April 20, 2019

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath.

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.”

And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “The problem, it seems to me, is when someone gets these clues, like you, but ignores them. I suppose the act of ignoring could be deliberate or just out of apathy, but someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” Again, Bob mocks some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18“You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day“If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18“you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And againYou’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.” Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 31 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or search “Seidensticker Folly #” in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, 9 Tactics Christians Use to Dismiss Bible Embarrassments (2-9-19) Bible-Bashing Bob plays the game of pretending that a logical contradiction is not what it is (“A = not A”). Anyone can go look up the definition of logical contradiction. Check out, for example, “Logical Consistency and Contradiction,” by philosopher G. Randolph Mayes. I’ve written several papers devoted specifically to bogus claims about alleged biblical “contradictions” which in fact, are not at all:

*
Atheist Inventions of Many Bogus “Bible Contradictions” [National Catholic Register, 9-4-18]
*
Bob specializes in inventing this very thing. He glories in it. And, as we shall see, he proudly immerses himself in outright lies and falsehoods and absurdities in this present paper, where he reveals himself to be an open, brazen sophist and literally an enemy of logic. Let’s now look at his “reasoning”:

Tactic 1: Technically, it’s not a contradiction

This excuse splits hairs about the word “contradiction.”

This is very clever, but at bottom is pathetic and intellectually dishonest. Bob appears to think that if one can’t prove that an actual (dictionary / classical logic definition) contradiction is present, then all they have to do is redefine what a contradiction is in the first place. Thus, Bible-Bashing Bob plays the game of pretending that the Christian use of the actual definition of “contradiction” is supposedly “splitting hairs”. We’re the ones parsing and redefining and playing with definitions, and engaging in sophistry, you see, not Bob! He projects what he in fact is doing onto the Christians who defend the Bible against outrageous and false attacks. The real definition of “contradiction” is transmogrified into hair-splitting / Bill Clinton “depends on what is is” pseudo-reasoning and ex post facto rationalization.

A contradiction, they’ll say, is a sentence X that clashes with a sentence not-X, and nothing less precise will do. The two statements must directly and unambiguously contradict each other.

Yes, of course. In other words, a contradiction must be what a contradiction is, according to classical logic. A = A. But Bob objects to this. He wants to pretend that instances of non-contradiction are, in fact, contradiction.

They might apply this to the number of women at the empty tomb. Each gospel identifies a different number of women. For example, John says that it was Mary Magdalene, but Luke says Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James “and the other women.” Apologists will defend the Bible by saying that John didn’t say Mary and only Mary was there, so it’s not a contradiction—at least not technically.

Now his game is to equate alleged fine “technical” distinctions as to the nature of contradictions and to object to the identification and proof of contradiction not being present as merely technical: as if it is not what it is.

This approach might work if the question of women at the tomb were the only problem, but there’s much more than that.

Here’s the key to his whole ridiculous analysis. Because he and other Bible skeptics have difficulty in proving actual biblical contradictions (by the dictionary definition of the word), what they do is collect a multitude of pseudo-contradictions which are not logical contradictions at all, and then rant and carry on that there are just so “many“!!! What he neglects to see is that a pack of 100 lies is no more impressive or compelling than one lie. A falsehood is a falsehood. If a hundred proposed biblical contradictions are all refuted and shown to not be so, then the ones who assert them have not gained any ground at all. They haven’t proven their case one iota, until they prove real contradiction.

And, of course, apologists always resolve the contradiction in favor of their conclusion, which is a supernatural fantasy that is about as far-fetched as it is possible to be. . . . 

Well, we are obviously defending the Bible and Christianity and have our bias, just as the Bible skeptic also is biased in the other direction. But we need not necessarily assume anything (by way of theology) in order to demonstrate that an alleged biblical contradiction is not present. That’s simply a matter of classical logic and reason. One need not even believe in “biblical notion X” in order to argue and assert that opponent of the Bible A has failed to establish internal inconsistencies and contradictions in the biblical account involving biblical notion X. One simply has to show how they have not proven that a contradiction is present in a given biblical text. I’ve done this many times in my previous 31 refutation of Bob’s nonsense.

While you’re haggling with them over the definition of “contradiction,” the Bible problem is ignored, which they count as a win.

Again, we are applying the accepted secular definition. Bob wants to pretend it isn’t what it is, so he can claim that there are numerous “biblical contradictions” which in fact do not exist because the fallacies and errors of the skeptical analysis have been exposed for what they are. Thus he very cleverly (but deceitfully) acts as if the definition of “contradiction” is some mysterious, controversial thing, that Christians spend hours and hours “haggling” over. It’s not. It’s very straightforward and it ain’t rocket science.

If something isn’t contradictory, it’s not a “Bible problem” in the first place. But Bob can’t accept that. He must have at his disposal a catalogue of hundreds of “Bible problems” so that he can pretend that he has an impressive, insurmountable overall case. This has been standard, stock, playbook atheist and Bible skeptic tactics for hundreds of years. They keep doing it because it works for those who are unfamiliar with critical thinking and logic (and the Bible). But the problem is that it’s intellectually dishonest.

Bob then gives a prime example of how he tortures texts (two biblical Gospel accounts of the same general events) into alleged “contradictory” status simply because they differ from each other in non-contradictory ways:

What does “contradiction” mean?

To remember how we evaluate contradictions in everyday life, suppose you’re a newspaper editor. Matthew and Luke have been assigned to the Jesus beat—this is such an important story that you want two journalists working on independent articles—and they drop off their stories (their respective gospels) on your desk. How satisfied would you be?

Not very. You’d call them back and tell them to try again. This isn’t merely Luke having the Parable of the Prodigal Son but Matthew omitting it, and Matthew having the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant but Luke omitting it. Space is limited, and those editorial decisions are understandable, but it’s more than that. Did wise men visit the baby Jesus, or was it shepherds? Was Jesus whisked off to Egypt for his protection or not? Did the dead rise at the crucifixion, who first witnessed the empty tomb, and how many angels were at the tomb? Matthew and Luke disagree on each of these and more. In common parlance, these are contradictions. Relabel the problem if you want, but don’t dismiss it.

Again, it’s utterly irrelevant what “common parlance” holds as to the definition of “contradiction.” All that matters is the standard accepted secular / philosophical definition. If contradictions are actually massively present in the biblical text, then Bob wouldn’t have to play dishonest mind games, messing around with the definition so he can force the square peg of his stupid, failed arguments (that I have refuted now 31 times) into the round hole of a “logical contradiction.”

He can reel off 179 alleged / claimed contradictions (as all Bible skeptics love to do: the mere “appearance of strength”). This proves absolutely nothing because any chain is only as good as the individual links. Each one has to be proven: not merely asserted, as if they are self-evidently some kind of insuperable “difficulty.” 100 bad, fallacious arguments prove exactly nothing (except that the one proposing them is a lousy arguer and very poor at proving his or her opinions). When we actually examine Bob’s arguments individually, we find that they are abominable and pathetic. I’ve done this, myself, probably more than anyone, so I know what I’m talking about, and anyone can go read my refutations of his nonsense.

***

Photo credit: Pinocchio; Schwerdhoefer (8-22-15) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

October 26, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath. 

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.”

And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “The problem, it seems to me, is when someone gets these clues, like you, but ignores them. I suppose the act of ignoring could be deliberate or just out of apathy, but someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” Again, Bob mocks some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18: “You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day: “If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18: “you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And again:You’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.” Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 30 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning. 

Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or search “Seidensticker Folly #” in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (3 of 4)” (10-24-18), Bible-Bashing Bob pontificated:

We’re in the middle of tossing Christianity’s dirty laundry onto the lawn for everyone to examine. Here are five more Bible contradictions that call into question foundational Christian claims . . . 

13. Who should the disciples convert?

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.

This is a ludicrously easy so-called pseudo- [caricature of a] “contradiction” to “resolve”. Here is the answer in summary; then I shall document it in detail from Holy Scripture:

1) Jesus said He came at first to His own Jewish people, as their Messiah (seen in Bob’s citation of Matthew 15:24 above).

2) Accordingly, He at first told His disciples (all Jews) to preach the new Gospel to their fellow Jews only (his citation of Matthew 10:5-6). First things first.

3) This exclusivity was never intended to be permanent. It was simply the first step of the planned wider program of evangelism, which was soon to include the Gentiles, and indeed the whole world. This is indicated in many instances of Jesus Himself reaching out beyond the Jewish people: thus foreshadowing the Great Commission that He would give to His disciples.

Bob makes a manuscript argument for the supposed significant lateness of Matthew 28 (mid-4th century). Luke Wayne tackles this objection in his article, “Is Matthew 28:19 a later addition to Matthew’s Gospel?” He states, for example:

Justin’s student, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels into one narrative called the Diatessaron which contains the words of Matthew 28:19-20, including the Trinitarian formula. [I added links]

The Diatessaron is dated c. 160–175, so this is about 175 years before Bob claims that Matthew 28 first appears in the manuscripts. The Didache is even earlier: and most scholars regard it as a first-century document. It contains a trinitarian formula identical to Matthew 28:19:

[B]aptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . . (ch. 7, Roberts-Donaldson translation)

[B]aptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} . . . (J. B. Lightfoot translation)

[B]aptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . . (Charles H. Hoole translation)

Let’s examine whether Jesus reached out to beyond just the Jewish people. One of the better-known instances of that is the incident that Bob himself mentions: the Canaanite woman. But (true-to-form) Bob only cites part of the entire passage, thus taking it out of context. He even bolds the part that he thinks seals his case of a “Jewish-only / nationalist-type Jesus.” Here are the next two verses, that complete the story:

Matthew 15:27-18 (RSV) 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.

How can this be?! After all, Bible-Bashing Bob told us that this was a contradiction and that Jesus refused her. At least that’s what one would think, reading his presentation, wouldn’t one? But with 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 Bob contends? 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). Strike two against Bob’s bogus claims. He’s very ignorant of the Bible. If only he would come to realize that, then he would stop repeatedly making a fool of himself.

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). None of that is at all consistent with Bob’s silly claim that “This was not a universal message.” It certainly was. What more does Bob need to see, to understand that? 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 Bob’s ridiculous critique is abundant and undeniable. Not that that will stop Bob . . . He wants to talk about “who he came to save”? I have just shown what Jesus Himself said about that. He 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.

***

Photo credit: Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee (1308-1311), by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

October 26, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did.

But don’t hold your breath. He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to my previous 28 installments. Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “The problem, it seems to me, is when someone gets these clues, like you, but ignores them. I suppose the act of ignoring could be deliberate or just out of apathy, but someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” 

Bob’s words will be in blueTo find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or search “Seidensticker Folly #” in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (2 of 4)” (10-22-18), Bible-Bashing Bob pontificated:

Addendum: Or maybe it’s repentance that saves . . . 

What if it’s repentance?

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19).

Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

This was stated after he did his usual dumbfounded, clueless woodenly “either/or” analysis of the faith “vs.” works issue, which I have already dealt with (in terms of his arguments), in installment #22. He pretends (what else is new with him?) that one thing contradicts another, when it doesn’t at all (or else he is too ignorant and biblically illiterate to comprehend that they don’t).

The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith, with good grace-generated works (freely done) inevitably manifesting themselves and being the proof of genuine faith, in the regenerated person (and regeneration comes through baptism, according to the Bible). All of this is made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross, as mankind’s redeemer and savior.

Except for the baptismal regeneration aspect (rejected by a fairly small minority of all Christians — but not, alas, by Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism), virtually all Christians agree on what I summarized as the requirements and nature of salvation.

The many subtleties and fine points of how it works in standard Christian soteriology (theology of salvation) are clearly way over Bob’s head, but not over the heads of thoughtful, educated Christians, who (quite unlike Bible-Bashing Bob) actually seriously study the Bible. I write about all these things, in scores and scores of articles on my Salvation & Justification web page.

Repentance is clearly the initial human response at the beginning of the process of salvation, above the age of reason (around seven or so). We have to be sorry for our sins in order to be forgiven of them (it’s a two-way transaction): all the way to a hoped-for eventual salvation and entrance into heaven as a reward and fulfillment of all the deepest human desires and yearnings. The whole thing is enabled and made possible only, or ultimately, by God’s free gift of grace. That said: repentance is presented as the first thing humans do in the process: even before baptism (in the case of adults).

I fail to see why Bob thinks that this is a case of biblical contradiction. The Bible teaches that all these factors play into salvation. It’s not contradictory. I document this in my paper, St. Paul on Grace, Faith, & Works (50 Passages). It’s merely a case of many harmonious factors being involved in one broad thing that the Bible calls salvation or being saved; getting to heaven. Thus, the Bible presents repentance in conjunction with all these other variables: not as contrary to them. I shall now prove that, with the use of a handy Bible search tool:

Repentance and Faith

Acts 20:21 (RSV) testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Repentance and Works

Revelation 2:5 [Jesus speaking] Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Repentance and Baptism

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Repentance and Salvation

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.

***

There is no problem whatsoever here, let alone a “contradiction” in the Bible” supposedly, between repentance and any of these other aspects of final salvation.

***

Photo credit: Mary Magdalen Penitent (1585-1590), by El Greco (1541-1614) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

October 23, 2018

1. Christians don’t sin? 2. Universalism? 3. “Tomb evangelism”. 4. Can human beings see God or not?

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18: “I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did.

But don’t hold your breath. He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to my previous 27 installments. Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” 

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions” (10-20-18), Bible-Bashing Bob opined:

You’ve probably seen lists of Bible contradictions. Here are my favorites. Play along at home and see which of these are your list, too.

My focus here is just on contradictions in the Bible. These are mostly clashes between two sets of verses in the Bible, but some are the Bible clashing with reality.  . . . 

1. Christians sin, just like everyone else (or do they?)

Everyone knows that no human except Jesus lived a sinless life. The Bible says:

Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

. . . But . . . (plot twist!) ordinary Christians don’t sin.

No one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him (1 John 5:18; see also 1 John 3:6, 3:9).

So which is it—are all people sinners, or are Christians the exception?

Virtually all men have sinned. But it is not the case that it is impossible for a human being to be without sin. Catholics believe the Blessed Virgin Mary was such a person. I’ve explained how we can do so in light of Romans 3:23 above: which is often thrown in our faces by anti-Catholic Protestants: “All Have Sinned” vs. a Sinless, Immaculate Mary? (National Catholic Register, 12-11-17).

1 John is written in largely proverbial, or idealized language. The seemingly absolute statements of 1 John 5:18 and 3:6, 9 are qualified by other statements in context. Of course, believers sin all the time. In proverbial literature, the intention is not absolute and all-encompassing, without exception, but rather, common-sense observation of what usually accompanies a certain state or condition. Thus, John is saying that “those in Christ do not sin,” or, more accurately, “the essence of the person in Christ is righteousness; sin is contrary to the essence of a Christian.” But John further clarifies 1 John 5:18 (what Bob would claim is a “contradiction”) in the first chapter of his epistle:

1 John 1:8-9 (RSV) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (cf. 2:12)

But in fact it is no contradiction at all, because proverbial literature is not meant to be interpreted in such absolute, airtight terms. Bob (like so many atheists), unthinkingly and automatically applies a wooden, boorish, hostile interpretation, which completely ignores genre and context. I’ve demonstrated time and again that he is guilty of this rather foolish practice, throughout my previous 27 installments.

Now, lest Bob claim that my interpretation is merely special pleading, with no indication in the epistle itself, I would point out to him the following passages, which explain John’s meaning in the three “Christians don’t sin” passages (note especially the qualifying words “if” and “but”):

1 John 1:6-7  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; [7] but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 2:3-6 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. [4] He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; [5] but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: [6] he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Thus, it’s no contradiction when both ideas (absence of sin and sin) appear in one passage: because the meaning is rather easily understood in the overall context (that Bob ignores, as usual):

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

Addendum: But why worry about sin? Every one of us is already saved.

Paul draws a parallel between the man who got us into this mess (Adam, who ate the forbidden fruit and gave mankind Original Sin) and the one who got us out (Jesus, whose perfect sacrifice saved us all).

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

We didn’t opt in to get the sin of Adam, and we needn’t opt in to get the salvation of Jesus. No belief is necessary. Paul assures us we’re good.

This is more asinine foolishness. I’ve already (way back in 2006) wrangled at extreme length about supposed biblical universalism with an atheist far more eminent than Bob: Dr. Ted Drange. This included analysis of Romans 5. The Book of Revelation also makes it very clear that universalism is false and not biblical teaching, and that some obstinate folks definitely end up in hell.

2. The women spread the word of the empty tomb (or did they?)

Women discovered the empty tomb of Jesus and returned to tell the others.

The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples (Matthew 28:8).

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others (Luke 24:9).

Or did they? Mark has a different ending.

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

And that’s how the original version of the gospel of Mark ended.

Christian apologist Eric Lyons answers this:

Barker, McKinsey, and other critics who point to Mark 16:8 as contradicting Matthew 28:8 and Luke 24:9 fail to consider that these verses are incongruous only if the writers were referring to the exact same period of the day. The truth is, initially, the women were afraid and silent, as Mark recorded. Then, later that day, they broke their silence and “told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest” (Luke 24:9). Mark’s narrative does not contradict Matthew and Luke, but supplements their accounts. What’s more, if Bible critics were to examine all of Mark’s resurrection narrative, they would learn that following the women’s temporary silence regarding Jesus’ empty tomb (16:8), Mary Magdalene “told those who had been with Him” (16:10) just as the angel had commanded her and the other women earlier in the day (16:7). Thus, Mark defined what he meant when he wrote “they said nothing to anyone.” They said nothing for a time, and then later bore witness of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples.

Now, Bob will reply that 16:10 is from the later addition (and most students of the Bible agree). But Mark 16:7 was not part of the addition and it referred to the angel commanding them to tell others, which 16:10 and Matthew 28:8 and Luke 24:9 confirm that they indeed did. No problem . . .

4. No one can see God (or can they?)

No one has ever seen God (1 John 4:12).

No man has seen or can see [God] (1 Timothy 6:16).

But Adam and Eve saw God. So did Abraham and Moses:

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day (Genesis 18:1).

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11).

This utterly neglects the biblical motif of the “angel of the Lord” who is a visible representation of God. Because Bob’s study of the Bible has been haphazard”: as he admits, he hasn’t taken the time to properly study this. And of course he doesn’t care to, anyway, because he thinks this is yet another of his innumerable fake “contradictions”: which he thinks is a fun and enjoyable pastime, within his overall mission in life of mocking and belittling Christians. In reality, however, he makes an ass of himself (not Christians and Christianity) over and over, as I have documented: now for the 28th time (with no reply from this giant of biblical “scholarship” [choke!]).

The Bible clearly refers to these instances as appearances of angels, or else appearances of things such as fire. What Moses actually saw on Mt. Sinai was a burning bush: a fire that didn’t consume the bush (Ex 3:2-3). But the text shows that the angel of the Lord represented God, Who is in fact invisible:

Exodus 3:2, 4 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; . . . [4] When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, . . . 

Note that it says that “God” called out, but what actually “appeared” was the angel of the Lord. Of course, Bob doesn’t believe anything in the Bible, but that’s beside the point. He is always claiming that the Bible contradicts itself; that it is internally contradictory. And I’m showing over and over that his examples simply don’t prove that. This is no contradiction. God the Father is invisible and can’t be seen. But an angel can represent Him, and as such is sometimes called God, or equated with God: just as an ambassador represents a country.

Bob’s example of Genesis 18 is also easily explained in context, in the same way. The Lord “appeared” but exactly how did He do so? He did through three men, who were actually angels, as I will explain shortly. The very next verse (Gen 18:2) states what he actually saw: “He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him.” Two of them left, on the way to Sodom and Gomorrah, and then the text states: “Abraham still stood before the LORD” (18:22; cf. 19:27). Genesis 19:1 describes these two men as “angels” and then two later passages show how these angels represented God and acted as His agents:

Genesis 19:13, 24 “for we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” . . . [24] Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomor’rah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; (cf. 19:25, 29)

This sort of equation happens several more times in Scripture. Jacob famously wrestled with an angel (again called a “man”: Gen 32:24-25), and then says that he has “seen God face to face” (32:30). Manoah saw an “angel of the Lord”: as the passage states over and over (Judges 13:9, 13-21). Then he said to his wife: “We shall surely die, for we have seen God” (13:22). Gideon and the prophet Zechariah make all this crystal clear:

Judges 6:22-23 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD; and Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” [23] But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” 

Zechariah 12:8 . . . the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, at their head.

Joshua even bowed before and worshiped one such (very impressive!) angel of the Lord, because He represented God:

Joshua 5:13-15 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” [14] And he said, “No; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, “What does my lord bid his servant?” [15] And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. 

In Judges 2:1, the angel of the Lord speaks as if He were God (who liberated the Jews from Egyptian slavery).

It’s amazing what one can learn if they actually takes the time to seriously study the Bible, isn’t it? Bob’s out to sea, but he doesn’t know it. Ignorance is bliss. He can’t even get it right about Adam and Eve. He apparently either didn’t even read the relevant text, or grossly misinterpreted it, for Genesis 3:8 states that they “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden.” It never claims that they saw Him. So where did Bob get the idea that they did? I guess he thinks blind people can see, if he equates hearing with seeing. Makes as much sense as all the other examples of his silliness . . . Bob is a living, walking example of Solomon’s wisdom from 3000 years ago:

Proverbs 12:23 A prudent man conceals his knowledge, but fools proclaim their folly.

***

Photo credit: The laughing court jester (anonymous: Netherlands: 15th century) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

 

 

October 9, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did.

But don’t hold your breath. He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to my previous 25 installments. Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” 

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Clueless John the Baptist” (8-27-12; rev. 3-14-15), Bible-Bashing Bob wrote:

John the Baptist was in prison when he heard the marvelous stories about Jesus, and he sent his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2–3).

Whaaa … ? This is a remarkable question! John the Baptist doesn’t know whether Jesus is the Messiah or not?

John was pretty clear about who Jesus was when he baptized him. Not only did he recognize Jesus’s priority and ask that Jesus baptize him (Matt. 3:14), but he heard a voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus as God’s son. His conclusion at the time: “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34).

John’s very purpose was to be the messenger who would prepare the way (Matt. 11:10). How could he not know? . . . 

And John has to ask who Jesus is?

It’s called depression; it’s called despair, or sometimes, the “dark night of the soul.” It may have been only momentary or short-lived, for all we know, and it could have been caused by food and/or sleep deprivation in prison. It shows that John — though a prophet and great biblical figure — was a human being like the rest of us, with the whole range of emotions. In any event, most of us mere mortals have experienced it (even Bob, I would venture to guess). I had a horrific, six-month experience of despairing clinical depression in 1977, at age 18. Blessedly, it has never returned since. But I know of it firsthand. And I was in a nice suburban home, not a horrible prison, like John was.

It may also have had to do (partially or wholly) with the dual Jewish notions of the Messiah: the Suffering Servant and the Triumphant King. John (like many Jews then, and Jews to this day) may have been expecting the latter. We Christians expect the latter, too, and call it the Second Coming.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers states, regarding Matthew 11:3:

The sickness of deferred hope turns the full assurance of faith into something like despair. So of old Jeremiah had complained, in the bitterness of his spirit, that Jehovah had deceived him (Jeremiah 20:7). So now the Baptist, as week after week passed without the appearance of the kingdom as he expected it to appear, felt as if the King was deserting the forerunner and herald of His kingdom. The very wonders of which he heard made the feeling more grievous, for they seemed to give proof of the power, and to leave him to the conclusion that the will was wanting.

Expositor’s Greek Testament takes the second view:

The effect of confinement on John’s prophetic temper, the general tenor of this chapter which obviously aims at exhibiting the moral isolation of Jesus, above all the wide difference between the two men, . . . Jesus, it had now become evident, was a very different sort of Messiah from what the Baptist had predicted and desiderated (vide remarks on chap. Matthew 3:11-15). Where were the axe and fan and the holy wind and fire of judgment? Too much patience, tolerance, gentleness, sympathy, geniality, mild wisdom in this Christ for his taste.

Apologist Eric Lyons adds:

Skeptics also assume that John’s faith never wavered. They fail to recognize (or accept) that, like other great men of faith who occasionally had doubts (e.g., Moses, Gideon, Peter, etc.), John may have asked this question to Jesus out of momentary unbelief. McGarvey appropriately reminded us that John’s “wild, free life was now curbed by the irksome tedium of confinement…. Moreover, he held no communion with the private life of Jesus, and entered not into the sanctuary of his Lord’s thought. We must remember also that his inspiration passed away with the ministry, on account of which it was bestowed, and it was only the man John, and not the prophet, who made the inquiry” (p. 279, ital. in orig.). John may also have wondered why, if Jesus was a worker of all manner of miracles, was he still in prison. Could Jesus not rescue His forerunner? Could He not save him from the sword of Herod? Jesus’ response to John: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:6). John (or John’s disciples) may have needed to be reminded to stay the course, even if they did not understand all of the reasons why certain things happened the way they did (cf. Job 13:15).

Even the great prophet Elijah, right after his triumphant encounter with the false prophets on Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs 18:21-40; I’ve been at the spot), descended into despair and became suicidal:

1 Kings 19:3-4 (RSV) Then he was afraid, and he arose and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. [4] But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.”

We find more confusion in the John the Baptist story when we try to figure out who John really is. Jesus cites an Old Testament prophecy that says that the messenger who will prepare the way for the Messiah would be the prophet Elijah. Jesus then makes clear that John the Baptist is this reincarnation of Elijah (Matt. 11:14).

But wait a minute—in another gospel, John makes clear he’s not Elijah (John 1:21).

This is the problem with harmonizing the gospels: they don’t harmonize. 

I dealt with this so-called “confusion” way back in 2006, in my “Dialogue w Agnostic on Elijah and John the Baptist”:

Luke 1:17 states that John the Baptist would “go before him [God] in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Jesus described him as “Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:14; cf. Mk 9:11-13) because Hebrew thinking often employed prototypes or types and shadows. It was a way to emphasize a man’s characteristics to simply call him the name of another, since the other represented certain thinks in the Hebrew mind. Elijah was a prophet (one of the greatest), and John was the last of the prophets (Matt 11:9-11).

Matthew 17:10-13 is a parallel to Mark 9:11-13, where Jesus refers to John the Baptist as “Elijah.” But this passage shows that the disciples understood this prototypical thinking, since it tells us “the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist” (17:13). Moreover, both Elijah and Moses are described as appearing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4). We know that this Elijah returned from heaven is distinguished from John the Baptist (as a person) because even as Jesus and the disciples were coming down the mountain, Jesus referred to Elijah as “already come” and that men “did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands” (Matt 17:12-13).

This (persecution to the death) was true of John (and Jesus) but never of Elijah, so it absolutely proves that Jesus thought John and Elijah were two different men, even though He called John “Elijah” — in prototypical language. It also rules out reincarnation (which is utterly contrary to biblical Christianity anyway) because it shows that Elijah was still alive as a distinct person even after John the Baptist was murdered, whereas in reincarnation, Elijah would have ceased to be when he “moved into” John’s body.

Another notable example of this Hebrew prototypical thinking is the David-Messiah-Jesus parallelism. For example, note this famous messianic passage (familiar to anyone who loves Handel’s Messiah):

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (cf. Jer 23:5; Lk 1:32)

But Jeremiah 30:8-9 calls the Messiah “David”:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, says the LORD of hosts, that I will break the yoke from off their neck, and I will burst their bonds, and strangers shall no more make servants of them. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (cf. Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25: “David my servant shall be their prince for ever.”)

In John 1:21, John himself is simply denying that he is literally Elijah, come back (as Elijah did indeed come back at the Transfiguration). No contradiction; just different senses, explained by the Hebrew idea of prototypes. For much more biblical data on that, see the excellent article by Wayne Jackson: “A Study of Biblical Types.”

***

Photo credit: John the Baptist (c. 1542), by Titian (1490-1576) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

October 9, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” 

Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.” I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did.

But don’t hold your breath. He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to my previous 25 installments. Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” 

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Debunking 10 Popular Christian Principles for Reading the Bible” (3-2-15), Bible-Bashing Bob opined:

The puzzle given is Paul’s statement that “[the human body] is sown a natural body, [but] it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). Paul is rejecting the imperfect physical body and sees it perfected in the spiritual equivalent. While this was popular Greek thinking at the time, it was eventually rejected by the Christian church. . . . 

The only problem [Jim] Wallace solves is how to hammer the Bible to fit his preconceptions. He goes into his Bible study certain that God raises bodies physically rather than spiritually, and he’s determined to wring that meaning from it. That’s not how an honest person reads the Bible.

Elsewhere, Bob wrote:

Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable … it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (15:42–4). This makes clear that the resurrected Jesus was spirit, not flesh. This sounds a lot like docetism, a heresy that was rejected in the First Council of Nicaea. It also contradicts Luke’s physical post-resurrection Jesus: “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). (4-8-13)

Bob maintains that Paul’s reference to a “spiritual body” is to a pure spirit, with no physical body. This is immediately absurd, since “spirit” cannot have an additional description of “body”. A “body” is physical, and spirits aren’t physical; they are immaterial. Yet Bob appears to think that his flatly absurd interpretation of the passage is the only “honest” one anyone can take. We Christians, according to him, are reading into Holy Scripture things that aren’t there. That’s false, and it is Bob foolishly projecting precisely what he is doing, onto us.

Evangelical G. Shane Morris gives a good refutation of this Gnostic-influenced thinking in his article, “Jesus Has a Physical Body Forever (And So Will We)”:

There’s a common misconception in the Christian rank and file that Jesus’ resurrected body was something other than a real, physical body with flesh and bones, and that our resurrected bodies will likewise be something other than or somehow less solid than our bodies are now. . . .

Christians’ enduring hope has always been what Paul said the creation itself groans for: “the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) This is what it means to swallow up death in victory. A “spiritual resurrection” of any kind isn’t resurrection. It’s a euphemistic redescription of death.

Second, the term “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 15:44 does not, in Paul’s original use, mean what the phrase seems to imply in English. [N. T.] Wright points out that to the original audience, a “spiritual body” understood as an “immaterial body” would be a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing. You might as well talk about solid mist or dry water. What Paul is doing, in context, is contrasting a body of flesh (which is the most common New Testament metonym for fallen humanity) with the body of the Spirit—that is, a body empowered and animated by the Holy Spirit. The Jews and Greeks had words for immaterial beings.

If Paul had meant for us to expect a non-physical resurrection, he could have spoken of “ghosts,” or “spirits.” He did not. For a man of his background, “resurrection” meant only one thing: To get up out of the grave, body and all, and walk again. Jesus left behind an empty grave devoid of flesh and bones. He took them with Him. And so will we. (1 John 3:2) A physical understanding of our resurrection bodies is crucial to the passage, as Paul calls Christ Himself “a life-giving spirit” in the very next verse. Does this mean the resurrected Christ is a mere spirit? If so, what of the central fact of Christian history? What of the empty tomb? Where did the body go? It got up and walked out, scars and all.

Finally, people will sometimes cite the gospel accounts of Jesus entering through locked doors and walking through walls to visit the Disciples as proof that His body was not quite as solid as it appeared. This is a huge non-sequitur, if you consider it for just a moment. This is God we’re talking about. He had spent His entire ministry in a quite ordinary human body, performing miracles that defied the laws of physics (walking on water, disappearing through crowds, being transfigured and shining like the sun, etc.). No one but the Docetic Gnostics ever suggested that this calls into question the corporeal reality of Jesus’ pre-resurrection body.

James Bishop adds:

Paul was, prior to his conversion, a Pharisee. Pharisees held to a physical resurrection (see: Jewish War 3.374, 2.163; 4Q521; 1QH 14.34; 4Q 385-391; Genesis Rabbah 14.5; Leviticus Rabbah 14.9). For instance, one leading scholar by the name of NT Wright, in his 700 page volume, argues that the resurrection in pagan, Jewish, and Christian cultures meant a physical and bodily resurrection (2). Paul held the same view (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:20-21). . . .

As [N. T.] Wright articulates: “Until second century Christianity, the language of ‘resurrection’ had been thought by pagan, Jew, and Christian as some kind of return to bodily and this-worldly life” [The Resurrection of the Son of God, 2003, p. 83].

The context of 1 Corinthians 15 further bolsters this view:

1 Corinthians 15:35-42 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” [36] You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. [37] And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. [38] But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. [39] For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. [40] There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. [41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. [42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.

Does Bob think that Paul thought the moon was a spirit and not physical? It’s absurd. Sadly, the absurd is a frequent feature of Bob’s anti-Christian ravings.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul uses the Greek word egiro (usually “raised” in English) 19 times, referring to resurrection, either of Jesus (15:4, 12-17, 20) or of the general resurrection of human beings (15:29, 32, 35, 42-44, 52). It was used in the verse Bob brought up (15:44). The same word is used in the gospels of the raising of the young girl who had died. She remained human, with her body, after being raised He was holding her hand when she was raised):

Matthew 9:18, 23-25  While he was thus speaking to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” . . . [23] And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players, and the crowd making a tumult, [24] he said, “Depart; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. [25] But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose [egiro].

In John 12, the word is applied to Lazarus three times (12:1, 9, 17: “raised from the dead” and “raised him from the dead”: RSV). In John 12:2, the risen Lazarus is referred to, sitting at the table, eating supper with Jesus: obviously a physical being.  This is what the word means: “a body being physically raised and restored after it had died.”

Jesus was obviously also still in a physical body after He was resurrected, but it was a spiritual body, and so He could “walk through walls” (which modern physics tells us is actually physically possible, in additional dimensions and what-not). He ate fish with His disciples, told Thomas to put his hand in His wounds, which were still visible; was touched by Mary Magdalene, broke bread with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, etc.

Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe offer further explanation in the following excerpt their book, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1992):

[N]otice the parallelism mentioned by Paul:

The complete context indicates that “spiritual” (pneumatikos) could be translated “supernatural” in contrast to “natural.” This is made clear by the parallels of perishable and imperishable and corruptible and incorruptible. In fact, this same Greek word (pneumatikos) is translated “supernatural” in 1 Corinthians 10:4 when it speaks of the “supernatural rock that followed them in the wilderness” (RSV).

Second, the word “spiritual” (pneumatikos) in 1 Corinthians refers to material objects. Paul spoke of the “spiritual rock” that followed Israel in the wilderness from which they got “spiritual drink” (1 Cor. 10:4). But the OT story (Ex. 17Num. 20) reveals that it was a physical rock from which they got literal water to drink. But the actual water they drank from that material rock was produced supernaturally. When Jesus supernaturally made bread for the five thousand (John 6), He made literal bread. However, this literal, material bread could have been called “spiritual” bread (because of its supernatural source) in the same way that the literal manna given to Israel is called “spiritual food” (1 Cor. 10:3).

Further, when Paul spoke about a “spiritual man” (1 Cor. 2:15) he obviously did not mean an invisible, immaterial man with no corporeal body. He was, as a matter of fact, speaking of a flesh and blood human being whose life was lived by the supernatural power of God. He was referring to a literal person whose life was Spirit directed. A spiritual man is one who is taught by the Spirit and who receives the things that come from the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:13–14).

To summarize Paul’s doctrine of the general resurrection, I cite the section on that topic in the entry, “Resurrection” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

As the believer then passes into a condition of glory, his body must be altered for the new conditions (1 Corinthians 15:50Philippians 3:21); it becomes a “spiritual” body, belonging to the realm of the spirit (not “spiritual” in opposition to “material”). Nature shows us how different “bodies” can be–from the “body” of the sun to the bodies of the lowest animals the kind depends merely on the creative will of God (1 Corinthians 15:38-41). Nor is the idea of a change in the body of the same thing unfamiliar: look at the difference in the “body” of a grain of wheat at its sowing and after it is grown! (1 Corinthians 15:37).

Just so, I am “sown” or sent into the world (probably not “buried”) with one kind of body, but my resurrection will see me with a body adapted to my life with Christ and God (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). If I am still alive at the Parousia, this new body shall be clothed upon my present body (1 Corinthians 15:53,542 Corinthians 5:2-4) otherwise I shall be raised in it (1 Corinthians 15:52). This body exists already in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1,2), and when it is clothed upon me the natural functions of the present body will be abolished (1 Corinthians 6:13). Yet a motive for refraining from impurity is to keep undefiled the body that is to rise (1 Corinthians 6:13,14).

***

Photo credit: The Resurrected Christ Appears to the Virgin (1629), by Guercino (1591-1666) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

October 8, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?”

He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath. He hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to my previous 24 installments.

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive personal attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” Be that as it may, what is one to make (whatever he thinks of me) of his great (and perhaps in due course total) unwillingness to defend his ideas and opinions against my numerous serious critiques?

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Debunking 10 Popular Christian Principles for Reading the Bible” (3-2-15), Bob — ever the scrupulous Bible scholar — opined:

I say that the context of a verse is the entire Bible. . . . Don’t tell me that a verse says something without assuring me that the rest of the Bible never contradicts it.

To illustrate this problem, we’re given the example of the mustard seed, which Jesus calls “the smallest of all seeds.” . . . don’t tell me that Jesus is quoted giving the correct information when the Bible says he doesn’t. And don’t tell me to read a verse in its correct context when you won’t do that yourself.

He mentioned this flawed and fallacious “argument” again, nine months later:

The Bible betrays its uninformed roots when it says that . . . the mustard seed is the smallest seed on earth (Matt. 13:31-32). (12-2-15)

I’m delighted that Bob now wants to consider biblical context. It’s a new concept for him, but we all live and learn. One aspect of that context of the entire Bible is use of various literary genres and figures of speech, etc. These include many non-literal usages.

The parable of the mustard seed is an example of hyperbole, or exaggeration, which was very common in ancient Hebrew culture (and indeed, in most — if not all — cultures in the world and throughout history). First, let’s look at the relevant passages:

Matthew 13:31-32 (RSV) Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; [32] it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (cf. Lk 13:18-19)

Mark 4:30-32 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? [31] It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; [32] yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 

Matthew 17:20  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

Luke 17:6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 

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 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 continues, in the Introduction:

All language is governed by law; but, in order to increase the power of a word, or the force of an expression, these laws are designedly departed from, and words and sentences are thrown into, and used in, new forms, or figures.

The ancient Greeks reduced these new and peculiar forms to science, and gave names to more than two hundred of them.

The Romans carried forward this science . . . 

 These manifold forms which words and sentences assume were called by the Greeks Schema and by the Romans, Figura. Both words have the same meaning, viz., a shape or figure. . . . 

Applied to words, a figure denotes some form which a word or sentence takes, different from its ordinary and natural form. This is always for the purpose of giving additional force, more life, intensified feeling, and greater emphasis.

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.

I Kings i. 40. — “So that the earth rent with the sound of them.” A hyperbolical description of their jumping and leaping for joy.

Job xxix. 6. — “The rock poured me out rivers of oil”: i.e., I had abundance of all good things. So chap. xx. 17 and Micah vi. 7.

Isa. xiv. 13, — “I will ascend into heaven”: to express the pride of Lucifer.

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.

Luke xiv. 26. — “If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother”: i.e., does not esteem them less than me. So the verb to hate is used (Gen. xxix. 31. Rom. ix. 13).

John iii. 26. — “All men come to him.” Thus his disciples said to John, to show their sense of the many people who followed the Lord.

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.

Note that in Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6, cited above, a double hyperbole is used: 1) faith only as large as a small mustard seed (even just a wee bit!), can bring about 2) mountains and trees being uprooted and moved. Bible scholar Kyle Butt, in an article on biblical hyperbole, compares the biblical usage of this type of figurative language to the same kind of application today:

We who use the English language are quite familiar with the use of hyperbole, even though we may not be as familiar with the term itself. When a teenager explains to her parent that “everybody” is going to be at the party, does she mean that literally the world’s population of 6.6 billion people will be there? Of course she does not. She is intentionally exaggerating to make a point. When a teacher explains to his class that “everybody” knows who the first president of the United States was, does the teacher believe all toddlers can correctly answer the question? No. Once again, the teacher is simply using a well-understood figure of speech to convey a point.

In a similar way, the Bible uses hyperbole on numerous occasions. Take John 4:39 as an example. In this passage, a Samaritan woman spoke of Jesus and said: “He told me all that I ever did” (emp. added). Had Jesus really told that woman everything that she had ever done in her life? No, she was using hyperbole to make her point.

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.”

However, here is a hyperbole that the average Bible reader may miss and formulate doctrine from which may end up being harmful to themselves and others.

“Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23b, NIV)

The Bible is full of exaggerations like the one above which are not to be taken literally. Careful attention, comparing scripture with scripture, knowing the Bible and its author thoroughly, making certain not to necessary apply things to ourselves which weren’t meant for us individually and some basics about the original languages are needed to prevent us from misinterpreting various scripture verses like this one. . . . 

“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.)

Understanding all this now, and getting back to the passages on the mustard seed, we now accurately understand their intention and meaning. J. Timothy Unruh explains, in his article, “The Parable of The Mustard Seed and its alleged contradictions”:

The subject question of this study deals with another one of the infamous “apparent contradictions” found in the Scripture, this one regarding the physical characteristic of the mustard seed in the above quoted parable, namely the size of the seed itself. The passage refers to the seed as being “the least of all seeds” which is to say, the smallest of all seeds. Given this information from the Scripture, an objection has been raised that there are other seeds which are smaller than the mustard seed, among these are the petunia, the begonia and the orchid. While the mustard seed is about 1/20th of an inch in size, with the smaller petunia seed about 1/50th of an inch and the yet smaller begonia some 1/100th of an inch in size, the even yet smaller orchid seed is so tiny that a 10 to 30 power microscope is required for the eye to see it in any detail. Furthermore, the microscopic spores of mushrooms, lichens, and molds, which also are seeds, are so tiny and lightweight that even the slightest currents of air may carry them vast distances aloft. These too are seeds for the word spore itself means “seed.” Therefore the mustard seed is technically not the smallest seed of all. The objection has been pressed even further to say something like, “Since the mustard seed isn’t the smallest of all seeds then Jesus was wrong, and if Jesus was God and made everything, He should have known that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed! . . . 

[W]e next turn our attention to an evaluation of the intent in the parable itself and then make a decision as to whether or not the Lord was trying to be technical or non-technical in His usage of the seed as an illustration. Naturally, any gainsayer would relish the technical interpretation at this point because therein he sees his opportunity to overthrow the integrity of the Bible. We must look at the passage in context of the objection and ask ourselves whether the parable is designed to be a lesson in botany, or a lesson of a much deeper significance and importance. To the casual reader with even an elementary understanding of the Word of God it should be rather apparent that the Lord had the latter purpose in mind. The parable of the mustard seed exemplifies the principle often exercised in Scripture which makes use of one thing in order to illustrate the meaning of a greater truth. In other words, an object lesson is being given here. Such is the mechanism which makes a parable so workable and meaningful. The Proverbs of Solomon are full of such illustrations. . . . 

Jesus himself is known for speaking in hyperbolic or parabolic statements, hence the parable. We should not think that people were any different thousands of years ago. It should, as well, be realized that the expression “the least of all seeds” is figurative and oriental, and that in a proverbial simile no literal or technical accuracy is to be expected. It was a hyperbolic expression to emphasize “very small.” Of course, we know there are many seed types smaller than the mustard seed. It is thus quite evident that the Lord, in His popular teaching, adhered to the popular language, and the mustard seed was used proverbially to denote anything very minute. Very likely, in Israel the mustard seed was the smallest of all garden seeds. In such case the literal truth about the comparative size of the mustard seed in the parable still holds after all. The Scriptures simply do not find it necessary to make a habit of championing such careful and superfluous elaborations. The tiny orchid seed was not likely known, let alone planted, in ancient Israel. The mustard seed was simply a familiar convenience to draw from in order to make an important point.

The frequent use of such hyperbole throughout Holy Scripture (including often by Jesus) quite adequately explains this use of “mustard seed.” If it wasn’t intended absolutely literally, with surgical accuracy and rationalistic, scientific precision, but rather as a poetic exaggeration, the “problem” vanishes. To mangle a popular metaphor, Bob “can’t see the forest for the seed.” If he would take a day or two to study biblical literary genre and various figures of speech, he would avoid many embarrassing errors in the future.

***

Photo credit: carlfbagge (4-15-17) Wild Mustard in Bloom: Shoreline Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, California: 2.5 meters (8 feet, two inches) tall [Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 license]

***

October 5, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?”

He also made a general statement on 6-22-17: “In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath.

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” Be that as it may, what is one to make (whatever he thinks of me) of his great (and perhaps in due course total) unwillingness to defend his ideas and opinions against my numerous serious critiques?

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “How Reliable is Apostle Paul When He Knew Very Little About Jesus?” (12-17-12; rev. 9-4-15), Bob pontificated:

For being the founder of Christianity, Paul knew surprisingly little about Christ. . . . 

Using the gospels as a guide, we’ll find that Paul is a shallow source of information.

If we were to extract biographical information from the gospels, we’d have a long list—the story of Jesus turning water into wine, walking on water, raising Lazarus, the Prodigal Son story, curing blindness with spit, odd events like his cursing the fig tree, and so on. But what information about Jesus do we get from Paul? . . . 

No parables of the sheep and the goats, or the prodigal son, or the rich man and Lazarus, or the lost sheep, or the good Samaritan. In fact, no Jesus as teacher at all.

No driving out evil spirits, or healing the invalid at Bethesda, or cleansing the lepers, or raising Lazarus, or other healing miracles. As far as Paul tells us, Jesus performed no miracles at all.

No virgin birth, no Sermon on the Mount, no feeding the 5000, no public ministry, no women followers, no John the Baptist, no cleansing the temple, no final words, no Trinity, no hell, no Judas as betrayer (he mentions “the twelve”), and no Great Commission. Paul doesn’t even place Jesus within history—there’s nothing to connect Jesus with historical figures like Caesar Augustus, King Herod, or Pontius Pilate.

Perhaps everyone to whom Paul wrote his letters knew all this already? Okay, but presumably they already knew about the crucifixion, and Paul mentions that 13 times. And the resurrection, which Paul mentions 14 times.

This is an astonishingly clueless piece. Once again, the apologist tasked with responding to this sort of bilge (unfortunately, myself) feels like a mosquito on a nude beach: so many opportunities, but where to begin?! Well, here we go.

To take the last paragraph first: obviously Paul mentioned the crucifixion and resurrection a lot because they are absolutely central to the Christian gospel and our theology. That’s why he mentioned them more, even though his readers (being Christians) already knew about them. This ain’t rocket science, folks. But the Christians he was writing to also knew about the fine details of Jesus’ life; therefore, he didn’t need to repeat them. It wasn’t his primary purpose in his letters.

For supposedly knowingsurprisingly little about Christ,” Bob’s own article (in portions that I have not cited) notes many particulars about Paul’s writings, which seem to refute his own grandiose claims. After all, he lists fourteen separate aspects of Jesus and His life (complete with many biblical references) that even he concedes Paul knew about.

According to Strong’s Concordance: a standard biblical reference work, Paul mentions the word “Jesus” 218 times (an average of 2 1/2 times per chapter). In his epistles, he also mentions “Christ” (Greek for Messiah) apart from “Jesus” another 212 times. That’s 430 times total. I had to sit here and laboriously count up all the instances of “Christ” by itself, because an intelligent, educated man claims with a straight face that “Paul knew surprisingly little about Christ.” 

Bob commits a glaring omission in not including the book of Acts (written by Luke) as data concerning what Paul knew and supposedly didn’t know about Jesus. It records many of his words, including sermons, and is basically devoted to his story, starting in chapter 13, till the last chapter (28). Thus, 57% of the book is about Paul (16 chapters out of 28); yet Bob didn’t think it was relevant in determining what Paul knew and taught about Jesus Christ. Go figure! And no, I refuse to spend more valuable time counting up Paul’s use of “Jesus” and “Christ” in Acts. Here’s the searchable Bible I use. Anyone can do it if they wish.

This is how ridiculous it gets in having to refute the ludicrous claims of atheists about the Bible and Christianity: and why very few are willing to do it. Who can blame them? It virtually takes the patience of Job. I’m half-disgusted at myself for doing this very paper, but I know it will do some good, and help some people inclined to believe Bob (or those who want to be able to refute these sorts of pseudo-“arguments”), and so I persevere. Please pray for me. Since prayer can be applied backwards in time (God being outside of time), I know that the prayers of some of you reading this will literally help me write it. Thanks!

Bob spends a great deal of energy listing various elements of the Gospel stories, and argues that it is odd that Paul (granting his conclusion for a moment) doesn’t include them. But why must we accept his premise in the first place? I see no compelling reason why. Protestant apologist Kyle Butt, in his excellent article, “Did Paul Write About Jesus as a Historical Person?” stated:

[Tom] Harpur’s major contention is that Paul did not mention details about Jesus’ life such as His birthplace in Bethlehem, His mother’s name, or His specific miracles. Yet, if the guiding hand of God produced the New Testament documents, it makes perfect sense that such information would not be repeated in Paul’s writings, since it was so thoroughly documented in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In truth, the fact that Paul repeatedly alludes to Jesus in the flesh, but does not reiterate the various details of the gospel accounts, shows that Paul coincides with the Gospel writers, but was independent of them as well. Why would God need to record for the fifth time the various miracles and facts about Jesus’ life in the writings of Paul? Paul consistently dealt with many of the events in Jesus’ life such as His death, burial, resurrection, trial before Pilate, birth according to the seed of David, and the overarching fact that He took on the form of a human. Harpur’s complaint that Paul did not mention enough of the details that are recorded in the gospel accounts is a criterion that he and his fellow skeptics have arbitrarily chosen and that proves nothing. . . . 

The obvious truth is that Paul saturated his writings with the name of Jesus and repeatedly stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a historical human being. The details he left out of his writings accord perfectly with what one would expect from divine inspiration, and show that, while he acknowledged the historical Jesus, his writings serve as testimony independent of the gospel accounts.

Catholic Ann Nafziger, in her piece, “If St. Paul’s Letters Are Older Than the Gospels, Why Does He Leave a Lot Out?” adds:

Because he was writing to specific audiences with particular issues in mind, it resulted in a less-than-systematic portrayal of Jesus’ life. For example, when writing to a church that he had founded, if there were no current controversies about the virgin birth or Jesus’ miracles, he wouldn’t have felt the need to address them.

The short answer is that the Gospels (four times!) already dealt with Jesus’ life in its fine details. Paul’s letters largely consist of systematic theology. They are the “theology” / “intellectual” portion of the New Testament: which is quite as necessary as the Gospels are. Different purpose; different content. It’s really as simple as that.

But beyond that basic consideration, in some of his claims regarding alleged Pauline “ignorance” Bob is factually wrong, as I will now proceed to show. Above, Bob wrote: “As far as Paul tells us, Jesus performed no miracles at all.” And later on in his post he elaborates:

Paul indirectly admits that he knew of no Jesus miracles:

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:22–3)

Why “a stumbling block”? Jesus did lots of miraculous “signs”—why didn’t Paul convince the Jews with these? Paul apparently didn’t know any. The Jesus of Paul is not the miracle worker that we see in the Jesus of the gospels. . . . 

The Jesus of Paul isn’t the Jesus of the gospels. 

Bob refutes himself (a not uncommon occurrence), because he himself said thatPaul mentions” Jesus’ resurrection “14 times.” Is that not a miracle? Indeed, it is Jesus’ greatest miracle: the conquering of death, and showing that there is an afterlife. The Gospels teach that Jesus raised Himself (it was His own miracle), just as He had raised Lazarus:

John 2:18-22 (RSV) The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” [19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [20] The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [21] But he spoke of the temple of his body. [22] When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. 

John 10:17-18 . . . I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again . . . 

Note that Jesus thought His resurrection was the “sign” that the Jews demanded (2:18). He reiterates this elsewhere in comparing His resurrection to the “sign of Jonah” (Mt 16:1-4; Lk 11:29-30): that is, his emerging from the whale (metaphor for His tomb) after three days. Bob’s citing of 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 proves nothing that he claims. Paul’s simply saying that the crucifixion was loathsome to the Jews, and made it harder for them to accept Christianity. There is no hint that “he knew of no Jesus miracles:”. It’s ludicrous. In the same book he mentions the resurrection of Jesus nine times: in 6:14 and eight more times in chapter 15.

Moreover, when Paul recalls the story of his conversion to Christ, he mentions miraculous occurrences caused by “Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 22:8): namely, “a great light from heaven” (22:6, 11), “brighter than the sun” (26:13), and “a voice” [of Jesus] from heaven (22:7; 26:14), which the others around him couldn’t hear (22:9). That’s all miraculous, supernatural stuff (I think even Bob would agree). It’s a “heavenly vision” (26:19).

Bob claims there is “no Trinity” in Paul’s writing. This is absolutely absurd. See my papers on the Deity of Jesus and The Holy Trinity: filled with hundreds of biblical proofs (including scores of them in Paul’s writing).

He claims that there isno John the Baptist” either. But Paul does in fact mention him, in an evangelistic sermon delivered at Antioch of Pisid’ia:

Acts 13:24-25 Before his coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. [25] And as John was finishing his course, he said, `What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’

Bob claims that there is “no hell” in Paul’s writings. He doesn’t use the word, but he repeatedly teaches the concept, some eleven times, as one article on the topic documents, referring to God’s “wrath and fury” towards the unrepentant (Rom 2:8), “wrath of God” (Col 3:6), “tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil” (Rom 2:9), “punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord ” (2 Thess 1:9). “Destruction” here doesn’t mean “annihilation”: as the article explains. 

Bob claims:Paul doesn’t even place Jesus within history—there’s nothing to connect Jesus with historical figures like . . . Pontius Pilate.” Wrong again! (does anyone see a pattern here?):

Acts 13:27-29 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. [28] Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. [29] And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 

1 Timothy 6:13 In the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, [Bob cites this, too, but he thinks the letter wasn’t written by Paul]

Bob thinks Paul has no knowledge of “Judas as betrayer” either. But he is in error again. Paul certainly refers to him here:

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 

Since Bob himself cited this verse, who does he believe Paul thinks was the one who betrayed Jesus? Not that logical consistency is a very common trait in Bob’s anti-Bible rantings . . . 

Bob also argues that because Paul referred to the disciples as “the twelve” (1 Cor 15:5) at the time Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, therefore he wasn’t aware of Judas’ death, that decreased the group to eleven. But this is an example of non-literal biblical usage again. As an analogy: in Genesis 42:13, the children of Jacob said they were the “twelve brothers” even though they thought that Joseph (the 12th) was dead, leaving eleven.

It appears fairly plausible, if not certain, that “the twelve” (without “disciples” added) had become a title for the group of men that were Jesus’ disciples and closest companions (see, e.g., Mt 26:14, 47; Mk 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; 14:10, 17, 20, 43; Lk 8:1; 9:1, 12; 18:31; 22:3, 47; Jn 6:67, 71; 20:24; Acts 6:2). Jesus clearly uses it as a title, in this way: “Did I not choose you, the twelve . . .?” (Jn 6:70). The number twelve also had great meaning in Hebrew thought, as many biblical examples show.

Lastly, we use numbers in a non-literal fashion in the same way today. So, for example, there is the Big Ten Conference in college football (with our two beloved Michigan teams), which actually has fourteen members. It had ten from 1912 to 1950 (when Michigan State was added), eleven from then till 2011, when it became twelve, and 14 after 2014. From 2011 to 2014, the Big Ten had twelve teams, and the Big 12 consisted of ten teams!

We also use the term “two-by-four” for the common piece of lumber, when in fact, its actual dimensions are 1 5/8 inches by 3 5/8 inches. If such non-literal numbers can be used by us, why not also in the Bible? What forbids it? As with virtually all of these alleged “biblical contradictions” I’ve ever seen, they turn out to be nonexistent. Why isn’t Bob out there also running down the Big Ten for “lying” about the number of their teams?

Bob writes:Not confirmed: There is no confirmation of the post-resurrection appearances in Paul’s epistles.” Bob stumbles upon the truth here (like the unplugged clock, twice a day). But this theme is present in one of his sermons: the one given at Antioch of Pisid’ia, which I now cite for the third time:

Acts 13:30-31 But God raised him from the dead; [31] and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 

What would Paul have said about the philosophical issues that divided the church for centuries? These don’t mean much to most of us today because they’ve long been decided, but they were divisive in their day—whether Jesus was subordinate to God or not, whether Jesus had a human body or not, whether he had a human nature or not, whether he had two wills or not, whether the Holy Spirit was part of the Godhead, and so on. No one knows how Paul would have resolved them or even if they crossed his mind.

Kyle Butt observes:

Is it true that Paul . . . never referred to Him as a flesh and blood human being? Certainly not. . . . 

Not only did Paul repeatedly mention Jesus, but he specifically stressed that Jesus had come in the flesh as a real human being. For instance, in 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul wrote: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” To elucidate what he meant by the word “man,” Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (emp. added).

Any attempt to turn Paul’s phrase “in the likeness of men” into some sort of spiritual, mystical appearance is doomed to failure. Furthermore, Paul more specifically mentioned that “the likeness of men” that he discussed in Philippians meant human flesh. Paul wrote to the Romans about “Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3, emp. added). 

There are many other indications as well; for example:

Acts 20:28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. [hard to have “blood” and not be a man]

Colossians 2:8-9 See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. [9] For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily,

1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

It’s also difficult for a spirit being with no body to be crucified. Bob himself says that Paul mentions Jesus’ crucifixion 13 times. I’ll take his word on that; thus, it is 13 times that he refutes his own vapid inanity about Paul not being sure if Jesus had a body or not. For that matter, a spirit can’t be “raised from the dead.” That presupposes a physical body that died and is now back alive. Bob says Paul mentions Jesus’ resurrection 14 times, so he refutes one clueless point of his 27 times. Not bad! Saves me a lot of work . . . 

As to Jesus’ two wills, that is mostly covered in the Gospels, as I have documented, but Paul also makes statements that are consistent with the orthodox Christian understanding (two wills: divine and human).

Jesus being “subordinate” to or in subjection or submission to God the Father poses no problem at all for His deity or for trinitarianism, as Protestant apologist Glenn Miller explains, in extreme (but wonderful!) depth: as is his wont. This aspect as well as the two natures of Christ (also mentioned in Bob’s laundry list above) are strikingly highlighted in this Pauline passage:

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 

It’s patently ridiculous to suggest that there is nothing in Paul to suggest his opinions on either of these doctrines. This paper is long enough, Bob has already been refuted over and over (and easily so), and the patience I asked readers to pray for is barely hanging by a thread about now. But we’ll do one last refutation (and it’s a decisive one indeed, if I do say so):

What would Paul have said about . . . whether the Holy Spirit was part of the Godhead, . . . No one knows . . . if [it even] crossed his mind.

Really? Paul cites an Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 6:8-10) in Acts 28:25-27, but with one important language difference. The Old Testament passage says that “I heard the voice of the Lord saying . . .” (Is 6:8). But when Paul cites it, he introduces it as follows: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 28:25). This is a direct (logical) unarguable equation of the Holy Spirit with God. Thus, the question did indeed cross Paul’s mind, and he rendered a definite opinion on it. He makes the same equation in the following passages: 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? [17] If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are. (cf. 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16)

1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; [5] and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; [6] and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. . . . [11] All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 

2 Corinthians 3:16-17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

I guess Bob, in his exhaustive Bible study, undertaken with the utmost seriousness and intellectual honesty (and particular attention to fine detail) managed to somehow miss all of this biblical information that I found. Anyone can accept it if a man admits to being ignorant about a given subject. We all have thousands of topics we’re unacquainted with. But to claim to be an expert on the Bible and Christian theology, and condescendingly mock millions of Christians — who clearly know exponentially more about these theological topics than Bob does –, is insufferable folly.

***

Photo credit: Orthodox icon of St. Paul’s conversion, photographed by Ted (3-9-11) [Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 license]

***

October 2, 2018

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“In this blog, I’ve responded to many Christian arguments . . . Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

I’m always one to oblige people’s wishes if I am able, so I decided to do a series of posts in reply. It’s also been said, “be careful what you wish for.”  If Bob responds to this post, and makes me aware of it, his reply will be added to the end along with my counter-reply. If you don’t see that, rest assured that he either hasn’t replied, or didn’t inform me that he did. But don’t hold your breath. Bob virtually begged and pleaded with me via email, to dialogue with him in May 2018. But by 10-3-18, his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.” Be that as it may, what does one make (whatever he thinks of me) of his utter “disinterest” in defending his opinions against serious critique?

Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, word-search “Seidensticker” on my atheist page or in my sidebar search (near the top).

*****

In his article, “Yet More on the Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)” (12-2-15), Bob opined:

This post wraps up our look at science in the Bible. It’s the conclusion of an analysis of Bible verses that contradict modern science . . . 

Let’s continue enumerating scientific errors in the Bible.

Cosmology and earth science

7. The moon creates light rather than reflecting it

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night (Genesis 1:16).

The sun and moon are said to be greater and lesser versions of the same thing with no acknowledgement that one creates light while the other only reflects it. We see the confusion more clearly in this verse:

The moon shall not cause her light to shine (Isaiah 13:10).

No, the moon doesn’t make its own light.

As a preliminary, readers unacquainted with a basic Christian understanding of the Bible’s relationship to science, should first read my earlier related installment on the topic. In a nutshell, the Bible was never intended to be a science textbook. It was written with a pre-scientific understanding of the world. People reading it had to be able to understand it. It doesn’t follow, however, that it is filled with scientific inaccuracies (as it is still inspired).

In any event, Holy Scripture is written (when dealing with natural phenomena) in phenomenological language: that is, describing things as they appear to (often uneducated) human eyes. The most common example of that, still used almost universally today — something that Bob himself no doubt does –, is saying that “the sun rises” (or “goes down”). This doesn’t imply geocentrism (the earth as the center of the universe), or any other sophisticated cosmological explanation. It’s simply describing it as it looks to us.

Bob apparently can’t refrain from making stupid, clueless pseudo-“arguments” about the Bible and science. Genesis 1:16 above simply doesn’t make any claim as to whether the moon reflects sunlight or generates it’s own light (as the sun does). Bob merely superimposes what he wishes to see onto the passage: a classic, textbook example of what is known as eisegesis, or reading “into” Scripture what isn’t present in a given passage. Genesis 1:16 uses phenomenological language, as just explained. All it is communicating is the notion that the sun lights up (“governs”) the day and that the moon is the most prominent natural light at night.

How something appears is a different question from how something works. So, for example, in describing my camping trip I could say:

I had a greater light [a campfire] to govern my late dinner and setting up my tent, and a lesser light [my battery lantern] to govern my bedtime reading in my tent.

This, too, would be a phenomenological statement that had to do with one thing providing relatively more illumination, and a second providing relatively less. It makes no statement (either in intent or in terms of language) as to how the light in each case was caused or originated. According to Bob’s warped “logic” I would supposedly be commenting that my lantern (utilizing a battery and electricity and a light bulb) functioned in exactly the same way as the campfire (the chemical process of combustion and oxidation). That is beyond silly; likewise, by analogy, so is his wishful, ludicrous interpretation of Genesis 1:16.

But let’s play Bob’s game for a moment, and pretend that the Bible (inspired by an omniscient God) always intends to make scientific statements whenever it refers to anything physical, or the world of nature. If that were true, then would not the following passages imply that the moon reflects the light of the sun?:

Ezekiel 32:7 (RSV) . . . I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. (Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15)

Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, (cf. Mt 24:29; Acts 2:20; Rev 6:12)

If we are to take Genesis 1:16 as a “textbook in astronomy” (again, adopting Bob’s mistaken mentality for the sake of argument), then why not these other passages, too? And if we did that, they would plausibly imply that a darkened sun would then cause a moon without moonlight (since the two things appear correlated in these passages, in a way that is consistent with astronomy). In fact, Bob’s second example of Isaiah 13:10 illustrates the same principle of the moon’s light being caused by the sun’s. Bob conveniently omitted the first part of the passage (without telling his readers, which is a bit sneaky):

Isaiah 13:10  For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light.

RSV has “shed” which could just as easily refer to reflected light, as self-generated light. Whatever translation Bob used (he doesn’t say) has the word “cause.” KJV also has it. Most modern English Bible translations (like RSV) use a word other than cause for the Hebrew rib (or, riyb: Strong’s word #7379) which has a variety of meanings:

NASB / Amplified / REB / NRSV / Goodspeed: shed
NIV / Good News: give
CEV: lose its glow
NEB: refuse to shine
Moffatt: never be bright

Of course — knowing Bob — he could simply argue that all these Bible translators were lying or being deliberately dishonest. It’s an easy out for him whenever the going gets rough . . . 

But Isaiah 13:10 could also be a sort of anthropomorphic language: often also used of God; that is, attributing to God (in a non-literal, poetic manner) human qualities, or to things, qualities that they do not possess. We know that this is common in Scripture. So, for example, Psalm 104:19 states that “the sun knows its time for setting.” This is pre-scientific, anthropomorphic language for the notion of predictable scientific laws, “the sun will go down at a certain, predetermined time” (just as any weather report today will tell us). Or the Bible will use poetic language for what is clearly instinctive animal behavior (it describes in “appearance” language, or in terms of an animal “knowing” what it does by natural law or instinct):

Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the heavens knows her times; and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming; . . . 

The stork no more “knows” or “causes” these things than the moon “causes” its own light. Both instances are non-literal, phenomenological language. Much ado about nothing. What is revealed here is notscientific errors in the Bible” but rather, Bob’s profound ignorance of the literary genres of the Bible, and of the ancient Hebrew worldview. He loves to compare the Bible to other ancient sources and cultures when there is any similarity (which he inexplicably thinks is some sort of “victory” for his perspective); yet he seems unable to undertake any study of Hebrew thinking and how it manifests itself in Scripture.

8. The stars are teeny light sources

The Bible dismisses the stars by imagining their creation this way:

[God] also made the stars (Genesis 1:16).

That’s it. 100 billion galaxies each with 100 billion stars are only worth a single Hebrew word in the original (a more literal reading is “(and) the stars”).

Huh? I must confess that I don’t follow Bob’s thinking here. Where’s the beef? When the Bible is in fact poetic and non-literal, Bob doesn’t get it. He’s out to sea. But when it is literal and matter-of-fact, he demands that it be flowery and poetic and more “demonstrative.” On what basis, I wonder, can he dictate to God how He ought to express Himself in Scripture? If there is a God, does that make any sense? Bob wants to instruct an infinitely intelligent, omniscient being how to express Himself? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

How does this passage “dismiss” the stars in the first place? What did Bob expect to see: a 50,000-page essay on the wonders of astronomy? Of course, the passage he is referring to, Genesis 1, is expressing a summary view of all of creation. Thus, the stars are mentioned briefly, along with everything else (human beings get two verses: 1:26-27). It’s a ludicrous observation and demand, that Bob makes. But we have come to expect such vapid thinking from him. The only common thread and only rule in his head is that the Bible always has to be wrong, and good ol’ wiseacre Bob always right.

But in this commentary. Bob acts as if this is the extent of what the Bible discusses as concerns the stars and astronomy (as if the Bible writers couldn’t care less about it; had no natural curiosity about science or the night skies). In fact, there is a great deal, as we find in the lengthy section on the constellations, in the entry on “Astronomy” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. It states:

The principal achievement of the science of astronomy in the centuries during which the books of the Old Testament were written was the arrangement and naming of the constellations, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the same system was known to the Hebrews as that which has been handed down to us through the Greek astronomers. . . . it is probable that they [the constellations] were well known to Abraham before he left Ur of the Chaldees. It has been frequently shown (The Astronomy of the Bible, 158 [read it online]; Astronomy without a Telescope, 5) that these constellations themselves supply evidence that they were designed about 2700 BC. They thus antedated the time of Abraham by some centuries, and since some of their most characteristic forms are found upon old Babylonian “boundary stones,” it is clear that they were known in the country from whence he came out. [cf., “Astronomy in the Bible,” Catholic Encyclopedia]

There are few things more ironically hilarious (though sad, too) than a demonstrably ignorant fool (with regard to a specific topic) going around telling everyone else (including God Himself) how stupid they supposedly are. Bob is an educated man, with a degree in computer science. He’s surely capable of so much more. We don’t expect him as an atheist to agree with the Bible or to praise its wisdom. But we do expect him (as a self-appointed critic of “Christian thinking”) to at least intelligently interpret the Bible, with a bare minimum of required study: to present it as it is: not what he forces it to supposedly “be.”

They’re dismissed as tiny when they’re imagined to fall to earth:

The stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind (Revelation 6:13).

I don’t see anything about “tiny” in the passage. This is highly symbolic, apocalyptic, catastrophic language (as even Bob ought to know, since it is the book of Revelation), with the typical Hebraic agricultural analogy but Bob (as seemingly always) takes it literally, as if it were intended that way. I guess he thinks that St. John in the first century literally thought that distant stars would be as big as figs when they fell to the earth. My patience with this folly is almost to the breaking point.

9. The earth was flooded

The Bible tells us that the entire earth was flooded, but the fossil evidence disagrees (long-extinct dinosaurs and modern animals living in the same habitats aren’t fossilized in the same strata).

The geological evidence disagrees (the impact of the ocean is present in many stone layers, but a global flood isn’t).

The DNA evidence disagrees (clues to a DNA choke point about 4000 years ago should be obvious in all living land animals from their having descended from very few individuals).

And in fact (not according to Bob’s mythology) the Bible agrees with science here, since it doesn’t teach a global flood in the first place, as I have elaborated upon elsewhere, and as The Catholic Encyclopedia (from way back in 1913) also explains.

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?

Once again, five minutes searching on Google wold 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).

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 Galileo, Tycho 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.

***

Photo credit: ulrikebohr570 (“blood moon”) [public domain / Good Free Photos]

***

Follow Us!



Browse Our Archives