have the option not to love Him.  This is a choice we constantly make.

This situation offers an answer to the classic question that many skeptics (and believers) have about God which I promised to address in the post on love: “If God is a God of love, how can He allow [universally acknowledged “bad thing”] to happen?”  In light of what we understand about God’s nature and ours, a more valid question would be, “how could a God of love not allow them to happen?”

In addressing this question, I am excluding “natural” calamities such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, getting mauled by a bear etc.  There is a reason for these situations that we’ll tackle later, but for now I’m limiting the answers to evil initiated by man, against man.

All evil and abhorrent actions that people commit – war, violence, assault, molestation, theft, betrayal, cruelty etc, are all the result of choices; specifically the choice to act in an unloving manner to others.  And God cannot justly intervene (in most cases) until after the choice is carried out, because anytime before the choice is executed, the person has an opportunity to intentionally change his or her mind and not commit the act!

If God does not allow them that opportunity, then He is interfering with free will.  If He interferes with free will, He is nullifying choice and preventing love (which a God of love cannot do).

Furthermore, if God punishes someone before they do evil, He is being unjust.  If He is unjust, then He is not God (the First Cause).  God cannot act outside of His nature (right and just), so He cannot punish evil before evil happens.  Just like a police officer cannot arrest you for murder when you decide to murder someone.  You are not a murderer until you actually kill someone.  Only after you commit the act can you be judged.

So, the reason why God allows evil to be committed is that He wants us to choose love, and He can’t justly interfere with our opportunity to make the right choice.  However, He can, does, and will justly and completely punish all the evil that has ever been committed in due time – as only a just judge would do.

As for the reason there is evil in the world – you see the reason every morning when you look in the mirror.  All the evil in the world is the result of choices people make to not love each other and God.  Evil is not God’s fault.  It’s ours’.

Next week we’ll look at why God wants us to love Him.  The reason behind this desire is not only the answer to “what’s the point?” it is also the answer to the meaning of life.  No big deal.

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April 5, 2010

The Bible – Special Delivery

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , , at 11:53 AM by E. M.

Based solely on human understanding, we’ve concluded that the nature of the First Cause is the principles of “righteousness”, and “justice”. We’ve also seen that the Judeo-Christian Bible meets the qualifications of an additional information source from, and about the First Cause (God) because it agrees with what we already know about the First Cause and it demonstrates its supernatural origin.  But why would the Fist Cause want to supply this information, and to whom would it be intended?

Asking these questions assumes that the First Cause is intentional, which assumes that the First Cause has a volitional will, which assumes that the First Cause is intelligent.  Are these assumptions correct?

The Bible definitely presents God as intelligent (possessing knowledge and having the ability to productively apply it) and that God is intentional.  This matches what we already know, because we have previously discussed the fact that information exists, and intelligence is on the causality ladder between principles (first causes) and information.

So why would an intelligent being want to provide information about his or herself?  Logically, to let other intelligent beings know who he or she is.  And why would the intelligent being want others to know who they are? Well, if they are just (which we know the First Cause is) then there must be some value gained both for the intelligent being in being known, and for the recipient of the information in coming to know the intelligent being.

What are the values gained?  I contend that for the recipients (us) the value is the answer to question, “What’s the point?” But what value could the First Cause get from us knowing this information?  The First Cause gets its greatest desire fulfilled! We’ll address that in next four posts…

In the meantime, its logical to assume that God gave us the Bible because He wants to be known by other intelligent beings (with this in mind, I could argue that God does not want most politicians and Hollywood celebrities to know Him.  But that would be mean).

But why create the Bible to get this information out?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if God just parted the clouds and yelled “Hey!  I’m God!  Bow down and worship me you grubby little monkeys!”  Actually, He did (granted, He didn’t say the “grubby little monkeys” line). God spoke verbally and directly to man in the past (and will do so again in the future), but men still refused to understand God or accept His answer to the question “What’s the point?”  We’ll explore these interactions more in depth in upcoming posts, but for our present age, the Bible is our determined information source.

Of course the point of any information source is to be understood by the intended audience.  This idea often prompts some to interject the artificial objection to the Bible that I like to call “The Many Interpretations Fallacy” (aka – The Battle-Cry of the Intellectually Lazy).

Basically, the perpetrator says, “There are soooo many interpretations of the Bible, we could never be possibly sure what it really means.  How do you know your interpretation is correct?  Now put that Bible down, American Idol is on!”

There are indeed many interpretations of the Bible (Charles Manson has one that shows he’s Jesus), but there is only ONE correct interpretation of the Bible – the one that God intended!  All other interpretations are wrong, so they are irrelevant.  Our challenge is to discern that correct interpretation.  This discernment is greatly aided by knowing God’s nature, will, and plan for humanity.  This blog endeavors to help in this cause.

To that end, one could fairly say that based on the information in the Bible, God is much more than just the principles of “right” and “just”.  Isn’t God a “person”? Doesn’t He have a personality, intelligence, feelings, desires, values, temperament, love, compassion, mercy, etc.?

Yes, he does.  The Bible says God possesses all of those qualities. But remember the rules of causality – those traits are all effects of the cause.  God’s “person” is an effect of being always and completely right and just.

In my next post I want to address one of God’s fundamental characteristics.  The implications of this characteristic are critical in understanding an extremely important aspect of God’s identity.  Next week, we’re going to discuss Love

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March 29, 2010

Content, Contradictions, and Cookies

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 11:54 AM by E. M.

The very idea of the Bible as a reliable source of information on virtually any topic is controversial.  After all, nothing induces more visceral and irrational reactions in people than the subjects of religion and politics.  But I try to steer clear of politics because these days the political landscape has become the intellectual equivalent of a college football rivalry.  And as for religion – specifically the topic of the Judeo-Christian Bible, irrationality occupies both ends of a polarized spectrum.

Fortunately, I am not religious.  So although I tend toward the idea that the Bible is reliable, I attempt to make my points with logic and rational thought (this blog being a macrocosms of those thoughts), and hopefully many of the irrational thoughts on both sides will be addressed to some degree as this blog progresses.  Nevertheless, I do want to use this post to address a few of the most common irrational objections to the Bible by relating the essence of some past conversations that I have had with rationality-challenged people.

The first (and perhaps silliest) one I will tackle is the argument that the Bible cannot be trusted because it was “written by men”.  It goes something like this:

Irrational Idiot: “How can you believe the Bible is true?  It was written by men!”

Me: “Your high school math book was also written by men.  Do you not believe math is true?”

Irrational Idiot:  “That’s different!  I can show that the contents of my math book are true without relying on the contents of the book itself.  Plus I’ve experienced the truth of mathematics”

Me:  “I can show the exact same things about the Bible.  In fact I have this nifty little blog where I do just that.  But if you’re relying on personal experience for truth, then what about your history books?  They were also written by men.  Do you not believe that any history occurred before you were alive to experience it?”

Irrational Idiot: “ Well history…um… its documented, and history books are on a different level of reliability because…uh, because…”

Me:  “Yeah.  Why don’t you go outside and play now?”

Our entire system of education and intellectual pursuit is based on information and truth gathered from reliable sources and relayed from one set of human beings to another.  The idea of rejecting the Bible on this basis while accepting other information sources on the same basis is utterly hypocritical.  And as my last post showed, the supernatural origin of the information in the Bible is demonstrable.

Equally silly are those who dismiss the Bible because of its age:

Irrational Idiot: “You can’t trust the Bible because its ancient!  It was written over two thousand years ago by primitives!  We know so much more now.”

Me:  “If that’s the case, then why do you trust anything you know now?  People who live two thousand years from now will have the same argument about us.  And two thousand years after that, what those people know could be dismissed for the same reason.  By your logic, no one can ever know anything for sure because people in the future will always know more.”

Irrational Idiot: “uh…”

Me:  “Here, have a cookie.  Then later you can take a nice long nap!”

Irrational Idiot: “Cookies and a nap?  Wheeeeeeeeeee!!”

Another common objection is that the Bible is unreliable because it contains contradictions.  This one is so common that its veracity is taken for granted. Yet, it’s difficult to find anyone who claims, “Everybody knows the Bible is full of contradictions” and can actually name some contradictions.  But this, like many other modern axioms is just an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Of course if the Bible really is full of contradictions, then that would be very problematic because we know that contradictions cannot exist so the First Cause could not be the originator of such an information source.

There are plenty of books and websites on alleged contradictions in the Bible, and there are plenty of books and websites that refute these contradictions. (here is a website that presents both)  For the most part, what look to be contradictions in the Bible are usually errors the readers makes in context, language, vernacular, culture, assumptions, and/or translation.  Here is an example that includes all the errors:

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that He loves everyone (John 3:16), but the Bible also says that God hates:

“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” – Romans 9:13.

This looks like a contradiction, but it isn’t for several reasons.  First, “love” and “hate” are not contradictory terms.  In our vernacular, hate is antithetical to love, but even that concept is rendered suspect by the commonly referred to idea of the love/hate relationship.  The verse would only be contradictory if it said that God did not love Esau.  Furthermore, the word translated “hate” in the verse is the Greek work “miseo”, which means to “love less”.  So the verse actually says that God loved Jacob, but He loved Esau less.  And since the Bible never claims that God loves everyone equally, there is no contradiction.

Of course I’m not being exhaustive in my defense of the Bible in this post because I don’t have the space, and as you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I have very little patience for dealing with superficial arguments.  But as I said, this blog will progressively serve as my proof points.

Now I’ve postulated that the First Cause gave us an information source that gives us more detailed information about Him.  But this begs a more fundamental question: Why would God want to give humanity this information?  Stay tuned…

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