Night Owl Mk. II

HomeSite 4.0
Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0

Last Update: 24 Mar 99

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized 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 sixth 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.

Fourth, the Gospels themselves disagree on the details surrounding several of the purported miracles of Jesus.
(R) If your going to make a claim, at least back it up with some support.
(MB) I've already provided some examples, but I normally have more in reserve. How about these?
Matthew 8:28-31 -- two were possessed with devils
Luke 8:26-34, Mark 5:2-14 -- only one was possessed

Matthew 8:1-2 and Matthew 8:14 -- Jesus heals a leper before entering Peter's house
Mark 1:29 and Mark 1:40 -- He heals the leper after leaving Peter's house
    Yes, there are more. Let's see if you can successfully harmonize any of the ones I've already presented before I give you any more to deal with.

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).
(R) Actually, it can. Jesus was the only one to raise from the dead and STAY alive!
(MB) How do we know that? The eventual fates of the others who were resurrected are not given in the Bible. Perhaps, resurrection bestows immortality? In that case, one cannot simply assume that all others eventually died a second time. On the other hand, since there is no extra-Biblical evidence that Jesus ever rose from the dead at all and since the Biblical story is fraught with contradictions and difficulties, we can't just accept that Jesus ever died in the first place, that he ever rose again or that he remains alive to this day. Then, there is the additional difficulty of the OT telling us about two mortal men, Elijah and Enoch, who ascended to heaven while still alive. Are they still alive today, too? If so, that pretty much quashes your argument for Jesus, doesn't it?

(R) All others who were raised from the dead eventually died again.
(MB) Again, you must resort to speculation to make this claim.

(R) But not so with Jesus. Romans 6:9 states "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him."
(MB) So, why doesn't the same logic apply to all others who were raised from the dead? Perhaps there is some basis for my argument about resurrection bestowing immortality? If you have to resort to a bunch of special-case scenarios to make Jesus' case "different" from all the others, doesn't that pretty much rule out any significance for his resurrection itself?

(R) How could God die? God took on the form of a human being as Jesus.
(MB) In my previous reply, I quoted a verse from Genesis that proves either that God could never have done what you are claiming for him or that he spoke erroneously -- which a perfect entity could never do.

(R) Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. He was God in human form.
(MB) It's impossible to be 100% of two mutually-exclusive things at the same time. It's a great-sounding apologetic line, but, as logic, it's nothing but cross-eyed badger spit.

(R) When he died on the cross, he died physically. His human form died while His spirit went to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16) to release the captives which are those who were righteous and died before Christ came (Eph. 4:8-10).
(MB) Here, I can present another contradiction for you to chew on. Ephesians 4:8 ("Wherefore Jesus saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men") is a misquote by Paul of Psalms 68:18 ("Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men"). Receiving and giving gifts are two entirely different things. Also, some like to think that the Psalm is referring to Jesus (even though it clearly refers to God), but Paul's verse has Jesus talking about somebody else. I'd also like to know when Jesus ever "led captivity captive".

(R) It is impossible to understand the tri-unity of God with our finite minds.
(MB) Why? "Finite" does not mean "empty" or "incapable". Now, it's understandable that religion prefers the flock to stay ignorant and not ask questions so that it won't have to deal with embarrasing answers. But, would it be a bad thing if we *did* have full understanding? We also don't need 100% understanding in order to get good answers to our questions.
    I think that Robert Ingersoll had a pretty good understanding of the Trinity (from Works, Vol. 4):
Christ, according to the faith, is the second person in the Trinity, the Father being the first and the Holy Ghost the third. Each of these three persons is God. Christ is his own father and his own son. The Holy Ghost is neither father nor son, but both. The son was begotten by the father, but existed before he was begotten -- just the same before as after. Christ is just as old as his father, and the father is just as young as his son. The Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and the Son, but was equal to the Father and the Son before he proceeded, that is to say, before he existed, but he is of the same age as the other two. So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son God and the Holy Ghost God, and these three Gods make one God....Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the Trinity.

(R) How can a creation understand its creator?
(MB) By asking questions and not being afraid of the answers.

(R) Although you refer to yourself as a man of "genius level intelligence", in the eyes of God your wisdom and knowledge is foolishness.
(MB) This is one of Paul's rantings in 1 Corinthians. However, like much of Paul's writings, it doesn't make much sense. Paul is appealing to the common person who may well feel intimidated by those who are learned and intelligent. If that common person can be convinced that God prefers his ignorance to the knowledge possessed by others, that person will feel better about himself and will likely become a faithful believer. In the meantime, he's still ignorant.

(R) 1 Corinthians 1:25 says "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
(MB) This would be as expected for an omniscient, omnipotent deity. Unfortunately, you are reading this as an admonition that we shouldn't strive for knowledge or wisdom since we can't hope to approach that which is possessed by God. It would seem to make more sense to assume that if God gave me a brain, he intended for me to use it. Needless to say, if there's no God at all, I still have my brain and don't have to worry about any supernatural competition.

(R) 1 Cor. 2:14 says "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." This is rather self-explanatory.
(MB) It sure is. It says that if you are not a believer, then the notion of God is foolishness. I would have to agree. It also implies one of the common themes of your arguments -- that you must first believe in order to believe.

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.
(R) This is true in part. Yes, others did raise people from the dead. But this was not with their own power but by the power of God. With Jesus, however, He raised Lazarus and others by His own power because He WAS God (John 10:30).
(MB) Again, this requires a presupposition about the nature of Jesus that is unique to the Gospel of John and is not shared by the others. In any case, your argument does not answer the point I was making. Whether or not Jesus actually *was* God, it was still the power of God that acted through all of those individuals who raised people from the dead. None of those individuals other than Jesus was claimed to be anything other than a mortal man. Since they all accomplished the same task and did so by the power of God, you can't single out any one of them and say that his particular act proves that he is divine without implying that all of the others were divine, as well.

As to the "overwhelming evidence" that Jesus actually rose from the dead, once again we only have the Bible's say-so for that.
(R) Writing about 56 AD, the Apostle Paul mentions the fact that more than 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Christ at one time and most of them were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6).
(MB) You made this exact same argument before and I've already answered it in Reply #57b. Did you read it?

(R) This statement is somewhat of a challenge to those who might not have believed, since Paul is saying that there are many people yet living who could be interviewed to find out if Christ had indeed risen. If there were no witnesses, Paul would have been called a liar by his peers and Christianity would have died out. The fact that no one objected to this but only supported it says enough.
(MB) Who supported Paul's claim? There is no mention of it in any of the Gospels or in any non-Pauline book of the NT. There is no mention of such a thing in any contemporary historical reference. Maybe the statement was considered so outlandish at the time that it wasn't even considered necessary to refute it (or even acknowledge it) in writing. And, if it had been refuted, do you think that the rebuttal would have appeared in the NT? Finally, to Christians, it was the resurrection itself, and not how many people may or may not have witnessed it that is the important point. So, even if Paul's claim was widely regarded as spurious, it wouldn't have been sufficient to cause the entire emerging Christian belief to die out.

(R) The historical evidence is more than sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of the honest inquirer.
(MB) What historical evidence? As I've already told you, there's none to be found.

(R) This can be seen not only by the positive defense that can be made for the case for the resurrection, but also by the lack of any evidence for an alternative explanation. The theories attempting to give an alternative explanation to the resurrection take more faith to believe than the resurrection itself.
(MB) What alternative explanation(s) would these be and why are they so much worse than the resurrection story itself? Also, you are making the logical error of assuming that a lack of evidence for one story gives any credibility to a competing story. This is not the case. All stories must support themselves on their own merits.

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 questions:
(R) Grave doubts? More like grave doubters.
(MB) That, too!

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) Now that's funny. All these "contradictions" and no scripture to back them up. If your going to make the claims, give some evidence. Its hard to see how they are "unreconcilable" when there is no support.
(MB) Don't you even know where to find the resurrection stories in your own Bible? I thought you were quite familiar with it (unless, of course, all of your attempted rebuttals are nothing more than bulk copying out of apologist books). In any case, I will be happy to provide the requested Gospel references. Then, let's see if you can answer any of the questions.
What time did the women visit the tomb?
  • Sunrise (Mark 16:2)
  • When it was still dark (John 20:1)

Which women came?
  • Mary Magdalene (John 20:1)
  • Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 28:1)
  • Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1)
  • Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women (Luke 24:10)

Was the tomb open or closed when they arrived?
  • Open (Luke 24:2)
  • Closed (Matthew 28:1-2)

Whom did they see at the tomb?
  • An angel (Matthew 28:2)
  • A young man (Mark 16:5)
  • Two men (Luke 24:4)
  • Two angels (John 20:11-12)

Were they inside or outside the tomb?
  • Inside (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:3-4, John 20:11-12)
  • Outside (Matthew 28:2)

Were they standing or sitting?
  • Standing (Luke 24:4)
  • Sitting (Matthew 28:2, Mark 16:5, John 20:12)

Did the women tell the disciples what they had seen?
  • Yes (Luke 24:8-9)
  • No (Mark 16:8)

How did the women find out that Jesus had risen?
  • An angel sitting on the outside told them (Matthew 28:5-6)
  • A man on the right side inside the tomb told them (Mark 16:5-6)
  • Two men inside the tomb told them (Luke 24:5-6)
    So, can you put this tangled mess together and come up with one single, consistent, and coherent story with no contradictions?

This is the standard apologetics interpretation of what is really a simple and straight forward question asked by Jesus.
(R) Yes, this is a common apologetics answer.
(MB) Which, of course, is why the refutation to it is so well-known.

(R) Jesus many times uses questions and statements to invoke thought in others and put them in uncomfortable positions (Matt. 21:25; John 6:53-60; John 14:6).
(MB) This is a good tactic of philosophical debate (as I'm sure you've noticed by now). In Matthew's tale, Jesus asks the priests to tell him by what authority was John baptized. "From heaven, or of men?", he asks. The priests are depicted as being in a predicament only because they fear the response of the people to a truthful answer. Jesus uses this as an excuse to avoid telling the priests what gives him his own authority.
    In John 6, we have the Jewish disciples being confronted with a problem when Jesus tells them they must eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. Obviously, this is in direct and severe contradiction of Jewish dietary laws. Knowing this, Jesus asks if his directive offends them. Of course, he could have just said that he was speaking metaphorically and put their minds at ease.
    John 14:6 is Jesus' claim that he is "the way, the truth, and the life". No support for this claim is provided, of course.

(R) Jesus also had a very good sense of humor. In Matt. 23:24, Jesus says that the Pharisees swallow a camel and strain out a gnat! Get it? They swallow a bunch of food but when it comes out the other end it amounts to nothing! Now that's funny!
(MB) So, Jesus essentially calls the Pharisees "constipated" and anybody over the age of 12 is supposed to find that to be funny?
    Fortunately, we don't have to be lowered to scatalogical humor in this instance since your interpretation of this verse is 100% wrong. The proof here is in the simple fact that you are giving the verse backwards! Jesus is chiding the Pharisees as being folks who will strain out a gnat, yet swallow a camel. This is an entirely different meaning. He's basically saying that they are prone to miss the forest for the trees or that they will nitpick about little things but completely miss the big picture. Check out how the World English translation gives this verse:
Matthew 23:24 (WE) -- You blind leaders! You take a fly out of your cup, but you drink down a big animal like a camel!
    I haven't the foggiest idea where you got the absurd notion that Jesus was essentially telling shit jokes about the Pharisees. Heck, I wonder what Jesus himself would think of that idea...*grin*

(R) If you look at the over all life at Jesus, and not just one verse taken out of context, you will see that Jesus uses satire, irony, comedy, and the plain simple truth all in an effort to win people to Himself.
(MB) Somehow, the idea of Jesus as a comedian or as a scintillating wit has never been something that has struck me from reading the Gospels. Do you have any more examples of this "sense of humor"?

(R) In affect, His reply to the ruler matches His personality and character perfectly!
(MB) I would agree with that, but not in the way you would like.

The question is 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) Your first presupposition in this statement makes the rest ridiculous.
(MB) Oh? How? The statement is perfectly logical because I said "...if Jesus is actually a mortal man...". That makes it a premise from which a conclusion can be proposed and not a presupposition which already accepts a preordained conclusion.

(R) Jesus was not JUST a mortal man. He is God who was preaching the love and worship of HIMSELF (Matt. 10:37; Luke 19:37-40).
(MB) Now *this* is an example of a presupposition (actually, three of them). You have stated three things as if they were facts. In addition, your Bible verses do not apply to the story being discussed (which is Matthew 19:17).

(R) You are right; this statement does not need "linguistic trickery".
(MB) That doesn't seem to stop the apologists from trying, though.

(R) That is why if you read it in context and have a better understanding of Jesus, it would make perfect sense.
(MB) I've done both, thank you, and it *does* make perfect sense as I've been saying all along.

Agreed. But, since Jesus' own words show that he does not claim to be God, he can still be a good man.
(R) As shown before, Jesus clearly views Himself as God.
(MB) That is anything but clear in either a factual or a logical sense.

(R) Holding on to an alternative view does absolutely nothing except keep you from acknowledging the truth.
(MB) In this case, the alternative view turns out to *be* the truth!

(R) Again, if you read the whole of the Gospels in context, instead of trying to find individual verses which seem contradictory, the non-biased person will come to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be God.
(MB) No, he will not. I've quoted the verses and I've presented the problems. You haven't shown where I've taken a single verse out of context. Instead, you've done that yourself and echoed the apologists' standard spin-doctoring along with relying almost entirely on circular reasoning and question-begging for your arguments. Personally, I think it's great! It just demonstrates how weak the case for belief actually is.

He is not placing the ruler under any dilemma.
(R) Yes, He is. Man is sinful by nature. Jesus could be a good God or a bad man, but not a good man. The ruler had to decide on which to believe.
(MB) How does Man's nature (sinful or not) come into play here? Also, you've left out a couple of possibilities for the ruler's decision. Jesus could also be a bad God or a good Man. Why can't he be a Man and still be good? Yes, the ruler had to decide which to believe, but the actual reality of the situation wouldn't change one bit no matter what final decision he would reach.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 24 Mar 99

Earthlink Network Home Page