From: Brian Holtz [brian@holtz.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2003 8:09 AM
To: Bob Norsworthy III
Subject: RE: Jesus
On your page about the Trilemma you quote some of my conclusions from my Trilemma debate with Turkel (without daring to link to my material). You write:
H: how weak is the textual evidence that Jesus ever claimed identity with God

N: Jesus never claimed identity with God? Itís all over every gospel. Extant manuscripts exist to verify that.

The title of 'God' is never reliably applied to Jesus anywhere in the New Testament.
H: how striking it is that Jesus' siblings and parents weren't believers, despite alleged angelic revelations to them

N: Actually, Jesusí family were skeptical at first, but believed in the end. And so what if they were skeptical?

("So what?" Is that supposed to be an argument?)

Nothing in the gospels suggests that Mary or Joseph was a believer in Jesus during his ministry, despite the gospel claims that

Christians have no way to reconcile the disbelief of Jesus' family with these gospel verses.
N: Lots of people were.
Indeed. Jesus' "miracles" were not very convincing even to eyewitnesses [Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24]. Many of the resurrection "appearances" seem to have been unimpressive to the disciples who heard about them (and should have been expecting them) and even to those who witnessed them:
H: how likely it was that Mary conceived Jesus with some man other than Joseph

N: And your proof is what?

Jesus seems to have been illegitmate, and to have been known to be such in his community [Mt 1:18-24, Jn 8:41]. His only recorded words before his ministry concern his disobedience [Lk 2:48,51] at age 12 to his mother and stepfather, whom he denied [cf. Mt 23:9] by calling the Temple "my Father's house". He spurned his stepfather's trade of carpentry to take up a ministry proclaiming himself the son not of Joseph but of God. Despite alleged angelic revelations [Lk 1:32, Mt 1:20, Mt 2:13, Mt 2:20] to Mary and Joseph, they (and Jesus' siblings) did not believe in him [Jn 7:5, Mt 13:57] and thought him "out of his mind" [Mk 3:21], leading Jesus to repeatedly stress [Mk 3:33, 10:29; Mt 10:37, 12:48, 19:29; Lk 11:27-28, 14:26] that one should choose God over one's biological family. Only on the day of his death do the gospels record a single friendly word [Jn 19:26] from Jesus to his family.
H: how likely it was that Jesus' awareness that Joseph wasn't his father led Jesus to adopt Yahweh as his father

N: ??? Whatís that supposed to mean?

Jesus to Joseph: "You're not my real dad! Yahweh is my real dad!"
H: how much the early Jewish polemical reaction to Jesus disputed the gospel stories

N: Again, where is the proof of this?

In an upcoming response in my Trilemma debate with Turkel I write: Of these accounts, the only first-century account -- Josephus' -- is also the most authoratative, and while it reports on much minutiae covering the entire period during which Jesus lived, it doesn't mention:
H: that the New Testament contains no reliably first-hand testimony to the physical resurrection of Jesus

N: It contains more proof of the resurrection than there is proof otherwise!

False.
H: how ambiguous and suspicious are the NT accounts of the resurrection

N: To who? You? They make sense to me!

Your own holy text rebuts you:
H: how exclusive Jesus was as a practicing Jew preaching to the Jews

N: Are you trying to say Jesus never accepted gentiles?

No, I'm saying  Jesus was a Jewish prophet who affirmed Jewish law [Mt 5:17-18; Lk 2:27,39; Jn 10:35], observed the Jewish calendar [Lk 4:16, Mt 24:20], and preached in Jewish synagogues [Mk 1:21, 1:39, 6:2; Mt 4:23, 9:35, 13:54; Lk 4:15, 4:44, 6:6, 13:10, 19:47; Jn 6:59, 18:20] exclusively to Jews [Mt 10:5, Mt 15:24] about the God of Israel [e.g. Mk 12:29].
H: how deafening is the silence about Jesus and his miracles in early non-Christian writings

N: Thereís not that much early non-Christian writing to begin with. Heck, thereís almost no writings from that period at all. The scholastics had a hard time getting Plato and Aristotleís writings together. Absence doesn't prove your point.

No mention of Herod's massacre or the gospel miracles to make it into the accounts of Josephus, Philo, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, or indeed any writer of the entire first century (other than the New Testament authors). Their silence is deafening.
H: how trivial it would have been for a competent deity to arrange evidence much more convincing than Christianity's

N: Then Christianity wouldnít require much faith, would it? We would be robots.

Was Doubting Thomas a robot?  Were the witnesses of the Good Friday zombies and earthquake all robots? Were the witnesses of the apostolic miracles in Acts all robots? Were the Israelite beneficiaries of all those ridiculous OT miracles all robots?

This Divine Shyness argument is of course is the saddest argument of theists.  I suspect it is quite modern, and that historians will say that it marked the beginning of the end of philosophical theism. The presumably recent vintage of this argument shows that theists have lost much of their confidence in their position since roughly a millennium ago, when they believed they had multiple independent philosophical arguments that absolutely proved God's existence.

The Divine Shyness argument is refuted by Christianity's own texts. El/Yahweh had no compunction about "forcing" belief with all his Old Testament miracles (that were so petulantly primitive and so obviously constrained by ancient pre-scientific imagination). Jesus similarly had no compunction about "forcing" belief with his New Testament miracles (which, happening during a time with far better historical records, were not coincidentally much more modest than the OT's miracles).

Apologists cannot have it both ways. Either first-hand witness of miracles is a forcing of belief, or it is a non-forcing level of evidence whose denial to the rest of us is immoral (given the punishment for non-belief).

N: Thatís the beauty of Christianity, we have to learn that we donít know everything
The beauty of the Christian Divine Shyness doublethink is that it is perfectly unfalsifiable: available evidence for God is evidence for God, and evidence that is missing or contrary is just evidence that we're not being coerced into believing. With Divine Shyness, you don't even have to invoke Satan or demons or false prophets to explain the holes in Christianity's case...
N: weíre not in control of anything and we need God.
Christianity indeed markets itself well to those who consider themselves weak -- and then does a good job of keeping them feeling that way.
N: Iím glad there are some mysteries because without them, life would be so dull. [..] There are human mysteries, cosmic mysteries and we need God to help us live with them.
There are plenty of mysteries already, and some of us would rather face them head-on than resign ourselves to superstitious ignorance by believing that a celestial father-figure has all the answers and is deliberately withholding knowledge from us.
N: Weíre not meant to understand everything, just the same way children donít
Christians usually get upset when skeptics compare them to children; it's nice that you recognize the aptness of the comparison. :-)
N: Clearly, the only option left is that Jesus was Lord. Using the Bible, history and common sense, it's not hard to debunk these opposing ideas.
"Debunk"?  Ignoring my arguments, you took a list of my conclusions and wrote things like: What you did was indeed "not hard".