REPLY #57a TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
This is the first of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
(R) Hey buddy. I'm replying to your reply. I wrote you a few days ago
and you posted your response as "Reply #54 to 'Religion'". I have a few things
to say about your response to my response. Thanks for answering me.
(MB) I answer everybody who sends me a response. Of course, there are times
when the writer uses a bogus return e-mail address. Can't imagine why somebody
might not want to hear what I have to say...*grin*
(R) Please read it carefully. I know it is long and I apologize, but it is very
(MB) The length of a response makes no difference to me so long as there is some
useful content and good debate material.
(R) I am a bit up front in some sections, and perhaps a little
rude. Please don't take it to heart. I don't want to turn you off to the
Gospel, I am just passionate about it.
(MB) My overriding concern is with the facts and opinions being debated and not
with anything else that might be said. The best debate issues are the ones
which inspire passionate opinions!
(R) Take as much time as you want to respond: days, weeks, months. I will be waiting to hear your response.
(MB) I always have fun doing this. Let's see what you
have to say this time...
Which God? If I may assume that you are referring to the God
of the Bible, my skepticism does not derive from never having heard any or
all of the stories about him. It's just that stories themselves prove
nothing and there's no independent evidence upon which to base a belief in
that God(or any other God) or to blindly accept the stories as read.
(R) Yes, I am referring to the God of the Bible. You are right, stories
don't prove anything. However, there is independent evidence upon which
to base a belief in the God of the Bible. One of these is the unity of
Scripture. The Bible claims to be the Word of God. "All Scripture is
God-breathed"(2 Timothy 3:16). The fact that the Bible claims to be the
Word of God is not evidence, however, because other books claim the same
thing. The Bible was composed by men, but its unity reveals the hand of
(MB) "Unity"??? The Bible is only "unified" in the respect that it features the
same central character throughout. But, the same can be said for the holy books
of any other religion -- most of which also claim to be inspired by the deity or
deities which those books feature. There is nothing at all special about the
Bible in this regard and no reason to set it apart from or above any other
religion's holy book(s). Independent evidence for the existence of any God must
come from sources other than any given religion's holy book(s). That's what
"independent" means. To use any holy book as some sort of proof of its own
validity is the essence of circular reasoning.
(R) The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years by more than forty
different authors from a variety of backgrounds. It was written on three
different continents and in three different languages(Hebrew, Aramaic, and
Greek). The Bible contains many controversial subjects yet agrees on
(MB) That is easily refuted just by examining some of the numerous internal
contradictions between various Bible verses. These contradictions run the gamut
from different and incompatible versions of facts between different books
relating the same stories to disputes on the very natures of God and Jesus.
Examples of factual contradictions include 2 Samuel 24:9 (which says 800,000
men drew the sword) vs. 1 Chronicles 21:5 (which says it was 1,100,000), Matthew
27:5 (which says Judas died by hanging himself) vs. Acts 1:18 (which says he
died by falling, bursting open, and having his innards gush out), and, of
course, the famous problem with the conflicting genealogies of Jesus in Matthew
Examples of doctrinal and philosophical contradictions include Romans 3:20
and Galatians 2:16 (which say Man is justified by faith alone) vs. James 2:20
(which says the faith without works is insufficient), Deuteronomy 24:16 (which
says that children are not to be punished for the sins of their parents) vs.
Exodus 20:5, 34:7 and Isaiah 14:21 (where God orders such punishment), and the
ever-interesting 1 John 3:6 ("Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not") vs. 1 John
1:8 ("If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not
It also seems fairly obvious that Peter, Paul, and Jesus have three
differing views about what Christians are supposed to believe or practice.
To relate just a few of the numerous examples, Jesus says at least three
different times that his teachings are not meant for non-Jews (Matthew 10:5,
Matthew 15:24, John 4:22) while Paul, in Acts 13:47, says that the Lord
commanded him to "be a light for the Gentiles". Peter, in Acts 2:22, says that
the ability to do signs and wonders can be used to prove that one is approved by
God while Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, says that Satan and his followers can
also do signs and wonders. Peter, in Acts 15:8-10, counsels that adherence to
the Law is no longer necessary, while Jesus, in Matthew 5:8, advocates strict
adherence to the Law.
It's clear that the Bible, when read in toto, presents a rather confusing
story. Yes, it holds that God and Jesus are #1, but that's about it as far as
any "unity" goes between the stories.
(R) From start to finish, there is one unfolding plan of God's salvation for
mankind. This salvation is through Jesus(John 14:6). Jesus Himself testified
He was the theme of the Bible(John 5:39, 46, 47)(Luke 24:27). The Old Testament
is the preparation, the gospels are the manifestation, the Book of Acts is the
propagation, the epistles the explanation, and revelation the
(MB) The Gospels were written *after* the epistles. It is now widely accepted
that the Epistles of Paul were the first writings concerning Christian belief.
It is more likely, therefore, that the Gospels were written to flesh out the
philosophy of Paul. The four Gospels that made it into the New Testament were
the survivors of several dozen Gospels that were considered for inclusion at the
Councils of Nicea, Hippo, and Carthage between 325 and 397 CE.
(R) The entire Bible is a unity with each part needing the others to be
(MB) It's difficult to see how the books can make an orderly progression of a
unified story when their selection, ordering, and canonization didn't take place
until three centuries after they were written!
(R) It this isn't amazing, I give you a challenge. Find ten people from your
local area having similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, and all are
from basically the same culture. Then separate them and ask them to write their
opinion on only one controversial subject, such as the meaning of life. When
they have finished, compare the conclusions. Do they agree? Of course
(MB) So, what does that prove? I'll bet that those same ten people couldn't
agree on *anything* -- important or not. The longer the time between the event
in question and the stated opinions of those individuals concerning that event,
the more muddled the accounts are likely to be. That's what we observe in the
contradictory stories in the Bible which speak of events that took place
anywhere from decades to centuries prior to having been written down.
(R) But the Bible did not consist of merely ten authors, but forty. It was not
written in one generation, but over a period of 1500 years; not by authors with
the same education, culture, and language, but with vastly different education,
many different cultures, from three continents and three different languages,
and finally not just one subject but hundreds. And yet the Bible is a unity
which cannot be explained by coincidence or collusion.
(MB) The "unity" consists only of the main theme -- as should be expected since
that is the overriding reason for the Bible's existence in the first place. The
details, however, quickly degrade into a murky mess upon closer inspection.
Then, consider that most Christians' ideas about what's written in the Bible are
even foggier and more contradictory than the actual stories
(R) Other evidence is the testimony of the early Church. 11 of the 12 original
apostles were martyred for their faith. Why would they give their lives for
something they "made up"? All they had to do was renounce their faith in Jesus.
Yet they saw His resurrection and knew He was alive.
(MB) "The cause" overrides any personal concerns. We see that happening even
today. If the original apostles had preferred self-preservation to the message
they were attempting to spread, that message would have quickly died away and
been forgotten. Remember, also, that part of "the message" was to help free the
Jews from the Roman occupation. Obviously, there was more involved than just
spreading stories about Jesus.
(R) Other evidence is archaeological evidence. There is so much evidence here I
don't have enough paper.
(MB) This is secular history and is no verification of either the existence or
the divinity of God and/or Jesus.
(R) Scientists used to say "The pool of Bethesda? What is that? It never
existed! This proves the error of the Bible!" They said that, of course, until
archaeologists dug it up.
(MB) Which "scientists" were those? The pool of Bethesda was uncovered over 80
years ago, so any supposed objections must have been very old, indeed. By the
way, the description of it in the Bible doesn't match the reality of the
(R) "Pontius Pilate? Who's that? He never existed!" They said that, of
course, until his name was discovered on engraved stones with Caesars.
(MB) This is not in accordance with the facts. Pontius Pilate was known from
Roman records and from the histories of Josephus and Tacitus. As to the
particulars of his supposed trial of Jesus....well, that's another issue
(R) Prophecy is another evidence I will discuss later.
(MB) And one which will also prove to be
Not true. Jesus repeatedly referred to God in terms that make it quite clear that God is somebody different from and greater than Jesus
himself. For example, see Matthew 19:17 and 27:46, and John 5:30, 6:38,
7:16, 14:28, and 20:17.
(R) (Here you were referring to my statement that
Jesus claimed to be God.) Jesus did claim to be God! In John 14:9 Jesus says "Anyone who
has seen me has seen the Father." In John 8:58, Jesus tells us that He
existed before Abraham, "before Abraham was born, I am." In John 10:30,
He claimed to be equal with God, "I and the Father are one."
(MB) So, why does John have Jesus saying contradictory things about himself and
why do his accounts not square with those in the other three Gospels? After
all, Jesus can't claim to be one with the Father if he also says "my Father is
greater than I".
(R) Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sins(Mark 2:5-7), which the Bible
teaches was something that God alone could do(Isaiah 43:25).
(MB) Such a claim is not proof that one actually has that ability, nor is it
proof that the claimant has become co-equal with God.
(R) The New Testament equated Jesus as the Creator of the universe(John 1:3),
and that He is the one who holds everything together(Colossians 1:17).
(MB) It is important to note that those are not claims made by Jesus himself,
but claims of those who are writing in support of Jesus' divinity. They do not
automatically gain validity just because of the subject involved.
(R) Not only did his friends notice that He claimed to be God, but so did His
enemies. There may be some doubt today among the skeptics who refuse to examine
the evidence, but there was no doubt on the part of the Jewish
(MB) The doubts arise *from* examining the evidence, not by refusing to look
at it -- and the only evidence available is the contradictory accounts in the
(R) When Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him, they replied, "For a
good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; because You, being a man, make
Yourself out to be God"(John 10:33).
(MB) First, merely claiming to be the Son of God was not an offense against
Jewish law, much less one that could have resulted in stoning.
Second, the Gospel stories contain several errors of historical fact
concerning the procedures observed by the Sanhedrin and the dictates of Jewish
law that combine to cast serious doubts about them -- perhaps the most critical
being that it was illegal under the law to begin such a trial on the day before
the Sabbath (which is when Matthew, Mark, and Luke say it took
(R) Why should we believe Jesus was the Son of God? Miracles and fulfilled
prophecy are some reasons.
(MB) First, a "miracle" is nothing more than an event that an observer can't
explain. If I could bring some of today's technological wonders back in time
and demonstrate them for the same crowd that is said to have followed Jesus, I
could also "perform miracles".
Second, as stated above, the Bible also says that Satan can perform
miracles. Furthermore, Jesus states that his followers will also be able to
perform miracles. In addition, Exodus tells of the ability of the magicians of
Pharaoh to duplicate some of the "miracles" performed by Moses and Aaron (who
were, of course, not divine in their own right). Therefore, miracles themselves
are not sufficient cause to believe in the divinity of the performer.
Third, we only have the Bible's say-so that any miracles were actually
performed. There is no independent verification of any of the miracles
attributed to Jesus (or to anybody else, for that matter).
Fourth, the Gospels themselves disagree on the details surrounding several
of the purported miracles of Jesus.
(R) The main reason, or the sign which Jesus Himself would demonstrate that He
was the Son of God, was His resurrection from the dead(Matt. 12:40, John
2:19,21). Anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away
the story of the resurrection. Therefore, according to the Bible, Jesus proves
to be the Son of God by coming back from the dead(Romans 1:4). The evidence is
overwhelming that Jesus did rise from the grave, and it is this fact that proves
Jesus to be God.
(MB) One needs only to read the Bible itself to refute this. Jesus was
certainly not the only person to have risen from the dead, so that incident
itself can't be taken as any proof that Jesus is God (even if we accept the
absurd notion that God could die in the first place). Also, Jesus was not
the only person ever to have raised another person from the dead. Elijah (1
Kings 17:17-22), Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-35), Peter (Acts 9:36-41), and Paul (Acts
20:9-10) are all said to have raised at least one person from the dead.
As to the "overwhelming evidence" that Jesus actually rose from the dead,
once again we only have the Bible's say-so for that. There are no independent
accounts with which to verify the story. Also, the various Gospel accounts
differ in several critical details that are enough to inspire grave doubts (no
pun intended) about any purported resurrection. Ask yourself some of these
What time did the women visit the tomb? Which women came? Was the tomb
open or closed when they arrived? Whom did they see at the tomb? Were they
inside or outside the tomb? Were they standing or sitting? Did the women tell
the disciples what they had seen? How did the women find out that Jesus had
risen? Since these questions are unreconcilable in the Gospel accounts, the
veracity of the entire story must be seriously questioned.
(R) The verses that you quote above in opposition to my argument are
misunderstandings of the verses meaning and context. You quote Matthew 19:17
where the rich young ruler called Jesus "Good Teacher". Jesus seems to rebuke
him by saying "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."
Jesus did not deny He was God to the young ruler. He simply asked him to
examine the implications of what he was saying. In effect, Jesus was saying to
him, "Do you realize what you are saying when you call Me Good? Are you saying
I am God?" The young man did not realize the implications of what he was
saying. Thus Jesus was forcing him to a very uncomfortable dilemma.
(MB) This is the standard apologetics interpretation of what is really a simple
and straight question asked by Jesus. The question is a perfectly
understandable and honest one if Jesus is actually a mortal man who is preaching
the love and worship of God and involves no linguistic trickery.
(R) Either Jesus was good and God, or else He was bad and man. A good God or a
bad man, but not merely a good man. Those are the real alternatives with regard
to Christ. For no good man would claim to be God when he was not.
(MB) Agreed. But, since Jesus' own words show that he does not claim to be God,
he can still be a good man. He is not placing the ruler under any
(R) The liberal Christ, who was only a good moral teacher but not God, is a
figment of human imagination.
(MB) It wasn't until the Council of Nicea in 325 CE that Christian doctrine
changed Jesus from a man to God in the flesh. Therefore, it would seem that
Jesus' contemporaries viewed him as a man -- albeit, a rather special
(R) The other verses you quote in opposition come from a misunderstanding of the
Trinity. This is a very difficult doctrine to explain with my finite mind.
There is one God who has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit, and these three persons are the one God.
(MB) It would seem that the only people who misunderstand this concept are the
ones who believe in it. Nowhere in the Bible is any mention made of a Trinity
and many verses make it clear that there can be no such thing. For example,
Deuteronomy 4:39, Isaiah 45:6, 1 Samuel 2:2, and 2 Samuel 7:22 all clearly state
that there is none other than God -- in other words, that God is a unity and is
neither a composite entity or included in any multi-part Trinity. In addition,
Genesis 6:3, God says "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is
flesh". This means that Jesus could not be God if he existed in a flesh and
blood human body. The concept of the Trinity is nothing but an invention of
Christian doctrine. Furthermore, since God is said to have raised Jesus from
the dead, God and Jesus cannot be one and the same.
(R) God has to speak. He speaks through His breath, the Holy Spirit. Try to
talk without breath. Can you do it? No.
(MB) Then again, I'm not an omnipotent being, either. Why should such a being
have limits placed upon his ability to speak? Why, indeed, should such a being
need to speak at all?
(R) The spoken word of God, through His breath, is also God. We call that the
Word. The Word is Jesus(John 1:1-3).
(MB) Actually, all John says is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
But, Genesis 6:3 denies that such a thing could actually happen. Finally, let's
remember that this is nothing but an attribution of John and is something that
is not echoed in any of the other Gospels.
(R) So in a sense, it is kind of like us. We have a body. We need to speak. We
speak through breath which is also part of us. What we speak through that
breath, our word, is also a part of us. So we have three parts to us that make
up one person: our body, our breath, and our word. This comparison is lacking
but it helps me understand anyway.
(MB) So, a non-sequitur comparison helps you understand? It should be fairly
obvious that spoken words are not "us". They are the vibrations of air
molecules produced by a coordinated series of actions of mouth, lips, tongue,
vocal cords, lungs, and diaphragm. In reality, this is little different from
the noises made by any animal capable of growling, barking, meowing, mooing,
etc. Also, it is debatable that we "need" to speak. Mute people can certainly
get along well and there are others who take vows of silence and also get along
well. "Breath" itself is not a part of our body. It is the result of the
motion of the diaphragm that allows gases to enter or exit the lungs.