December 19, 2019

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather).

This is one of the replies to Dr. Madison’s series, “Things we Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (podcast episodes 13-25). I have already replied to every previous episode. He states in his introduction to this second series:

[A]pologists (preachers and priests) who explain away—well, they try—the nasty and often grim message in many of the sayings attributed to Jesus. Indeed, the gospels are a minefield; many negatives about Jesus are in full view.

Dr. Madison’s episode 16 is entitled, “Jesus tells those present at his trial that they will see him coming on the clouds of heaven” (8-16-19).  I’ve already refuted this reasoning earlier in this series: “Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #3: Nature & Time of 2nd Coming” (8-3-19). His episode 17 (to which I presently respond) is called, “Bad advice that Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:19-20 and 5:40 & 42” (8-19-19). Episode 18 (8-24-19) continues essentially the same flawed analysis, and so is also refuted below. Episode 19 (“Mark 2:1-12, Jesus heals a paralyzed man by forgiving his sins”), has already been rebutted by my paper, David Madison vs. the Gospel of Mark #3: Chapter 2 (Archaeological Support / Sin, Illness, Healing, & Faith / “Word” & “Gospel”). Since Dr. Madison has deliberately decided to ignore all my critiques, he taped his episode 19 exactly 17 days after I refuted all of its main contentions.

My patience is now exhausted with this series, and Dr. Madison is often merely spinning his wheels and regurgitating stale material that he has already presented, so I will end my critiques of this series with this post.

Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue.

*****

Matthew 5:40-42 (RSV) “and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; [41] and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. [42] Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” [Dr. Madison ignores verse 21, which is the conclusion of the thought]

Is this advice you would give to young people starting out in life? Of course not. But in the mind of Jesus, or more correctly, in the mind of the cult propagandist who wrote the Gospels, there wasn’t going to be any such thing as starting out in life or saving for the future. The kingdom of God, with Jesus ruling and all governmental authorities removed, made no allowance for careers or saving for the future, or for the unfolding of 2000 more years of history, for that matter. It didn’t matter if you loaned money. It didn’t matter if you gave it all away to beggars.

The business about the supposed assumption that the world was gonna end soon was already dealt with in my past paper, mentioned above. Here I will address the subject matter of generosity, charity, benevolence, and opposition to materialism and excessive riches. The advice given is, of course, proverbial; hence it was not intended absolutely literally, as if it applied to every conceivable situation; any and all situations.

Jesus is cultivating a general unselfish way of life, a way of love and concern for other human beings. Then He makes the point that the eternal, spiritual things are more important than temporary earthly possessions. He does it by the typical Hebraic extreme contrast of one thing over against another.

To use an entirely “earthy” comparison, it would be like saying, “would you choose a very happy marriage that lasted five years, or an even happier marriage that lasted for a lifetime?” Anyone would choose the latter. Thus, Jesus draws a contrast between temporary material goods on earth, and “treasures” in heaven, that last forever, and are beyond the reach of either decay or theft. The preference is a no-brainer.

If there is a heaven, this makes eminent sense. The problem, of course, is that atheists like Dr. Madison don’t believe in heaven or any kind of afterlife. Obviously, then, such a concept is meaningless to him (and them). They just view it as what they deride as “pie in the sky.” But it’s perfectly reasonable if one accepts the premise (on many other reasonable grounds) that God exists and an eternal afterlife of bliss in heaven also awaits those who follow Him and accept His free offer of grace and salvation that is available to all human beings.

In any event, what is described in Matthew 5:40-42 is proverbial advice. Bob Deffinbaugh wrote an excellent article on the nature of biblical proverbial literature. Here are a few snippets:

Proverbs are highly compressed, carefully chosen words of wisdom. In the Bible, proverbs are found elsewhere than just in the Book of Proverbs. I cannot help but smile when I read the proverb Israel’s King Ahab cites to Ben Hadad, king of Syria. Ben Hadad had assembled his army and besieged the city of Samaria. He sent word to Ahab, conveying his demands, threatening to destroy Samaria if Ahab did not comply. Ahab sent Ben Hadad this response:

“Tell him the one who puts on his battle gear should not boast like one who is taking it off” (1 Kings 20:11).

We would have said, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Proverbs may very well exist in every culture. We have many proverbs in our culture. Here are just a few:

“First things first.”
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Don’t cry over spilled milk.”
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
“Hind sight is better than foresight.”
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Proverbs are words that are skillfully crafted to stick in our minds and to engage us in thought: . . .

Proverbs are not necessarily promises, but rather generalizations of what is commonly true. Generally speaking, those who work hard and are self-disciplined prosper, while those who are lazy and gluttonous become poor . . .

[W]e must be careful not to read any particular proverb as though it comes with an unconditional guarantee of being fulfilled.

See also, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Proverb”). The key to understanding a proverb is to know that it is intended to be general advice, which admits of exceptions, according to situation. It’s not absolute in nature. It is not like asserting “2 + 2 = 4” or “the moon goes around the earth” or “The Empire State Building is in New York City.” It’s situational and prudential. A famous couplet from the book of Proverbs perfectly illustrates this:

Proverbs 26:4-5 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. [5] Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

I’ve often employed both pieces of advice in my own apologetics work. There is a time to answer a fool (as in fact I am doing right now), and a time not to, which brings to mind another famous Proverb from Ecclesiastes, which was the basis of a song by Pete Seeger, and a #1 hit song for the Byrds in 1965:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: [2] a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; [3] a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; [4] a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; [5] a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; [6] a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; [7] a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; [8] a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Jesus Himself proves that His advice in Matthew 5 is not absolute and to be applied in any and every situation, in His parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30; cf. Luke 19:11-26). It has been called a primitive description of capitalistic industriousness, in which He expressly sanctions investment with bankers, and the making of interest (Mt 25:27; Lk 19:23). In the parable the master is God, who agrees with the investment.

For Dr. Madison, who apparently cannot comprehend the nature of proverbial biblical literature, “in the mind of the cult propagandist who wrote the Gospels, there wasn’t going to be any such thing as starting out in life or saving for the future.” Wrong! Matthew 25 and Luke 19 show this to be a falsehood.

Moreover, Dr. Madison claims that Christians were not supposed to have the slightest concern about money or the practical necessities of responsible everyday life because they were allegedly taught that the world was gonna end very soon. Why is it, then, that in the introduction of the parable of the talents in Luke’s version, the narrator (Luke) expressly denies an imminent end of the world?: 

Luke 19:11 . . . he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.

Dr. Madison thinks the Gospel writer “cult propagandists” were seeking to indoctrinate the gullible, stupid Christian cult members to think that the end of the world could and would occur in the next five minutes. Why, then, is the parable of the talents in two of these Gospels, and why is Luke 19:11 there: dead-set against the supposed nefarious goal and agenda? It makes no sense. Jesus Himself makes the same point: that the time of the end is not known, immediately preceding the Matthew version of the parable of the talents:

Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The parable of the ten virgins and their oil lamps, right before this portion of Matthew (Matthew 25:1-13) is making the same point: industrious preparedness and wise stewardship of the material possessions one has: the very opposite of “simply give to every beggar and take no thought of how to wisely provide for yourselves.” What one does depends on prudence and a given situation. That is biblical “wisdom”: expressed in a very specific literary idiom, with its own particular characteristics: the proverb or the parable.

So much for Dr. Madison’s imaginary nonsense and slop (for now the 42nd time!). He doesn’t have the slightest clue concerning what he is pontificating about. His atheism has made him thoroughly illogical and oblivious to facts and reason alike, when it comes to Anything Biblical. This is what extreme, fanatical bias and hostility do to an otherwise fairly rational and sensible mind.

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
*

***

Photo credit: The Parable of The Talents, by Willem de Poorter (1608-1668) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

December 18, 2019

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather).

This is one of the replies to Dr. Madison’s series, “Things we Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (podcast episodes 13-25). I have already replied to every previous episode. He states in his introduction to this second series:

[A]pologists (preachers and priests) who explain away—well, they try—the nasty and often grim message in many of the sayings attributed to Jesus. Indeed, the gospels are a minefield; many negatives about Jesus are in full view.

I am replying to episode 15, entitled, “Jesus fails as a great moral teacher in describing the Last Judgment” (8-4-19).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue.

*****

Matthew 25:31-46 (RSV) “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Please don’t tell us that Jesus is a model example of compassion. This text is brutal. It’s super-vindictive. If you fail to feed the hungry [and do other good deeds] . . . you deserve eternal fire? Maybe a good scolding, maybe some coaching on how to do better, instead of eternal fire. No. A God of love would not operate this way. Who deserves to be banished to eternal fire, after all? . . . Maybe Hitler, maybe drug lords, crime family bosses, priests who rape children. Yes, we may say they deserve hell in moments of outrage and anger. But shouldn’t God do better at anger management? No great moral teacher . . . tells people that eternal fire is God’s solution. I’m looking at you, Jesus. How sad that this revenge theology, this get-even theology, is right there at the heart of Christianity.

I generally approach the topic of hell and the task of the Christian to defend what at first glance seems horrible and indefensible, in three different ways: all analogical arguments:

1) Free Will and the Free Offer of Salvation I’m not interested in gloating over anyone who goes to hell (this is what a recent atheist thread claimed many Christians were doing; taunting atheists). I’ve devoted my life (as a Catholic apologist) to help prevent people from going there; so that they will want to, and will be able to go to heaven. I understand that many people (especially atheists and other non-Christians) detest hell. So do I. I don’t want anyone to go there.

Any “Christian” who does is barely a Christian at all. I would immediately question his or her status, if they exhibit such a heartless, cruel attitude. God doesn’t want anyone to go there, either (2 Peter 3:9). This is what a lot of folks don’t seem to get. He desires for all to be saved, but He won’t violate our free will. That was the whole point of Jesus dying for us, so we don’t have to go to hell. He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

God is like a Governor who gives a pardon to a prisoner who has a life sentence. All the prisoner has to do is accept it and walk out a free man. Atheists who complain about hell and hold it against God are like a prisoner who is pardoned and refuses to accept the pardon, then blames the Governor for their remaining in prison (!). Does that make any sense? Not from where we Christians sit. I don’t see why either a Governor or his messenger ought to be despised because a prisoner turned down his pardon. That makes no sense to me.

It’s a place no one need go to. God has offered a way out. Folks don’t wanna take it. Then they blame Him because they spurn His grace or reject Him altogether. Once having rejected Him, they blame Christians for continuing to believe the doctrine that we believe God revealed in His revelation.

I don’t see it as unethical at all. If God exists, we were made for Him, and find our ultimate fulfillment in union with Him in heaven. If God grants us free will, there has to be such a thing as an alternate to being with Him in heaven. And that option is hell. It’s terrible to be separated from God. It was never meant to be that way. So God offers a way, by His free grace, to avoid hell.

The objection seems to me to be based on this notion that God “sends” people there, as if this was a despicable arbitrary act of an utter tyrant and hateful entity. The actual truth of the matter is that God allows us free will, even if it means that we choose to reject Him.

But I don’t see that God (within a Christian schema) can be blamed for the horrors of eternal hellfire, since He offers everyone the way to avoid it. But what happens is that people don’t want to take the offer; don’t want to serve God (which requires difficult changes of behavior), and delude themselves into thinking that hell will be a great big party, with all the best musicians, thinkers, and “cool people” there. They’ll be anything but “cool” there (in every sense).

The dumbest thing a person can do is reject and disbelieve in God, or in His goodness and mercy, then we would expect that there would be some extremely severe consequences to this in the long run. Since souls are eternal by nature, that consequence is an unending place or state that is separate from God, that we have no remote conception of now: how horrible it is. And to end in hell is entirely our fault, not God’s.

On what possible basis can one conclude that an eternal existence apart from God, of creatures who have expressly rejected this God, is an a priori impossible or unjust or implausible state of affairs? To me it’s rather simple: we are creatures who will exist from this point into the future. We will never have an end to our existence. We’re like a ray in geometry: with a beginning but no end. We can be with God in eternity after we die or without Him. The choice is ours. No one has to go to hell if they will simply believe in God and follow Him, enabled by His grace to do so.

Why does Dr. Madison and atheists in general seem to have this notion that God must work eternally to redeem souls? He is under no such obligation. He only has to give every person an adequate chance to believe in Him or reject Him, and we believe as Christians, based on revelation, that He more than amply does that in this lifetime.

Atheists presuppose that what God does to redeem a stray soul is never enough, and then we’re back to blaming God again for the rebel, rather than placing the blame with the rebel, which is where it belongs. This makes no sense. We always want to blame God for everything. It’s a sort of “cosmic blame-shifting.” We never want to blame evil, rebellious man for anything. He’s always a poor, pitiful victim, and it’s always God, God, God Who is supposedly at fault for not having done enough.

Do we blame a parent when he or she does absolutely everything that they should to adequately train and provide for a child, yet the child goes astray in the exercise of his or her free will? We all know people like this. Is it their fault (at least in terms of primary responsibility) or the child’s?

2) Analogy of Human Legal Systems of Justice God as the Creator has the “prerogative” to judge His creation when they have gone astray. We have earthly judges who do the same thing. A criminal commits a crime. He is given a fair trial, found guilty, and is then judged, if deemed guilty. We’ve even had the death penalty. But it’s inconceivable that God is the Cosmic Judge?

When a criminal rebels against the laws of a society and is caught, convicted, and imprisoned for life, we don’t say that the “cause” of his imprisonment was the laws of the state that he violated, and rail against the very notion of law as the horrible, unjust cause of this guy’s suffering! He brought about his own demise by going astray. Likewise, with human beings, God, and hell.

The penalty for very serious crime in a civil sense is life imprisonment. That’s just how it is. Law itself is not to be blamed.

The penalty for very serious sin and rebellion against God in spiritual reality is eternal torment in hell. That’s just how it is. God (the ground of moral law) is not to be blamed for that. . . .

Because God is Creator He also has the prerogative to judge. This is analogous to our experience. Society takes it upon itself to judge the criminal and punish him if he supersedes the “just” laws that govern the society, in order to prevent chaos and suffering. If that is true of human society (one man to another), it is all the more of God, because He is ontologically above us (Creator and created).

The societal analogy is perfectly apt. If someone rebels at every turn against every societal norm and law and appropriate behavior and so forth, is society to be blamed? Say someone grows up thinking that serial rape is fine and dandy and shouldn’t be prevented at all. So he goes and does this. Eventually, the legal system catches up with him and he gets his punishment. He rebelled against what most people think is wrong, and more than deserved his punishment.

We don’t say that there should be no punishment. We don’t blame society for his suffering in prison. We don’t deny that society has a right to judge such persons. So if mere human beings can judge each other, why cannot God judge His creation, and (particularly) those of His creation that have rebelled against Him at every turn? What is so incomprehensible about that? One may not believe it, but there is no radical incoherence or inconsistency or monstrous injustice or immorality in this Christian (and Jewish) viewpoint (which is what is always claimed by the critics).

The necessity of judgment is apparent from the human analogy of laws and judges. When we do bad things, there are consequences. And often, they are irreversible. If we murder a person, they are gone from the earth forever. The act had a consequence that to us, from the earthly, temporal perspective, is final. If we get drunk and ride a motorcycle and crash and have to lose an arm or leg or suffer brain damage, those things are irreversible. The dumb behavior had definite consequences. A price had to be paid. This is simply reality.

Say that a judge rules that a person can be paroled, given a few (not at all impossible) conditions. This is legal “mercy.” But the prisoner fails to abide by these, and so he doesn’t gain parole. Now, in typical atheist thinking (by analogy), the one to blame for this would be the parole officer or judge, because he (or they) didn’t exercise enough mercy and should have forgiven the prisoner an infinite amount of times for all his violations. In my thinking, the prisoner is at fault and the judge, not in the slightest, because he was exercising clemency and mercy and the prisoner in his stupidity failed to do the few things he had to do in order to receive this gracious gift.

3) Cosmic Justice and the Ultimate Weighing of the Scales Imagine if everyone on earth were like an SS agent (think, Heinrich Himmler). We took out people like that in World War II and everyone thought it was quite moral. But if God does it, suddenly it’s immoral.

Well, with the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s what the Bible says took place: the level of immorality was virtually universal and beyond repair. So God judged. I don’t have the slightest problem with it. I think it’s exactly what we would expect in a God Who is both perfectly loving and a just judge.

In the atheist view, there is no ultimate justice at all. Since I’ve already brought up a Nazi analogy, it would be as if the Nazis had won World War II and were ruling the world right now, doing all the evil they did while they were in power. In a world without God, there would be no ultimate justice. These Nazis would die and cease to exist. They would pay no penalty for their great evils (not even in this life if they aren’t defeated). Their victims would die and cease to exist as well, and never receive any good things. All they had was an earthy life which was a living hell under Nazi rule.

There is no justice or meaning or “happy ending” in that scenario. Many people in the world have a terrible life: and very often because of despotic rulers or bad social or religious systems. In the Christian worldview the unrepentant bad guys are judged for their evil (and will end up in hell). People who accept God’s grace spend eternity with God in heaven, in great bliss and joy, with no more suffering.

That is meaningful and just.

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
*
***
Photo credit: [PxFuel / public domain]
***
December 18, 2019

Replies to some of the most clueless atheist “arguments” to ever enter the mind of a sentient human being . . . 

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather).

This is one of the replies to Dr. Madison’s series, “Things we Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (podcast episodes 13-25). I have already replied to every previous episode. He states in his introduction to this second series:

[A]pologists (preachers and priests) who explain away—well, they try—the nasty and often grim message in many of the sayings attributed to Jesus. Indeed, the gospels are a minefield; many negatives about Jesus are in full view.

I am replying to episode 14, entitled, “Jesus equates sexual arousal with adultery” (7-29-19).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue.

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Matthew 5:27-30 (RSV) “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’ [28] But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Dr. Madison pontificates:

First of all, adultery is a serious violation of trust. And it’s caused so much pain and anguish. We don’t need gods to tell us not to do it.

Great! I agree, and this is our common ground. Adultery is a bad thing, and Jesus and Christianity are against it. One would think we wouldn’t even have to discuss the issue, then. “All” agree. But no such luck . . .

But anyone who suggests that sexual arousal — that old religious obsession of lust — can be equated with adultery, is just dead wrong. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jesus. . . . Sexual fantasies just pop into our heads. . . . We don’t need some religious zealot standing over our shoulder, scolding us for lust: “guess what, pal? You’ve just committed adultery in your heart.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the first sentence. Sexual arousal itself is not the same thing as adultery; nor is it always the same thing as lust (it could be in some cases). What I profoundly disagree with is that Jesus is equating all sexual arousal with lust and adultery. It’s not in the text. Dr. Madison has simply assumed what ain’t there, because, after all, we’re talking about Christians, and everyone “knows” that they hate sex, right (even though secular sociological polls consistently reveal that committed, serious Christians have more sexual happiness in marriage — and happier, more long-lasting marriages — than just about any other group)?

It seems that Christians and atheists can agree on the definition of lust: or at least whatever exists in lust that Christians object to. Dictionary.com defines it as follows:

1 intense sexual desire or appetite.
2 uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness.
3 a passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually followed by for): a lust for power.

Merriam-Webster provides a definition (its first one) that is closer to the meaning of the biblical term, and standard usage in Christianity (and similar to #2 in Dictionary.com):

1usually intense or unbridled sexual desire LASCIVIOUSNESS He was motivated more by lust than by love.

Note how “lasciviousness” is provided as a synonym. If we go to that entry, it defines the word as synonymous with “lewd.” If we go in turn to the definition of “lewd” it’s this:

1aOBSCENEVULGAR lewd remarks
bsexually unchaste or licentious (see LICENTIOUS sense 1lewd behavior

One gets the idea by now. This is not preaching or the Bible; it’s two secular dictionaries. Lust is not simply sexual desire or arousal itself. It goes far beyond that. It’s “uncontrolled” and “unbridled” and “lecherousness.” It’s “overmastering” and associated with a “lust for power” (a thing that isn’t even necessarily sexual). It’s “lascivious” and the opposite of love. It’s lewd, unchaste, licentious, obscene, and vulgar. Remember, this is simply dictionaries, not Christian manuals, written by old celibate men; killjoys who supposedly want to control what everyone does in the bedroom and make sure they are unhappy, unfulfilled, and miserable. But it almost sounds like an old-fashioned fire and brimstone sermon, doesn’t it?

I think Christians and atheists can also readily agree that disordered desire is a bad thing, and that there is proper desire. We certainly disagree (quite a bit!) on where the lines are drawn, but we agree that there are such ethical / moral distinctions to be recognized. Even today, there are many areas of immoral sexuality, where virtually all people of all belief systems can and do agree; for example, rape, pedophilia, sexual abuse of all kinds, incest, bestiality, and sexual slavery and trafficking.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is talking about lust (i.e., what we have just seen defined, above), not all sexual desire. Dr. Madison is more than capable of figuring this out and grasping it. But he simply doesn’t give a fig about accurately portraying Jesus’ teaching. I’ve already demonstrated how he’s been consistently wrong and out to sea, 13 times; and this is (true to form) the 14th. But because of his extreme hostility, he makes this absurd argument.

Obviously then (these preliminaries out of the way), we can agree that lust is bad, and that Jesus was right to condemn it. It shouldn’t be in the least bit controversial. It’s only when Dr. Madison distorts and lies about Jesus’ words and thoughts, that we have a serious problem. Jesus’ reflections here are scarcely even arguable. It’s the idea that great crimes and sins and wrongful acts have an origin in our minds before we commit them. This is not at all exclusive to religious thinking. It’s the basis of degrees of charges for crime. Hence, premeditated murder is a much more serious charge because it was thought about beforehand and planned in great detail. That’s a lot more worthy of punishment than a crime of passion, committed in a momentary burst of anger.

So Jesus makes a point that should be readily understood and agreed with, with just a little reflection: “every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That’s exactly right. The seeds and the essence of it are in the planning, just as the essence of a premeditated murder lies in the original evil plans to carry it out. Therefore, we ought not lust, as it can lead to very bad things: for us and for those around us. Simply having a sexual desire arise is not evil. It’s how we react to it. Do we sustain and “coddle” it if it is a wrong desire? The desire can quickly transform into lust.

The Bible and Christianity are not opposed to sexual desire; only to disordered sexual desire (sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman, non-procreative sex — as Catholics believe — forced sex, etc.). Hence, St. Paul in the Bible doesn’t condemn sexual desires themselves (towards a future spouse in this instance), but rather, uncontrolled desires (i.e., lust):

1 Corinthians 7:9 . . . if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

1 Corinthians 7:36-37 If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry — it is no sin. [37] But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

Sexual desire is famously expressed (as perfectly good and permissible) in the Song of Solomon:

Song of Solomon 1:15-16 Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. [16] Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely. . . .

Song of Solomon 2:5-6 . . . I am sick with love. [6] O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!

Song of Solomon 4:5-7, 9-13 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies. [6] Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will hie me to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. [7] You are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you. . . . [9] You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. [10] How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride! how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! [11] Your lips distil nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. [12] A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed. [13] Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, . . .

Song of Solomon 7:6-10 How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden! [7] You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. [8] I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, [9] and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth. [10] I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

Really puritanistic, Victorian, sexually repressed words and sentiments, ain’t they?

This self-mutilation metaphor in this text is gross. Pluck out your eyes, cut off your hand. A great moral teacher could think of something better. Cult fanatics talk like this: before trying to get you to drink the Kool-Aid.

At least he has wits enough to recognize that it is a metaphor. But once one does that, there is little objection left. In one of my 39 past refutations of Dr. Madison’s nonsense (the first installment of this very series), I wrote about how Jesus said, “if you don’t hate your family, you’re not worthy of me.” This is hyperbole: the extreme contrast. But in another Gospel, Jesus gives the literal meaning, which is how the hyperbole is interpreted: “if you love your family more than me, you’re not worthy of me.”

Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties.” That is a  statement from the Introduction to his 1104-page tome, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898). I have this work in my own library (hardcover). It’s also available for free, online. Bullinger devotes six pages (423-428) to “Hyperbole; or, Exaggeration”: which he defines as follows:

The figure is so called because the expression adds to the sense so much that it exaggerates it, and enlarges or diminishes it more than is really meant in fact. Or, when more is said than is meant to be literally understood, in order to heighten the sense.

It is the superlative degree applied to verbs and sentences and expressions or descriptions, rather than to mere adjectives. . . .

It was called by the Latins superlatio, a carrying beyond, an exaggerating.

I shall cite some of his more notable and obvious examples (omitting ellipses: “. . .” ):

Gen. ii. 24. — “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.” This does not mean that he is to forsake and no longer to love or care for his parents. So Matt. xix. 5.

Ex. viii. 17. — “All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt”: i.e., wherever in all the land there was dust, it became lice.

I Sam. xxv. 37. — Nabal’s “heart died within him, and he became as a stone”: i.e., he was terribly frightened and collapsed or fainted away.

Lam. ii. 11.— “My liver is poured upon the earth, etc”: to express the depth of the Prophet’s grief and sorrow at the desolations of Zion.

John xii. 19. — “Behold, the world is gone after him.” The enemies of the Lord thus expressed their indignation at the vast multitudes which followed Him.

Gary Amirault highlights more biblical examples in a similar article:

[T]is verse is a hyperbole, an exaggeration for effect:

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:24, NIV)

It is not too difficult to determine that this is a hyperbole, an exaggeration. Because the English language is full of Bible terms and phraseology, this Hebrew idiom has become part of the English language. Therefore most English speaking people know the real meaning of that phrase: “You pay close attention to little things but neglect the important things.” [Dave: or, “you can’t see the forest for the trees”] . . .

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out…” Matt. 5:29 (I met a Christian who actually tried to pluck out his right eye because he had a lust problem. This is an example the kind of problem a Bible translation can cause if one is not informed of the various figures of speech found in the Bible.)

Dr. Madison concludes that this is flat-out bad and “gross” teaching, and the stuff of “cult fanatics.” The real truth is that he (biblical studies doctorate and all) is — amazingly enough — simply unfamiliar with the many sophisticated types and figures in the Bible, including hyperbole or exaggeration. He has to get up to speed and be properly educated, in order to understand and avoid contending for ludicrous things, as he has done (yet again!) here.

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
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My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
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December 12, 2019

And did Jesus minister exclusively to Jews and not Gentiles at all (an alleged Gospel inconsistency)?

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather).

This is one of the replies to Dr. Madison’s series, “Things we Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said” (podcast episodes 13-25). I have already replied to every previous episode. He states in his introduction to this second series:

[A]pologists (preachers and priests) who explain away—well, they try—the nasty and often grim message in many of the sayings attributed to Jesus. Indeed, the gospels are a minefield; many negatives about Jesus are in full view.

I am replying to episode 13, entitled, “Matthew 15:22-28, Jesus calls a Gentile woman a dog” (7-23-19).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue, and those of other atheists in purple, green, and brown.

*****

Matthew 15:22-28 (RSV) And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” [23] But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” [24] He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [25] But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” [26] And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” [27] She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” [28] Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In this installment, Dr. Madison trots out what is apparently a big favorite of anti-theist atheist polemicists. This is my fourth time dealing with it, so it’s nothing new. One atheist who goes by the nick “BeeryUSA” stated that this very thing ( a complete misunderstanding on his part) made him cease to be a Christian:

I recall the precise passage that I was reading when I realized that Jesus was actually a xenophobic nationalist . . . and therefore could not be any kind of god I could worship:

Matthew 15:24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

So this psycho Jesus refuses to treat a woman’s daughter simply because she was a Canaanite. All of a sudden, my desire to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt melted away and, with my new-found skepticism, it didn’t take long from there for all the rest of it to unravel.

Likewise, Bible-Basher Bob Seidensticker (whom I have refuted 35 times with no reply whatsoever), opined:

At the end of the gospel story, Jesus has risen and is giving the disciples their final instructions.

Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

This is the familiar Great Commission, and it’s a lot more generous than what has been called the lesser commission that appears earlier in the same gospel:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5–6)

This was not a universal message. We see it again in his encounter with the Canaanite woman:

[Jesus rejected her plea to heal her daughter, saying] “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:24–6)

You might say that a ministry with limited resources had to prioritize, but that doesn’t apply here. Don’t forget that Jesus was omnipotent. . . . 

Let’s revisit the fact that Matthew is contradictory when it says both “Make disciples of all nations” and “Do not go among the Gentiles [but only] to the lost sheep of Israel.” There are no early papyrus copies of Matthew 28 (the “Make disciples of all nations” chapter), and the earliest copies of this chapter are in the codices copied in the mid-300s. That’s almost three centuries of silence from original to our best copies, a lot of opportunity for the Great Commission to get “improved” by copyists. I’m not saying it was, of course; I’m simply offering one explanation for why the gospel in Matthew has Jesus change so fundamental a tenet as who he came to save.

Dr. Madison’s buddy, John Loftus also chimed in, along the same lines, in his book, Why I Became an Atheist (revised version, 2012, 536 pages). I have now critiqued it ten times without (you guessed it!) any counter-reply from him. In it, he  wrote:

[H]e also called a Syrophoenician woman part of a race of “dogs” and only begrudgingly helped her (Mark 7:24-30). (p. 123)

Now, Dr. David Madison comes along in his podcast and makes these claims:

But guess what? In Matthew 28, at the end of the Gospel, verse 19, the resurrected Jesus says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” . . . this Jesus quote was probably added to the story then [50 years after Jesus’ death] and it certainly does not match, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Gospel writer didn’t notice much, contradictions, sometimes. . . . what a nasty thing to say: “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” . . . The ideal Jesus that people adore is punctured by this Jesus, quote: this insult, calling her a dog.

Apologists Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt thoroughly dispense of this “objection” concerning Jesus’ use of the word “dog” (complete with a good dose of sorely needed humor) in their article, “Was Jesus Unkind to the Syrophoenician Woman?”:

To our 21st-century ears, the idea that Jesus would refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” has the potential to sound belittling and unkind. When we consider how we often use animal terms in illustrative or idiomatic ways, however, Jesus’ comments are much more benign. For instance, suppose a particular lawyer exhibits unyielding tenacity. We might say he is a “bulldog” when he deals with the evidence. Or we might say that a person is “as cute as a puppy” or has “puppy-dog eyes.” If someone has a lucky day, we might say something like “every dog has its day.” Or if an adult refuses to learn to use new technology, we might say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In addition, one might say that a person “works like a dog,” is the “top dog” at the office, or is “dog tired.” Obviously, to call someone “top dog” would convey no derogatory connotation.

For Jesus’ statement to be construed as unkind or wrong in some way, a person would be forced to prove that the illustration or idiom He used to refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” must be taken in a derogatory fashion. Such cannot be proved. In fact, the term Jesus used for “little dogs” could easily be taken in an illustrative way without any type of unkind insinuation. In his commentary on Mark, renowned commentator R.C.H. Lenski translated the Greek term used by Jesus (kunaria) as “little pet dogs.” . . . Lenski goes on to write concerning Jesus’ statement: “All that Jesus does is to ask the disciples and the woman to accept the divine plan that Jesus must work out his mission among the Jews…. Any share of Gentile individuals in any of these blessings can only be incidental during Jesus’ ministry in Israel” . . .

Consider that Matthew had earlier recorded how a Roman centurion approached Jesus on behalf of his paralyzed servant. Jesus did not respond in that instance as He did with the Syrophoenician woman. He simply stated: “I will come and heal him” (8:7). After witnessing the centurion’s refreshing humility and great faith (pleading for Christ to “only speak a word” and his servant would be healed—vss. 8-9), Jesus responded: “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (vs. 10, emp. added). . . .

What many people miss in this story is what is so evident in other parts of Scripture: Jesus was testing this Canaanite woman, while at the same time teaching His disciples how the tenderhearted respond to possibly offensive truths. . . .

Before people “dog” Jesus for the way He used an animal illustration, they might need to reconsider that “their bark is much worse than their bite” when it comes to insinuating that Jesus was unkind and intolerant. In truth, they are simply “barking up the wrong tree” by attempting to call Jesus’ character into question. They need to “call off the dogs” on this one and “let sleeping dogs lie.”

As to the groundless charge of internal contradiction (sent to Israel only / disciples evangelize Israel only “vs.” evangelizing the whole world), here is my reply:

First of all, being sent to Israel doesn’t also mean that He would ignore all non-Israelis. This is untrue. The woman at the well was a Samaritan. He told the story about the good Samaritan who helped the guy who had been beaten, and concluded that he was a better neighbor than a Jew who didn’t do these things. He healed the Roman centurion’s servant, and commended his faith as better than most Jews. The Bible says that He healed this woman’s daughter (and highly commended her mother for her faith).

In the whole passage (blessed context), we readily see that Jesus was merely asking (as He often did) a rhetorical question. In effect He was asking her, “why should I heal your daughter?” She gave a great answer, and He (knowing all along that she would say what she did) did heal her.

I fail to see how this passage proves that Jesus didn’t give a fig about non-Jews. He healed the Canaanite woman’s daughter! How does that prove what atheists contend? Jesus heals a Canaanite girl (after being asked to by her mother), and that “proves” that He only healed and preached to Jews; hence it is a “contradiction”? Surely, this is a form of “logic” that no one’s ever seen before.

Another example, even more famous, is Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-29). He shares the Gospel very explicitly with her, stating that He is the source of eternal life (4:14), and that He is the Jewish Messiah (4:25-26): a thing that she later proclaimed in the city (4:28-29, 39-42).

The text even notes that — normally — Jews avoided Samaritans: “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar’ia?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (4:9; RSV).

A third instance of Jesus’ outreach beyond the Jews is His interaction with the Roman centurion:

Matthew 8:5-13 As he entered Caper’na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him [6] and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” [7] And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” [8] But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. [9] For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” [10] When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” [13] And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Note how Jesus not only readily healed the Roman centurion’s servant (8:7, 13), but also “marveled” at his faith and commended it as superior to the faith of anyone “in Israel” (8:10). And that led Him to observe that many Gentiles will be saved, whereas many Jews will not be saved (8:11-12). But there is much more:

A fourth example is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). The whole point of it was to show that Samaritans were truly neighbors to Jews if they helped them, as the man did in the parable. I drove on the road (from Jerusalem to Jericho) which was the setting of this parable.

A fifth example is from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

A sixth example is the common motif of Jesus saying that He came to save not just Jews, but the world (Jn 6:33, 51; 8:12 [“I am the light of the world”]; 9:5; 12:46 [“I have come as light into the world . . .”]; 12:47 [“to save the world”]; ). The Evangelists in the Gospels, and John the Baptist state the same (Jn 1:29; 3:16-17, 19).

A seventh example is Jesus praying for His disciples in their missionary efforts: “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

An eighth example is the parable of the weeds, which showed a universal mission field fifteen chapters before Matthew 28: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; [38] the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; . . .” (13:37-38).

A ninth example is Jesus’ statements that “all men” can potentially be saved (Jn 12:32; 13:35).

The book of Acts recounts St. Peter and St. Paul massively reaching out to Gentiles. I need not spend any time documenting that.

As anyone can see, the evidence in the Bible against this ridiculous atheist critique is abundant and undeniable. Jesus never says (nor does the entire New Testament ever say) that He came to “save Israel” or be the “savior of Israel.” Anyone who doesn’t believe me can do a word search (here’s the tool to do it). Verify it yourself. He only claims to be the “Messiah” of Israel (Jn 4:25-26): which is a different thing. When Jesus says who it is that He came to save (i.e., provided they are willing), He states explicitly that He came “to save the lost” (Lk 19:10) and “to save the world” (Jn 12:47).

Likewise, St. Paul states that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Last I checked, sinful human beings were not confined solely to the class of Jews or Israelis.

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Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
*
***
Photo credit: The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ (1784, by Jean Germain Drouais (1763-1788) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
***
December 11, 2019

. . . with emphasis on the vexing and complex question of the  ultimate origins of matter and life

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, the atheist author, polemicist, and extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the ultra-insulting Debunking Christianity blog. Dr. Madison made his cramped, insulated mentality clear in a comment from 9-6-19:

[T]he burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked. . . . I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.

John “you are an idiot!” Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, so that he and Dr. Madison could avoid replying to yours truly, or even see notices of my replies (er, sorry, rants, rather). Obviously, I have “hit a nerve” over there. In any event, their utter non-responses (besides potshots) and intellectual cowardice do not affect me in the slightest. No skin off of my back. If I want to critique more of their material, I will. If my replies go out unopposed, all the better for my cause.

This is a reply to [certain not immediately ridiculous or baseless] portions of Dr. Madison’s article, The Christian Knack for Insulting Our Intelligence (9-1-17).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue below.

*****

Sometimes even Sunday school kids have the presence of mind to ask, “But where did God come from?” To which the assurance is always given, “Well, God has always been there.” But rarely do the kids—or even the adults—ever ask, “But how do you know that?” How do you KNOW that about God? Without the evidence it’s just another assumption—one of so many that derail religious thinking.

We know it like we know many things: it’s ultimately backed up by solid philosophical analysis (hundreds of historical, well-known philosophers have believed in a eternal God and offered solid reasons for it), as well as by revelation, so that one can have a reasonable and well-grounded faith.

Bertrand Russell punctured this lazy conjecture when he pointed out that it’s just as easy to believe in a universe that has always existed—as it is to believe in a god that has been around, uncreated, forever.

Yes, precisely! I was gonna make this very point before I saw this sentence. Epistemologically (well, before we bring science into it), the two propositions are about equally as strong (which is hardly a huge debating point for atheism, if it’s only equally substantiated as Christianity):

1) God (a spirit) has existed eternally.

2) The universe (matter) has existed eternally.

But the problem with #2 is that it is no longer consensus science, because of Big Bang Theory, an expanding universe, and things like entropy. A spirit like God is obviously not within the purview of science, because it deals with matter. But the creative results of such a being can be studied. Russell (like Einstein) almost certainly accepted the steady state universe before Big Bang cosmology became the consensus.

Now this fundamental question of ultimate existence and origins is quite different in nature. I wrote in an article of mine that made atheists more furious (really, more confused, from where I sit), and which was more controversial than any other I have written:

Atheist belief is a kind of polytheistic idolatry of the crudest, most primitive sort, putting to shame the colorful worship of the ancient Babylonians, Philistines, Aztecs, and other groups. They believed that their silver amulets and wooden idols could make the sun shine or defeat an enemy or cause crops to flourish.

The polytheistic materialist, on the other hand, is far more religious than that. He thinks that trillions of his atom-gods and their distant relatives, the cell-gods, can make absolutely everything in the universe occur, by their own power, possessed eternally either in full or (who knows how?) in inevitably unfolding potentiality.

One might call this (to coin a phrase) Atomism (“belief that the atom is God”). Trillions of omnipotent, omniscient atoms can do absolutely everything that the Christian God can do, and for little or no reason that anyone can understand (i.e., why and how the atom-god came to possess such powers in the first place). The Atomist openly and unreservedly worships his trillions of gods, with the most perfect, trusting, non-rational faith imaginable. He or she is what sociologists call a “true believer.”

Oh, and we mustn’t forget the time-goddess. She is often invoked in worshipful, reverential, awe-inspiring terms as the be-all, end-all explanation for things inexplicable, as if by magic her very incantation rises to an explanatory level sufficient to shut up any silly Christian, who is foolish enough to believe in one God rather than trillions. The time-goddess is the highest in the ranks of the Atomist’s wonderfully varied hierarchy of gods (sort of the “Zeus” of Atomism). One might call this belief Temporalism.

But Christians don’t have a problem with God-just-always-was because—well, everything had to have been kicked off by a creator with a plan. That’s just common sense, right?

Yes, it’s just common sense and basic thinking rationality to assert that the universe and/or God have to be either eternal or to have originated at some point. That’s why all the atheists believed in an eternal universe, till established science (spearheaded by a Catholic priest-scientist, who submitted the Big Bang Theory, and was more advanced in his cosmological thinking on origins than Einstein was) made it virtually impossible to continue to hold such a position.

The [huge, momentous] trick is to determine which and what is true, and how it (and/or He) happened. What exists now has to be explained somehow. There is nothing the slightest bit silly about believing that God is eternal: anymore than the previous belief that the universe was eternal was “silly” and “laughable”: given the limitations of knowledge that were present when it was consensus. The cosmological theistic argument is arguably stronger than ever, in light of Big Bang cosmology.

And they look at atheists as if we’re crazy for not seeing that nature itself—with butterflies and sunsets—is proof of their god. When I hear that dodge, my word of caution is, “You don’t want to go there.” Because you have gained nothing, absolutely nothing, by giving a god the credit for “creating.”

Atheists do have quite a difficult task, in explaining a materialistic evolutionary origin of extraordinary processes, even on the cellular level, which is already almost inconceivably and inextricably complex (see, for example, the work of biochemist Michael J. Behe). Yeah, I would say that the old teleological (design) argument is stronger than ever, because we know much more about the nature of physical reality and of the building-blocks of life.

[N]o brand of Christianity has managed to let go of Loftus’ Number 8: “God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting all the evil that ever has or every will be.” 

There are many robust explanations of the problem of evil (I offer many articles about it on my blog): none ever sufficient for atheists (but then, who would expect that they would be?). They are sufficient to at least suggest to open minds that there is a plausible and coherent explanation for why evil exists and why God allows it to, due to the requirements of true free will in human beings.

Loftus adds more perspective: “Christian theism has no more credibility than Scientology, Mormonism, Haitian Voodoo, or the southwest Pacific Ocean cargo cults, because they are all based on faith.” Thus we’d like to be able to say, “We rest our case: Christianity can be flushed.” Nothing can rescue it from the realm of the wildly improbable.

This is a prime example of a manifestly “ridiculous or baseless” portion of Dr. Madison’;s article that I usually ignore. I just pout it up to show readers what I was talking about. It is it’s own refutation.

But, of course, there are those who devote their careers to the effort. In the section of the essay titled, “Defending the Faith Makes Brilliant People Look Stupid,” Loftus turns to consideration of those who have mastered the art of “double standards, non sequiturs, special pleading, begging the question, or just plain ignorance.” These are the professional apologists who, like alchemists, try to transmute “wildly improbable” into “rationally believable.” He offers a survey of the work of Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig and Richard G. Swinburne.

It’s sad that atheists like Madison and Loftus can’t comprehend an opinion different from their own (theism or Christianity) that is honestly and sincerely (and intelligently) held. I readily grant their own honesty and sincerity. I simply hold that they are dead wrong, and labor under many demonstrably false premises.  A little later, Dr. Madison characterizes William Lane Craig’s thinking as “evil . . . ugly” and indicative of  “the Christian knack for insulting our intelligence.”

This is a particularly acidic offering from Dr. Madison: one of a long line of similar ramblings, but more intense and intellectually facile and vacuous, and it deserves no more attention than I have already given it. Perhaps he had a bad hair day or an ingrown toenail . . .

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not ExistIf you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
*
***
Photo credit: [source URL] A growing black hole, called a quasar, can be seen at the center of a faraway galaxy in this artist’s concept. Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes discovered swarms of similar quasars hiding in dusty galaxies in the distant universe. The quasar is the orange object at the center of the large, irregular-shaped galaxy. It consists of a dusty, doughnut-shaped cloud of gas and dust that feeds a central supermassive black hole. As the black hole feeds, the gas and dust heat up and spray out X-rays, as illustrated by the white rays. Beyond the quasar, stars can be seen forming in clumps throughout the galaxy. [public domain /Wikimedia Commons]
***
December 10, 2019

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (from 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, atheist author and polemicist, the extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the notoriously insulting Debunking Christianity blog.

Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, in order for himself and Dr. Madison to avoid replying to me. Obviously, I have “hit a nerve” over there. In any event, their utter non-responses and intellectual cowardice do not affect me in the slightest. No skin off of my back. If I want to critique more of their material, I will. If my replies go out unopposed, all the better for my cause.

This is a reply to a portion of Dr. Madison’s article, Christianity Gets Slam-Dunked (8-16-19).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue below.

*****

A review of Tim Sledge’s Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer

. . . I always welcome books that expose the flaws, especially one that is as highly readable as Tim Sledge’s short new book (120 pages), Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer: Breaking the Spell of Christian Belief. With ease and precision, Sledge focuses on just four realities that do indeed shatter the Christian spell.

. . . for thirty years he was an evangelical Southern Baptist minister, a Number 10 Christian. In his longer book, Goodbye Jesus: An Evangelical Preacher’s Journey Beyond Faith [my review is here], Sledge mentions his practice over the years of relegating his reservations—things about the faith that didn’t make sense—to a corner of his mind that he labeled, Exceptions to the Rule of Faith. Eventually the items deposited there became too weighty.

In his new book he distills many of these into four knockout categories, hence the title, Four Disturbing Questions:

(1) The Power Failure Question
(2) The Mixed Message Question
(3) The Germ Warfare Question
(4) The Better Plan Question

[. . . ]

This is the Germ Warfare Question:

“Why didn’t Jesus say anything about germs.” (p. 46)

We may wonder: Just when did Jesus become a full participant in the Holy Trinity, i.e., knowing everything that God knows? John’s gospel tells us that Jesus was present right there at creation. It’s bit difficult to reconcile this with a Galilean peasant preacher who could very well have been illiterate.

Really? It’s pretty tough to be illiterate when one reads biblical texts in a synagogue:

Luke 4:16 (RSV) And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;

Moreover, there are the several instances of Jesus rhetorically asking about whether His detractors had read various Old Testament passages (ones that He had obviously read), with the words, “have you not read . . . ?” And there are His many references to “scripture[s]”: with which He was obviously familiar. But I guess this is the sort of “higher-level learning” and logic that is (amazingly enough) beyond Dr. David Madison, doctorate (in biblical studies) and all. For him, Jesus was — more likely than not — illiterate.

But if John got it right, why not use his time on earth to pass along really useful knowledge?

Sledge provides a helpful survey of discoveries about microbes in the 19th and 20th centuries, after billions of humans had suffered horrible deaths from disease. Yet we have a thousand pages of Bible that gives no information at all about how the real world works. “But it’s hard to argue,” Sledge says, “that any time was too soon for humans to learn about the microscopic organisms that cause so much sickness and death—germs.” (p. 35)

Yet Jesus the moralist was more concerned about sin. “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (Mark 7:15). Sledge is generous, but gets in his zinger: “…Jesus was focused on the importance of inner spiritual change over outward religious ceremony. But wouldn’t this have been a great time to explain that they should wash their hands for health purposes, a good time to tell people about germs, a good time to talk about why they should be careful where they get their drinking water, along with a few tips about sewage disposal?” (p. 42)

“Why didn’t the God of the universe—walking among mankind in the flesh as Jesus—do a sidebar talk on germs?” (p. 43)

“God had been watching silently for thousands of years by the time Jesus came along. It was late in the game, but couldn’t the Son of God—the one described as the Great Physician—have made a greater contribution to human health than healing a few people while he was on earth?” (p. 46)

Horrendous suffering—both human and animal—is built in; it’s just how the world works. Any theism that posits a caring, Master-Craftsman god, collapses on that fact alone, and this Sledge chapter is a good primer for those who rarely consider the implication of germs for their concept of a good God.

***

It so happens that I have already thoroughly answered this challenge. Atheists mostly recycle old chestnuts in their arsenal of Christian-bashing pseudo-pseudo [fallacious] supposed “arguments”. Thus, we observe that atheist Bob Seidensticker, whom I have also refuted 35 times (and again with utterly no reply back, since he is just as much an intellectual coward as Dr. Madison) brought this up in his hit-piece, “Yet More on the Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)” (12-2-15), where he pontificated:

10. Germs? What germs?

The Bible isn’t a reliable source of health information. . . . physical health and basic hygienic precautions are not obvious and are worth a mention somewhere. How about telling us that boiling water minimizes disease? Or how to site latrines to safeguard the water supply?

I’ll re-post my lengthy and (I think) devastating reply to this accusation in a moment. But first let me provide my previous answer to his closing lie / potshot:

Let me close with a paraphrase of an idea from AronRa: When the answer is known, science knows it. But when science doesn’t know it, neither does religion.

That’s not true. As shown, Hippocrates, the pagan Greek “father of medicine” didn’t understand the causes of contagious disease. Nor did medical science until the 19th century. But the hygienic principles that would have prevented the spread of such diseases were in the Bible: in the Laws of Moses.

St. Augustine in the 5th century and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th, both rejected astrology long before modern science, while even the most prominent modern scientists in the 16th-17th centuries, such as GalileoTycho Brahe, and Kepler firmly believed in it.

I could go on and on, but just a few examples suffice to decisively refute a foolishly ignorant universal negative claim.

And of course, modern science (virtually the atheist’s religion: “scientism”), for all its admirable qualities and glories (I love science!) is not without much embarrassing error and foolishness, and skeletons in its own closet: like belief in the 41-year successful hoax of “Piltdown Man”. This is true even up to very recent times, as I have detailed for atheists’ convenience.

***

Here, then, is my reply (from over two months ago, contra Seidensticker’s similar “argument”) to the supposed “slam-dunk” against Christianity (made by Tim Sledge and ballyhooed by Dr. David Madison): alleged ignorance of God and the Bible regarding germs and their devastating effects:

***

Once again, five minutes searching on Google would have prevented Bob from spewing more ignorance about the Bible. The Bible Ask site has an article, “Did the Bible teach the germs theory?” (5-30-16):

The Bible writers did not write a medical textbook. However, there are numerous rules for sanitation, quarantine, and other medical procedures (found in the first 5 book of the OT) . . .

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818 –1865), who was a Hungarian physician, . . . [He] proposed the practice of washing hands with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 . . . He published a book of his findings in Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever. Despite various publications of his successful results, Semmelweis’s suggestions were not accepted by the medical community of his time.

Why was Semmelweis research rejected? Because germs were virtually a foreign concept for the Europeans in the middle-19th-century. . . .

Had the medical community paid attention to God’s instructions that were given 3000 years before, many lives would have been saved. The Lord gave the Israelites hygienic principles against the contamination of germs and taught the necessity to quarantine the sick (Numbers 19:11-12). And the book of Leviticus lists a host of diseases and ways where a person would come in contact with germs (Leviticus 13:46).

Germs were no new discovery in 1847. And for this fact, Roderick McGrew testified in the Encyclopedia of Medical History: “The idea of contagion was foreign to the classic medical tradition and found no place in the voluminous Hippocratic writings. The Old Testament, however, is a rich source for contagionist sentiment, especially in regard to leprosy and venereal disease” (1985, pp. 77-78).

Some other interesting facts regarding the Bible and germ theory:

1. The Bible contained instructions for the Israelites to wash their bodies and clothes in running water if they had a discharge, came in contact with someone else’s discharge, or had touched a dead body. They were also instructed about objects that had come into contact with dead things, and about purifying items with an unknown history with either fire or running water. They were also taught to bury human waste outside the camp, and to burn animal waste (Num 19:3-22; Lev. 11:1-4715:1-33; Deut 23:12).

2. Leviticus 13 and 14 mention leprosy on walls and on garments. Leprosy is a bacterial disease, and can survive for three weeks or longer apart from the human body. Thus, God commanded that the garments of leprosy victims should be burned (Lev 13:52).

3. It was not until 1873 that leprosy was shown to be an infectious disease rather than hereditary. Of course, the laws of Moses already were aware of that (Lev 13, 14, 22; Num 19:20). It contains instructions about quarantine and about quarantined persons needing to thoroughly shave and wash. Priests who cared for them also were instructed to change their clothes and wash thoroughly. The Israelites were the only culture to practice quarantine until the 19th century, when medical advances discovered the biblical medical principles and practices.

4. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” (born 460 BC), thought “bad air” from swampy areas was the cause of disease.

See also: “Old Testament Laws About Infectious Diseases.”

The entry on “Health” in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology reveals that ordinary medicinal remedies were widely practiced in Bible times. There wasn’t solely a belief that sin or demons caused all disease (as Bob often implies in his anti-Christian writings, and in this paper: “According to the Bible, evil spirits cause disease.”). There was also a natural cause-and-effect understanding:

Ordinary means of healing were of most diverse kinds. Balm ( Gen 37:25 ) is thought to have been an aromatic resin (or juice) with healing properties; oil was the universal emollient ( Isa 1:6 ), and was sometimes used for wounds with cleansing wine ( Luke 10:34 ). Isaiah recommended a fig poultice for a boil ( 38:21 ); healing springs and saliva were thought effectual ( Mark 8:23 ; John 5 ; 9:6-7 ). Medicine is mentioned ( Prov 17:22 ) and defended as “sensible” ( Sirach 38:4). Wine mixed with myrrh was considered sedative ( Mark 15:23 ); mint, dill, and cummin assisted digestion ( Matt 23:23 ); other herbs were recommended for particular disorders. Most food rules had both ritual and dietary purposes, while raisins, pomegranates, milk, and honey were believed to assist restoration. . . .

Luke’s constant care of Paul reminds us that nonmiraculous means of healing were not neglected in that apostolic circle. Wine is recommended for Timothy’s weak stomach, eye-salve for the Thyatiran church’s blindness (metaphorical, but significant).

Doctors today often note how the patient’s disposition and attitude has a strong effect on his health or recovery. The mind definitely influences the body. Solomon understood this in several of his Proverbs: written around 950 BC (Prov 14:30; 15:30; 16:24; 17:22).

***

Further note of 12-10-19: since Jesus observed Mosaic Law, including ritual washings, etc., He tacitly accepted (by His example of following it) the aspects of it that anticipated and “understood” germ theory. The knowledge was already in existence.

***

Unfortunately, Money Trees Do Not Exist: If you have been aided in any way by my work, or think it is valuable and worthwhile, please strongly consider financially supporting it (even $10 / month — a mere 33 cents a day — would be very helpful). I have been a full-time Catholic apologist since Dec. 2001, and have been writing Christian apologetics since 1981 (see my Resume). My work has been proven (by God’s grace alone) to be fruitful, in terms of changing lives (see the tangible evidences from unsolicited “testimonies”). I have to pay my bills like all of you: and have a (homeschooling) wife and three children still at home to provide for, and a mortgage to pay.
*
My book royalties from three bestsellers in the field (published in 2003-2007) have been decreasing, as has my overall income, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.  I provide over 2600 free articles here, for the purpose of your edification and education, and have written 50 books. It’ll literally be a struggle to survive financially until Dec. 2020, when both my wife and I will be receiving Social Security. If you cannot contribute, I ask for your prayers (and “likes” and links and shares). Thanks!
*
See my information on how to donate (including 100% tax-deductible donations). It’s very simple to contribute to my apostolate via PayPal, if a tax deduction is not needed (my “business name” there is called “Catholic Used Book Service,” from my old bookselling days 17 or so years ago, but send to my email: apologistdave@gmail.com). Another easy way to send and receive money (with a bank account or a mobile phone) is through Zelle. Again, just send to my e-mail address. May God abundantly bless you.
*
***
Photo credit: Portrait of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865), the Hungarian-Austrian physician, who discovered the principles of germ theory and hygiene, some 3000 years after Moses taught them in what became the Old Testament. Better late than never! This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive). [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license]
***
December 10, 2019

Dr. David Madison is an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University.  You can see (by the number in the title) how many times I have replied to his videos or articles. Thus far, I haven’t heard one peep back from him  (since 8-1-19 to this date). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. All I’ve seen is expressions of contempt from Dr. Madison and from his buddy, atheist author and polemicist, the extraordinarily volatile John Loftus, who runs the notoriously insulting Debunking Christianity blog.

Loftus even went to the length of changing his blog’s rules of engagement, in order for himself and Dr. Madison to avoid replying to me. Obviously, I have “hit a nerve” over there. In any event, their utter non-responses and intellectual cowardice do not affect me in the slightest. No skin off of my back. If I want to critique more of their material, I will. If my replies go out unopposed, all the better for my cause.

This is a reply to Dr. Madison’s article, O Holy Night! How Matthew Screwed Up the Christmas Story (12-21-18).  Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue below.

*****

We can imagine the literary agents for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John meeting for drinks one Friday evening after work. They all get texts that the church’s Authorized Bible Committee has decided to publish the four gospels together, back-to-back. They all wince. Not a good idea! This will encourage the faithful to compare the four Jesus accounts. Matthew and Luke plagiarized (and altered) Mark extensively—without telling anyone—and the author of John’s gospel was pretty sure that the other three hadn’t told the story well at all, and made up stuff to ‘improve’ to tale. What a mess.

Very cute. Of course, this is sheer cynical speculation, and so has no argumentative value whatsoever. It’s simply thrown out as red meat for online anti-theist atheist audiences, who will (as long experience invariably illustrates) sop up any dig at Christianity, no matter how imbecilic or devoid of substance. Of course, what atheists like Madison never seem to realize is: why in the world would thisAuthorized Bible Committee” publish all four gospels if in fact (assuming for the sake of argument), they are a mess of endless contradictions? It makes no sense. But that’s what this silly atheist “scenario” would entail.

But, never fear, it would be many centuries before the faithful would have access to the Bible, and even when they could have their own copies, they would never develop the habit of critically comparing the four gospels. These were holy books, after all, and anything that seemed fishy or hard to swallow was just part of the mystery.

There came a time, however, when pious New Testament scholars decided to study the gospels using the methods of historians, and it became a challenge to explain the mess. Specifically, this was the beginning of the end for the familiar birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, which fail on all accounts as history. But let’s take a close look at Matthew’s version as if he thought he was telling the truth.

For dissident liberals, who deny the inspiration of the Bible and approach Scripture like a butcher does a hog, they will end up finding what they desire to find, based on their prior lack of faith and incoherent worldview. For them (at least the most extreme ones) and for Dr. Madison, Matthew is simply a deliberate liar with an agenda.

But  there is quite a bit of literature, too, from serious historic Christians, dealing with difficulties that naturally come up (as with all complex issues) and with all the so-called, trumped-up alleged “contradictions” that atheists imagine: which are almost always not even logical contradictions at all, but simply different but complementary texts. I’ve dealt with this mentality time and again in my own apologetics (and in my previous 35 replies to Dr. Madison). But again, it sounds good to the anti-theists, so (like all good sophists) Madison uses it.

Familiar traditions have staying power, and Christians aren’t about to give up their Nativity Scenes, with shepherds and Wise Men worshipping the baby Jesus in a stable. The folks in the pews don’t seem to notice that this depiction is an impossible mash-up of Matthew and Luke. These two authors wrote different stories about the birth of Jesus—

This is actually correct, and it’s the Bible scholars who tell us that the wise men actually visited two years later. The Nativity scenes are simply engaging in what might be called “dramatic compression.” As an analogy, in the recent movie about the musical group The Four Seasons (Jersey Boys), it portrayed lead singer Frankie Valli sadly enduring the death of his youngest daughter Francine in the year 1967, whereas it was actually in 1980. There were other liberties taken as to when there were dramatic conflicts and departures of certain members of the band (with “errors” as much as five years off). I’m sure similar anomalies could be found in the recent biopics of Freddie Mercury of Queen and Elton John.

Movies do this all the time (mostly because biopics have two hours or so to deal with biographies and the entire lives of real people, so they conflate or compress events). So why is it inconceivable that Christians (with the sanction of the Church) might do it with regard to nativity scenes and the wise men? It’s simply putting different elements of the early life of Jesus together, for the sake of devotion and reflection. The time of the visit of the wise men is not nearly as important as the fact that they visited Jesus at all. The time isn’t the essence of it. This sort of thing doesn’t have to be either ignorance or dishonesty.

actually, Matthew doesn’t describe the birth of Jesus at all—and if Christians paid attention, they could figure it out. . . . Matthew’s story doesn’t even take place at Christmas time; he says nothing whatever about the night Jesus was born. No stable, no shepherds, no angels.

Why does he have to do that? In other words, I question Dr. Madison’s false premise. Where is it written that every Gospel account must include details of Jesus’ birth? Christians believe that, in God’s providence, the Gospels complement each other and have different emphases. What in the world is wrong with that? It’s just plain dumb “reasoning.” Luke was the one with the details of the birth and the Annunciation nine months prior. Matthew just offers a few bare facts (“Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king”: 2:1, RSV), Mark offers none (it starts with John the Baptist and Jesus at age 30, at the start of His public ministry), and John has no “birth facts” (it starts with theological words about trinitarianism, the incarnation, and the divinity of Christ; again, a different emphasis).

he seems to have timed their [the wise men’s] visit well after Jesus’ birth. . . . When they arrived in Bethlehem—after a detour to Jerusalem (more about that later)—they came to the house (not a stable) where Mary and the child were Matthew 2:11). Not a newborn, but a paidion—the Greek word for little child. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus himself uses the same word, “Permit the children to come unto me.” 

Exactly! Now how is this a supposed “difficulty” for Christianity, or some kind of “lie”? I won’t hold my breath for an answer, since — as I noted above — Dr. Madison completely ignores every criticism of his articles I make. My readers can see how silly all of this is.

The newborn babe (Greek brephos), in swaddling clothes in a manger, is found in Luke’s account of the night Jesus was born, presumably weeks or months earlier. So the Nativity Scenes that include the Wise Men kneeling in front of a trough to present their gifts is part of the impossible mash-up. Note also Matthew 2:16, which reports Herod’s dragnet to eliminate Jesus: “…he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.”

That’s precisely how Bible scholars have deduced that he wise men visited Jesus at about two years of age. Ho hum . . .

The Jesus in Matthew’s story could have been a toddler. So please, Christians, get those Wise Men out of the stable!

Again: why do we have to: anymore than the film Jersey Boys must be meticulously accurate as to the years that events portrayed in it actually happened. Once again: the essence of the thing is that the wise men (who were Gentiles, not Jews, and of a different religion: probably Zoroastrianism) visited Jesus, offering gifts and adoration, not when they visited. So the nativities simply compress the time frame to present all of it together, just as biographical films do all the time.

It’s much ado about nothing: which is a good summary of the entirety of the Bible-bashing work of Dr. Madison. I have shown myself (now literally 36 times) how he is in error and commits illogical fallacies over and over and over. But he doesn’t care. His goal isn’t to arrive at the truth or fuller understanding of these matters, but rather, to drive as many Christians away from Christianity, and into a hatred of their former belief, as possible. It’s all “chum” for the hungry anti-theist atheist sharks circling the Christian “boat.” It reduces to humorous folly in our view, but we also pity and pray for the poor man, to emerge from his self-imposed bondage to falsehoods and the slop of atheist disbelief.

Mixing Theology with Astrology

Even more inept, however, is Matthew’s invention of astrologers ‘from the East’ in the first place. Why would they even bother with the birth of a Jewish messiah? How in the world could they ‘see a star’ and infer that it had anything do to with a bit of Jewish theology? Well, astrologers talk even more nonsense than theologians do, so No, Matthew, this doesn’t make sense.

There have been several in-depth treatments of the wise men. Dr. Madison asks questions only rhetorically and polemically: never hoping to actually receive any sort of answer from us stupid Christians. But we actually examine the thing in the greatest depth:

Catholic Encyclopedia (“Magi”)

“The Magi” (Fr. William Saunders)

“Who Were the Three Wise Men?” (Fr. Dwight Longenecker)

Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men (2017 book by Fr. Dwight Longenecker)

“Wise Men from the East and the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord” (Sandra Miesel)

“The Magi” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

“Magi” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

And how can Christians be comfortable with the embrace of astrology anyway, especially concerning the story of Jesus? That omens in the sky relate to famous humans was a common superstition of the time; do Christians really want to go there? It would be hard to figure how astrology—the notion that human destinies are determined by star and planetary alignments—can be spliced into Christian theology. Astrology thrives where there is no grasp of confirmation bias and the capacity for critical thought has collapsed; theology has weak epistemology, astrology has none at all.

We don’t embrace astrology, nor does the Bible. It simply recounts the story of people who believed in astrology finding out about a very significant birth. All truth is God’s truth. Many great scientists (even those lionized by atheists) like Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler were enamored of astrology (and Newton with alchemy and the occult), while folks like Augustine and Aquinas (lowly theologian types) were not at all.

Why the Nile?

Matthew’s goofs get even worse. He is well known for his outrageous out-of-context quotes from the Old Testament to ‘prove’ that Jesus was the messiah, and perhaps the most egregious example is his use (Matt 2:15) of Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Yes, Hosea meant Israel. But Matthew wanted desperately to make this apply to Jesus. How was he to get Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt?

Well, here is an excellent article that deals with the question: “Out of Egypt I Called My Son” (Kevin DeYoung).

God told Joseph in a dream that Herod was about to go on a rampage, so they should flee to…where? Why would they go to Egypt of all places? It’s not as if the toddler Jesus had been branded somehow (the halo wasn’t added until artists worked on the story much later), so the Holy Family could have blended in among the peasantry almost anywhere away from Bethlehem. But for Matthew’s contrived plot, it had to be Egypt.

They probably went there because Herod had no jurisdiction there. It was a populated place relatively close, away from Roman Judea. Dr. Madison simply assumes without proof that Matthew “made it up” so as to dishonestly fulfill and Old Testament prophecy. When it comes to the Bible, he’s usually a stranger to rational argument. How odd for a man who has a doctorate in biblical studies. It depends on what one studies and whether one is operating with false premises.

Eventually they had to go home again. But where was home? Joseph planned to return to Judea (Matt. 2:22)—back to Bethlehem, presumably—but that was still unsafe, so “…he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth…” Sounds like for the first time! Matthew’s assumption was that Joseph and Mary had lived in Bethlehem all along.

Luke thought they were originally based in Nazareth, and he had to contrive a way to get them to Bethlehem for the birth. Hence he told of a census that required people to go to their ancestral homes to be ‘registered.’ On several grounds historians have dismissed the story as nonsense. There obviously was a strong tradition that Jesus was from Nazareth; Luke had Mary and Joseph there from the beginning; Matthew got them there after abandoning their home in Bethlehem. More of the impossible mash-up.

There is no problem here. Much ado about nothing. I dealt with these sorts of groundless assertions in the following articles:

The Census, Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem, & History [2-3-11]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Herod’s Death & Alleged “Contradictions” (with Jimmy Akin) [7-25-17]

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: Bethlehem & Nazareth “Contradictions” (Including Extensive Exegetical Analysis of Micah 5:2) [7-28-17]

The Star Screws Up

Earlier I called the story of the Wise Men ‘disastrous” because, the way Matthew spins it, a lot of babies ended up getting killed. He reports that the astrologers headed to Jerusalem to inquire where the holy child could be found. The top religious bureaucrats, consulted by an alarmed King Herod, agreed that Bethlehem was the place, based on Micah 5:2, “…for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” So the Wise Men set out for Bethlehem, but now—wait for it—the star had turned into a GPS!

“…and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen …until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” (Matthew 2:9-10) . . . 

In fact we are talking about a major plot flaw, and a bungling God who didn’t think things through; or was it just Matthew who didn’t notice God’s incompetence? 

For thorough Christian treatments of the topic of the star of Bethlehem, see:

“The Star of Bethlehem” (T. Michael Davis)

“Star of the Magi” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

“Seeking the Star of Bethlehem” (Jimmy Akin)

That Other Famous Misquote

I might get pushback for my suggestion earlier that Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 was his most egregious misquote. His biggest blunder, no doubt, which was noticed long ago and has been discussed ad infinitum, is his use of a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 in the Greek version of the Old Testament: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” In the original Hebrew, the word isn’t virgin at all, but simply young woman and, in the context of Isaiah 7 concerned a political/military situation at the time. It had nothing whatever to do with the birth of a messiah centuries later. In pulling this text into his story, Matthew was sloppy or devious—maybe both.

I and many others have dealt with this false accusation, too:

Reply to Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce: “Mistranslation” of “Virgin”? (Isaiah 7:14) (with Glenn Miller) [7-26-17]

But the even bigger question is why Matthew thought it was a good idea to graft virgin birth onto the Jesus story. This concept clearly derived from other religions of the ancient world . . . Was it a matter of ‘anything your god can do, my god can do better’? Or did Matthew just want to make sure that Jesus’ divine pedigree was guaranteed? “…the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20).

Maybe because . . . it was actually true? Just a thought . . .  We can’t prove that it was true (i.e., we can’t examine the actual conception — be there before it took place — to see if it was miraculous).  But neither can Madison and our overlord atheist superiors prove that it did not happen. Dr. Madison simply assumes it didn’t, because his overall belief that miracles are either impossible or cannot and have not in fact been sufficiently proven / documented, precludes him from accepting the virgin birth even before he ever examines the question.

This is a minority opinion in the New Testament, by the way. Luke ran with it enthusiastically, but Mark knew nothing about it; for him the status of Jesus was sealed at his baptism and his Transfiguration. For the apostle Paul, the resurrection was all that mattered, and he probably wouldn’t have mentioned virgin birth even if he had heard of it. The author of John’s gospel most certainly knew of Matthew’s story, but didn’t need it, didn’t want it: his Jesus had been present at creation! Maybe he thought virgin birth was, by his time, a cliché.

Now here is a classic example of a trumped-up “contradiction” or “difficulty” in Scripture that is in fact none at all. It’s Dr. Madison who is thinking illogically. Here’s a bit of logical analysis at no extra charge: to not mention a thing is not the equivalent of a denial of the same thing. Let me illustrate by analogy. The two following statements are both true:

Dave: “Yesterday we visited downtown and went ice skating.”

Dave’s wife Judy: “Yesterday we visited downtown, had lunch at a great Italian restaurant, went ice skating, and caught the bus home.” 

Are these two statements contradictory? No, not at all. One simply has more information and a recounting of facts than the other (which happens in the Gospel accounts innumerable times). Judy’s account includes the information that lunch was enjoyed downtown, and that a bus was taken home. Did Dave deny those two things? Not logically. He simply highlighted the most important aspects of the visit: the place and their main reason for going (eating lunch and taking a bus being “secondary” details). If — logically speaking — Dave were to truly contradict Judy’s account, he would have to say something like:

“Yesterday we visited downtown and ice skating is all that we did, before returning by car.”

That is undeniably a contradiction to Judy’s account, by the rules of logic, because it denied that lunch was also eaten downtown, and differs in the mode of transportation. But in “Madison-logic” and that of so many atheists in analyzing the Bible, the first two statements above would be “contradictory.” Madison would conclude that Dave denied the fact of the downtown lunch and the bus trip home, because he didn’t see fit to mention them. After all, he claims that Gospel writer Markknew nothing about” the virgin birth because he didn’t mention that.

For Dr. Madison, the virgin birth is a “minority opinion in the New Testament” because it’s mentioned very few times. For Christians and logical thinkers, we believe in the inspiration of Scripture (for many good reasons, but ultimately as an article of faith and belief). If in fact all of the Bible is inspired (which means literally “God-breathed” and God’s revelation of Himself), the virgin birth need not be noted or recorded in every book. Even once is enough to suffice. That’s the outlook of Christian faith. But my primary concern here is to show how Dr. Madison is not even thinking logically: even before we get to questions of faith.

One of the unfortunate consequences has been the idealization of chastity, and the exaggeration of Mary’s virtue. Indeed, in Catholic piety, Mary had to remain a virgin to preserve her special holiness; this is a challenge to Catholic apologists since the gospels mention Jesus’ siblings!

Actually, in Catholic thinking and theology, Mary didn’t have to (that is, necessarily in all possible worlds) be a perpetual virgin, anymore than she “had to” be immaculately conceived. In this strict sense, Jesus didn’t even have to necessarily become a man and die on the cross, either, if God the Father had in fact simply decided to proclaim all human beings (or a certain number) forgiven: a forgiveness that they would have to receive on their end. We believe that both things are fitting and appropriate and that they both actually happened in fact.

The Bible has more than enough information in it to explain the use of the term “brothers” in the Hebraic sense, which could refer to (just as it also does in English) far more than merely siblings. Since that is a rabbit trail, I refer readers to many of my articles on the topic in its own section, on my web page about the Blessed Virgin Mary. And it’s not only “Catholic piety.” All of the original Protestant “Reformers” believed the same thing, as have the Orthodox all along.

Virgin Birth = another installment of magical thinking. This doesn’t help make the case for Christianity.

The virgin birth is what it is: an actual historical event. It was a miracle, fitting for the incarnate God, Who is a pretty special human being, after all. Dr. Madison denies and ridicules all miracles, and for him they can only be fictional “magic.” He’s bound and prohibited from free inquiry by his false presuppositions, that have no basis themselves. No one has ever “proven” that no miracle could ever possibly occur, or that an omnipotent God (assuming for a moment that He exists) could not bring one about.

In Dreamland

Matthew reports that Joseph heard from God in dreams, and even the Wise Men were “warned about Herod” in a dream. A novelist has the ‘omniscient perspective,’ i.e., he/she knows what’s going on inside the heads of the characters. Those who claim that Matthew’s story is history have to explain how the author knew the content of the dreams.

I can think of at least two scenarios right off the bat:

1) Since biblical writing is divinely inspired, God could have directly revealed this fact to Matthew, just as He revealed things to Abraham and Moses, and the prophets, and St. Paul at his conversion, and St. John in the revelations of the last book of the New Testament, and to many other people.

2) The disciples knew Mary the mother of Jesus, who lived some years after Jesus’ death. For example, the Bible informs us that Mary was with the disciples in the upper room, when they received the Holy Spirit  on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:13-14). Early Christian tradition tells us that the apostle John lived with her in Ephesus. Thus, it’s a simple matter (and possibility): Joseph could have told Mary about the dream he had. Later Mary told Matthew, or told someone else, from whom he heard the story. It’s “earwitness” testimony of a second person, in relation to the person who experienced it.

Now ask yourselves: why is it that Dr. Madison didn’t seem to be able to imagine or comprehend such a scenario?

Of course, people have dreams, so that’s not the issue. However, for Matthew the historian to report the content of the dreams—what God said to Joseph, for example—he would have needed access to some kind of contemporary documentation: that’s how history is written. If Joseph had kept a diary in which he wrote down what God told him, well, that’s the kind of documentation Matthew could have used. It doesn’t mean that a god really did speak to Joseph, but it would be documentation of what Joseph thought his god told him.

I just explained in #2 above a perfectly plausible, sensible, rational scenario where this very thing could have happened.

Since there is no evidence whatever that there was a diary and since we know that Matthew fails as a careful historian, then it’s no surprise that we find his use of the omniscient perspective in creating this fantasy literature.

Rather, it’s no surprise that Dr. Madison has so “dumbed himself down” in his rejection of the gospel and Christianity, that he can’t even imagine a simple procedure: “Joseph told Mary about x; Mary told Matthew about x, or told someone else who told Matthew.” Such skepticism causes folks to become less rational and logical.

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Photo credit: St. Matthew and the Angel (bet. 1635-1640), by Guido Reni (1575-1642) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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September 7, 2019

. . . and Ignoring of 35 of My Critiques of His Anti-Christian Polemics

Here’s how he does it (posted on 9-6-19):
This is a time of distress for Christian apologists. These are the die-hards who brag that they are devotees—in a professional capacity, no less—of the ancient Jesus mystery cult. They feel compelled to defend it at whatever cost. But times are changing, and they face challenges unknown to earlier apologists. . . .
So the burden of the apologist has become heavy indeed, and some don’t handle the anguish well. They vent and rage at critics, like toddlers throwing tantrums when a threadbare security blanket gets tossed out. We can smell their panic. Engaging with the ranters serves no purpose—any more than it does to engage with Flat-Earthers, Chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and those who argue that the moon landings were faked.
The five stages of Bible grief provide opportunities to initiate dialogue. I prefer to engage with NON-obsessive-compulsive-hysterical Christians, those who have spotted rubbish in the Bible, and might already have one foot out the door.
It’s a foolproof method: simply ignore any critic of your criticism on the grounds that they are panicked, hysterical ranters who merely throw temper tantrums, and are on the level of flat-earthers and fake moon landing kooks.
 
Poisoning the well and ad hominem at its finest . . .
 
It rather spectacularly confirms a point that I’ve made for a long time, about actively polemical, “preachy,” anti-theist atheists. I wrote, for example, in July 2017:
Many online atheists are extremely insulting towards Christians. Atheists love to interact with dumb Christians: it confirms to them that they were right in rejecting Christianity (baby-bathwater stuff, but still . . .). Atheists have a vested interest in thinking that Christianity is stupid and that Christians are imbeciles.
This refers, I should say, to the large strain of anti-theist atheists. Not all atheists are anti-theists: those who spend their days and nights gloating about how supposedly stupid and gullible all of us Christians are. But many, many are of this mindset, and they are clearly predominant in online atheist venues.
 
So Dr. Madison’s game is very apparent and transparent: he’s out to propagandize and brainwash Christians to forsake their faith, just as he did. He has no interest whatever in intelligent, respectful discussion with any Christian who actually can put up a fight and offer substantive criticism of his arguments. It doesn’t further his purposes (to put it mildly) if his readers ever see that he is wrong in an argument, or that a lowly, idiotic, fairy-tale believing Christian presents a much more plausible case. It can’t possibly happen (atheists being so intellectually superior to us), so he makes sure that it never happens by excluding and refusing to enter into all such dialogue (including replying to my 35 critiques) from the outset.
 
That ain’t part of the agenda. So what does a guy like him do? He does exactly what we see above: lie about the critic and paint him in the worst possible light, so as to dismiss him and act as if his challenge is nonexistent. Apologists for Christianity like myself are panicked, hysterical ranters who merely throw temper tantrums, and are on the level of flat-earthers and fake moon landing kooks. That’s me, down to a tee, isn’t it? 
 
John Loftus, who runs the Debunking Christianity site where Madison posts, used the same unethical tactic in the last few weeks: for him (i.e., how he deludes himself and pretends, to maintain his game) I am a relentlessly “angry” person who “hates” anyone I disagree with. If you dare to disagree with anyone today, you get immediately pegged as a hater. What they call “hatred” and “anger,” I simply call honest intellectual differences and constructive dialogue.
 
These guys have no interest in actual dialogue, and so they have to smear those who advocate it and who threaten to overturn their nice little anti-theist atheist apple cart: who dare to pull back the curtain and expose what the Great Oz really is like.
 
I’m critiquing John Loftus’ book, Why I Became an Atheist now. There is no sign that he will be any more willing to interact than Dr. Madison, or Bob Seidensticker, who has also ignored 35 critiques of his stuff that he himself challenged me to write.
 
The game is up with all these clowns. Whatever one thinks of their atheism, wholly apart from that, they demonstrate over and over again that they are intellectual cowards, unable to defend their own positions, and lacking the courage of their convictions.
 
Small fry like me should be the easiest thing in the world for Madison, Loftus, and Seidensticker to dispose of: if indeed they believed their own triumphalistic, flatulent rhetoric and hideously inflated and exaggerated claims to supreme confidence in their own opinions. But they don’t. They name-call, lie, and flee for the hills. It’s obvious why they do it. They’re not fooling anyone who isn’t already a blind faith true believer in their pitiful cause of “proving” to the world that God doesn’t exist.
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Photo credit: No Swimming (1921), by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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August 30, 2019

“Scary” & “Vindictive” Yahweh? / Endless Stupefied Insults of God / Judgment Explained Yet Again  

This is an installment of my replies to a series of articles on the epistle to the Romans (written by St. Paul) by Dr. David Madison: an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His summary article is called, “Bad Bible Theology: Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Let me count the ways…that Paul got it wrong” (2-26-18). He devotes a paper to each chapter. Unless he repeats himself (a bad habit of his) or descends to sheer biblical skepticism (which I have less than no interest in), I will reply to all. 

The introduction is basically a catalogue of rank insults, where he calls St. Paul “a crank” and a “delusional cult fanatic” and “the prototype for Christian crazies” and “an obsessive-compulsive mediocre thinker and bad theologian” and “an embarrassment.” He adds: “how can anyone take this guy seriously?” That about covers the “content” there. Bears poop in the woods, brats throw fits, squirrels walk telephone lines, and the prevalent anti-theist brand of atheists insult Christians. Ho hum. What else is new?

Thus far, I have counter-replied to 35 of Dr. Madison’s critiques, without hearing one peep back from him as of yet (30 days’ total time, starting on 8-1-19). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. I know he’s still alive and kicking, because I’ve seen him write other posts during this same period (example one / two / three).

Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue below.

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Dr. Madison calls his critique of Romans chapter 11, “The Nasty, Get-Even God of the New Testament: A few items that the cherry-pickers don’t pick” (9-22-17).

On a recent post here I asked how the apostle Paul could possibly have known that there are “spiritual” bodies; this claim, of course, is yet another clue that his grip on reality was shaky at best (and I do exclude his hallucinations of the risen Jesus as a source of data). But a Christian apologist had a simple answer: that God had told him. Silly me, why didn’t I think of that? 

Yes, if there is a God, then there can clearly be revelation from that God (no problem for an all-powerful Being). As always, Dr. Madison never disproves the possibility of revelation; he simply mocks it as self-evidently ludicrous. 

It is a major misfortune when seer and theologian are combined in the same person, especially when that person is unhinged.

I think this is actually a new gratuitous insult of the Apostle Paul. I thought Dr. Madison had made every imaginable one, but alas . . . and I suppose he’ll come up with even more, before this sordid series is over.

And a few of Paul’s sentences here drive home the point that his theology was pretty grim. This charter document of the faith does not move Christianity beyond the vindictive God of the Old Testament—despite all of the hype to the contrary. Paul was sure that God’s default emotion was wrath.

To the contrary, Paul taught that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), that — right in this same chapter — He has “mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32), and that “he died for all” (2 Cor 5:15). That is “default” wrath? All we have to do is accept His free offer of grace and salvation. But many persons reject that, and then turn around and absurdly blame God as a Big Meanie. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it (like blaming a Governor when a life sentence prisoner rejects his pardon)?

In other words, he belonged to the ancient Yahweh cult, which was devoted to a scary, vindictive god. Moreover, he saw the cosmos as the plaything of that deity, . . . 

Truly, there is a nasty, get-even god prowling the New Testament as well as the Old. And Paul’s biggest fans, mean-spirited evangelicals today, who can’t wait for God to get even with sinners, . . . 

Paul’s god fails the decency test.

Right; what a horrific, spooky God, Who said stuff like (or was described as) the following evil, wicked things (as recorded in the Old Testament):

Deuteronomy 23:5 (RSV) the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.

Deuteronomy 32:9-12 For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. [10] “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. [11] Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, [12] the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him.

Psalm 103:3-5 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, [4] who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, [5] who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Isaiah 43:4 . . . you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, . . .

Isaiah 49:15-16 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. [16] Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands; . . .

Isaiah 51:16 . . . I have put my words in your mouth, and hid you in the shadow of my hand, . . .

Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 62:4-5 . . . the LORD delights in you . . . [5] . . . as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 63:7, 9 I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. . . . [9] . . . in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;

Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Jeremiah 32:38-41 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. [39] I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. [40] I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. [41] I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Hosea 2:19 And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.

who had chosen one specific tribe—the descendants of Abraham—as his favorite.

I guess that’s why He judged them over and over for disobedience in the Old Testament (one highlight being the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 BC and all the Jews being taken captive to Babylon), because He was playing favorites. As Tevye, the Jewish milkman in the wonderful film, Fiddler on the Roof, said, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”

Dr. Madison goes on to catalogue a dirty laundry list of God’s supposed iniquities and sins: “It seems that God plays a role in leading people to sin”. I’ve covered this gross misunderstanding many times now and will not waste time doing it yet again. “this short-tempered god has little patience:”. I’ve dealt with God’s fair and just justice already too: most notably in part one and part two of this series, and my arfticle, Madison vs. Jesus #9: Clueless Re Rebellion & Judgment. “God is The Supreme Manipulator.” I guess that is how an atheist who thoroughly misunderstands God and distorts His revelation at every turn sees Him. How sad and pathetic.

They want The Man Upstairs to be a benevolent figure, their Cosmic Buddy—a great and wonderful wizard.

God is indeed loving and merciful and forgiving, as I demonstrated above that the Old Testament (believe it or not) teaches.

They don’t read the tedious theological tomes that I referenced earlier. Neither do they read Paul’s letters—other than to slog through the New Testament on the chapter-a-day plan.

That’s right. Christians (especially Catholics) are woefully deficient in Bible-reading, and in fully learning and grasping theology and why Christians believe what they do (which is where I can be of some aid, as an apologist). But we digress . . . 

Paul’s god will preserve the remnant, those who confess that Christ was raised from the dead, and everyone else in the world be damned—literally. . . . those who don’t accept Christ are just outta luck.

I’ve answered this over and over, but it’s really too stupid and empty-headed to deserve the dignity of any reply.

When the Son of Man comes—so says Matthew’s Jesus (24:37-38)—the suffering will be worse than at the time of Noah…when everyone on earth—except a very tiny remnant—died.

This is another ridiculous and asinine — and repeated — charge, that I disposed of in my article, Dr. David Madison vs. Jesus #3: Nature & Time of 2nd Coming.

It didn’t seem possible that Dr. Madison could get any nastier and vituperative against [a nonexistent] God the Father, Paul, God the Son, Jesus, and the Bible and Christianity than he already has, but he managed to accomplish that infamous feat in this article. God help him. 

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Dr. Madison calls his critique of Romans chapter 12, “A Mash-Up of Cult Babble and Hallmark Moments: Neatly packaged in one Bible chapter” (10-13-17). It’s mostly mockery with little or nothing else of any consequence, let alone exegetical substance, and so I will pass over it.

Likewise, Chapter 13, called, “Nope, the Word Of God Doesn’t Endure Forever: How to be a patriot when the world is about to end” (11-3-17), is a rant about Paul’s statements on obeying governmental leaders and another about Paul not knowing anything at all about Jesus: an argument beloved of the Jesus mythicists that Dr. Madison kowtows to (while — covering all bases — not quite agreeing totally with them). I’m here to debate theology and do comparative exegesis on that, not government. So again, I will pass.

His hit-piece on chapter 14 is entitled, “That Age-Old Story: Trying to Get Christians to Get Along: “Belonging to Jesus” doesn’t seem to help” (11-24-17). Sadly, it, too, is a combination of boring, boorish, and enthusiastic devotion to irrelevant minutiae, with a dose of good ol’ semi-mythicism again thrown in. No thanks. Almost exactly as in his series on Mark, where I decided not to deal with his last four chapter-installments, he seems to be petering out and descending into mere repetitions (always a weak point in his polemics as it is).  Maybe he is as tired of warring against the truth as I am in pointing out how he relentlessly fails in that effort. Who knows? Let’s see if there is anything of note or substance to grapple with in his next piece.

Dr. Madison’s treatment of chapter 15 of Romans is charmingly called, “A Gift of Crackpottery for the Gentiles: The apostle Paul shoulda stayed at home” (12-8-17). Unfortunately, it is a mere idiotic and ridiculous rant: filled with the repeated errors that I have been detailing all along. It’s almost as if a man in a debate has exhausted his brain of all fresh and compelling counter-arguments and has decided to simply toss manure out of a bucket onto his opponent and the audience.

This gives me little hope for chapter 16. Can it possibly be any better? Nope, it’s more of the same. Here we are blessed with yet more of the countless epithets and insults directed towards Paul throughout his ludicrous series: “obsessive-compulsive piety,” “rabbit hole of Christ fanaticism,” “paranoia,” “custodian of the cult,” “a fraud.”

Thus my series of counter-replies has come to an end after eleven installments. As I said in the introduction, which was present from the start: “Unless he repeats himself (a bad habit of his) or descends to sheer biblical skepticism (which I have less than no interest in), I will reply to all.” That was my plan and I stuck to it. Well, folks, he repeated and descended, and so I declined to wallow in the mud with him (at least at a certain point after having now replied eleven times).

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Photo credit: Saints Peter and Paul (c. 1620), anonymous (Roman school) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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August 30, 2019

“Circumcision of the Heart” & the Law / “Being Saved” in Ancient Jewish Scripture

This is an installment of my replies to a series of articles on the epistle to the Romans (written by St. Paul) by Dr. David Madison: an atheist who was a Methodist minister for nine years: with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His summary article is called, “Bad Bible Theology: Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Let me count the ways…that Paul got it wrong” (2-26-18). He devotes a paper to each chapter. Unless he repeats himself (a bad habit of his) or descends to sheer biblical skepticism (which I have less than no interest in), I will reply to all. 

The introduction is basically a catalogue of rank insults, where he calls St. Paul “a crank” and a “delusional cult fanatic” and “the prototype for Christian crazies” and “an obsessive-compulsive mediocre thinker and bad theologian” and “an embarrassment.” He adds: “how can anyone take this guy seriously?” That about covers the “content” there. Bears poop in the woods, brats throw fits, squirrels walk telephone lines, and the prevalent anti-theist brand of atheists insult Christians. Ho hum. What else is new?

Thus far, I have counter-replied to 34 of Dr. Madison’s critiques, without hearing one peep back from him as of yet (29 days’ total time, starting on 8-1-19). This certainly doesn’t suggest to me that he is very confident in his opinions. I know he’s still alive and kicking, because I’ve seen him write other posts during this same period (example one / two / three).

Dr. Madison’s words will be in blue below.

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Dr. Madison calls his critique of Romans chapter 10, “Making Deals with God…: So how’s that working out for you?” (8-25-17). 

And, clever fellow, Paul pulls a fast one to make a point. He quotes Moses . . . to back up his advocacy of faith in Christ. We find this in verse 8:

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)…” This is based on Deuteronomy 30:14: “…the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” We might give first prize for quoting scripture out of context to the writer of Matthew’s gospel, but Paul is no slouch either. (Can we cut them some slack because they believed the Old Testament was a coded text—and they knew the code—to be mined for information about Christ? NO.)

The whole thrust of Deuteronomy 29-30 is Yahweh’s deal (covenant) with Israel: he will be their god if they will be his people—and the key to that deal is their observance of the law. Here are representative texts:

30:9-10: “…and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

30:11: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God[a] that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.”

But all of this had become irrelevant to Paul: righteousness could never be achieved by following the law. Paul tells his readers that the “word” mentioned in Deuteronomy is “the word of faith that WE proclaim”—“we” meaning himself—i.e., Christ provided the magic formula for getting around the law as a measure of righteousness: Paul distorts the text in Deuteronomy. The author of Deuteronomy did not feel that following the law was impossible: “ Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.” It’s no surprise that Paul neglects to quote this verse.

There is no contradiction here at all, as much as Dr. Madison desperately strains to try to create one. Paul has no trouble at all with good works. He encourages them as absolutely necessary, just as Jesus did, as I proved in installment #3. His primary point (often made in his epistles) is that faith and God’s grace are the key things that bring about both the ability to follow God’s moral law and also ultimate salvation.

We have to cooperate with those in order to do any good thing. These elements are present also in the larger passage in Deuteronomy from which Paul draws. It is no surprise that Dr. Madison ignores these particular passages, which provide the key connection. How does a man follow the law, according to Moses? Does he do it on his own power, or by cooperating with God’s?:

Deuteronomy 30:6, 10 (RSV) And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. . . . [10] if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

God provides the necessary power to follow His laws, but man still has the freedom to either walk in that power or spurn it and rebel. Both these strains are present in Moses and the Torah and in Paul. Paul expands upon and develops these motifs in Romans 10:

Romans 10:3, 9-10 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. . . . [9] because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved

What Paul is saying, then, is that this righteousness can’t be obtained merely by trying to follow the law on our own power. It requires God’s grace and “God’s righteousness” (basically the same as grace: which word isn’t used theologically in the Old Testament) or else it is impossible.

It’s made possible by God granting this power, received in and by faith: “God will circumcise your heart.” For more on this broad soteriological theme, see the section, “Eternal Salvation & Damnation in the Old Testament” in installment #4 of this series.

Lucky Paul: he’s the guy that Yahweh chose to update the world on his salvation scheme (God changed his mind?)

No; God didn’t change His mind. He had the “plan” of salvation all “worked out” from “Day One” (being omniscient and outside of time). It merely developed, just like all other Big Ideas (secular or religious) do. The two testaments are perfectly consistent, as I think I have shown. The New is simply more developed.

In Deuteronomy the deal was pretty straightforward: God will treat Israel as his chosen people if they follow his laws and commandments. There is no focus here, by the way, on “being saved”—earning eternal life. That concept did not creep into Judaism until well after the time of the Deuteronomist. What was the reward for keeping God’s commandments? Well, Yahweh would refrain from reigning terror on them (graphically depicted), and would be nice instead, Deut. 30:19-20:

“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors…”

Presented as the words of Moses delivered before the conquest of Canaan, virtually all modern scholars reject its attribution to Moses and date the book much later, between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. Furthermore, scholars have identified multiple literary strata in Deuteronomy, written by different authors at different times. Chapters 12-26, containing the Deuteronomic Code, are the earliest, followed by the second prologue (Ch. 5-11), and then the first prologue (Ch. 1-4); the chapters following 26 are similarly layered. Most scholars believe that the Deuteronomic Code was composed during the late monarchic period, around the time of King Josiah (late 7th century BC), although some scholars have argued for a later date, either during the Babylonian captivity (597-539 BC) or during the Persian period (539-332 BC). (Wikipedia, “Book of Deuteronomy”)

If we accept this schema for the sake of argument, then, also according to Wikipedia (“Book of Job”), “scholars generally agree that it was written between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE, with the 6th century BCE as the most likely period for various reasons.” If we accept this “most likely” 6th century BC date, then it was contemporaneous with Deuteronomy, rather than “well after” its time. And it clearly teaches both afterlife (possibly implied eternal life, too) and bodily resurrection:

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; [26] and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, [27] whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (cf. 14:12-15)

Moreover, if Psalms (notwithstanding the infinite, infallible wisdom of “modern scholars”) can be traced to King David (1000 BC) and his son Solomon, then there is explicit mention of salvation (34:4-8; 49:7-8, 15; 51:1-17; 73:23-25) and eternal life (16:10-11; 21:4, 6; 23:6; 49:9; 73:26) long before “modern scholars” date Deuteronomy. See all these passages in installment #4. Ah, the sublime wonders of atheist biblical “exegesis.”

And even today most of the people on the planet don’t “confess with their lips and believe in their hearts” that Jesus rose from the dead. Thus they are ineligible for salvation according to Paul’s playbook.

No they are not, as I already explained in installment #2. Dr. Madison is again contradicting himself, and one of his own rare concessions to what the Bible and Paul actually teach, just as I showed that he did in my installment #8.

Dr. Madison ends with juvenile, self-refuting insults of St. Paul: “delusional . . . hallucinations. . . wacky cult preachers . . . crank.”

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Photo credit: Saint Peter and Saint Paul (c. 1616), by Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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