Responding to “10 Myths About God” (2 of 3)

Responding to “10 Myths About God” (2 of 3) November 26, 2014

Christian mythsLet’s continue critiquing a Christian ministry’s video series of ten myths about God (part 1 here).

Myth 4: Jesus is not God. Our hosts tell us that the most important question in the Bible was asked by Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Correct answer: Jesus is the god-man. There are nonbelievers who say Jesus was a great man and a wise teacher, but they get the big question wrong.

The evidence argues that Jesus was just a legend. The impact of the religion that grew up around his story has been huge, but that alone doesn’t contradict my position. As for Jesus being a great and wise teacher, I don’t find that in the Bible, but if you find some good stuff there, that’s great.

C. S. Lewis said, “Let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” Bullshit. Thomas Jefferson took a razor to the Bible and created his famous Jefferson Bible, keeping only the wisdom of Jesus and dropping all miracles.

Just because it’s not history doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain wisdom. I bet I’d find more keepers in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran than in the Bible.

We’re also told in this video that “Jesus is presented [in the Bible] as the eternal God, the second person of the eternal Trinity.” Not really, and this brings us to the next myth.

Myth 5: The Trinity was invented. “What the Council of Nicaea said was that the Bible clearly teaches that there is a Trinity.”

The first problem is that, in the Trinity department, this council only rejected Arianism, which stated that Jesus was subordinate to and created by God the Father. The concept of the Trinity (with the Holy Spirit pulled into the partnership) wouldn’t be finalized until succeeding councils.

Now let’s respond to the claim that the Bible “clearly teaches that there is a Trinity.” It doesn’t. Arianism wasn’t popular just out of spite; the Bible supports it. For example, Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).

Imagine going back in time and asking Paul to explain the Trinity to you. He wouldn’t know what you were talking about, because the Trinity was a later invention. It wouldn’t have been familiar to the earliest Christians.

Could Jesus have known the truth of the Trinity but not bothered to make it clear in his teachings? Far more likely is that he (or the gospel authors who put words into his mouth) also had no notion of the concept.

What you do see in the New Testament is the divinity of Jesus evolving with time. Sort the books chronologically and see the evolution. In Romans, Jesus was “appointed the Son of God” at his resurrection. In Mark, Jesus becomes divine earlier, at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, it’s at his birth. And in John, since forever. In a similar way, the idea of the Trinity evolved through the writings of the early church fathers until it was codified in pieces in the fourth century.

I write more about the Trinity here and here.

Myth 6: Good works get us to heaven. That’s true for many religions, but not Christianity. Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Yes, the Bible does make clear that faith alone gets you into heaven—except for all the places where it doesn’t. The Bible also says that repentance wipes away sins (Acts 3:19). And that water baptism is necessary for new life (Romans 6:4–5). And that works are at least necessary if not the sole route to heaven.

  • James 2:8–26 acknowledges faith but puts the focus squarely on works, including keeping the Law. For example, it nicely skewers faith here: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:18–19).
  • In heaven, the dead are judged “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).
  • Jesus explains “Love your neighbor as yourself” with the Parable of the Good Samaritan and makes clear that good works like these get one “eternal life” (Luke 10:25–37).
  • The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats makes plain that those who make it to the Kingdom do so through their good works. Faith isn’t even mentioned (Matthew 25:31–46).

Our hosts tell us, “You and I can’t do enough good works to get to heaven.” Can they not have read these and other verses that point to good works?

Next, “We’re born with a negative bank account … and there’s no way you can work yourself out of this debt we have to God.” This reminds me of the line, “I owe my soul to the company store” from the song “Sixteen Tons,” which talked about the debt slavery forced on Kentucky coal miners during the Depression. God owns you just like the mine owned its workers? Not a pleasant image.

And what did we do to deserve getting born with this debt? Apparently, our hosts are also unfamiliar with this verse: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Conclude with part 3.

You either have a god who sends child rapists to rape children

or you have a God who simply watches and says,
“When you’re done, I’m going to punish you.”
If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would.
That’s the difference between me and your god.
— Tracie Harris, “The Atheist Experience”

Photo credit: Andre

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  • Korou

    I’m sorry, Bob – I usually love your articles but in this one I’m having trouble understanding which bits are which. Could you be a little clearer about what the myths are, what the program says about them and what you say about that?

    • Yeah, I was afraid of that. There’s (1) the myth, (2) the correct view (according to the video), and finally (3) my reaction and commentary. (2) and (3) are interleaved.

      I went back to make the (1) myth part dark blue, but that didn’t help much. I dunno–should I color code the (2) part green, maybe? I think I see the problem but don’t see an obvious correction.

    • Take 2: myth in blue, Christian comments in green, and my critique in black.

      Tell me if this makes things clearer.

  • Blizzard

    Our hosts tell us that the most important question in the Bible was asked by Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

    Well I went and looked up the verse and it doesn’t say Jesus is God. So presumably our hosts were smokin’ somethin? Lay off the drugs dudes. I guess I’m supposed to burn in hell for not being a bleepin genius riddle solver.

    • Good point. If you pick and choose your verses, you can make an argument that the Bible does argue this. But, like so many other things, the NT isn’t overwhelmingly clear on this point.

      Jesus is God, but this isn’t made absolutely plain from the first word?? That we’re even the slightest bit in doubt means that this wasn’t a clear message in the minds of the gospel authors.

      • Pofarmer

        The Gospel Authirs all had different messages. What was clear to one author isn’t clear to another. These guys probably don’t even realize that they are using a harmonized version if the bible to come to “biblical truths” just like the christmas story of Joseph and Mary and the manger is actually a combination of two stories, picking and choosing parts of each, so that the harmonized story doesn’t match with what either Gospel actually says.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          You’ve piqued my interest. Please, give us a worthy description of ‘ How Everyone Pictures the Nativity Wrong’. Thanks!

        • Pofarmer

          All you have to do is read the Gospels yourself. Mark and John both have adoptionist theologies. Jesus was born Human, and then essentially adopted by God.

          Mark “The Baptism of Jesus. 9 e It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.* 11 f And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

          John “John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus. 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,* who takes away the sin of the world.t 30 * He is the one of whom I said,u ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him,* but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove* from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him,v but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’w 34 * x Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.””

          There is some funny business with John, because later on in the same Book John the Baptist sends disciples to check out this Jesus fellow.


          Mary and Joseph are already living in Bethlehem. Jesus is born there, and there is a star that leads the wise men to them. They then go to Egypt, and stay there till the death of Herod. Then they go to live in Nazareth.


          BTW, Matthew and Luke have different Geneologies.

          Luke isn’t really clear that Mary would have been a virgin.

          “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 o”

          Now, Mary visits Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, Elizabeth baby, are supposed to be Cousins, but, supposedly in the other books, they don’t know each other. So, anyway, Luke has them living in Nazareth, then moving to Bethlehem because of the Census, a nifty way to fulfill the same two prophecies. And that’s where you get the shepherds. But no star, no wise men.

          The birth story we all know, is an amalgamation of Matthew and Luke, which are contradictory in places. No slaughter of the innocents, no flight to Egypt, etc. The best thing to do is just read them yourself, side by side, more or less, and don’t cram everything together and try to make one story out of it. Each Gospel is telling a DIFFERENT story. It’s actually much cooler.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Ok, cool. I had read all that stuff before, but every once in a while I learn something new or reacquaint myself with a detail I merely glossed over. Thanks for your effort.

          You know what would really make it hard to take the Bible seriously? A condensed unharmonized version. Just mash all the stories together (the gospels give several ways Judas dies? Have a single gospel of Jesus that has Judas die in all those ways with one passage following the next. No details are harmonized out and any hope of cohesive plot is shot to hell). Also, all “prophecies” in texts like Mathew include surrounding text from where the” prophecies” are taken so there is little doubt that Mathew is misusing the text (Bob Sidensteker, I believe, had a pretty good article about Matthew’s” prophecy” addiction).

        • Pofarmer

          Have you by chance read Randal Helms “Gospel Fictions.”

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          No, but i’ll see about getting to it after getting through 3-5 of A Song of Ice and Fire, Cambrige Illustrated History Medicine (Jesus saves? Not in this book), and The Book Thief.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          The Brick Testament does that with the resurrection story – just mashes them all together, contradictions and all. Its very fun to read, plus it’s illustrated with Legos!

        • Kodie

          Aside: Who reads this and does not think it’s fiction?

  • Otto

    Our hosts tell us that the most important question in the Bible was asked by Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
    I think if Jesus is god he should stop asking other people who he is…it makes hims sound mental.
    And I love the Tracy Harris quote…that was one of their best shows ever.

  • Pofarmer

    Ya know, I had never noticed the adoptionist theology in john, for some reason, I thought John had Jesus as a wholly preexistant being, but not really.

    “32And John  c bore witness:  d “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and  e it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but  f he who sent me to baptize  g with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain,  h this is he who baptizes  g with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.””

    So, that’s two for adoptionist, two for divine birth. No contradictions here, no sireee.

    • The NIV version of that last verse has John the Baptist say: “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34).

      That’s interesting. Normally one thinks of John 1:1 as establishing Jesus in the beginning of everything, but this does sound like Mark, with the adoptionistic view.

      • Pofarmer

        It also kind of screws up te whole trinitarian concept.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    Holy crap! That quote! I have thought about stuff like that part at the end for a while now. Depending on the person, the poem’ Footsteps in the Sand’ could be rather something of Poe or Lovecraft.

    • “Noodles in the Sand”

      A guy asks the Flying Spaghetti Monster why his life journey shows noodle tracks along with his footprints except in the lowest parts of his life. He asks why, and the FSM says, “‘My son, my precious child, look back again where my noodle-trails are absent. You see, all those times you see only your set of footprints … I had other shit to do. Stop being such a self-centered little bitch.” The man understood, manned the fuck up, and dealt with his problems on his own from then on.