Night Owl Mk. II

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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).

Note: The reply presented below was originally sent to me as a part of a larger reply concerning my "Evolution vs. Creationism" essay. I have moved it here since the content more appropriately applies to the topic of religion.

This is the second of the two parts of this reply.

(R) The first Christians were Jews, and there are many Jews who today believe that He was the Messiah.
(MB) Then, they are "Christians" and not "Jews". Those who still practice Judaism have not yet accepted anyone as being the Messiah.

(R) If Judaism doesn't believe that He was, this is no surprise since it was the leaders of Judaism who conspired to murder Christ.
(MB) Of course. A "false Messiah" would deserve nothing less in their eyes.

(R) Most of Judaism in the Old Testament was designed to point the way to Christ, the Messiah, ...
(MB) Well....Judaism had been around for nearly 3000 years before Messianic prophecies first began to appear -- nearly 250 years after the death of David.

(R) ...but the religious leaders did not like the threat of change that Jesus represented and so had him killed. The had the power and were fearful of losing it. They used their religion as a tool to maintain their material and political well-being, something that is still done today by charlatans of all stripes who lead gullible people astray.
(MB) I couldn't have said it better myself...

(R) The problem here was that their deception lead their whole religion down the wrong path, away from God's Messiah.
(MB) Not in their eyes! How could they lead their religion away from a "Messiah" they didn't believe in?

Remember the point I made about history being written from the point of view of the historian? To use what the Bible says as proof of its own validity is circular reasoning.
(R) This is a good point, but who's version do we believe? The religious leaders conspired to murder Jesus: how valid would their testimony be? That was where the conspiracy was, not with the disciples.
(MB) At least, from the Christian point-of-view, eh? On the surface, there is little evidence to suggest that either story is preferable to the other. Heck, there may well have been conspiracies abounding on both sides! The issue *was* important enough.

(R) The Bible contains eye-witness accounts of the events surrounding the resurrection: would a court reject testimony of a witness because the witness gave testimony from their own perspective? Hardly. In fact, that eye-witness perspective is what the court wants: "I was there, this is what I saw."
(MB) Actually, much of it is hear-say written at least 30 years after the fact with no independent corroboration. A court might listen to such testimony, but the judge would certainly give stern instructions to the jury about how relevant they should consider it to be.

(R) If these accounts were not true then those providing them were, again, either liars or lunatics. To assume that they were either of these is not consistent with the content of the Bible, as we have discussed.
(MB) "The Bible" is two separate collections. The Old Testament is Jewish history. The New Testament is Christian philosophy. There is no requirement for them to be consistent with each other.

(R) Beyond this, the historian, Josephus, mentions Christ and also mentions His resurrection. This record is consistent with what the disciples proclaimed.
(MB) Josephus wasn't born until nearly a decade after Christ died. He could not possibly have written an eye-witness account from first-hand knowledge. He merely repeated the stories that he had been told. It should come as little surprise that they would be consistent with what the disciples proclaimed since he got his information from them. His "Jewish Antiquities" wasn't written until AD 93. His first-hand accounts (the ones most valuable to historians) were of the Jewish revolts against Rome. He himself was a commander in Galilee until captured in AD 67.

(R) Must we toss the Bible out as evidence simply because it was written by eyewitnesses?
(MB) When have I ever said that?

(R) I should also point out that two of the four gospels were not written by individuals who were a part of these events, Mark and Luke, or at least not as intimately involved as the disciples.
(MB) Correct. Neither Mark nor Luke was a disciple. Each of the three synoptic Gospels (including Matthew) was written to appeal to a specific audience. Mark, for Christians of Jewish origin. Matthew, for those more learned in Old Testament accounts and prophecies. Luke, for Gentiles who were considering conversion.

(R) The conspiracy theory of the resurrection that you provided stands wanting: the obvious alternative is that He really did rise just as the eye-witness accounts in the Bible assert.
(MB) Without hard evidence, *all* theories remain wanting -- including the notion that there was any resurrection at all.

Obviously, there were no "Christians" until after Jesus' death. However, if his existence as the Messiah is so clear and indisputable, there would today be no Jews - just Christians. Needless to say, there wouldn't be any other religions either.
(R) It comes down to a matter of will. Christianity, aside from being based on historical events, has some uncomfortable implications that many people do not wish to accept.
(MB) Only the most primitive of man's religions are not based on historical events. All religions have uncomfortable implications. However, if you truly believe in the central tenets of the religion, the implications are either just details or tests of your faith. Islam is a good example of this. It places many demands on its followers that seem extremely uncomfortable to non-Muslims, yet it is the fastest-growing religion in the world. Muslims think nothing of these tests. Passing them demonstrates their devotion (the word "Islam" means "submission") to Allah and ensures that they continue to gain the benefits of his protection. Most Christians feel put upon to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church. Muslims observe a 30-day period of sunrise to sunset fasting (Ramazan) each year.
Muslims do not pay lip service to their religion. They practice what they preach. I lived in Izmir, Turkey for 15 months and learned much about Islam while there. Though it was a city of 3 million people -- many of them rather poor -- I could walk anywhere I wanted to go, any time of the day or night, by myself, and not have to fear being mugged or robbed. I can't do that in any city of any size in the God-fearing Christian USA. My Turkish friends were genuinely astounded to hear that this was the case. The idea that one could feel unsafe from crime was unknown to them.
I'm not a Muslim, nor am I advocating Islam over Christianity. I'm merely contrasting the two based upon a little of my first-hand experience with both. I've actually heard a lot of Christians tell me that Islam is "wrong" because "they worship a false god". In reality, of course, Christians and Muslims worship the same God. They just call him by different names.

(R) ... most other religions (in fact, all others, I think) assert that we can earn our way into God's good favor. In other words, I can be good enough, I can deserve God's forgiveness. Christianity says you cannot, but that the only way one can come to God is as an undeserving sinner in need of mercy. How humiliating!
(MB) On the other hand, Christians may earn salvation by repenting their sins and accepting God. This can be done at any time during their lives. In other words, you could party hearty for most of your life and still gain salvation by an 11th-hour appeal. Eating a little crow doesn't seem like much of a price to pay. This doesn't work in Islam (or in most other religions I'm familiar with), for example. You are accountable for your entire life. There's no such thing as a "born-again Muslim".

(R) If this sounds like I am trying to witness to you, I am.
(MB) Gee, I hadn't noticed...*grin*

(R) You said you did your homework on the Bible. I am a college professor and I know that just because a student did his homework doesn't mean that they did it correctly.
(MB) So, how's my grade looking?

(R) Based on what you have written to me, I think you have missed the message of the Bible, that we all are guilty before God and need a Savior.
(MB) I haven't missed the point -- I just don't buy it. One thing I've never understood is how a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient God can create Man in his own image and likeness, profess to be surprised when he sins, and then demand that his creation come crawling back to him repenting of those sins. Why not just create a Man incapable of sinning in the first place? Such a Man would hardly know any different.

(R) I hope, and yes, pray, that you will take some time to re-examine the truths of the Bible with an open and willing mind.
(MB) Been there. Done that. Found it wanting. Moved along.

(R) If one is not willing to believe, than one won't. If one is willing to believe, then the Bible can speak to that person and they can make their own decision as to what to do with Christ.
(MB) As I've said before, I've done my homework. My findings did not support a belief in what the Bible was saying beyond any historical perspective. Maybe I will rot in hell for it, who knows? Then again, maybe my body will just decay away as all organic material eventually must. Either way, I'll know that I was honest in my convictions. Heck, even God must understand that.

(R) When I was much younger I decided to accept Christ as my Savior. Since that time I took a hard look at the claims of Christianity and have found them to be valid. Christianity satisfies my intellect as well as my soul, and it can do that for anyone, including you.
(MB) Personal satisfaction in one's beliefs is a worthy goal, wouldn't you agree? You have found your route to it and so have I. The routes go in different directions and may cross occasionally. Who's to say that this is not as it should be?

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