The God Debate, 3 of 3 (Fiction)

From Part 2 of this excerpt from my book Cross Examined:

Paul sipped from his cup as he considered Jim’s argument. He was beginning to enjoy this tea—harsh but with a sweet aftertaste. “I heard a story about a woman tending her garden.” Paul wasn’t much for telling jokes, but this one took on a new meaning. “The pastor walks by and says, ‘Isn’t it marvelous what God can do in a garden?’ She wipes the sweat from her forehead and says, ‘You should have seen it when He had it all to Himself.’ ”

Jim stood and let out a whoop. “There’s hope for you yet!” He picked up the tea tray. “Let’s continue in the kitchen.”

Paul followed Jim. “What about the miraculous recoveries from illness? I suppose luck or coincidence or legend explains them.”

“If there is a remotely plausible natural explanation, that is far more believable than a supernatural one. Just take the facts for what they are and don’t force them to fit a Christian presupposition. The Bible was written by a tribe of people thousands of years before modern science. Supernatural explanations were the best they had. Religion is a cultural fossil from a time when society had nothing better.”

Jim showed Paul where he kept the tea. Paul put two fresh spoonsful in the pot while Jim refilled the kettle and set it on to boil.

“I’m impressed by how tidy you keep things,” Paul said. In truth he’d seen only the kitchen, the living room that Jim used as his office, and a hallway with several closed doors, but he was curious about this grand house.

“I maintain things the way Vive liked. She was content for me to keep my office as I wanted, but the rest of the house she kept pristine. Our neighbors had maids but Vive insisted that keeping the house in order was her job.”

Paul felt a wave of sympathy with a bit of pity for this sad recluse. He was keeping his house in order so Vive could return at any moment and be satisfied. Locked away in his luxurious hermitage, this man with his savage intellect and mismatched socks was living in a world of the mind, shielded from outside emotion. But Paul felt strongly drawn to this eccentric man and realized he now thought of Jim as a friend.

Jim stared out the window. Paul shrugged off the weight of the silence to restart the discussion. “What do you think of the other attributes of God—that He’s merciful, just, loving …”

Loving? Ha! Imagine a man saying to his wife, ‘Darling, I love you more than words can express, and I want you near me forever … but if you ever leave me, so help me, I’ll hunt you down and kill you slowly!’ We are told that God’s love is infinitely deep, far greater than that of a parent for a child, and yet if we don’t believe the right thing, into hell we go for a jolly and exhilarating carnival of torture forever.”

Paul remembered a frequent subject of Samuel’s sermons. “The book of John says, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ A father offering up his child—it’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

Jim smiled and shook his head. “Jesus’s sacrifice—hugely important to the Christian, but it now seems to me a rather small matter.”

“No!” Paul had listened in awe to too many sermons in which Samuel paid loving attention to the details of Jesus’s death to let this stand. “Jesus died by crucifixion—a horrible, humiliating way to die.”

“And I might die from cancer,” Jim said. “I might suffer from six months of agony before I finally die—agony so great that I would wish I were dead. Six hours of pain on the cross might seem the easier route.”

“You may not understand six hours of pain from crucifixion.”

“And you may not understand six months of pain from cancer.” Jim ran his fingers through his long hair. “Now let’s imagine I go to hell to suffer an eternity of torment. That makes Jesus’s six hours of pain insignificant compared to mine.”

“Still, His death was the height of sacrifice. He’s God. It’s like a human sacrificing himself to benefit an insect.”

“Not a good analogy. Jesus is supposed to have infinite love for humanity, but I don’t see any human having much love for an insect.” Jim placed two clean cups on the tea tray. “The absurdity of the story, of course, is the resurrection. If he died, there’s no miraculous resurrection, and if there’s a resurrection, there’s no sacrifice through death. Miracle or sacrifice—you can’t have it both ways. The Gospels don’t say that he died for our sins but that he had a rough couple of days for our sins. And if we must bear Adam’s sin no matter what we do, why don’t we benefit from the sacrifice that removes it no matter what we do?”

“But the Christian story is unique. Where else do we have a god dying for the benefit of humans?”

“Christianity is unique, just like every religion,” Jim said. “And what about Prometheus?”

Paul had read quite a bit of Greek mythology, but he let Jim continue.

“Prometheus stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humanity. Zeus discovered the crime and punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock so that a vulture could eat his liver. Each night, his liver grew back and the next day the vulture would return, day after agonizing day. Now that’s a sacrifice for humanity. Jesus is crucified once and then pops back into existence—rather weak by comparison.”

Prometheus was fiction, of course, but Paul had nothing to argue that the miracle stories of Jesus were anything different. “But if the sacrifice saves you from hell,” he said, “maybe we should appreciate it and be grateful for it, even if we can’t understand it.”

“Do Bronze Age customs persist so that we need a human sacrifice? If God loves us so deeply and he wants to forgive us, couldn’t he just … forgive us?”

“God can’t just forgive us.”

“Why not? That’s how you do it.”

“What I mean is, He’s the judge, and to forgive us, to simply let our sins go unpunished, would bypass His perfect justice.”

“Then I don’t think much of his ‘perfect justice.’ It’s certainly not the lesson we get from the parable of the Prodigal Son where the father forgives the son even after being wronged by him. If that’s the standard of mercy, why can’t God follow it? And maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I’d prefer to see punishment in proportion to the crime. The person whose crime was a white lie shouldn’t get the same punishment as Attila the Hun. No crime deserves an eternal stay in hell.

“And I find the logic behind Jesus’s sacrifice especially opaque. God made mankind imperfect and inherently vulnerable to sin. Living a sinless life is impossible, so hell becomes unavoidable. But God sacrificed Jesus, one of the persons of God, so mankind could go to heaven instead. That is, God sacrificed himself to himself so we could bypass a rule that God made himself and that God deliberately designed us to never be able to meet? I can’t even understand that; I certainly feel no need to praise God for something so nonsensical. We can just as logically curse him for consigning us to hell from birth.”

Paul leaned against the counter and stared at the floor, absorbing these ideas and taking stock of his position. He had crossed a boundary, gradually. Like a wagon almost imperceptibly cresting a large and gently rounded hill, things felt different, and he now realized that he was on the other side. Two drops of rain can land near each other on a mountain ridge, the first flowing down one side, and the second down the other. One eventually finds its way into the Atlantic Ocean and one into the Pacific—a slight initial difference with vast ultimate consequences. He had been on one side of the ridge, and now he was on the other. He had assumed that God existed, and any evidence to the contrary he had reshaped to fit that assumption. But he could do that no longer.

The kettle whistled. Jim filled the pot and carried the tea tray back to the living room with Paul following.

“How’s your chess game?” Paul asked.

“It’s still early, but I’m gaining the upper hand.”

The two men sat and drank tea and traded pleasantries as the afternoon light faded. But as congenial as the environment was, Paul couldn’t relax. He fidgeted in his chair, feeling distracted as he gave increasingly curt responses to Jim’s comments. Finally he turned the conversation to the issue that had been nagging him. “I don’t think I believe anymore.” There—it was out. “I can’t force myself to believe—I need reasons. That’s why I was a quick convert to Reverend Hargrove’s way of thinking—he promised those reasons.” His thoughts seemed muddled, but the words tumbled out more easily now. “I thought that he delivered on that promise . . . but I don’t think so anymore. If the reasons aren’t there, I can’t believe, can I?” Maybe it wasn’t advice he needed as much as support. He didn’t mention that he could never admit this to Samuel. Samuel would be furious.

“You gave up childhood things once you’d outgrown them.”

Paul felt doubtful and said nothing. While in Samuel’s orbit, his belief had kept him in a safe place—confining but comfortable. Jim’s new thinking took him out, away from those confines. He felt as if he were squinting in the bright sun, breathing invigorating but unfamiliar air. Old constraints now appeared ephemeral, even imaginary. There were many possibilities, but it was all so new.

Jim leaned back with his arm on the top of the sofa. “Imagine that a man goes to a doctor. He has been crippled for his entire life and uses crutches. The doctor examines the man and says, ‘Good news—I’ve seen this problem before, and I know how to fix it. After a couple of months of treatment, you’ll be able to walk normally. No more need for those crutches.’ The man hugs his crutches and says, ‘Don’t throw away my crutches, Doc! I couldn’t get along without them.’ But the doctor has no intention of doing so. He heals the patient, and the crutches become unnecessary. The patient throws them away himself.”

“But who are you to say what my crutches are?”

“No one at all. If you think you don’t have crutches, then that’s fine. If you think you do, then you’re the one who will need to discard them. It’s all up to you. Don’t replace Sam as your authority with me. You are the authority.”

About Bob Seidensticker
  • GubbaBumpkin

    It might time for an update on the topic of The Book of Abraham.
    The Mormon church has decided to address the issue without admitting outright that Joseph Smith was a fraud, and that it is a worthless piece of crap.

    • JohnH2

      Because, if you actually read the article, it isn’t a worthless piece of crap and the essay includes some of the evidences of it being of ancient origin; details, some of which were originally or previously criticized as being inaccurate, which were not known to be the case in Joseph Smiths day which now are known to be accurate. See the section
      The Book of Abraham and the Ancient World https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng&query=abraham

      • Pofarmer

        John, you seem to be a really smart guy, but your religion is crazier than shit.

        • JohnH2

          Saying it is crazy doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory answer to the parallel details found by archeology in the last two centuries which are also found in the Book of Abraham.

        • Pofarmer

          If I get time, I’ll take a look at your link, but I haven’t seen anything that’s held up het.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Let’s first get past the question of whose translation to go by. Smith’s bears no resemblance to that of modern translators–is that right?

        • MNb

          Thumbrule: as long as John isn’t talking about his belief system he is totally worth paying attention to.

      • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

        It’s of ancient origin, and the only man ever to see the original was a con artist who had to flee New York to escape justice there?

        Ok.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Three is nothing in your link that convinces me Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham is not a piece of crap.

        A careful study of the book of Abraham provides a better measure of the
        book’s merits than any hypothesis that treats the text as a conventional
        translation.

        Translation: Once you ignore the obvious errors, it’s easier to convince yourself that the book has some merit.

        The book of Abraham speaks disapprovingly of human sacrifice offered on
        an altar in Chaldea… Recent scholarship has found instances of such punishment dating to Abraham’s time.

        Wowza! No one knew there was human sacrifice until Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham, even though it is mentioned in many ancient documents including the Bible.

        The remainder has the flavor of “let’s cherry pick tiny details that happen to coincide, and ignore the vast number that don’t.”

        Joseph Smith claimed the papyrus he worked from was “written by [Abraham’s] own hand.” This is patently false. Smith also claimed to be translating what was on the page, rather than receiving a revelation magically beamed into his brain. If you stopped to think for 0.3 seconds, you would realize the later wouldn’t even require any papyrus or golden tablets in the first place, would it?

        • JohnH2

          The plates and papyrus would be a focus.

          There are a vast number of details in the Book of Abraham that coincide with a particular set of ideas, cosmology, and view of history found in Egypt, particularly the Jewish version, much of what was not know at the time of Joseph Smith. I am convinced that while there may be parts of the Book of Abraham that could actually be from Abraham the book itself is not all, or entirely, from Abraham’s own hand but a copy of a translation with additions and modifications from probably 300 BC, as that is when the papyrus is from and also what matches the other details.

          I don’t know whether the papyrus was a focus for Joseph Smith, or why if it was a focus an actual text by Abraham would not be received as opposed to something from 300 BC, or if Joseph Smith was actually translating an attached text that used the Book of Breathings as a partial base, as is actually known to happen. So yes, Joseph Smith was not accurate in his claim, though the book does claim to be from Abraham, that doesn’t invalidate the book though, actually makes it more interesting to me, or Joseph Smith translating something real.

          The major argument against the Book of Abraham is not that there are details that don’t coincide, but that the papyrus is not what was translated. With the Book of Mormon, there are details that are right, but the major argument against it is the details that do not appear to be correct.

        • Pofarmer

          My major argument against it is that it is crazier than shit.

        • JohnH2

          While being a fair point and in most cases a good heuristic, that really isn’t an argument.

          As in many people dismiss Mormonism, Scientology, crazy homeless guys on street corners, and etc for essentially that very reason; and it is generally reasonable to do so. That isn’t proof that any of them are wrong, they could be right, just that they don’t conform to common expectations of how the world works. I don’t think that one can really be faulted for holding such a position, as it is reasonable.

        • Pofarmer

          To be fair, I’m not actually trying to make a truth claim on any specific question here. And, you are correct, I lump all the groups you mention, and others, together. There are enough holes in the stories, that I just don’t see the point of a whole bunch of further digging. Although, I still would like to go look at your link at some point, but it ain’t looking good for the near future.

        • rain-mom

          “With the Book of Mormon, there are details that are right…”

          The golden plates disappeared back into heaven so there’s nothing to compare it to when Smith says he translated it.
          The BOA and the Kinderhook plates have been proven as false, phony translations by Smith though so common sense tells us the BOM translation was invented as well.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I thought that the major problem with the BoA was that Smith’s translation was completely pulled out of his ass. No?

        • JohnH2

          the papyrus is not what was translated.

          The details are right for a 300 BC text, but the papyrus that contains the facsimiles (which is what we have) doesn’t contain the BoA.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      I have heard that new scholarship, easily available to the lay public via the internet, has caused problems in the LDS church.

      I wonder if the attrition in Christian denominations is similar.

      • JohnH2

        The problems are vastly overstated.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      The truth of the book of Abraham is ultimately found through careful study of its teachings, sincere prayer and the confirmation of the Spirit.

      Prayer? Confirmation of the Spirit? Obviously, we’ve left conventional scholarship far behind. This is rationalization, not history.

      • JohnH2

        No, what is being talked about is different. Even if you knew that the book of Abraham was a 300 BC text why would that do anything for you? Why would the information in the book be relevant at all to you? That is why the teachings and the confirmation of the Spirit are important, as knowing the facts alone does not tell one whether one should change ones life based on those facts.

        • rain-mom

          Nonsense. For many generations the LDS church taught that the BOA was literally written “by his (Abraham) own hand upon papyrus” and that Smith translated it like he supposedly did with the BOM. Reformed Egyptian is not a real language.

          Obviously the church misrepresented the BOA from the very beginning. Today’s LDS leaders would be happy to throw any other prophet under the bus, as they did last year IRT Brigham Young and Mormonism’s pre-1978 racist doctrine, but they must attempt to apologize for and excuse Smith’s dishonesty IRT the BOA since he invented Mormonism. The most crucial aspect of Mormonism is that Joe Smith be seen as a legitimate, honest prophet. But…he wasn’t.

          It’s not surprising that today’s LDS leaders/prophets don’t dare make a public statement about it but instead leave it to “Anonymous” apologists to suggest that Smith used Egyptian funeral scrolls to inspire him IRT the Hebrew Abraham.
          Seriously…..LOL……

        • JohnH2

          What does your first paragraph have anything to do with what I said?

          Prior to the discovery of the other texts which give context to the cosmology and details found in the Book of Abraham was anyone, let alone the church, to know that the representation was wrong? It wasn’t a misrepresentation but a lack of knowledge; and suggesting otherwise ignores reality.

          Don’t worry Brigham Young was already under the bus prior to the aspect of racism, see for example his Adam-God theory.

          I don’t even know what you are trying to say with your last paragraph.

        • rain-mom

          There are no texts which give any context to the BOA as being anything other than a common Egyptian funeral scroll.

          Yes, people who actually understood how to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics knew the papyrus was not about the Hebrew Abraham. Since 1967 the LDS church has known for a fact that the BOA is complete nonsense, decades of inadequate apologia and polemics notwithstanding.

          I’m referring to the recent (started approximately 1 year ago) anonymous essays at the LDS church’s official website that attempt to explain the sordid and nonsensical doctrine and history of Mormonism. Actually the essays attempt to sidestep rather than address the many sticky issues but the anonymous apologia is just pathetic. It’s not surprising that none of the 15 are willing to sign their prophetic names to such inadequate apologia.

        • JohnH2

          There are no texts that give the papyrus that we have, which only matches the facsimiles, as other than the funerary text. However, the text, names, and ideas found in the Book of Abraham don’t match up to that text and do match up to text, names, and ideas found in 300 BC Egypt. Also, the description of what Joseph Smith translated actually does not match up with the papyrus that we have, other than the facsimiles. This is why there are those that argue that Joseph Smith was accurately translating something he had, and those that argue that he was translating via focus. It isn’t complete nonsense, we just don’t know for sure one way or another.

          The 15 are not, as far as I know, qualified from a scholarly point of view to write the essays, and no scholar is qualified to present doctrine (and the essays aren’t doctrine). I agree that the names of the scholars involved should be attached, but I think the 15 want the essays to be official responses rather than those particular scholars responses.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I have heard that Joseph Smith was a little more enlightened on civil rights than Brigham Young. Is that what you’re saying here?

        • JohnH2

          Brigham Young was a very different kind of prophet than Joseph Smith, as well as being must less enlightened when it came to social issues. He was much more of a manager/politician who got some really amazing stuff done, successfully, and was horrible when it came to doctrine.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for your frank assessment.

        • MNb

          “That is why …”
          A non-sequitur you’re way too smart for. You should be capable of doing it yourself, but I’ll still correct it for you: that is why we safely can neglect the book of Abraham.

          Instead you babble about “the confirmation of the Spirit”. This is obviously the same cop out Craig and Plantinga are so fond of: the holy spirit and the sensus divinitatis (they are essentially the same) as an intrinsic defeater-defeater. In other words: if all your arguments fail and all the empirical evidence points at the opposite direction you say: “Haha! Here is my good old buddy the holy spirit! I win!” or “Hihi! You are spiritually handicapped, but not me, because I have a sensus divinitatis!”
          It’s a cheapo, John, that doesn’t fit you.

          Now I haven’t forgotten our nice little discussion on Chris H’s blog, where you made yourself look completely ridiculous. Certainly I haven’t forgotten that the mormon father and son are claimed to be material, but the holy spirit immaterial. Hence I confront you with the same question again.
          How does the mormon holy spirit interact with material JohnH2? Which means does it use?
          Since then I have formulated another question, closely related. With your “confirmation of the Holy Spirit” you make a claim about the spiritual, transcendental, immaterial (or whatever you prefer to call it) reality. How do you distinguish between correct and incorrect claims?
          As long you can’t answer these questions – and from back then I know you can’t – your statements are simply meaningless.

          “as knowing the facts alone does not tell one whether one should change ones life based on those facts”
          That’s correct, but again concluding a holy spirit (with the word “as” you do conclude) the mormon version is a non-sequitur. Moreover I think it rather sad that an intelligent person like you has such little self-confidence that he doesn’t want to rely on his own judgment whether he should change his life or not and instead needs to invent an imaginary friend called the holy spirit to make that decision for him.

        • JohnH2

          MNb,

          Assuming that the Holy Spirit does not exist and does not communicate information from God requires more than just your assertion.

          The Holy Spirit is material, as I have always and repeatedly said.

          Correct and incorrect claims are based on the results of following the actions.

          Trust, or faith, is something that is built up via experience. If trust has been established and something which is not determinable via my own intelligence is presented then it is rational to follow that which I have determined to be trustworthy.

        • MNb

          “as I have always and repeatedly said.”
          Not to me. You said that your god was material. I clearly remember, because it was new to me (back on Chris H’s blog) and I looked it up. Wikipedia says:

          “the Father and Son having perfected physical bodies and the Holy Ghost having only a body of spirit”
          With a reference to a mormon site.

          http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/the-godhead

          “Church members believe the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, not a physical being.”
          But never mind. So according to you the holy spirit is material too. First all the questions regarding your god apply again: could you please bring the holy spirit over to my lab so that I can measure its size and mass? There should be a good chance, because according to you

          “the confirmation of the Spirit (is) important”
          Confirmation requires communication, communication requires material means, using those material means implies we can measure.
          You’re invited.

          “Trust, or faith, is something that is built up via experience.”
          Weird how ambiguous you get as soon as you go theological. Trust and faith are not the same. Trust is build up via experience indeed – and you already know that I only recognize empirical events as experience. That’s why I ask you to bring over the holy spirit – I never experienced it, ie seen, heard, felt, tasted or smelled it. Other senses I do not recognize (besides further specifications provided by biological and psychological research – some maintain that we have 12 or even over 30 senses). They do not count as experience, exactly because they are not material – and you said the holy spirit is.
          So as far as I am concerned there is as little reason to accept the concept of a holy spirit as there is to accept the concept of hobbits.

          “something which is not determinable via my own intelligence is presented then it is rational to follow that which I have determined to be trustworthy.”
          Nope, it isn’t. First if something is material/physical it can be measured, no matter how indirectly, by physics. If it evades such measurement (like hobbits) it is irrational to claim it’s trustworthy and to follow it.
          All you have is an appeal to authority – those silly golden plates which were conveniently lost before anyone could investigate them. You want it two ways, John and that makes you look like a fool.
          Your belief system is not based on experience. You exactly have had zero. Hence it is based on faith, ie accepting something without any reason or evidence. Faith that there were golden plates, faith that the father, son and holy spirit are material but for some made up reason can’t be measured. Now faith happens to be OK with me. As I have told repeatedly my female counterpart is a 100% faith based muslima. Unlike you she doesn’t need to deform it into some forced pseudo-rationalistic framework.
          She is a more honest believer than you.

        • JohnH2

          Where you go wrong is assuming that spirit is not matter.

          I have consistently rejected the atheist proposition to redefine faith, because it is dishonest and wrong.

          I have experienced the Holy Spirit, your assertion that I haven’t is false.

        • MNb

          “Where you go wrong is assuming that spirit is not matter.”
          No, where I went wrong is assuming that for you spirit is not matter. Usually spirit means something immaterial. But it’s OK for me, because I recognize the human mind as a material phenomenon. So spirit just becomes synonymous with mind.

          “I have consistently rejected the atheist proposition to redefine faith, because it is dishonest and wrong.”
          That’s your problem, not mine. It’s the same as on Chris H’s site – we are debating on my terms, not on yours. In my view you’re the dishonest guy, because you want and need to maintain your ambiguity. You will certainly remember as vividly as I do how you made a fool out of yourself when you tried to escape that ambiguity. So I suspect you’re now trying to stick to it as the alternative strategy.

          “I have experienced the Holy Spirit, your assertion that I haven’t is false.”
          Then bring it overhere, so that I can experience it too. With my five senses. I want to know how it looks like, how it smells, what sound it makes, how it feels and how it tastes. I want to know its mass and its size. Otherwise there is no base for trust (let’s forget faith) anymore than there is the claim that there are hobbits living on our planet.

        • JohnH2

          I don’t ever remember having made a fool of myself; I know you often think I do.

          “I want to know its mass and its size.”

          And yet you don’t know my mass or size, nor I yours.

          “Then bring it overhere, so that I can experience it too”

          It is an entity, not an object. You could try asking God for a change to asking me about it.

        • MNb

          “And yet you don’t know my mass or size.”
          So you have decided to make a fool of yourself again, in the same manner as the previous time. Here we go again. If I collect all the means I can force you to come overhere so that I can measure your mass or size. The point is that in principle I can measure your mass and size if I want, that I can tell you how to do it, no matter how indirectly. I might bribe the FBI to do it for me. I might send some criminals to kidnap you. There are means to measure your mass and size.
          You systematically refuse to tell us how to pull that off with your physical holy spirit, to tell us which means we can use, where we can find it, how we can do experiments on it and make observations. That makes your claim that the holy spirit is physical silly – and you look ridiculous. Just like the previous time.

          “It is an entity, not an object.”
          Doesn’t matter. I want it to be a subject of research by physicists. For instance me (though I’m technically no physicist).

          “You could try asking God for a change to asking me about it.”
          Just did. Didn’t hear, see, feel, smell or taste anything. Just like I never have heard, seen, felt, smelled or tasted hobbits.

        • JohnH2

          In principle you could measure the mass and size of God; in exactly the same way as you can measure the mass or size of anything.

          It would appear that He has refused to agree to sign your consent form to be a subject of research by you due to the lack of response to you on the subject. You could try again on the terms that God has agreed to as in, for example Alma 32:27-end of chapter or Moroni 10:3-5, you might get better results.

        • smrnda

          So I have to already believe to get the results?

          Is there some test equivalent to a double-blind placebo trial in which the effects of prior belief of the subject can be minimized?

        • smrnda

          Is this type of experience something that is possible to verify whether or not a person has actually had by any means other than subjective reports? Is there any way to determine that it cannot simply be explained away through confirmation bias?

          I know a man who is a firm believer in the paranormal and all sorts of woo. He will talk about his subjective experiences and I think that all of them can be dismissed. Outside of subjective experiences, all he’s got are some grainy video and some noise in some audio recordings that could easily be attributed to something else.

          On faith, the Mormon deal seems to be the unfalsifiable and circular assertion that anyone who really wants to know whether or not X is true just has to ask god and really want to know and they’ll reach the established answer. Tell me that you can see how obviously this is circular reasoning.

        • JohnH2

          Unless God also confirms to a third party that such a person has or has not been in communication then there isn’t, as far as I know, a way of verifying other than observing the results.

          I don’t think confirmation bias means what you think it means.

          It isn’t that they will reach the established conclusion but that they will have God tell them the truth via the Holy Ghost. To say it is circular requires the prior assumption that the Holy Ghost is not real and can’t testify of anything.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          If the Holy Ghost is testifying something, then it has some method of communication. I wonder if what people view as the Holy Spirit communicating with them is actually just them thinking to themselves. John, you probably think to yourself sometimes (about things like, “What should I eat for breakfast today?”). How do you distinguish between this voice and the voice of the Holy Spirit? I hope that my question is not confusing.

          What I really want to know is how you come to the conclusion that an entity separate from your own mind is communicating with you if you cannot see, hear, taste, smell, or feel anything that could be used to communicate an idea (i.e. Braille for feeling, sign language or writing for seeing, speech for hearing, etc…). And moreover, how do you understand what this entity is “saying”? Could you capture the Holy Spirit’s “speech” on a recording device and play it back?

        • smrnda

          The problem with the third party is that the same problem that exists for any of the other parties remains for the third party. If I tell you that I have had an experience related to some particular deity, and you doubt my experience, and I go out and find a high priest/priestess of the deity and they confirm my experience, I can”t imagine you’d find that persuasive.

          Is there any way to test the existence of this holy ghost? How would I know if it is real or not? Is there a falsifiable test for it?

          If I told you that I prayed really hard and that god told me that all sorts of things you believe were false, how would you respond? It’d be my subjective experience against yours – if that’s the best we could do, then I think it would be time to admit that the issue can’t be resolved.

          I’m also having a hard time seeing how this doesn’t relate to confirmation bias, but maybe that’s because we’re not looking at people selectively ignoring information (consciously or not) but interpretation of internal experiences. Mormons report a subjective feeling believed to be the testimony of the holy ghost (but impossible to confirm as such) as a result of their prayers that lead them to conclude Mormon religious texts are true. Non-Mormons who also believe in the holy ghost pray and experience the opposite. Neither seems to be a valid means of determining anything to me.

        • JohnH2

          You are right, I wouldn’t find it persuasive. I would find having the same experience to be persuasive though.

          There is the test of experiencing it. Otherwise it is an entity and not a brute force, so testing it otherwise doesn’t necessarily make sense. There would also be the evidence of what a person does based on experience with the Spirit; the results of doing what is said.

          I have no problem with God giving each of us partial information which appears to conflict, especially in how we interpret that information. The results of acting on that information should be similar for each of us though. By discussing what God has revealed to each of us we may be able to come to a better understanding of the purposes of God.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Redefine faith? If you want to argue that evangelicals have nicely muddied the waters by focusing on variant definitions, or even if you want to argue that faith = trust has been the primary definition all alone, that’s one thing. But don’t accuse atheists of redefining the word.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Let’s just start with the facts. Does the book talk about Abraham or not? If not, then I can see why prayer and spirit are brought into the discussion, but doing so is an admission of failure in the only domain that really matters.

        • JohnH2

          The book does talk about Abraham. It very much appears to be a 300 BCish Jewish-gnostic text with associated details and cosmology. If you think one should follow other Jewish-gnostic texts from around that time period then that domain is what really matters, I guess. Why you would follow such texts needs much more explanation than they are religious texts from an ancient date.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Is this the LDS opinion or the scholarly consensus?

        • JohnH2

          There are scholarly articles on the subject, but which scholars are you looking for a consensus? I already linked to the LDS article that has references to scholars who have looked at the subject.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I’m looking for the consensus of non-LDS scholars.

        • JohnH2

          The consensus is that the papyrus is a funerary text and looking at the book of Abraham further would probably be career suicide, even if it were true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Career suicide? For LDS scholars, sure, but that’s not who we’re talking about.

          You’re saying that the non-LDS consensus is that J. Smith was wrong in his “translation”?

        • JohnH2

          “The consensus is that the papyrus is a funerary text ”

          The papyrus is the only thing there is to work off of from a scholarly perspective to talk about a translation.

        • 90Lew90

          “If you think one should follow other Jewish-gnostic texts from around that time period then that domain is what really matters, I guess.”

          Why would you?

        • JohnH2

          Precisely the point.

        • 90Lew90

          That’s not an answer.

        • JohnH2

          The point is that there really isn’t a reason to follow such a text even if one knew precisely when it was written and by whom. However, if one knew from God that there was information which was true or valuable in the text then one might choose to follow such a text, even if one didn’t know precisely when it was written or by whom.

  • Greg G.

    Two drops of rain can land near each other on a mountain ridge, the first flowing down one side, and the second down the other. One eventually finds its way into the Atlantic Ocean and one into the Pacific—a slight initial difference with vast ultimate consequences.

    Does this count the Gulf of Mexico as the Atlantic? Are we talking Canada or South America? For the contiguous United States, for the eastern continental divide, it flows to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. The western continental divide flows to the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Great Salt Lake.

    I’m not sure about the rivers of Canada, though. South America would be so as the Amazon drains most of the continent to the Atlantic while the west side of the mountain range would have no place to go but the Pacific.

    Africa doesn’t touch the Pacific. What about Eurasia? I doubt that rivers in Spain and Portugal start for enough east. The Mekong starts in Tibet but doesn’t empty into an ocean.

  • Jeannie

    Hi, I wonder if any regular readers here can help me. A while ago I read an excellent debunking of the numbers in biblical military stories, it had details like how long the supply train would be for an army of 200,000, or how numbers compared to the whole population of the region at the time. I think it was on Cross Examined, but I can’t find it. Does it ring a bell with anyone?

  • Jeannie

    Well, that’s typical! I spent an hour on google with no luck before posting this question, then my next search after posting found this

    http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/1num95.html

    • Greg G.

      Thanks for the link.

      I played with the numbers for the Exodus. There were supposedly 600k soldiers so there would have to be women of the same age. Add children and the elderly and there should be around 2 million in the march. It would be a 10 or 11 day walk from Cairo to Jerusalem. IIRC, if they marched 5 abreast with an arm’s length between them, the front of the column should have reached Jerusalem before the rear guard left Egypt.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

        The Sinai desert is about 100 miles wide. This army of 2 million could hold hands and cross the desert 10 times.

        Add to that the demand that everyone of that generation should die and only newcomers get to the promised land, and there should be 2 million corpses in that dry desert. That’s a lot of evidence that hasn’t been found.

        • Greg G.

          Plus 29 billion missing piles of coprolite.

        • Asmondius

          How many of all the past generations of humanity have we found, Bob?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Dunno. I’m saying that 2M people buried in the Sinai desert 3000 years ago should leave evidence that we would’ve found.

          Are you saying that the Exodus story is correct as described in the OT?

      • Asmondius

        Atheists using the Bible like a slide rule – too funny.

        • Greg G.

          Do you disagree with the numbers or are you just sad that the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny?

        • Asmondius

          Link isn’t working for me – what is the source of this?

        • Greg G.

          Exodus 12:37-38(NIV)
          37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.

          Numbers 1:45-46 (NIV)
          45 All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. 46 The total number was 603,550.

          I ignored the droves of livestock. I got the distance using mapping websites, assuming the two cities haven’t moved significantly the last 3,000 years or so.

        • Asmondius

          Thank you.

        • Pofarmer

          The bible is literal, until it’s inconvenient, then it’s allegory.

        • Asmondius

          Yes, that is the standard atheist conundrum.

        • Asmondius

          I am not understanding why you chose to compare a route from Cairo to Jerusalem.

        • Greg G.

          One is a place in Egypt and one is a place in the Promised Land. For an approximation, we could choose other places. If we chose the nearest edge of Egypt 3000 years ago and the nearest edge of Judea, we can make the distance shorter.

          I used 30 miles a day for walking 2 miles an hour for 15 hours but that might be optimistic. But slowing the pace makes the exit of Egypt take longer. Anyway you do it, the leaders will be hundreds of miles away before the trailing end has left Egypt. It makes the Egyptians on horseback sound silly if it took them at least a week and a half to notice that 2 million people were leaving and doing a cattle drive.

          You could have everybody leaving at the same time, walking shoulder to shoulder but then it would be about a thousand miles wide.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Atheists give the Christians the respect of taking their holy book seriously. If you want a good laugh, look at the Christians who handwave excuses for their omnipotent God who’s apparently too impotent to stand up for himself.

  • The Man With The Name Too Long

    Now, I realize you post articles critical of Christianity, Bob, but I’d like to talk about a sermon I heard at the mosque today (had to go, but something actually caught my ear). So, Moses witnesses a man (whose name I cannot recall) kill a child. Moses thinks this is wrong, and claims that the child was an innocent soul (I guess you would agree with Moses here). However, it just so happens that the man with Moses had knowledge given to him by God. And that knowledge was that the boy would grow up to be, “a tyrant” disrespectful to his parents (I don’t remember the exact wording, but basically something bad). The moral of this story is that sometimes God has things happen which may seem bad to us but are actually good things in the long run.

    This flies in the face of God allowing evil for the sake of free will when the good thing in the aforementioned situation was to kill the child before he grew up to do his evil. I was left wondering why God would allow (or even create in the first place) people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler to commit all the evil that they did. Now, I’m sure what I was supposed to take away from this is what I mentioned in the last sentence of my previous paragraph, but the way that it is shown sounds unfair and contrary to what a just, all-loving God would want.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      You’d think that God could take out a to-be bad person himself rather than force someone else to do it, but yes, this isn’t impossible. What’s far less plausible is the same excuse given for natural disasters. God can’t get any more surgical than killing 100,000 people at once?

      I agree: having God simply not let the bad person be born in the first place is far more plausible. This “he would’ve been a tyrant” argument is just post facto rationalization, and not convincing rationalization at that.

      • The Man With The Name Too Long

        Since God is omniscient, he knows which people will grow up to be the mass murderers and which people will grow up to be the firefighters and philanthropists. He could just NOT create anyone who would do anything that he would have them killed for anyway (in the case of the would-be tyrant).

        “God can’t get any more surgical than killing 100,000 people at once?” Unless you’re of the “everyone’s sinful and deserves destruction” camp. Then it’s just for God to wipe out a city of sinners including the babies because….uh, original sin? Yeah! Let’s go with that. Of course, the standard here is not how much you’ve sinned or the amount of harm you’ve caused but that you’ve sinned at all. It basically amounts to, “If you’re not perfect, you deserve to be destroyed and may be so at any given time. Hey look! A piano!” But I guess if you’ve been lying, stealing, and murdering all your life you can just say, “I’m sorry, God” and then you can get eternal bliss or something like that.

        • MNb

          Interesting angle I hadn’t thought of before. From biology we know that sperm consists of millions (billions? Whatever) spermatozoons. Now if we accept theistic evolution in a similar way we can assume that an omni-everything god guides the conception as well, ie selects the spermatozoon that will actully fertilize the ovum. Also not all copulation leads to conception, so that god may decide which ova get fertilized. Finally quite a lot of fertilized ova fail to fully develop.
          Combined with the Problem of Evil this looks quite a solid nail in the coffin of the belief system of those believers who accept established science.
          Pity – I can think of a few believers I would have liked to present this case, though I probably need some more time to formulate it sharper.

        • JohnH2
        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          So I’ve been reading what you posted. I see that the author disagrees with the notion that a being with free will that sins does so because God has created him with a sinful nature. He argues that it isn’t God’s fault that a man sins but because the man is wickedly prideful against God and chooses to sin of his own free will. But the author doesn’t mention the elephant in the room. Why would a man develop a sinful attitude towards God in the first place? A person does not choose his impulses, they are due to his biological nature. A nature which is created in its entirety by God, right? If a man could choose between what he knows is rightful to God and what is sinful, what pushes him to make a particular decision? Random chance? Does a man develop a sinful attitude towards God out of thin air and thus sin when he is supposedly made perfect? What causes the change from perfect being to sinful being? What puts an impure thought into a man? If a person sins because they become prideful, then isn’t it (at least partly) because God made them so that they would become prideful? It’s like God is slowly nudging you off a bridge but then you are condemned for jumping.

          And the author doesn’t even try to justify creating us with free will to sin anyway. He simply says that if we were programmed to always do good then God wouldn’t thank us for our service, because we couldn’t do otherwise. So what? Imagine if I could only choose between three things: giving to the poor, saving someone’s life, or stealing. Would you say that a being with these options has free will? What if the being can only choose between giving to the poor or saving someone’s life? Isn’t that being still free? Is the potential to harm others necessary for free will? I don’t see why it would be, especially to an omnipotent God.

          Sorry. I asked a lot of questions and it would be unfair to ask you to answer them all in one post. But I’m just not really seeing anything substantial from this author. Also, the author already assumes that God exists and that the Bible is useful for describing this God. I do not grant that as I have yet to find the truth of either claim.

        • JohnH2

          Um, perhaps I should have given more explanation. The Cathar’s were a group in what is today southern France that was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church. Catholic efforts to prove the Cathars in error failed miserably so the Catholic Church along with the King of France waged a Crusade, a war of extermination against the Cathars and had the inquisition seek out destroy any that escaped. See the Archival Note at the top of the link.

          One of the defining features of the Cathars is that there was not just a Good God but also an Evil eternity; Two Principles instead of One. And they use the argument that you and MNb have been hashing out. They rescue free will via having a second principle that was involved in our creation, leaving us free to choose.

          Based on the questions you are asking it doesn’t seem that you have realized which parts are them doing an argument ad absurdum against the idea of a single deity that created everything by itself. I am sorry for not having noted the background information, I linked to it for that argument, and not as an expression of what I believe to be true or accurate. It is making the argument that you and MNb are hashing out; and classical theism actually has a really hard time dealing with that argument. John Calvin also makes the same argument, but with a different conclusion.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          So the position of the Cathars was that the wholly good God wasn’t the sole entity involved in creation? Then there’s basically another god according to them (or at least, an entity NOT created by capital “g” God that shares similar creative powers). It seems as though the author uses the word Principle to avoid the obvious case he’s making for polytheism.

          That means that the “push” to do evil comes from this second “Principle” as it is called, and that God had nothing to do with it. In terms of its power, I would have to say it is also a god. I’m just wondering, is this also a Mormon belief? Maybe Joseph Mormon was influenced by the Cathars if it is. Although I’m pretty sure this isn’t the mainstream view of Christians, who instead opt for classical theism.

          “Catholic efforts to prove the Cathars in error failed miserably…” Well that’s the problem with a text so open to interpretation as the Bible. You can be right and wrong at the same time depending on who you ask. I guess it doesn’t matter if the Bible is the actual word of God if people can’t agree on what it’s trying to say.

          “John Calvin also makes the same argument, but with a different conclusion.” Isn’t Calvin’s position that God decides who goes to heaven (the “elect”) and who goes to hell ahead of time, and a person’s actions reflect which fate God has destined them for?

        • JohnH2

          Except polytheism as understood by people at that time and previously have very little to nothing to do with a Principle like that; they were, by theologians and philosophers at least, understood to be completely different things. This can still be seen in Catholicism where one can venerate pagan deities under the thin guise of them being saints so long as one reserves the word worship for God.

          The Mormon belief is quite a lot more complicated than that, but obviously does agree with the Biblical view that the devil is the god of this world. It would have been impossible though for Joseph Smith to have been influenced directly by the Cathars as none of their texts were known to survive at that time and if talked about at all they were demonized; the Book of the Two Principles was first published in 1939.

          It wasn’t just Biblical that the Catholics failed, but, at that time more importantly, philosophically and popularly. The Cathars were big into the Bible (as well as having their own additional texts), for the most part, and the most repressive the Catholics ever got in regards to reading and owning a Bible is due to and at the time of the Cathars. The common people could not own, could not read, could not have read to them anything in the Bible, especially not in their native tongue, except for under the strict direction and supervision of a priest.

          Yes, Calvin’s position is also that free will is meaningless and that God choose who goes to Hell and Heaven and everything that happens ahead of time with no relation to our choices, actions, or intentions. He tries to say that the elect will be good and righteous due to their election, but is inconsistent about that. Meaning that for instance there are evangelicals who believe that if a person has once been saved that they will always remain saved regardless of what happens afterwords, with the understanding that one is good due to coming back being painful, as much as one actually has any choice in the matter.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          The Cathars lived in the 13th century but their book was first published in 1939? Perhaps you mean the English translation?

        • JohnH2

          The book was found in a monastery and then published; prior to that it was not even known to exist.

        • Asmondius

          ‘This can still be seen in Catholicism where one can venerate pagan deities under the thin guise of them being saints so long as one reserves the word worship for God.’

          ‘Venerate’ does not exclusively mean ‘worship’, despite your silly attempt at semantic violence.

          Example:

          ‘Aug 8, 2013 – Clinton and Oprah Winfrey will be among 16 people that President Barack Obama will venerate later this year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.’ – huffpost

        • JohnH2

          If you are trying to deny that there are Catholics which do venerate pagan deities under the guise of them being saints then you have a lot more to show then that Non-Hispanic American Catholics tend to venerate the saints in the way that Obama venerated Oprah.

        • Asmondius

          ‘Venerate’ is a word with a specifc meaning.

          I’m not sure how one would tell if a Saint’s statue in a Hispanic home indicates the practice of paganism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          It seems as though the author uses the word Principle to avoid the obvious case he’s making for polytheism.

          Mainstream Christians deny that the Trinity is polytheism, so there’s a lot of that going around.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I’ve heard it compared to the three forms of water (water, ice, and water vapor). So God is the water, the Father is water, the Son is the ice, and the Holy Spirit (still not sure what that is) is the water vapor. But it’s not a good analogy because the three stages of water turn into each other so that when it’s vapor it isn’t liquid and when it’s liquid it isn’t ice. And I think the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are supposed to be distinguishable. However, Muslims are quick to point out that the the Trinity is polytheistic and extremely blasphemous.

        • Asmondius

          A bad analogy does not invalidate the article being compared.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Then you’re just the guy to help us out. What is a good analogy for the Trinity?

        • Asmondius

          The riddle of the Sphinx.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          That is indeed a riddle. Never heard of it. Tragically, my understanding of the Trinity is unchanged.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Muslims separate Jesus and the being that created the universe. In Islam they are two separate beings. One is not part of another nor are they part of some greater whole (i.e. Godhead). Jesus is just a prophet of God and is not equal to or greater than him. To say otherwise is extremely blasphemous to Muslims.

          There is no breach of logic to say that, as the Muslims do, that Jesus was granted the power to perform miracles by God instead of having to be God. Of course, I’m not convinced of either.

        • Asmondius

          That’s an opinion or belief, not logic.

          It is illogical to construct a faulty analogy in order to prove the item compared is untrue.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          The comparison with 3 forms of water is the heresy of Modalism.

          And I agree with the Muslims on the polytheism. Isn’t it fun when different believers point out each others’ flaws?

        • Asmondius

          Explain to us how that is, Bob.

          Are there special temples erected for each of the three aspects of God? Special ceremonies?

        • hector_jones

          Prove to us God exists or shut the fuck up, asshole. Piss or get off the pot.

        • Asmondius

          Ah, the intelligentsia have entered the debate.

          I acknowledge your hurt and frustration.

        • hector_jones

          How about acknowledging my request instead of dodging it because you don’t like my phrasing?

        • Asmondius

          Are you honestly prepared to accept God?

        • hector_jones

          Yes. I’m prepared to accept that your god exists if you can convince me. So far all I’ve seen from you is “God either exists or he doesn’t.” That hasn’t done much to convince me.

        • Asmondius

          See my comments a few clicks above.

        • Greg G.

          I am not only prepared but eager to see unambiguous evidence for the existence of God.

        • Asmondius

          Good – to begin, obtain and read a copy of Santayana’s ‘The Sense of Beauty’.

          I recommend that you use a hardcopy instead of an e-copy, so that you can scribble margin notes and carry it with you.

          This volume is one you may have to digest in pieces. Read, contemplate, reread, and then go forward.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          What does one learn from reading this book?

        • Asmondius

          Perhaps how to embrace one’s own humanity.

        • Greg G.

          Perhaps you didn’t understand the words.

          un·am·big·u·ous /ˌənamˈbigyo͞oəs/
          adjective
          not open to more than one interpretation.

          ev·i·dence /ˈevədəns/
          noun
          the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

          I would prefer an ugly truth to a beautiful lie.

        • Asmondius

          “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” – Galileo

          If you are afraid to set your foot upon the path, do not ask me for the direction to follow.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          So Greg is afraid to face the facts?

          He’s one of the most knowledgeable ones around here about the Bible, so it seems he’s looked at quite a few facts without much difficulty. From my perspective, it’s not him who’s having a hard time wrestling with tough challenges.

        • Asmondius

          I don’t wish to be rude, but the person simply throws out a lot of Biblical quotations. That’s not necessarily knowledge, it’s just a common method of seeding one’s argument. Sadly some Christians use the same tactic. I see no hint of objective rendering in many of the posts.

          I offered to meet the request, that is all I can do.

        • Greg G.

          The path you offered is a way to brainwash yourself to believe false notions. If you followed such a path, then you can never have credibility. It explains why you are averse to providing evidence.

          We have Christians all over telling us things like “The Bible does not sanction slavery ever” then use every excuse they can find to ignore the verses that sanction slavery when they are presented to them. That is a symptom of being brainwashed so severely that they cannot accept the truth.

          I’ve was there once and I was fortunate to get out. But if presented with unambiguous evidence, then I would be forced to believe it.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s-ironic.

        • Greg G.

          Your method works for Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, or multi-level marketing. They can’t all be the truth. Your method obviously works for making false beliefs seem true. It makes people delusional. That doesn’t make it a reliable method for finding truth.

        • Asmondius

          I haven’t given you a method yet, only a suggested beginning point. If it does not lead to truth then it must at least lead to wisdom.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Always leads to wisdom? One place it might lead you is the conclusion, “This hermaneutic completely sucks!”

          I’m not sure that would be called “wisdom.”

        • hector_jones

          Still waiting. But don’t let me rush you. Take your time, by all means. I suppose you are busy marshalling the vast hoard of evidence you have at your disposal. While you are at it, how about some more info about that Geneva decision? Thanks.

        • Asmondius

          Roger Dodger:

          I will ask politely once again – are you honestly prepared to accept God? If you are not, please let’s not waste each other’s time.

        • hector_jones

          Why are you asking me again a question I already answered? I told you in one comment yes I’m prepared. Then I told you in a second comment I’m waiting. Now I have to post a third comment. So please get on with it if you are so concerned about wasting time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Well, at least you weren’t rude enough to bring up that whole Geneva thing. Or non-thing. ‘Cause that would just be rude.

        • hector_jones

          That was going to be my follow up question.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Damn it! You’re so rude!

        • Corey Summers

          Not trying to show my age by making this reference, but Asmondius would have made a great Yugo salesman. He/she will stand behind a faulty product 100%.

        • Asmondius

          I knew someone who once owned a Yugo – one cold winter night she clicked on the directional and the stalk snapped right in two like a pretzel.

        • Asmondius

          People tend to be unresponsive when you cuss at them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          People tend to get annoyed when you don’t follow up.

        • Asmondius

          The problem here seems to be that the person is responding on a completely different thread. If you bothered to scroll up you would see I asked twice with no response. Then they swear they responded, yet that response is nowhere to be seen.

          You’re right – it can become annoying.

        • 90Lew90

          Geneva? Come on Asbo. Just say you were mistaken or you made it up on the hoof to score a cheap point. But don’t keep me hanging on.

        • Asmondius

          It’s absolutely true.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          The Geneva claim? Cool–give Lew the link to it, then. He’s already asked politely and obnoxiously. I think that covers the bases.

        • Asmondius

          I promise I will provide it on my way ouut of the door, which is soon.

        • 90Lew90

          Back it up. Refer me. I’d like to know what you’re talking about because unfortunately I’m well acquainted with this stuff.

        • MNb

          Because you, a dishonest christian, says so.

        • hector_jones

          Pray for guidance.

        • Asmondius

          Hey, if it works for you I’ll certainly give it a try.

        • Asmondius

          If it works for you I will surely try it.

        • hector_jones

          Really? Because you tend to respond to every comment I make in which I cuss. You just don’t respond with anything supporting the case for Christianity.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Oh, don’t worry. Asmondius is preparing to deliver the Mother of All Smackdowns. He’s got plenty of evidence for God’s existence, and he’ll be delighted to deluge you with it.

          Right, Asmondius?

          Hello … ?

        • Asmondius

          Well, let’s say I use your own reasoning against you.

          If I poke enough holes in the claims being made here I am helping my own cause – right?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, if you want to overturn the atheist position, poking holes would be good for you.

          Poke away. When are you going to start?

        • Asmondius

          I already have – but I’ve also requested you to point me to any particular post you’ve made. Take your pick.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          No idea what you’re asking here.

          You’re denying my claim that mainstream Christians deny that the Trinity is polytheistic?

        • Asmondius

          I’m quite used to redirection.

          There would be no need to deny an accusation unless you made one.

        • Asmondius

          ‘A person does not choose his impulses, they are due to his biological nature.’
          Try telling that to the judge.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I didn’t mean that a person doesn’t choose to follow his instincts. I meant that the instincts you have are due to your nature. I’m confused as to what basically caused the first evil impulse that led to the first sin.

          Basically you’ll never act out of jealousy if you never get jealous.

        • Asmondius

          The serpent – however you wish to conceptualize that figure.

        • 90Lew90

          I’d love to take you to a party and just leave you there.

        • Asmondius

          Nevertheless, I’d leave something. for you in the car.

        • Asmondius

          Straw man alert (‘straw god’, in this case).

        • Asmondius

          ‘Knowing’ and ‘doing’ are two different things, which you seem to be confusing.
          Nowhere is it stated that there were ‘babies’ in Sodom – in fact there may have been none.

          One can not simply say ‘I’m sorry’.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Why would you even imagine that there were no babies in Sodom? God has no problem with either killing babies or ordering their death. While babies killed in Sodom might bother you, that doesn’t bother God.

        • Asmondius

          I explained all of this above.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          You explained how killing babies doesn’t cause God any heartburn? I thought I was the one who did that.

          God looks like a dick, doesn’t he?

        • Greg G.

          Deuteronomy 2:34 (NRSV)
          34 At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor.

          Deuteronomy 3:6 (NRSV)
          6 And we utterly destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon, in each city utterly destroying men, women, and children.

          Deuteronomy 20:16-18 (NRSV)
          16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17 You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

          1 Samuel 15:2-3 (NRSV)
          2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

          Genesis 19:24-25 (NRSV)
          24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

          It is desperation apologetics to say “Well, it doesn’t specifically say there were children among the inhabitants” when God is willing to have children killed.

        • Asmondius

          Deuteronomy 2:34 (NRSV)
          34 At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor.

          ***This is an account of what happened (the assumption is that it is Moses’ narrative), not God’s command. My copy states ‘At that time we captured all his cities and put every city under the ban….’. Does that imply physical slaughter? Not necessarily. See God’s instructions concerning the ban in Deuteronomy 7:1

          Deuteronomy 3:6 (NRSV)
          6 And we utterly destroyed them, as we had done to King Sihon of Heshbon, in each city utterly destroying men, women, and children.

          ***Same comments apply here.

          Deuteronomy 20:16-18 (NRSV)
          16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17 You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.

          ***Same comments apply here.

          1 Samuel 15:2-3 (NRSV)
          2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

          *** Seems to be something amiss with the citation

          Genesis 19:24-25 (NRSV)
          24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

          *** This returns us to my original comment. Remember that God gave Abraham ample opportunity to save innocent people, that’s why I doubt children were present.

        • Greg G.

          Those are lame apologetics. The Bible is true and reliable except when it is uncomfortable.

          The verses before De 2:34:

          31 The
          Lord said to me,
          “See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin now to take
          possession of his land.” 32 So when Sihon came out
          against us, he and all his people for battle at Jahaz, 33 the Lord our God gave him
          over to us; and we struck him down, along with his offspring and all his people.

          There is a 1 Samuel and a 2 Samuel. You must have screwed up and left off the “1” because there is nothing wrong with the citation.

          None of the stories are true anyway. It is just what the Bible says and the evidence says otherwise. There was no Abraham or Sodom or Gomorrah. There was no exodus from Egypt. Moses didn’t write anything in the Bible.

          Yet if you accept those stories, you are obligated to defend what a fictional character does in those fictional stories.

        • Asmondius

          ‘Offspring’ does not necessarily mean children, particularly in reference to a battle.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Hold on, you seem averse to the notion that there were babies in Sodom when God destroyed it. Are you claiming that God would be doing something wrong if there were babies among the victims of his wrath, and so you deny that God killed babies in Sodom at all?

          I highly doubt there was ever a small town in any part of the world at any time since human civilization that didn’t have at least one baby or child.

        • Asmondius

          If you recall, Abraham entered into an elaborate bargaining session in which God agreed to completely spare the entire city if there were but just a few innocent people found there.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Blood has to be shed in order for sins to be forgiven (I know you didn’t say that but that’s the logical conclusion drawn from Jesus “dying for our sins”)? It’s entirely up to God how he forgives. He doesn’t need blood sacrifices. If he does, then you have an all-powerful God that is dependent on something which seems like a contradiction. Unless he just likes blood sacrifices…

          Is there ever a situation where your repentance is not accepted, if it is sincere? You stated “One can not simply say ‘I’m sorry’ .” I thought God is always open to forgiveness.

        • Asmondius

          Since Jesus is God, how could His Passion be considered a ‘blood sacrifice’ to Himself?

          Forgiveness requires sincere contrition, not merely saying ‘I’m sorry’.

        • Corey Summers

          I’m just curious why the word babies is in quotations. And if there were any of these alleged ‘babies’ in Sodom, maybe God didn’t smite them but merely turned them to salt.

        • Asmondius

          Only because it is a word of focus from your post.

      • Asmondius

        What is the cause of natural disasters?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Nature. (Or is this a trick question?)

        • Asmondius

          Then how can God be at fault?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          In the Christian view, God can control everything. If something happens, it’s because God is OK with it happening.

          The Problem of (natural) Evil is a big deal for Christians honest enough to face it squarely.

    • Asmondius

      You’re confusing predestination with foreknowledge.

      • The Man With The Name Too Long

        The point of the story is that God had given the foreknowledge that the boy would become a tyrant to the man and that it was okay with God for the man to kill the child. I’m trying to say that God is inconsistent. He allows you to kill a child lawfully but allows other people to grow up to do evil things like Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler. In short, God didn’t want this kid exercising his free will. That’s the issue, not foreknowledge v.s. predestination.

        • Asmondius

          You would have to give me some idea of where I may find what you are describing in the Bible. I’m afraid I am just unfamiliar with this story as you tell it.

        • JohnH2

          That is because it isn’t in the Bible but the Koran.

        • Asmondius

          Ah, that explains it – thanks.

  • The Man With The Name Too Long

    This always bothers me: “He’s the judge, and to forgive us, to simply let our sins go unpunished, would bypass His perfect justice…” Paul here, like many Christians, forgets that the punishment is basically eternal, agonizing torture. Allow me to give an example of this purported perfect justice. I tell a petty lie to someone. Therefore I am not perfect and sinful. Since I am sinful God demands blood sacrifice. God comes to Earth in human form and sacrifices himself (even though he’s perfectly fine a few days later. I mean if I donate money to you it’s not much of a sacrifice if I can make money appear out of thin air). But if we can still go to hell after this “sacrifice” then what is it saving us from? If the people before Jesus lived were able to get to heaven and had their repentance accepted by God, then what the heck was the point of this sacrifice in the first place? What was gained?

    • JohnH2

      The New Testament says that Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and that the ancients looked for and knew of the day of Christ. Meaning they still accessed repentance and salvation via Christ.

      We can still go to Hell if we do not repent, as God will save us from our sins but not in our sins.

      • The Man With The Name Too Long

        So Jesus was killed before the universe existed? I’m not sure how to interpret what you wrote. Especially the part about God saving us from our sins but not in our sins. I don’t think there’s a semantic difference there or it’s just ambiguous.

        So if “Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” then what is that whole crucifixion thing about 2,000 years ago? Was his death just a normal death then?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I agree with your concern. To add to it, you have God doing the whole Old Testament thing and then changing the rules by bringing in the Jesus story. Kinda makes it look just like a manmade religion. You’d think that the perfect creator of the universe could get his act together.

        • Asmondius

          Well, look what He was dealing with – imperfect humans.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          And that explains how the Bible looks like it was manmade?

          My explanation for these clues: the Bible was manmade. Easy and complete.

        • Asmondius

          Of course it was – God doesn’t have a quill.

          The Bible is the inspired word of God.

        • Pofarmer

          But he could have created perfect humans. Should have been a snap.

        • Asmondius

          What would be the point?

        • Pofarmer

          What’s he point of heaven?

        • JohnH2

          Jesus was planned for and and volunteered to be the sacrifice for sin prior to the current world existing.

          From our sins rather than in our sins means that one has to stop sinning and put away ones sins so that they are no longer part of the person.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          God: Okay, so I’m going to create a new world. But it’s going to be full of sin. Anyone want to volunteer to be a blood sacrifice?
          Jesus: I’ll do it!
          Satan: Seriously, dude?

          As I’ve mentioned before, the blood sacrifice is completely arbitrary for an omnipotent God. “From our sins rather than in our sins means that one has to stop sinning and put away ones sins so that they are no longer part of the person.” Okay, so this was possible for people to do without Jesus’ sacrifice, right? Can people just repent, stop sinning, and then achieve salvation? I still don’t see why blood has to be spilled. It seems kind of random actually.

        • JohnH2

          Satan had his own idea of how things should go down.

          Stopping to sin yes, being freed from being responsible for what they had already done, not so much.

        • Asmondius

          ‘Especially the part about God saving us from our sins but not in our sins. ‘

          He gave you an opportunity – it is up to you to accept it. No free lunch.

        • hector_jones

          God could give us all free lunches if he wanted to.

        • JohnH2

          Because mind-rape is the defining characteristic of a good God?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)

          Apparently your mind was raped as well.

        • JohnH2

          How do you see that verse as indicating mind rape? Knowing what is right and wrong doesn’t seem anything like being forced against ones will into heaven.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I’m trying to use your definition of “mind rape,” so I may have gotten it wrong.

          Rom. 1:20 says that you have no choice but to accept God. You have no excuse. Does this not fit into the definition you proposed?

        • JohnH2

          Right you have no excuse for doing that which you know to be wrong; that is not mind rape as it is something that you know and experience, and not a change in who and what you are. Obviously if you are consistently choosing things you know to be wrong then it can seem like a bad thing that you are accused of yourself, but the solution is not to deny that what you are doing is wrong (because you can’t lie to yourself) but to change what you are doing that is wrong.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          So then people can live sinless lives? Show me one. (But I think I’m repeating myself.)

        • JohnH2

          Jesus and anyone that dies prior to age eight.

        • 90Lew90

          Arbitrary. Rubbish.

        • Asmondius

          But He gave us a free will instead.

        • hector_jones

          With God it doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s funny that you don’t really seem to understand all the meaning behind the phrase ‘no free lunch.’ If you did you wouldn’t have used it when talking about your god.

        • Asmondius

          I meant it exactly the way I expressed it.

        • 90Lew90

          But “He” didn’t, did he. Everything you do, think and are is contingent. The autonomy in that is negligible. Ergo, no “free-will” in the way that Christians present it. Even at the most basic level, we have lab equipment (fMRI scanners) which can allow us to predict — in some cases fully 6-9 seconds before you do it — that you’re going to use your left hand to reach for something. Simple contingency blows the Christian conception of free will out of the water.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          That might be 6-9 tenths of a second, though that’s just from memory.

        • MNb

          Don’t be too enthusiastic – those predictions are only in about 75% of the cases correct. Given that they are set up in such a way that the random default is 50% that’s not exactly impressive, especialy compared with the accuratesse we can be sure that the higgs boson exist (99,9 and a few more 9s %). Wake me up when that lab equipment has reached 98%.

        • Asmondius

          Yes He did – the only ‘contingent’ here is the mangling of science by members of this blog who substitute sloppy reading of web snippets for actual knowledge.

          The type of test you are referring to is extremely limited, asking a participant to take one of two or three simple, positive actions such as touching something with either hand. The test did not show the origin of the decision, it simply predicted the decision by observing a pattern in a specific area of the brain. Advertisers have known for some time that people often make decisions based upon unconscious prompts – this is not exactly big news.

          To say that this disproves human free will is ludicrous.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Your acceptance of the existence of leprechauns will go a long way to showing us how it’s done. We atheists are having a problem getting past that whole “no evidence” thing.

        • Asmondius

          Then none of you will ever invent something new or produce a creative masterpiece.

        • Pofarmer

          How about, “believe in me and no more headaches”. Instead of “believe in me and get something no ne has ever verified”? One would at least give evidence.

        • wtfwjtd

          It seems to me he’s saying that the Jesus of the New Testament is an ethereal Jesus, and was never actually on earth. In other words, a myth.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

        Jesus had to be sacrificed before any patriarch so that they could be saved?

        We can still go to Hell if we do not repent

        Which is why Christ’s “sacrifice” is inaccessible to me. I can’t just believe in something for which there is no evidence. By your logic, I deserve eternal torment.

        Thank you, Jesus.

        • JohnH2

          If you continue to do what you know to be wrong, do not feel regret for it, and hold it as being part of you then Christ sacrifice has nothing to save you from.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I continue to do wrong, and I feel bad for it. Isn’t that true for most humans? However, that doesn’t get me into heaven without belief in Jesus (according to conventional Christianity, anyway).

          Thank you, Jesus.

        • JohnH2

          If you continue to do wrong then it really doesn’t matter if you feel bad for doing so as you are still doing that thing wrong, indicating that you prefer doing that thing wrong to not feeling bad about it; you choose darkness over light.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          You were the one who brought up the feeling bad about it.

          I’m human, and humans do bad things. I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you. The problem is God sending me to hell for acting the way he made me to act.

        • JohnH2

          Humans make mistakes but doing something intentionally that one knows to be wrong is different from a mistake.

          God did not make you to intentionally do what you know to be wrong, but to be able to choose for yourself. If you choose that which you know to be wrong then you are choosing to not be with God. I mean sure knowing that you have done wrong and could have been with God and having a perfect knowledge of what you have done seems bad, but if that is the choice that you desire to make via what you actually do choose in regards to what you know to be right and wrong of yourself then God will not interfere.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          So then humans are able to go through life without doing wrong? Show me some of these people.

          If you say that, no, people can’t go through life without doing wrong, then my point stands.

          Like millions of Christians before you, you want to say that man is incapable of living a sinless life (and thereby earning a place in heaven) but that the god who made us is blameless.

        • JohnH2

          Jesus was a person and lived a sinless life so it is possible; Also everyone that dies before they are accountable for their actions is also sinless.

        • wtfwjtd

          So you are saying that the whole “original sin” doctrine of the Catholic church is bogus, and also that Jesus wasn’t really quite totally human after all? Well, I can’t argue with either of those assertions, I feel the same way.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          John may have to parse his Mormon views vs. those of conventional Christianity to help us understand his points. In my last comment, I referenced the Trinity, but Mormons don’t buy into that (and the Mormons get a gold star).

        • JohnH2

          No, Jesus was totally human, but “original sin” is bogus.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Big deal. According to conventional Christian doctrine, Jesus was also a person of the Trinity, so I think he was cheating. If I were perfect, I’d live a sinless life, too.

        • wtfwjtd

          IIRC, in the Jesus story he is accused of doing something that is considered “sinful” by religious leaders (eating grain on the Sabbath or some such). So, what’s a god to do that’s caught breaking his own rules, and commiting a “sin” against god(himself)? Why, change the rules on the spot, of course! See how easy that was?

        • JohnH2

          Except the “sin” Jesus was accused of committing wasn’t in the law but in the rules built up around the law.

        • Asmondius

          He was actually healing on the Sabbath.

        • Greg G.

          In Mark 2:23-28, Jesus and his disciples were walking through the field and some picked a few heads of grain. Pharisees then popped out of nowhere in a grain field to accuse them of doing something unlawful on the sabbath, like they were in a Hee Haw skit, as if Pharisees had nothing better to do on a sabbath than to hang out in grain fields playing “Gotcha!” Jesus makes a very poor argument, backed up with a poor reading of scripture. The Pharisees would have had him for lunch. The story Jesus refers to is found in 1 Samuel 21:1-9.

          The back story is that King Saul became jealous and fearful of David’s popularity and wanted to kill him. David was on the lam when he arrives at Nob.

          Claim 1: David was in need and hungry.
          Confirmed. David asked for food.

          Claim 2: he and those who were with him.
          Wrong. Ahimelech asked him why he was alone and David acknowledged that he was alone by giving a false excuse for it. If David was actually planning to meet someone, he could have said that to answer the question that was asked of him. Instead, he tells a lie about a secret mission from the king that would still require him to account for being alone.

          Claim 3: how he entered the house of God.
          Wrong. This passage says nothing about David going into
          any structure. The author was careful to note that bread had been removed from the tabernacle. The fact that the sword was behind the ephod, a garment the priests wore to enter the tent of meeting and to approach the altar, shows that Ahimelech was not at the tabernacle.

          Claim 4: When Abiathar was high priest.
          Wrong, but possibly interpolated. Abiathar was the son
          of Ahimelech and became a high priest after David became king. Matthew and Luke did not use this phrase but it may have been interpolated into Mark after Matthew and Luke were written. Neither Matthew nor Luke corrected the other errors in the story so it seems less likely that they would both omit just the one error while maintaining all the others, if either had referenced 1 Samuel.

          Claim 5: [David] ate the bread of the Presence.
          Wrong. 1 Samuel 21:6 says the bread had been
          removed so it was no longer the bread of the Presence.

          Claim 6: [Eating the bread of Presence] is not lawful for any but the priests to eat.
          Inconclusive. Leviticus 24:9 requires the priests to eat the bread of Presence in the sanctuary. The surrounding verses give the recipe and details of how the twelve loaves must be stacked. There are no provisions for what to do with the consecrated leftovers. 1 Samuel 21:6 tells us they were removed when hot bread was brought in to replace last sabbath’s bread of Presence.

          Claim 7: and also gave it to those who were with him?
          Wrong. See Claim 2.

          Claim 8: “The sabbath was made for
          humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;”
          Inconclusive. The context in Mark implies that Jesus was using that as an example of David doing something on the sabbath as Leviticus 24:8 says the showbread is set out every sabbath. 1 Samuel 6 says that the bread had been replaced, which should have been done on the sabbath, but it doesn’t say whether or not it had been done that day.

          Jesus would have lost the argument when the Pharisees simply pointed out that all the priests except Abiathar, all the other men in the village, all the women and children, and all the oxen, donkeys, and sheep were killed because of David’s transgression, as even David admits in 1 Samuel 22:22. His argument would have worked better the Pharisees’ position as an example of what could happen for not following the rules.

        • Asmondius

          We can reasonably assume that some Pharisees were among those who followed Jesus from place to place.

        • Greg G.

          Pharisees in a grainfield on the sabbath is not the most implausible part of the story.

        • Asmondius

          Why – were they performing a labor?

        • Greg G.

          The phrase “not the most implausible” does not imply that it was probable. First deal with whether the overall story is a plausible argument instead of trying to dodge that point.

          The Jesus Seminar rejected over 80% of the deeds and more than 80% of the words of Jesus but they voted acceptance of this one. While an argument with members of a religious group is plausible, we see it today and throughout history, this particular argument is unlikely unless it was between uninformed parties.

        • Asmondius

          You were so eager to score a cheap point on semantics, you mistook my meaning.

          But I get it – the scene is ‘implausible’ because you disagree with the manner in which Jesus responded to a challenge.

        • Greg G.

          You were so eager to score a cheap point that you forgot to address the argument.

          Jesus is making a point about the sabbath by citing a scripture that didn’t happen on a sabbath. Jesus said David shared it with his companions who didn’t exist. Jesus said David entered the tabernacle but the story doesn’t say that. But if all that had been true, the consequences in the next chapter would have been a warning to not do what David did and to not use that as a defense of disobeying the sabbath.

        • Asmondius

          You are missing His point as well as mine.

        • Greg G.

          You haven’t addressed the argument. It was not about healing on the sabbath. Jesus responded to a challenge with a completely misinformed reading of 1 Samuel. That is the point.

        • Asmondius

          I do not need a ‘point’ as you have no argument to offer.

          Once again, you are lost in the weeds because your ‘argument’ is one you merely accepted from a faulty source, rather than researching and building it yourself.

          Rather than go into a lengthy post to unravel your convoluted interpretation of this passage, I will just give you one small example, regarding Abiathar : See 2 Sam 8:17

        • Greg G.

          I addressed this in Claim 4 a few posts upthread. Read the thread before posting out-of-date comments.

          1 Samuel 21 was before David was king and Ahimelech, Abiathar’s father, was high priest. 1 Samuel 8 is after David became king and Abiathar was then high priest.

          I even conceded that the part of Abiathar being high priest may have been an interpolation.

          If you can’t deal with the argument, go back under your rock.

        • JohnH2

          Living a sinless life is the definition of being perfect, and Jesus didn’t cheat at all.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Is it possible that you really don’t understand what I’m talking about?

          You said, “Jesus was a person and lived a sinless life so it is possible.” Yeah, and Jesus was supposed to be perfect. God made me not perfect. So, no, my living a sinless life is not possible.

        • JohnH2

          No, you made yourself not perfect, God had nothing to do with your free choices to do what you know to be wrong.

        • hector_jones

          How do I know things are wrong? Is this knowledge innate? Or did I acquire it somewhere? If so, from where?

        • JohnH2

          You can’t lie to yourself hector; you can lie to me and try to deny that you know right from wrong but not to yourself, and not to God.

          The knowledge of right and wrong is both innate and acquired from experience.

        • hector_jones

          What if I don’t acquire the experience-based knowledge of right and wrong due to no fault of my own? Does your god hold that against me? By ‘experience’ do you really just mean that we are all taught rules of right and wrong by society? How do you account for societies that have very different rules on the subject?

          Are you telling me that babies know right from wrong? I’d like some more fleshing out of this idea that knowledge of right and wrong is innate. Which rules of right and wrong are innate and which come from experience? How do you know?

        • Asmondius

          Babies are innocent.

        • Asmondius

          Did your parents not instruct you?

        • hector_jones

          So God and objective morality has nothing to do with it. Morality can’t be innate if I need my parents to teach it to me. Thanks for making my point for me.

        • Asmondius

          Which was….?

        • Greg G.

          His point is that God and objective morality have nothing to do with it.

          Slow down. Take time. Read the thread to refresh your memory. You don’t have to respond just to be responding.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Is it possible for any ordinary person to be perfect? Are you perfect, for example? If not, could you have been?

          And here I gave you points for avoiding the ridiculous paradox of the 3-not-1 and 1-not-3 Trinity! My bad.

          Your little trinity paradox is (1) I must be imperfect so I can’t get into heaven on my own, (2) God must be my creator, and (3) poor widdle God can’t get blamed for anything bad. And, like a conventional Christian, you dance around the issue, insisting that there is no problem.

          Sorry–your slip is showing.

        • Asmondius

          A human sense of ‘perfection’?

          Why would He do that?

        • Asmondius

          Mis-post – sorry.

        • MNb

          I continue to do wrong until one minute before I die. Then I recognize the error of my ways, feel regret, confess, repent and put my fate in Jesus’ hands.
          I guess I’m good then.

          “I can’t just believe in something for which there is no evidence.”
          “what you know to be wrong”
          BobS obviously doesn’t know he is doing wrong by not accepting the god, heaven, hell, sin and Jesus’ sac stuff. Apparently he is good too.
          Underneath BobS discusses someone who does wrong, recognizes the error of his way etc. – and then next morning repeats his wrongdoing. But early in the evening he goes through the entire process again. You can think of maffia bosses here. I suppose they are good too.

          A rather fucked up system, I say, as it does exactly zero for the victims of all the wrongdoing.

        • JohnH2

          Repentance is not what you think it is. To repent requires one to change and so if one repents but keeps sinning, or if one plans to repent later and keeps sinning, then they haven’t really changed at all; making death bed repentance to be not all that is required at all.

        • hector_jones

          How does one who repents on his death bed ‘keep sinning’?

        • JohnH2

          The point is that repentance is not something that one can do on a death bed; if you don’t have the opportunity to continue sinning then demonstrating a true change of heart is difficult, especially if you planned on changing on your death bed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          God is too stupid to figure things out? He understands the claim of contrition, but he doesn’t know if it’s said honestly or not and must see things in action?

          I thought he was smarter than that. Maybe not.

        • JohnH2

          It is insanely easy to say “sorry”, but much more difficult to actually change. The change is something that we must do, regardless of saying sorry or God forgiving us.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, and I’m suggesting that God, who I hear is really smart, could figure out if the dying person was just saying nonsense or was actually contrite. You’re saying that he can’t? That, like an ordinary bungler like you or me, he has to observe the person to figure this out?

        • JohnH2

          Again, it is easy to be contrite, it is a harder thing to actually change, and changing is something that one does and not something that one says.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          And especially hard, apparently, for God to read someone’s heart. I gave him credit for that superpower. Again: my bad.

        • Asmondius

          I agree with you on this one.

        • Asmondius

          Repentance begins in the heart – actions can be just as false as words in this respect.

          There is hope for each person.

        • Asmondius

          If he is not contrite.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Perhaps Hitler accepted Jesus as his lord ‘n savior just before he pulled the trigger. He’s up in heaven right now having a sleepover with the Son of Man, while Mahatma Gandhi is roasting on a spit and poked by demons with tridents.

          Welcome to God’s Perfect Justice®.

        • Asmondius

          ‘I can’t just believe in something for which there is no evidence.’

          I suppose you have trouble with human creativity or imagination.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          No, I’m good, thanks. There’s plenty of evidence for that.

        • hector_jones

          He really seems to think he sank a three-pointer with that comment doesn’t he? It was a total airball.

        • Asmondius

          We’re playing hockey here.

        • Asmondius

          What am I imagining right now?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I can imagine something as true but that doesn’t mean I believe it. I can imagine that I’m riding a three-headed butterfly on Pluto but I won’t believe it. It’s just the same with Christianity. I can imagine that there was this sacrifice made for all of humanity but I don’t believe it happened. The only way I can “accept” it is to believe that it’s true. Or else I’d be lying to myself.

        • Asmondius

          Yet you just described how your imagination exists – without evidence.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus had to be sacrificed before any patriarch so that they could be saved?

          Many scholars think the passage below is an interpolation because the last phrase contradicts the last verse of the previous chapter that puts God’s wrath in the future and this puts it in the past. Jesus historicists cite that verse as evidence but it doesn’t say Jesus was killed in the first century. It lists Jesus before the prophets, and the prophets were killed hundreds of years before the first century.

          1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 (NRSV)
          14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

          So, based only on the early epistles, Jesus might have been killed before the prophets.

    • Asmondius

      I’ve never seen critics of Christianity who were so unfamiliar with the target of their mockery. I suppose that’s a prerequisite for mockery in the first place.

      Jesus is God, His sacrifice provided the opportunity for you to obtain salvation. If you decide to turn your nose up at it, that’s your choice.

      Not all of the people who lived prior to the 1st century ‘got to heaven’.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

        I can only dream at how cool it must feel to be as smart as you.

        Do you “turn your nose up” at leprechauns? Show us that you can just believe stuff by will (and not by evidence) by believing in leprechauns.

        • Asmondius

          You just underlined my point concerning mockery – thanks again.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Touche! I am indeed mocking you.

          Now that we have that out of the way, address the question. I can’t just believe in stuff. If you can, prove it. “Just believe” in leprechauns and tell us what that’s like.

          Most people can’t help believing in something when given compelling evidence. I don’t believe you own a yellow Mercedes, but there is evidence that would convince me. I couldn’t not believe after that point.

          You say you can’t believe in leprechauns? Then you can understand why, for the very same reasons, I can’t believe in Jeebus.

        • Asmondius

          Do you believe that you will indeed wake on the morn?

        • MNb

          No, I’m expecting it, but recognize the possibility that I won’t, because I die or get into a coma. With the information I have right here and now the safe bet though is that I will wake up. Thanks for providing an excellent example of probabilistic thinking.

        • Asmondius

          If this is a rational outlook, then you must also recognize he possibility of God.

        • MNb

          I do, just like I recognize the possibility of a square circle. I just don’t see any evidence that raises the probability of both god and the square circle above zero, while I do see evidence that decreases their probability to zero indeed. As soon as someone provides such I will evaluate it and change my evaluation if necessary. That has happened before. I’m not dogmatic like you, so I don’t exclude it a priori.

        • Asmondius

          But you see, all you are really doing is attempting to completely exclude the possibility that you are wrong. And that is folly.

        • Pofarmer

          Your reading comprehension really does suck.

        • MNb

          You were, are and forever will be invited to provide any evidence that raises the probability of both god and the square circle above zero. That’s exactly the opposite of “excluding the possibility that I’m wrong”. Keynes seems to have said (though I can’t find back the source): if my information changes my decisions change. How about you, sir?

          The key questions are:
          1. How does your immaterial god interact with our material reality? Which means does he use? Which procedures does he follow?
          2. Which methodology is capabale of reliably distinguishing correct claims about the supernatural/ immaterial/ transcendental domain from incorrect ones?

          As long as these questions aren’t answered the god concept is meaningless and I’ll remain a 7 on the scale of Dawkins.
          Like I wrote, you’re invited. I have changed my position on the god question at least twice before, so it might happen again.

        • Greg G.

          But you must recognize the possibility of leprechauns, fairies, elves, invisible pink unicorns…

          Until we have evidence stronger than the human propensity to imagine things that don’t exist, it is rational to consign such things to the imaginary.

        • Asmondius

          Most of those you mention were thought to be natural, minor inhabitants of the physical world (seems only atheists discuss ‘invisible unicorns’). Thus they would be a valid comparison to God only in a purely sarcastic sense. It is an old, rather silly argument.

          I gave human imagination simply as an example of a human mind’s propensity to operate beyond space and time, not as the ‘source’ of God.

        • Greg G.

          You hate the Invisible Pink Unicorn because you don’t want to obey it.

          You really hate it because any property of or argument for God can be a property of or argument for the IPU so any argument against the IPU argues against God. Since the IPU is absurd, all arguments for God are refuted by argumentum ad absurdum.

          Ramen.

        • Asmondius

          There is no logical relationship between the two.

          It is a childish argument not worthy of comment.

        • Greg G.

          There is no logical relationship between the two.

          The logical structure for the existence of either can be exactly the same.

          It is a childish argument not worthy of comment.

          Yet you commented on it 9 days later.

        • Scott_In_OH

          Human imagination does not “operate beyond space and time.” It takes place in the brain, and time passes as it operates.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Since you’ve avoided the Leprechaun Challenge® yet again, let me help you phrase your point: “No, indeed I can’t just believe on command. And, like you, belief is simply a consequence of having adequate evidence. It simply happens as a result. Leprechauns? Nope–insufficient evidence. I now retract my charge that you ‘turn up your nose’ at Jesus, since that would argue that belief is a conscious decision.”

          I think that was what you were struggling to get out.

      • The Man With The Name Too Long

        “Jesus is God, His sacrifice provided the opportunity for you to obtain salvation.” If his sacrifice provided the opportunity for me to obtain salvation, that seems to imply that it wasn’t available before the sacrifice was made. And then you say, “Not all of the people who lived prior to the 1st century ‘got to heaven’ .” Did anyone achieve salvation/heaven/the nice afterlife before Jesus’ sacrifice? If someone did that proves that Jesus sacrifice was unnecessary for salvation, as there were people who achieved it before the sacrifice ever happened.

        You claim that I am unfamiliar with Christianity. What am I showing ignorance of? It seems pretty straightforward. “Jesus dies. Now you can get salvation.” I’m just pointing out what appear to be inconsistencies with the religion.

        • Asmondius

          ‘If his sacrifice provided the opportunity for me to obtain salvation, that seems to imply that it wasn’t available before the sacrifice was made.’

          – That is correct.

          ‘Did anyone achieve salvation/heaven/the nice afterlife before Jesus’ sacrifice?’

          – Not Heaven, no.

          Hope this helps.

        • Greg G.

          What is your source for that information. You may have put the “anal” in the analysis.

        • Asmondius

          Many Christian theological sources exist, I’m not sure if there are any quick cheat sheets.

          I merely answered some questions here.

        • Greg G.

          Cite the verses from the Bible. Isn’t that where it comes from?

        • Pofarmer

          Nope.


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