From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2003 12:58 AM
To: Bob Norsworthy III
Subject: RE: Jesus
fantastic. i'm glad you emailed me. i admire your intellectual tenacity. hopefully we can channel that drive in the right direction.
Keep hoping. :-)  I've crossed paths with other Christians who were similarly optimistic about how our conversations would go, but they've always ended reacting to my dispassionate arguments with incivility or headlong retreat (or both). Will you be able to avoid those fates? :-)
the first overall impression that i get is that there are some misconceptions about some doctrinal issues.
Indeed; you repeat the standard orthodox Christian misconceptions about what the gospels actually say.
 N: the verses you have mentioned about Jesus stating his separateness from God are true. they are not unclear and He meant what He said. Jesus was fully man. [..] However, to limit Jesus to that one facet is to not completely understand who He was.
To say Jesus was fully human and fully divine is just to repeat an ancient oxymoron invented in a hopeless attempt to reconcile Jewish monotheism with Jesus' addled self-conception.
mark 8:29, luke 9:20 - you are the Christ, the messiah.
    referring explicitly to the judaic savior, the son of God. the same one aobut whom was prophesied 44 times in the OT
"Anointed" [Messiah, Christ] is a past participle, implying a distinction between the annointer and the annointee. Can you cite even one OT passage in which the Messiah is said to be precisely God?
john 14:9 - anyone who has seen me has seen the Father
    explicitly saying He and the Father are one and the same
This of course is the opposite of "explicit". In fact, Jesus goes on to explain what he means: "it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work".
matthew 9:2 - your sins are forgiven
    an act that only God could perform.
Typical Christian mis-use of context. In Mat 9:3 some Jews also leaped to your conclusion (considering this "blasphemy"), but Jesus qualified his status by saying [9:6] "the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins". Matthew confirms this interpretation in verse 8: "When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.".
there was no one anywhere who was in confusion about that.
As I just showed, Matthew was indeed "confused" -- i.e. did not share your misinterpretation.
 as evidenced by john 10:33
Another blatant ignoring of context. I repeat:  In this the one instance in the gospels [Jn 10:33ff] in which Jesus' identity with God is explicitly discussed, Jesus immediately [10:34] deflects the charge by citing a Psalm [82:6] as a precedent for his metaphor, and hastily retreats to his formulation of being "God's Son", adding vaguely that "the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (which 1 Jn 2:15 says is true of anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God).  When at another time [Jn 5:18ff] the Jews characterized the "Son of Man" title as "making himself equal with God",  Jesus answered not by claiming identity but by drawing distinctions:
there are 3 examples of Jesus and the disciples saying explicitly that they understood Him to be God.
Since you could muster no rebuttal, I'll just repeat: The title of 'God' is never reliably applied to Jesus anywhere in the New Testament. (In many translations of 2 Pet 1:1 and Titus 2:13, the description "God and Saviour" is seemingly applied to Jesus, but the scholarly consensus regards these two letters as late and pseudoepigraphic.) Acts quotes [2:22, 2:36, 3:13, 10:38, 17:31] Peter and Paul describing Jesus in terms of a man appointed to an office, but never calling him God.  The gospel authors never explicitly claim Jesus to be God, and the closest they come is the vague language of Jn 1: "the Word was God" and "became flesh". John quotes Thomas exclaiming [Jn 20] "my Lord and my God", but immediately states [20:31] as a creed merely "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God". The "mystery" of Jesus' nature was hardly clarified by the Apostles [e.g. Phil 2:6, Rom 1:4, Col 1:15, Col 2:9], whose epistles never claim Jesus had any kind of identity with God. (Christian scribes tried to change that; cf. the differing manuscripts for Rom 9:5, Acts 20:28, and 1 Tim 3:16.)
remember, He was God AND man.
Remember, he was a self-proclaimed "son of God" whose addled self-conception his followers decades later incompetently tried to reconcile with their Jewish monotheism.
let's make sure we're clear about john 10:33. Jesus didn't retreat to His own interpretation, He cited the psalm's example.
You of course did not quote Jesus' own words:
Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?
He clearly is saying that since the OT called mere men 'gods', it's not blasphemy (i.e. self-identification as God) for Jesus to say he is in communion with God.
i'm not sure why "the Father is in me, and I in the Father" is vague. it seems clear to me especially given the verses i have mentioned above. and yes, it is true of believers in a certain sense.
Air is in me and I am in the air, but I am not air. If Jesus wanted to say he was God, he would have said it. He didn't, because he was a devout Jew who knew he was not God.
again, let's not be exclusive. more than one tenet can be simultaneously true.
"Again, let's not be logical. A proposition and its negation can be simultaneously true." :-)
so in conclusion, what we see is that Jesus affirmed His separateness and His oneness with God, both being true.
If Jesus ever unambiguously asserted that Jesus is God and God is Jesus, the gospel authors forgot to write it down. Don't you consider it odd that there is even any room at all to debate the central point of your religion -- Jesus' revealed identity? Note that there is no room to debate what deity Jesus worshipped (Yahweh), or which people where originally chosen (the Jews), or what city was most holy (Jerusalem), or how Jesus died (crucifixion), or where Jesus ended up (heaven). Unfortunately, Jesus was never once quoted saying what you so dearly wish he would have said.
as far as the scriptures being clear on His sanity, we'll just have to disagree. i ask you, what part(s) show Jesus to be less than sane?
You apparently didn't read the "Delusional Schizophrenic" section in my Arguments Against Christianity.
Jesus backed it up with miracles witnessed by hundreds, wisdom in the face of adversity, humility that didn't seek personal advantage and authority over any who challenged Him. i can't understand how that's not enough.
In the gospels Jesus heals the sick (blindness, skin disorder, bleeding, fever, paralysis, withered hand), revives the recently deceased, calms a storm, multiplies food, and walks on water. The miracles ascribed to Jesus seem not to have been very convincing [Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24], and seem explainable by a combination of conventional faith healing, exaggeration, and mythologizing. The three people Jesus allegedly reanimates [Mk 5/Lk 8; Lk 7; Jn 11] might not actually have been clinically dead, and the gospels report not a single indication supporting such a diagnosis. Any cases of blindness, paralysis, or demonic possession cured by Jesus could have been psychogenic. The one case of congenital blindness is recorded as disputed, and only in the latest gospel [Jn 9].

Jesus' wisdom and humility is irrelevant to evaluating the divinity claims that you merely wish he'd made. What's relevant is that the gospels say repeatedly [Jn 7:1, 8:59, 11:53-54, 12:36; Mt 12:14-15, Mk 3:6-7, Lk 13:31,33] that Jesus retreated from or avoided danger. He was secretive and evasive about his special nature [Mk 3:12, 8:30, 4:41; Lk 9:21, 10:22-24; Mt 16:20; Jn 2:24, 8:25-29, 10:24-38, 12:34], and reluctant to have his powers tested [Mk 8:12; Lk 11:29, 23:8; Mt 4:7, 12:39, 16:4; Jn 2:18].

i'm not sure how mark 11:14 is a mental or social breakdown.
In my book I don't count it as evidence of mental illness. I merely say that if you're looking for possible evidence of a break from reality, you can't ignore this episode.
He was a man and anger is one of those emotions.
He was indeed a man. I'm nowhere near omnipotent or omniscient, but even I have never gotten mad at a plant.
i count 37 miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospels. the first one in matt 8:2 was witnessed by "great multitudes". there were others so i'm not sure why you make the statement no first hand accounts.
Nobody ever wrote "I John Doe saw Jesus work a miracle." Mark and Luke were not eyewitnesses, and quote none. Matthew was written by an unknown author who later church tradition identified with the apostle Matthew, but the text heavily quotes the non-eyewitness Mark rather than providing an independent eyewitness account. John was written by an unknown author who is ambiguously identified (in the third person: 21:24) with the apostle John only in the final chapter, which is itself an apparent addendum.
paul was the ONLY one to "save" Christianity????
"ONLY" isn't my word. I see you read my statements about as well as you read Jesus'. :-)
it doesn't matter how old the material in the Bible is, it would have never been believed by ANYONE if it weren't verifiable!
There is not a single instance in all of Acts in which any missionary of Jesus invokes or invites verification of Jesus' divinity among anyone other than Jesus' original followers. Indeed, there is no evidence in Acts of verification ever being cited or attempted for any claim of a remote supernatural event. Instead: Once again your own holy text rebuts your claims.
anyone who could contradict ONE ITEM in the Bible would have negated the entire religion.
Demonstrably false. There are millions of people who believe the Bible has errors but who nevertheless consider themselves Christians.
i invite you to show me any supposed contradictions you can find.
You apparently have not read my Arguments Against Christianity.
however, before we even waste time reinventing the wheel, there are many websites that give reasonable explanations to these apparent inconsistancies. all a person has to do is scratch the surface to find an explanation.
Bingo. Apologists seek to bury gospel contradictions under a mountain of obfuscation and diversion that comforts Christians only by its enormity.  The Old Testament is simply laughable, and for the New Testament I identify six blatant contradictions, no single one of which a competent deity would ever have left behind.
again, if there is something you disagree with on my website, i invite you to bring it up and i will be glad to clarify it.
Again: if you think you have arguments for Christianity that can stand up to my arguments against it, then I challenge you to show them to your readers side-by-side with mine.
critical rationality as mediated by the marketplace of ideas??? HA. what a laugh. those ideas change like the tides. first the world was flat, then round. chocolate is good for you, bad for you, good for you.
The world is indeed spheroid, and it's amusing that you would compare this unalterable fact to the ever-changing tides. Your mention of chocolate as a purported example of a signficant paradigm shift is simply bizarre.
skepticism, no - modernism, no - existentialism. whatever.
"Whatever", indeed. To learn something about the inexorable and undeniable progress in human intellectual history, see here, here, and here.
rationality is a great tool. but that's all it is, a tool. it cannot fill the love sized void in a person's soul.
Christianity (and other kinds of self-delusion, and certain psychoactive substances) can indeed be effective first aid for people facing emotional difficulties -- like lonely foreign students and "international seamen". (You must not be very confident that Christianity's case is objectively compelling if your priority is to "harvest" the emotionally vulnerable, instead of e.g. persuading philosophers and scientists.)
i applaud you for your intelligence and your persistance. hopefully, one day you will look deeper into life than just philosophy.
You might as well write "hopefully one day you will look deeper into life than just looking deeply into life". You  seem to have no inkling of the heights I've surveyed and the depths I've plumbed.