REPLY #68b TO
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and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
This is the second of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
...and, of course, the famous problem with the conflicting genealogies of Jesus
in Matthew and Luke.
(R) This is no contradiction at all. The two Gospel writers are simply tracing
the line of Jesus through two different lines of ancestors. Matthew is tracing
it through Joseph, while Luke is tracing it through Mary.
(MB) This is a famous harmonization attempt and is also the most famous utter
failure -- as we shall see.
(R) Matthew is writing to Jews and thus wants to portray Jesus as the rightful
heir to the throne of David. Luke is writing to a Gentile audience and thus
traces Him back to Adam.
(MB) Quite true. However, the purpose of both genealogies was to show that
Jesus met the basic qualifications to be the Messiah, i.e., that he was a
descendant of David. The intended audience is really irrelevant.
(R) Further, Luke does not say he is giving Jesus' genealogy through Joseph.
Rather, he notes that Jesus was "as was supposed" the son of Joseph, while He
was actually the son of Mary.
(MB) If this is correct, what's the point of the long list of names in Luke? If
Jesus was not a blood descendant of David, he could not be Messiah. Luke's
genealogy can't be correct in any case, since he traces it through David's son
Nathan, while the OT clearly states that all future Kings must be descendants of
David through Solomon. It is physically impossible for any person to be a
descendant of two different blood brothers.
(R) Finally, the fact that the two genealogies have some names in common does
not prove they are the same genealogy.
(MB) They *have* to be the same genealogy since they both end with the same
person -- Jesus!
(R) These are common names and further, even Luke's genealogy has a repeat of
the names Joseph and Judah.
(MB) Most of Luke's genealogy is unverifiable from any other Biblical account
while Matthew's is primarily a listing of the famous Kings up until after the
Exile. There is no possible harmonization of the two genealogies that can be
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),
(R) Paul (writer of Romans and Galatians) and James are not contradicting each
other here. If they were speaking about the same thing, they would be.
(MB) Well, let's see what they are saying:
Romans 3:20 -- Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be
justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.
Now, let's see how you'll try to harmonize these verses...
Galatians 2:16 -- Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the
law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ,
that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the
law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
James 2:20 -- But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is
(R) Paul is speaking about justification BEFORE GOD, while James is talking
about justification BEFORE HUMANS. This is indicated by the fact that James
stressed that we should "show" (2:18) our faith. It must be something that can
be seen by others in "works" (2:18-20).
(MB) This is silly. What other people can see makes absolutely no difference as
to whether or not one's faith in God/Jesus is sufficient. James is basically
saying that people should practice what they preach (whether it can be seen by
others or not), while Paul states that faith alone is enough. James makes more
sense since to do otherwise is to risk being hypocritical about one's
(R) Further, James acknowledged that Abraham was justified before God by faith,
not works, when he said, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for
righteousness" (2:23). When he adds that Abraham was "justified by works"
(v.21), he is speaking of what Abraham DID THAT COULD BE SEEN BY PEOPLE, namely,
offer his son Isaac on the altar (2:21-22).
(MB) Abraham was not in a public place nor was he witnessed by anybody else when
he prepared to sacrifice Isaac. He was on a mountain to which God had led him.
The story certainly indicates that Abraham's faith alone was not sufficient for
God. Of course, one has to wonder how an all-knowing, all-seeing God could not
know the strength of Abraham's faith and could only justify him by testing
(R) Further, while Paul is stressing the ROOT of justification (faith), James is
stressing the FRUIT of justification (works). But each man acknowledges
(MB) This is pure speculation without Biblical basis in the verses under
discussion. Neither Paul nor James refers to justification in those
(R) Immediately after affirming that we are "saved by grace through faith" (Eph.
(MB) Don't forget the rest of it:
Ephesians 2:8-9 -- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should
Sounds like a pretty clear statement to me.
(R) Paul quickly adds, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good
works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph.
(MB) That verse actually reads "...created in Christ Jesus *unto* good works..."
which has a very different meaning.
(R) Likewise, right after declaring that it is "not by works of righteousness
which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5-7), Paul
urges that "those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good
works" (Eph. 2:8).
(MB) Besides giving the wrong verse (it should read Titus 3:8), you left out
some of it again. Why? Let's look:
Titus 3:8 -- ...be careful to maintain good works. These things are good
and profitable unto men.
Notice that Paul is not saying that one should do good works to gain God's
favor. He is saying that we should do them for the benefit of our fellow men.
Actually, it's hard to disagree with that sentiment.
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
(R) Deut. 24:16 is a precept laid down by which the legal system of Israel would
function once they were established in the land. It was not the right of the
human courts to exact capital punishment from the children of guilty parents if
the children were not personally guilty of the crime. However, that which
restricts the power of human courts does not restrict the right or authority of
(MB) The obvious problem with this argument is that it is
*God* who is speaking in this verse. It is not a secular statement of a concept
of any legal system.
(R) Deut. 24:16 is speaking of the GUILT of the father's sin never being held
against the sons, but Exodus is referring to the CONSEQUENCES of the fathers'
sins being passed on to their children.
(MB) What's the difference? If someone is guilty of a
crime or a sin, there are consequences to be paid. Also, if someone is forced
to suffer the consequences of a sin that he did not commit, that is a grave
injustice. Finally, your argument runs into a contradiction with Ezekial
18:19-20, which says "The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear
the iniquity of the father..." Notice that it says the son shall *not* bear it.
Now, which of these two (Exodus 20:5 or Ezekial 18:19-20) is right? They can't
both be right since they are exact opposites.
(R) Unfortunately, if a father is a drunk, the children can suffer abuse and
even poverty. Likewise, if a mother has contracted AIDS from drug use, then her
baby may be born with AIDS. But, this does not mean that the innocent children
are guilty of the sins of their parents.
(MB) Sounds like you've been reading Carl Johnson.
Unfortunately, his analogy breaks down when you realize that the consequences of
another's behavior are not something which can be forced upon anybody else by
judicial fiat. Johnson's analogy flatly contradicts the commandment of God in
(R) Further, even if the Exodus or Isaiah passages implied that moral
guilt was somehow also visited on the children, it would only be because they
too, like their fathers, had sinned against God. Noteworthy is the fact that
God only visits the iniquities of "those who hate" Him (Ex. 20:5), not those who
(MB) The problem here is that this runs afoul of Romans
5:12, where Paul says that "all have sinned". Since you cannot both love God
and sin (otherwise, there would be no need to beg for forgiveness), there are no
cases where God wouldn't apply Exodus 20:5 and condemn all generations.
...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 in us").
(R) John nowhere claims that believers are without sin or never commit a sin. 1
John 3:6 is in the present continuous state. It is better translated in the
NIV. "No one who lives in him KEEPS ON SINNING".
(MB) Why is this verse better translated this
way? It seems simple and concise enough as it reads. It also makes perfect
grammatical sense as the verb forms agree with each other. Unfortunately, the
NIV is somewhat prone to apologetic rewordings.
(R) If a person habitually
practices sin, and is not uncomfortable, he is not born of God.
(MB) This begs the question of the definition of "sin".
Can a faithful follower of Hinduism "sin" in the Christian sense? What about
activities of Christians which would be considered "sins" by Jews (or by
Muslims, for that matter)?
(R) As James argued, true faith will produce good works (2:14).
(MB) This is an analog of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
Can't one do good works without having faith in the Christian God?
(R) If a pig and a lamb fall into the mud, the pig wants to stay there, but
the lamb wants to get out.
(MB) Actually, the pig would also prefer not to be in the
mud. It only goes there because the mud keeps the pig's body cooler. Pigs are
smart animals -- not dirty ones. They have an erroneous reputation since the
most efficient way for them to relieve overheating is considered "dirty" by
humans. That reputation leads to silly analogies such as the one you offered.
Given the choice, pigs prefer a clean environment.
(R) Both a believer and an unbeliever can FALL into the
same sin, but a believer cannot STAY in it and feel comfortable.
(MB) Only because the believer has a preconceived notion
of what "sin" is. The unbeliever will either not consider a given activity to
be "sinful" or will not subscribe to a belief system that considers that
activity to be a "sin". If both faithfully follow their beliefs, who's to say
which one of them is "wrong"? To make any such claim will require proof that
"sin" has an independent existence.
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".
(R) These apparent contradictions refer to two different periods.
(MB) That's a ridiculous argument even if it had any meaning. If Jesus was as
you portray him, he knew ahead of time what would happen to him and what sort of
reaction his teachings would provoke from any given crowd. He is clearly quoted
as saying "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:5) and "Salvation is
of the Jews" (John 4:22), whereas Paul plainly writes "The Lord has commanded
us, saying, I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring
salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 13:47). It will take a
wild piece of illogical fabrication to make any claim that these statements are
(R) It is true that Jesus' original mission was to the Jews. But, the
Scriptures testify that "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him"
(John 1:11). The official Jewish position was to reject Him as their Messiah
and to crucify Him (Matt. 27; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18).
(MB) Obviously, Jesus was not a very compelling figure to the very people to
whom he had originally intended to minister. If they saw and heard him
first-hand and were not impressed, why should anybody have a different opinion
2000 years later?
Side question...can the Gospels be considered
"Scripture" in the Biblical usage? I ask because every Pauline usage of the
word refers to the Old Testament. In fact, it would have to be that way since
Paul wrote his Epistles prior to the appearance of any of the Gospels and did
not quote from any of them at any time.
(R) Therefore, it was after His crucifixion and resurrection that the mission of
the disciples was to go to the nations.
(MB) Sure! After the people who saw you turned you down, why not send your few
remaining disciples out to try to convince those who did *not* ever see or hear
you and who would have no way to verify the truth of what was being preached to
them? Makes sense to me.
(R) This was in fulfillment of prophecies about the Gentiles.
(MB) And, just which "prophecies" were these?
(R) Thus, the Apostle Paul could tell the Roman Christians that the Gospel was
"for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).
(MB) This is dubious on two counts. First, the verse is actually talking about
salvation for "every one that believeth". If the Jews rejected Jesus to the
point where they had him crucified, they were clearly not believers. How, then,
could Paul say that salvation was for the Jew first? Second, in this verse,
Paul contradicts statements he made on two other occasions (Romans 2:11 and
Ephesians 6:9) where he says there is "no respect of persons with God". These
also are in contradication of yet another verse from Paul (Romans 9:13) which
says, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated". So, in two places, Paul
suggests that God has a pecking order for salvation and/or love, whereas, in two
other places, Paul suggests that God does not play favorites. Clearly, they
can't all be right.
(R) Because of their rejection of Jesus, the nation of Israel was cut off (Rom.
11:19), but, when the subsequent "fullness of the Gentiles" (11:25) has been
completed, then Israel will be grafted in again (11:23,26).
(MB) So, what Paul is saying here is essentially that God
has been such an uncompelling figure to his "chosen people" that he needs new
branches for his tree since he had to cut off some of the originals. Note that
Paul is referring to God and the OT rejection of him by some Jews. He never
once mentions Jesus, so your interpretation is incorrect.
(R) Of course, even though Jesus' mission was officially to the Jews, He did not
neglect Gentiles. He healed the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter (Mark
(MB) According to the story, Jesus is apparently not going
to heal the woman's daughter at first. He goes so far as to portray the
Gentiles as "dogs" while the Jews are referred to as "children" whose needs have
Mark 7:27 -- But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it
is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
Then, the woman makes a clever retort to Jesus which impresses him enough to
reconsider and perform the healing.
BTW, there's another problem related to this story.
Supposedly, it takes place in Tyre. Yet, Ezekial (in chapters 26-27) condemns
the city and predicts that it will be destroyed and never rebuilt. Of course,
Tyre exists even to this day.
(R) He went out of His way to minister to the woman of Samaria (John
(MB) Jesus did not go "out of his way". According to John
4:4, Jesus needed to go through Samaria on his way to Galilee. His meeting with
the woman was, therefore, a chance encounter and not a deliberate act.
John 4:5 begins "Then cometh he to a city of Samaria,
which is called Sychar...". A problem here is that Samaria has never had a city
(R) He told His disciples of His anticipated work (through them) among the
Gentiles (John 10:16),...
(MB) Let's look:
John 10:16 -- And they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold, and
Given that there over 1500 separate Christian sects in existence, it
certainly doesn't sound like Jesus was very accurate with this
(R) ...and His Great Commission was to "make disciples of all the nations"
(MB) The problems surrounding the Great Commission are numerous and legendary.
Let's look at a few of them beginning with another Pauline contradiction. In
Matthew 28:19, we read Jesus as saying, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Yet, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:17 writes, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to
preach the gospel". Then, there's Peter, who seems to think (in Acts 2:38 and
10:48) that baptism should be done only in the name of Jesus.
Matthew 28:18 has Jesus saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in
earth". This is interesting when compared with the words of Paul in 2
Thessalonians 2:9, where he says "The coming of the lawless one by the activity
of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders". Who is
it, then, who has "all power"? Jesus? The lawless one? Satan? Perhaps they
are all one and the same or are all equally powerful?
Apologists have a difficult time resolving the Great Commission with the
philosophical problem of how God will deal with people who have never heard of
him. Sure, we "know" that unrepentant sinners will be condemned and that the
repentant ones are eligible for eternity in Heaven. But, what about the people
who have never heard of God and know nothing about him? What will be their
eventual fate? It doesn't seem fair to condemn them since they have not
knowingly rejected God. But, neither does it seem fair to allow them eternal
bliss since they had done nothing to earn it. Nor, does it seem fair to deny
their souls a continued existence after the death of their mortal bodies. What
In "I'm Glad You Asked", apologist Kenneth Boa
These concerns have led some people to the conclusion that those who have
never heard about Christ will escape the judgment of God. If this is true
Christian missionaries are not only wasting their lives but may be doing great
harm by preaching the gospel to those who are unaware of Christ, they have
brought people from a state of innocence to a state of moral culpability if they
do not respond. This would mean that passages such as the Great Commission make
no sense at all. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should have been
kept a secret.
In "Reason to Believe", apologist R. C. Sproul reaches a
Since the native is not guilty of this we ought to let him alone. In fact,
letting him alone would be the most helpful and redemptive thing we could do for
him. If we go to the native and inform him of Christ we place his soul in
eternal jeopardy. For now he knows of Christ, and if he refuses to respond to
Him he can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. Hence, the best service we
can render is silence.
It would seem, then, that the Great Commission (or, at least, the Christian
interpretation of it) may not be something that is well thought out.
(R) But, both in order of priority and time, the message of Christ came first to
the Jew and then to the Gentile.
(MB) I guess things have changed over the years,
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.
(R) Acts 2:22 states that Jesus was accredited by God to them through miracles
which GOD did among them. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 states that the lawless one will
be in accordance with the work of SATAN. Notice any difference?
(MB) Yep. That was exactly my point! You often claim that one proof of Jesus
is in the miracles he performed. Yet, even the Bible shows that miracles, in
and of themselves, are no proof that they or the individual performing them are
divine. You may well try to argue that miracles originate from different
sources. However, to do so is to prove my point since the person who witnesses
a miracle cannot tell who is ultimately responsible for it.
(R) So how are we supposed to distinguish between spirits? 1 John 4:2 says
"This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does
not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."
(MB) This is illogical since it does not address the cases of the individuals
who are convinced to change their views either for or against Jesus. If we
acknowledge that a believer's spirit is from God, what happens when he renounces
his beliefs? He still has the same spirit he always had. Same for the former
non-believer who converts to Christianity. His spirit is also still the same as
before. How does one get a spirit that is not "from God" if God is responsible
for everything that happens?
(R) A divine miracle is supernatural, connected with truth, associated with
good, never associated with the Occult, and always successful.
(MB) Just what would an "unsuccessful" miracle be? Also, Jesus' cursing of the
fig tree is classified as a "miracle", but it could hardly be considered
something that is associated with "good".
Incidentally, this incident is also contained within another contradictory
account between Matthew and Mark. Matthew 21:12-19 has Jesus cursing the fig
tree after cleaning the temple, whereas Mark 11:13-15 reverses the order of
events. They can't both be right! How do you account for this?
(R) A satanic sign is supernormal, connected with error, associated with evil,
often associated with the Occult, and not always successful.
(MB) Please explain the difference between "supernatural" and "supernormal".
Also, you'll need to give details of a specific satanic sign and show how it
meets the criteria you listed.