H: "Dark matter"? Infidels.org has a comprehensive library of atheist and anti-Christian polemics, but I haven't noticed a section devoted to "dark matter". (If you're talking about the universe potentially having zero net energy due to dark energy -- which is not at all the same thing as "dark matter" -- then you should note that no theory of physical cosmology could ever prove that the universe is self-caused and thereby positively refute the Cosmological Argument.)Your cosmology isn't much better than your history or biblical scholarship. Dark matter is the ~25% of the universe's content that is inferred to exist from the rotation of visible matter in galaxies. It is not known to be at all causally related to dark energy, the ~70% of the universe's content which was discovered in 1998 to be accelerating the universe's expansion.
N: Dark matter is thought to be the substance that causes dark energy.
N: The universe doesn’t have zero net energy.The net energy of the universe is not known, but zero is a theoretically attractive estimate.
N: Some internet research on dark matter/energy will yield some simple tutorials that will explain this cosmological situation.You apparently did not grasp the "simple tutorials" you consulted.
H: 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.
N: It is an ancient oxymoron but that does not mean that it is untrue. It was invented, by God. Man got the idea from the OT, first hand experience with Jesus and divine revelation.
N: Jesus’ self conception was right in line with His perfect fulfillment of OT prophecy"Perfect"? The evangelists couldn't even competently fabricate evidence that Jesus was born in the prophecied town of Bethlehem, and never once in the NT is Jesus or any of his disciples quoted as citing this alleged prophecy fulfillment to any audience.
H: Can you cite even one OT passage in which the Messiah is said to be precisely God?Not a single OT passage you cite states that the Messiah is God. No such passage exists, and none of the verses you cite here qualify as convincing prophecy about Jesus under any Christology.
N: Again, you are correct, there is a distinction between Jesus the man and God. That does not preclude Jesus’ duality. Therefore, there is no need to cite a messianic prophecy that meets your criteria. However, since I am a good sport:
Is 7:14-virgin birthNo, Luke and Matthew clumsily take Isaiah out of context, apparently as a result of a translation error in the Septuagint.
Hos 11:1 [out of Egypt]Hos 11:1 refers not to the Messiah but to the Exodus from Egypt. The flight of Jesus' family to Egypt in Mat 2 is typical of how the Matthew tradition so often takes OT passages out of context and clumsily applies them to (sometimes probably fabricated) events in Jesus' life. Never once in the NT is Jesus or any his disciples quoted as citing this alleged prophecy fulfillment to any audience.:
Is 40:3-5A "voice" in the "desert" saying "prepare the way for the Lord" is hopelessly vague as to time, place and person, and I see no indication that the context here is messianic at all.
Is 9:1-2-[jesus’ Galilean ministry]A plainly failed political prophecy, as Is 9:7 says "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom."
Zech 9:9Even if it were true that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the animal(s) in question, and even if Matthew hadn't misunderstood the OT verse, this proves nothing, since Jesus could have been self-consciously arranging the fulfillment.
Is 53:5Jesus was "pierced" but was not "crushed", so this cannot count as a successful prophecy.
Ps 16:10If Jesus' body was stolen (as hinted by Mt 28:13), that would trivially allow his disciples to claim his body did not "decay" and that he was "redeemed from the grave".
Mal 3:1None of these make any specific prophecy about Jesus, and of course none of these say the Messiah is God. (See Jim Lippard's article for a refutation of all of the most significant alleged OT prophecies about Jesus.)
N: john 14:9 - anyone who has seen me has seen the FatherTogetherness only needs to be mentioned when it is not implied from identity. Saying two things are together is implicitly saying they are not identical.
explicitly saying He and the Father are one and the same
H: 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".
N: And how is does that make Him separate from God? The Father is in Him meaning togetherness, not separateness.
N: The statement is explicit in that there is no ambiguity as to the identification of Jesus.Clearly false. I could say "anyone who has seen me has seen the light", but that's not the same thing as saying I'm a light bulb.
N: If you have seen Bob Norsworthy III and the son of Bob Norsworthy, JR, you have seen the same person.The issue here is whether the statement "who has seen X has seen Y" implies that X=Y. Your analogy is specious because you smuggle in a stipulation that X=Y.
N: Avoiding exclusivism, we see that “such authority to men” refers to the OT judges who had been divinely appointed and had been given such authority. Therefore, there have been men who have been appointed by God to have such authority and/or the Son of Man who inherently had such authority. An accurate analogy.The only new fact you introduce into evidence here is yet another instance in which mere men were delegated authority to forgive sins. How does this constitute an argument that "the Son of Man inherently had such authority"?
N: matthew, mark, luke and john were so convinced about Jesus’ identity, they went on to author the gospels proclaiming Jesus’ divinity.If this discussion is going to continue, I'm going to have to insist that you refrain from citing "Son of God" designations as allegedly straightforward proclamations that Jesus was Yahweh himself. By doing so you blatantly beg the question in dispute here. Is your "Son of God equals God" dogma so ingrained that you cannot comprehend that I dispute it?
mark 8:29, luke 9:20 - you are the Christ, the messiah. referring explicitly to the judaic savior, the son of God.
Matthew 16:21, mark 8:31, luke 9:21-22-taught who? The disciplesSorry, but "Son of God" and "Lord" quotes are obviously not statements that Jesus is Yahweh. The only one that comes close is Thomas allegedly exclaiming [Jn 20:28] "my Lord and my God", but he immediately states [20:31] as a creed merely "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God". Also, Jn 20:28 could be an instance, like Rom 9:5, Acts 20:28, and 1 Tim 3:16, in which Christian scribes tried to correct the NT's embarrassing lack of God-identifications for Jesus.
John 20:28 [Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"]
Matthew 15:22, 25
These are some examples of people who were not at all confused about who Jesus was.
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". 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 has 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.) Even the alleged angelic annunciation of Jesus to his parents ommitted [Lk 1:32, Mt 1:20, Mt 2:13, Mt 2:20] the claim that Jesus was Yahweh incarnate.
N: Yes, He cited the psalm as a precedent of divinely ordained authority. However, that reference does not refer to His condition but to the origination of His authority. The psalm does so by the use of the word “elohim” which is literally “mighty ones or gods”. The citation of the psalm does nothing to detract from His oneness with God. Now show me how that’s ignoring of context!Simple: you cited Jesus being accused of claiming to be God in Jn 10:33, but you ignored the fact that in 10:34, Jesus did not say anything like "Yes, I'm God". Instead, he cited a psalm in which mere men are called "gods": "If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came [..]". The referents of Jesus' word "them" are mere men, and he is saying that if those men can be called gods, so can he. Your "detract from His oneness with God" is pure hand-waving to distract from your unwillingness to deal with Jesus' actual words.
N: Your use of the word vague is an opinion. It is crystal clear to me that “in me” and “in the Father” mean oneness and that it can be true to a certain extent of all believers.Your "certain extent" blatantly concedes my point that mutual inclusion is far too vague to be considered a claim of identity.
N: One does not necessarily negate the other as they both can be true simultaneously.You're confused as to my claim. I'm not saying that Jesus said "I am not God". I'm saying that Jesus never said "I am God".
N: “Whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner”. What human can reproduce what God does? No one! What human can be called “Son” e.g. salvific messiah? No one. “The Son gives life to whom He will” and “has committed all judgment to the Son”. These are actions not reproducible by any humanJesus indeed apparently considered himself to be uniquely special. Unfortunately for you, he never said he was God.
N: again confirming that He is not drawing distinctions.We were talking about Jn 10:34, in which Jesus clearly deflects the charge of identity with God, but the text doesn't support your case, so you change the subject to other things Jesus said that happen to be about his unique specialness and not about his distinctness from God. Your tactic is transparent.
N: “Him who sent me” can only be said of someone who existed before human incarnation.Actually, the early traditions of the Jesus movement just considered Jesus' baptism to be his "sending".
H: 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.Your own holy text fails you yet again: "You are 'gods'; you are all sons of the Most High" [Ps 82:6].
N: The people to whom He is referring were never called Son of God.
N: Obviously the jews knew that what He was saying was blasphemy because they then intended to stone Him for such a claim.Jesus plainly dodged the identity-with-God charge in Jn 10, and that charge was not recorded at Jesus' actual trial -- when his enemies were desperate [Mk 14:55-64] for a charge under which to execute him. When Jesus was executed, he was mocked or accused as a faith healer, prophet, king of the Jews, Messiah, and "Son of God" [Jn 19:7] -- but never as divine or as a god. When Jesus died, onlookers are said to have exclaimed not that Jesus was God, but rather the "Son of God" [Mat 27:54].
H: 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.Huh? What difference are you imagining here between a "state" and a "condition"?
N: We’re not referring to a physical state, but a condition.
N: Your analogy is invalid.I am in the Libertarian Party, and the Libertarian Party is in me, but I am not the Libertarian Party. Mutual partial inclusion is indisputably not the same thing as ontological identity. (Jesus would never have said that God is exclusively or totally in Jesus.) My analogies are completely valid.
N: again, let's not be exclusive. more than one tenet can be simultaneously true.This seems like an embarrassed admission that the dual nature and Trinity are oxymoronic.
H: "Again, let's not be logical. A proposition and its negation can be simultaneously true." :-)
N: This proposition isn’t meant to be understood logically. It takes faith. In the context of our universal paradigm, it is a paradox that the finite mind cannot wrap itself around.
N: Also, Jesus’ duality isn’t a proposition and it’s negation, it’s simply a dual proposition. His incarnation is not a subtraction of deity, but an addition of humanity. so in conclusion, what we see is that Jesus affirmed His separateness and His oneness with God, both being true.Jesus is quoted as asserting his distinctness and communion with Yahweh, but the undeniable fact is that the he was never quoted saying he was Yahweh..
H: 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.Yet another dodge. In the future, just answer my questions when I ask them, rather than assuming that anything you write is going to make me retract them.
N: Hold on a second, chief. Let’s see your response to this correspondence.
H: hallucinations: hearing or seeing God, Satan, demons, and angels;We have no eyewitness accounts, and even in the polemical second-hand acounts, Jesus many times was the only one reported as hearing the voice.
N: Hardly “hallucinations” when verified by other people
H: delusions of grandiosity: belief that he is the salvific Christ/Messiah with miraculous powers and apocalyptic foreknowledge;His alleged miraculous powers were: unimpressive to many alleged witnesses, unreliable in his home town, unable to be tested on demand, and suspiciously explainable as faith healing, exaggeration, and fabrication. "Other people" believed in David Koresh; was he therefore not delusional?
N: believed by other people as well. Actually, He didn’t believe He had miraculous powers, He actually DID. Other people believed that also so it hardly seems to be a delusion.
H: delusions of persecution: temptation by Satan; opposition by demons;I never said that the persecution by Satan definitively proves delusionality, and I'm gratified to hear you concede that this symptom is consistent with my diagnosis.
N: hardly a sign that He was schiz. There have been lots of sane people who have experienced these same “symptoms”. I agree that this could be a sign of a problem, but not necessarily
H: an insidious reduction in external relations and interests: nomadic asceticism; estrangement from his family.Which of these people adopted nomadic asceticism and family estrangement (let alone martyrdom) because of voices in his head?
N: And how is this different that what entertainers do when trying to run from the paparazzi? Also, I have friends who don’t need much “social” time, e.g. “loners”. I have a brother who doesn’t really care to spend much time with anyone, especially his family. That’s just his nature. However, we know that he is not schiz.
N: There is another contradiction present here. One of your points about Jesus’ alleged schizophrenia is that He held the “belief that he is the salvific Christ/Messiah” yet you cling desperately to the notion that Jesus never claimed to be God.Again: being the Messiah is not the same thing as being Yahweh -- as any mainstream scholar of Judaism will tell you.
N: Just because He retreated from or avoided danger doesn’t mean He didn’t think He was omnipotent. He came to earth with a plan for how His ministry would be realized and that obviously didn’t include your idea of how He should be the militant, swashbuckling messiah judas thought He would be. He came as the lamb.If his plan was to incarnate himself as someone who appeared to be a non-divine identity-concealing danger-avoiding schizophrenic bastard carpenter with unreliable powers, it worked.
N: Why don’t we just “dump” all the knowledge we have on kids at the beginning? Why do we dole out information in parcels or why do we shield them from some things? Because their minds can’t process all of the information too quickly. The same thing is true for us in relation to God’s plan. [..] As I said before, divine revelation is inversely proportionate to the faith required to believe.Again, these are laughable excuses for why everyone doesn't deserve the same level of evidence that Doubting Thomas enjoyed. Am I a "kid" compared to Thomas and the thousands or millions of people in first century Judea and Galilee who were deemed capable of "process[ing] all the information" quickly enough?
If Jesus had done as you request, the balance point between the two would be affected. We would be reduced to “Brian’s version of how Christianity should exist”It's utterly specious to claim that wanting better evidence for Christianity is a personal ideosyncracy of Brian Holtz. If this is how you're going to debate, why bother pretending to answer my individual arguments? Why not just say "everything Brian says is subjective and nobody would share any of his judgments", and be done with it? (The answer, of course, is that you are trying to shore up your shaky dogma, and not convince anyone else.)
You are trying to say “Jesus should have done this or that”. Oh yeah? Well someone else might disagree.If that someone has actual arguments for his position, then I should debate him instead of you.
N: When I teach, I don’t always just give out the answer. Very many times, I let students fail so that they will learn from their failure instead of me forcing the knowledge on them. This is a controlled learning environment. What you call secretive and evasive was actually Jesus not revealing all of the details of everything at once akin to reading the last page of a book first.Jesus indeed never revealed the "detail" of his identity with Yahweh. If Yahweh is omniscient, then he knew at every moment that the record Jesus was compiling was utterly unimpressive and would lead multitudes of sincere and rational people into disbelief and thus eternal torment. Thus either Yahweh isn't omniscient or Yahweh is immoral -- which is it?
N: Was He merely a good teacher? He didn’t leave this option open. His name, Jesus (literally Yeshua is Aramaic for the salvation of the Lord; clearly a reference to deity) is an example.Many Jewish names are like that; his name of course proves nothing. Note that he is never called Immanuel in the gospels, thus disproving the OT prophecy.
“I am”- reference to the OT description of God himselfVerses, please. (Your capitalization of "I am" is specious; there is no capitalization at all in the Greek NT manuscripts.)
If you do not believe that I AM, you will die for your sins
I came from the Father (before He was human)
Before Abraham was I amThis is a good example of the inexcusable vagueness of Jesus' self-revelation. Note the context of Jn 8:50ff:
I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. [..] If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him.Thus in the context of this vague (and probably metaphorical) assertion of pre-existence, Jesus distinguishes himself from Yahweh in three different ways.
your sins are forgivenClearly none of these constitutes a claim to be Yahweh.
I and the Father are one
The Father is in me and I am in Him
I am (Jesus answering the question if He is the Christ, Son of God)
I have the power to lay it (my life) down and take it again.
I lay down My life for the sheep (only God can save men’s souls)
I am the good shepherd (referring to God in ps 23:1, 79:13, 80:1, ezek 34:15)
I who speak to you am He (the messiah, the second adam)
N: 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.
H: 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].Is this supposed to be an argument that the reports of healing miracles couldn't have grown from conventional placebo-style faith healing? Your Jesus exclamation and two insubstantive questions are laughable as counter-arguments to my detailed 35-citation analysis above.
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].
N: Conventional? What’s conventional about faith healing? Where do you think it came from? It came from Jesus!
Exaggeration? That’s an opinion that lacks proof. Where is your contradictory evidence saying “I know so and so who was there and that man wasn’t dead, he was just sleeping”? [..] “Might not” are the key words when referring to the deceased. Do you have some reference that contradicts the bible? Where is the testimony of the person who was there who said “he might not have been dead”. Where is the text that says “such and such was there and he said the person might not have been dead”?So if anybody writes down polemical second-hand decades-old reports of alleged reanimations that sound suspiciously like cases of mistaken diagnosis of death, you're going to believe that those were actual miracles unless and until you get contemporaneous affidavits to the contrary? This wonderfully exemplifies your credulousness and dogmatism.
Mythologizing? This is a very curious assessment. Mythologizing by whom? Given the fact that the gospels were written 25 to 80 years after Jesus’ death, it hard to believe that the eyewitness accounts had enough time to grow into myth.There was more than enough time for such false beliefs to arise; see Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire.
We have one reference to these events which is confirmed by the people who were there.We have no first-hand eyewitness reports of any gospel miracles. Instead, we have admissions that Jesus' alleged miracles were not very convincing: Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24.
If these events weren’t true, why didn’t some other council refute the canonization of the bible by the councils of Hippo and Jamnia? The councils of hippo and jamnia threw out what was erroneous and kept what was inerrant.Jamnia wasn't about the NT, and Hippo wasn't until AD393, far too late for any skeptical investigation of the gospel claims. You clearly need to read The Formation of the New Testament Canon.
The Christians of the first century knew people, lots of people, who were there at these events. If otherwise, their testimony would have no substance.Indeed, their testimony was overwhelmingly rejected by the Jews of first-century Palestine, as Jesus is almost completely unmentioned in Josephus, whereas John the Baptist is discussed in detail. 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 or even being considered possible for any claim of a remote supernatural event.
Where are the writings of first century authors that discredit Christians as bearing false witness????Christianity wasn't important enough in the first century to be worth refuting. We know from Mat 28 that many Palestinian Jews already considered the Resurrection refuted, and we know from Acts and Josephus that most Palestinian Jews did not find Christianity believable.
H: I'm nowhere near omnipotent or omniscient, but even I have never gotten mad at a plant.The plant didn't merely suffer for some unrelated frustration of Jesus; he was specifically mad at it for not bearing fruit out of season. The scholar Robert Grant notes "Why should he have expected to find fruit? Because miraculous fruitfulness was to accompany the coming of God’s kingdom, as we read in Ezekiel 47:12 and in the Jewish apocalypses." The (allegedly omniscient) prophet Jesus apparently was frustrated at the lack of confirmation for his failed prophecy of an imminent messianic age.
N: The plant isn’t the issue. The emotion is. You can’t tell me that there has never been a sane person who took out their frustration on a non-human object.
H:  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.This flippant remark only highlights the fact that you cannot quote a single gospel verse asserting first-person eyewitness.
N: No they didn’t phrase their eyewitness accounts the way Brian says they should have.
But they did write about events, lots of them, that they personally witnessed with the “I was there” as being understood.Understood, or imagined? You offer no answer for any of my nine separate points above.
You could ask me, “who won the game” and I can tell you “the home team” or I could say “I went to the game and the home team won” but you may have already known “I went to the game” so why repeat it?You blatantly beg the question that the gospel authors were understood to be present. See points 2, 5, 8, and 9 above.
They, especially matthew, were writing to people who knew he was an eyewitness. I can drag the verses out if you like,Please do; there is no credible evidence to support this assertion.
but you can do that just as easily and save us both the time.It's laughable to say that me making your case for your saves me any time.
H: 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: [..]
N: You didn’t address the question. It’s nice that you provided these verses but they are irrelevant to the statement. A missionary invoking verification of Jesus’ divinity has nothing to do with validity of eyewitness accounts.
N: If the missionaries you spoke of, while proselytizing, were refuted by SOMEONE ELSE who was there, or knew someone who was there, the Christians’ testimonies would be unreliable.Your previous assertion having been demolished, you here retreat to a different one. Instead of asserting that the gospel claims were verifiable, you now merely assert that they weren't falsified. Unfortunately, your own holy texts undermine this weaker assertion as well.
First, the only detailed accounts of Christian proselytization we have that are early enough to even potentially include skeptical counter-investigation are all from Christians, who cannot be expected to faithfully and fully quote their opponents.
Second, we know from Mat 28 that many Palestinian Jews already considered the Resurrection falsified.
Third, we know from Acts (and Josephus) that most Palestinian Jews were not believers in Jesus, despite
N: In the absence of contradictory reports (not SEEMS UNIMPRESSIVE, DOUBTED, OR WAS UNSURE which are subjective measures), we are left with rejection or acceptance due to disposition and/or bias.The vast majority of regional witnesses to the alleged Nativity and Good Friday signs did not believe, nor even did some of the eyewitnesses of Jesus' alleged miracles: Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24. "Disposition and/or bias" indeed explains the minority's acceptance.
N: The people who witnessed them had the choice to accept or reject the implications. Why would someone deliberately reject an obviously divine intervention? Why do people break the law? They know it’s a crime and yet they do it anyway. Because it’s their nature.This is blatant special pleading: any witness of alleged miracles who nevertheless disbelieved did so because of character flaws, but any believing alleged witness is reliable. Your analogy to crime is worthless; the correct analogy would be to crimes committed by people who had seen supernatural evidence that they'd be caught and punished.
N: [..] whatever people make of it doesn’t change the content one iota because they are subjective comments. Ditto for Jesus’ ministry.This desperate everything-is-subjective stonewalling actually destroys your entire case: if every opinion and report is "subjective", then the entire New Testament can be dismissed as "subjective".
N: anyone who could contradict ONE ITEM in the Bible would have negated the entire religion.You thus concede that belief in the falsehood of a subset of Bible claims does not "negate the entire religion". Your substitute point about first century disbelief is a facile retreat, already rebutted above by my remarks about disbelief reported in Matthew and Acts.
H: Demonstrably false. There are millions of people who believe the Bible has errors but who nevertheless consider themselves Christians.
N: Correct, but they didn’t live during the first century and have a contradictory report on biblical events.
I’m still waiting on the “so and so was there and refutes the bible’s claims”.First century Palestinian Jews were there and your own holy texts concede that most didn't believe Christianity's claims. Eyewitnesses were there for the alleged miracles and your own holy texts concede that some didn't believe: Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24. I've already told you this before, but feel free to continue pretending to be "still waiting".
N: Jesus merely asserted authority on earth? The act of salvation is not an earthly authority. It is, as you so aptly observed authority to judge which happens in heaven from the right hand of God.You here do not even address the specifics of the verses in question -- the only ones in which Jesus' authority was ever interpreted as a claim of divinity. Again: when Jesus' opponents accused him with this interpretation, all three synoptics agree [Mk 2:10, Mt 9:6, Lk 5:24] that Jesus merely asserted "authority on earth", and none intimates that his accusers concluded he was affirming their accusation.
N: He refers to “We” and “Our” meaning oneness with GodI use "we" and "our" when talking about my wife and me, but I'm not claiming to be my wife.
N: and His ministry was ordained in heaven with Him being “anointed” to carry out the task of salvation which required Him to temporarily set aside heavenly glory for earthly incarnation.I again note the absence of any quotes of Jesus claiming to be Yahweh. Indeed, nowhere in the gospels is there any clear assertion that Yahweh was "incarnated" as Jesus. The closest they come is the vague and poetic metaphor in Jn 1: "the Word was God" and "became flesh".
N: He was referred to as God in Acts 1:3 via post resurrection appearances. I only needed to show one to disprove your assertionGod is mentioned, but the verse plainly does not say that Jesus is God: "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." It's hilarious that you offer this verse as a standalone demonstration that Jesus was considered God.
N: but I have another interesting one. Your use of phillipians 2:6 is quite interesting. Verse 6 stating “being in the form of God (morphe)” is self explanatory.Only to someone reading the text with the dogmatic preconception that Jesus is Yahweh.
N: “Robbery to be equal with God” is literally rendered “something to be held onto to be equal” and is understood that He did not think it necessary to grasp at deity because He already was.The verse is obviously an excuse for why Jesus didn't claim (or even grasp for) "equality with God".
N: Verse 7 “made Himself of no reputation” which is literally rendered “emptied (kenosis) Himself of His privileges”. Both verses clearly refer to God and the fact that Jesus did not surrender any authority but temporarily set aside heavenly glory.Neither verse says Jesus was God, and both in fact seek to excuse Jesus' obvious humanity. Phil 2:9-11 makes the distinction clear by saying "God did highly exalt him, and gave to him a name that is above every name [..] and every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".
N: You mentioned the things [salvation, hell, divorce, circumcision, and diet] you thought Jesus forgot to instruct us on. He wasn’t here to instruct on every minutia [sic] of life.I didn't say he "forgot to instruct"; I said he "failed to leave clear teachings". It's laughable to call salvation and hell "minutiae", and you simply fail to grasp the relevant historical context if you think that the Mosaic Law concerning circumcision and diet were mere trivia to first century Jews.
N: It is safe to assume that if He didn’t say something specifically, there is some room for variety on the subject unless the bible states specifically somewhere else.The tension between the Petrine and Pauline factions was precisely because Jesus was specifically inconsistent with both himself (e.g. Mt 5:32, 19:9 vs. Mk 10:9-12) and with Mosaic Law (e.g. Deut 24:1).
N: Your missing evidence section is amusing. There you go dictating to God again. Well, your criteria is subjective Brian, and not applicable to everyone.I notice that when you have no actual defense against my arguments, you simply dismiss them as "subjective". Thank you for thus indicating to our readers which arguments of mine are so strong that you dare not even attempt a substantive reply.
H: [Christian apologists often claim that if false, the gospel traditions would have been refuted and discredited by skeptics in 1st-century Palestine.] However, there is no indication that the Jesus movement was important enough then to merit the sort of early written debunking that would have been preserved despite skeptical apathy and Christian hostility.I simply report an apologetic assertion that the gospels would have been refuted, and make a contrary assertion -- backed up by citations of SIX first- and second- century writers. If you have any evidence or argument to support the apologetic assertion, I challenge you to present it. Otherwise, I win -- six to zero.
N: SOPHISTRY! That is without a doubt the most subjective, unverifiable and intellectually weak proposition I have seen you make.
N: Celsus and Tertullian weren’t witnesses were they? So then their writings are mere subjective opinion.You earlier claimed that the Council of Hippo in AD393 was able to discern which scriptures were inerrant and which weren't, but now you say that the judgment of anyone even two hundred years closer to the events in question is necessarily "mere subjective opinion" because he is not a "witness". You thus forfeit even the pretense of intellectual consistency, and dogmatically spray the charge of "subjective" in the general direction of any evidence your thesis can't handle.
N: Well then I choose to believe the witnesses who viewed the miracles as opposed to some guy who thinks he might have a possible explanation about how the miracles could have happened.You can't "believe" or disbelieve people whose first-hand accounts you don't have. All you have are accounts that admit [Lk 1:2, Jn 21:24] they are second-hand or are conceded [Mark] to be second-hand or which are copied [Matthew] from such second-hand accounts. Further, the gospels were polemical documents "written so that you may believe" [Jn 20:32], and the 2nd letter of Peter warns [2:3] that "false prophets" will promote false Christology with "stories they have made up".
N: Celsus refers to jugglers, but these jugglers weren’t crucified for claiming to be God, were they?So if David Koresh knew some card tricks, you would retrospectively say those tricks must have been miracles just because Koresh got himself martyred? Celsus' evaluation of Jesus' feats as stage tricks is not at all invalidated by Jesus' martyrdom.
N: So because Josephus might not have mentioned those things, they didn’t happen? Absence of mention in someone’s writings does not prove that they didn’t happen! It doesn’t even show that the events are unlikely. It just means that Brian says “I sure wish they would have written something! Then I would have some ammo”! Oh yeah, maybe they DID write something and it didn’t survive or we haven’t found it yet.I quote this paragraph in full to show how embarassingly you flounder in the face of Josephus' deafening silence. You offer no explanation whatsoever for why Josephus devotes more space each to John the Baptist and James, and while reporting much minutiae over the entire period during which Jesus lived, does not mention:
It's not clear what you think I "leave out". Rome in the first century simply was not interested in discrediting Christianity -- even though persecuting Christians was sometimes convenient. Josephus was notorious for trying to curry favor with Rome, but even 60 years after Jesus, Christianity wasn't yet important enough for Josephus to say more than a few sentences about it in his lengthy books.
the Christmas Star that disturbed Herod and "all Jerusalem" [Mt 2:3], Herod's massacre [Mt 2:16], the Good Friday earthquake [Mt 27:51], the Good Friday resurrectees that "appeared to many people" in Jerusalem [Mt 27:53], or
the Good Friday 3-hour darkness "over all the land" [Mk 15:33, Lk 23:44, Mt 27:45].
N: Yeah you’re right. The fledgling religion was so insignificant that rome didn’t think much of it. HA! Isn’t it convenient how you leave out stuff like that? You use only what material that dresses up your point.
N: Why doesn’t God provide miracles today? He does, some people just dismiss or rationalize them. Why aren’t they the same as biblical miracles? Now that’s an intuitive question. Because the canon of the bible has been closed and there is no need for those types of miraclesA blatantly circular argument: the canon is closed because God is done making revelation, and God is done making revelation because the canon is closed.
N: Man has everything he needs to accept or reject the gospel.Do you seriously claim that my honest judgment of the insufficiency of the gospel evidence is a mistake that merits eternal torment by hellfire? For those of us whose souls could be saved by a trivial continuation of biblical miracles, why does Yahweh's laziness (or fear of scientific investigation) make us deserve eternal torment? What does Yahweh gain by denying us the evidence he gave others? You yet again abjectly fail to address the issue of why it's fair that I should be denied the evidence that would keep me out of Hell, while Thomas and thousands or millions of others allegedly got to witness miracles.
N: And again, divine intervention is inversely proportional to faith required to believe.Ah, so your god rewards irrational belief, but punishes the honest use of the rationality that he allegedly endowed us with.
N: We shouldn’t use your subjective opinion as the standard of what constitutes sufficient divine intervention because it is not applicable to everyone else. What is enough for you is too much or too little for someone elseYet another disposable invocation of the "subjective" non-argument.
H: It seems implausible that an omnibenevolent, omniscient, infallible deity would entrust a few fallible men in a backward corner of the world with such paltry evidence and then demand that everyone else either hear and believe them or suffer eternal damnation.Thank you for this implicit confession that you have no substantive reply to my argument.
N: Another subjective and sophist proposition
H: [In the gospels Jesus damns entire towns [Mt 11:23], compares non-Israelites to dogs [Mt 15:26], and affirms even "the smallest letter" [Mt 5:18, Jn 10:35] of the Torah. The god of the Torah tests and torments his followers, commits mass murders of e.g. Noah's flood victims and the firstborn sons of Egypt [Ex 12:29], creates linguistic division for fear of an ancient construction project [Gen 11:6], and curses mankind because Adam dared to "become like one of us, knowing good and evil" [Gen 3:22]. It is implausible that the Creator of the universe would be so petty and wicked.]
N: Ditto petty and wickedHere my indictment of Yahweh and Jesus was apparently so devastating that you didn't even have the courage to quote what you abjectly failed to answer. I've restored it above. Read it again, and feel your conscience cringe.
N: Well, I guess we finally get to hell. Simple. If you reject an eternal God, your punishment is eternal.It's morally reprehensible to say that the punishment for an offense against an agency should be proportional to the power of that agency. Indeed, an ominipotent agency can suffer no harm from any offense, and so no such "offense" should merit any punishment on that basis.
Also, it's even more reprehensible to say that a rejection based on an honest and rational evaluation of the available evidence is an offense at all.
N: Your are monumentally smart enough to know if you can’t let go of your prejudices and self-centeredness, then that’s no one’s fault but your own.You of course have to fantasize that I'm "prejudiced" or "self-centered", because your conscience won't allow you to embrace your dogma that a basically decent person deserves eternal torment simply for applying his rationality. You won't ever know me, and the stories of my conversion or the death of my son probably aren't enough to convince you of my basic decency, so you will just have to continue to hope that there is something about me that makes me deserve trillions of years of torment by hellfire. I'm don't envy you your obvious conflict between your dogma and your consience.
N: Martyrs died for their cause but they weren’t resurrected, were they?Thank you for not even trying to defend the notion that the martyrdom of Christians is evidence for Christianity.
N: Prophecies don’t have to be documented independently of the bible. If you use that reasoning, then Christianity can say “where is the text that disproves said prophecy”? We’re back to the bible being the only source and you have no proof otherwiseWe're back to you just assuming the Bible's claims are true, despite Jesus's non-fulfillment of the Bible's own prophecies, and despite the spectacular failure of Jesus' prophecy of an imminent second coming.
N: Oh, no non-trivial prophecy? So who decides what is trivial and non-trivial? To a Christian, they are all significant.If Christianity had any astounding fulfilled prophecies, we wouldn't even be discussing the trivial ones -- but they are all we have. The only potential candidate I've seen for a non-trivial prophecy is the famous one in Daniel. But as Lippard concludes:
L: The Daniel prophecy is not nearly so convincing as it might initially appear to someone presented only with one of the interpretations that "works." It is not surprising that with four choices for beginning points (the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, plus the letters of Artaxerxes for Nehemiah), several possible choices for end points (the birth, ministry, and crucifixion of Jesus), and at least three ways of counting (ordinary years, "prophetic years," and sabbatical cycles) calculations have been found for which Jesus fits the prophecy. There are good reasons to reject each of these interpretations. [..]You continue:
N: Anyway, here’s some that were made before the predicted event:No, you've completely failed to meet my challenge of identifying a prophecy in the Bible that has both a) been documented as having been made before the predicted event and b) had its fulfillment documented independently of the Bible itself. Even if we accept the historicity of Judas, Ps 41:9 is a good example of trivial prophecy: a random mention of a friend's betrayal, pulled desperately from a context [41:5, 41:8] that is clearly inapplicable. Your other three examples don't even pass the laugh test: the gospel accounts clearly were massaged to allege that these prophecies were fulfilled.o Mic 5:2-Jesus born in BethlehemThere’s more, but I’ve proved my point.
o Is 7:14-virgin birth
o Ps 41:9-betrayed by a close friend
o Zech 11:12-betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
N: Your mention of vouching is strange. Peter is simply tasking believers to be discerning when confronted by false teachers. In other words, make sure what is heard is verifiable.On the contrary, nowhere in 2 Pet 1,2 does Peter even hint that his audience should perform any kind of verification. Instead, he simply asserts he was an eyewitness, and 2 Pet 2 is nothing but a rant vouching that false prophets and false teachers will be automatically exposed by God himself. That you could derive your "in other words" exegesis here is hilarious.
N: The promise about the death of the disciple is easily understood because of the word “if”Jesus said
H: Apologists seek to bury gospel contradictions under a mountain of obfuscation and diversion that comforts Christians only by its enormity.It's laughable to pretend that intention cannot ever be discerned from goal-directed behavior.
N: Apologists seek to bury? Wow, I didn’t know you were a mind reader and can discern intention.
N: Obfuscation? Well, I’m waiting anxiously for you to prove your point. Until you do, your use of the word obfuscation is an opinion not shared by all.Yet another disposable charge of "subjectivity" or "opinion". My point is proved by the rambling exegeses piled up on christianthinktank and tektonics to explain even the simplest points for which the incompetent Yahweh and Jesus left inconsistent revelation.
N: The OT is laughable why?The OT is laughable as the reveleation of a benevolent deity because of the list of Yahweh's crimes (above) that you didn't even have the courage to quote let alone rebut. See also Morgan's devastating compilation of questionable biblical precepts. Most Christians and even most Jews no longer assert the literal truth of the Torah, so it's amusing when Americans in the 21sth century claim that these tribal myths are the inerrant revelation of an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent god.
N: 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.Who ever said that being rational could make you infallible? If you want to never be confronted with new empirical evidence that might contradict your current rational understanding of whatever evidence you've seen so far, you'll need to climb back in to the womb or have a lobotomy -- or remain an orthodox Christian. :-) But if you want to start learning about the inexorable and undeniable progress in human intellectual history, see here, here, here, and especially here.
H: 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.
N: Unalterable? At one time the fact that the earth was flat and the universe revolved around us was unalterable thus vitiating rationality as an infallible, universal template.
N: Human reasoning is either a tool or it is not."Human" reasoning? Rationality is rationality, regardless of whether it is employed by humans or other agencies. Even Christians admit that Yahweh cannot violate the laws of logic.
Rationality is useful (to some of us more than others), but it's an obvious mistake to therefore dismiss rationality as being nothing more than a "tool".
N: current cosmology shows that there is sufficient dark matter to overpower the current energetic gravity inherent in the universe. Thus, the universe had a beginning and will at some point “fizzle out”. Energetic gravity will no longer be able to coherently bind the universe (which, incidentally, is why the universe is expanding).Your cosmology isn't much better than your history or biblical scholarship. Dark matter is the ~25% of the universe's content that is inferred to exist from the rotation of visible matter in galaxies. It is not known to be at all causally related to dark energy, the ~70% of the universe's content which was discovered in 1998 to be accelerating the universe's expansion. It was already known, however, that the universe had a beginning (the Big Bang) and was going to forever get colder and more spread out. What's new is that the accelerating expansion will eventually cause each galaxy to lose sight of the rest of the universe over the cosmic horizon, and life would not be able to survive even using Dyson's trick of running ever slower and colder.
N: I find no way to believe that reasoning will be able to stop that.So unless rationality led to omnipotence, you grant yourself license to dismiss rationality? How appropriately irrational of you.
N: Can pure reason be used to transcend humanity to another realm of existence? No. Why? Because rationality and reasoning are finite. They are constructs within the human mind. Under the current universal paradigm that we exist, something within finiteness cannot be employed to cause “super-finiteness” or infiniteness."Another realm of existence" sounds pretty meaningless, an your use of finite/infinite sounds quite misinformed. Infinitude is simply the property of being able to be put into one-to-one correspondence with the integers. Rationality is hardly a mere "construct within the human mind". As I say in my book: philosophy addresses the fundamental and ultimate questions about what exists, what can be known, and what is to be valued. Philosophy is about the questions that would confront thinkers not only on any world in the universe but on any world in any possible universe. If philosophy is about necessary questions, then mathematics is about necessary answers: the rules of inference and the necessary deductions that all thinkers in all possible universes must acknowledge.
N: reasoning is merely a tool that exists as ideas within the human mind that people employ to gain comprehension of empirical phenomena.The valid principles of philosophy and mathematics apply to all possible minds and to all possible phenomena. It is precisely the "all possible" scoping that distinguishes philosophy and mathematics from science.
N: Because it consists of the thoughts of people, it has no center, no foundation. It is subject to shifts based on humanity’s current socio-cultural condition. History shows that what is true today is not necessarily and likely not true tomorrow. What is true to one group is not true to another. These shifts confine rationality to human “eddies of existence”.In your flight from rationality you've run straight into the arms of social constructivism, whose extreme relativism of course completely undermines everything you claim about the objective evidence for Christianity and the morality of Yahweh judging us on our acceptance of it. Thank you for refuting yourself.
N: Reasoning is and always will be “bridegroom to reality”.That reality -- actually, new experiences -- can always trump our existing beliefs about synthetic propositions has been old news for about 300 years. However, "reality" cannot trump our reasoning about analytic propositions.
N: Most importantly, what reasoning always dances around is the fact that human instinct is the maypole, the constant."Dances around"? The role of instinct in human rationality has been thoroughly analyzed ever since Darwin sent revelation-based religion on its final turn toward oblivion. Indeed, applying genetic concepts to ideas -- viz.. memetics -- reveals that religion is a wonderful example of how false ideas can nevertheless be well-suited for survival and propogation.
N: Human instinct is more than survival, it is proto-survival, e.g. to survive surviving. To exist beyond existing is humanity’s bane. To answer “what does it all mean” is the burden, elation and irresistible machination. Christianity certainly supports this and even evolution doesn’t oppose or enfeeble this idea. It only confirms it in that humanity would have “purpose” of evolving into something. I would hate to think that someone as smart as you are would not be able to grasp this basic tenet that is woven into the fabric of nature. When I said look deeper into life, this is what I was referring to.You clearly have not read the Axiology section of my book.
H: To learn something about the inexorable and undeniable progress in human intellectual history, see here, here, and here,.When "current universal paradigm" has some actual semantic content, let me know. When "jack crap" doesn't mark your position as intellectually bankrupt, let me know.
N: These are the best progresses man has made? See above, i.e. we haven’t done jack crap. When we move beyond the current universal paradigm, let me know.
N: When someone doesn’t die, or we can negate dark matter, give me a call. Until then, all we are doing is REACTING to the forces of the universe. You call that progress? I call that INEVITABLE! However fast humanity is reaching each successive cell on your table is merely a matter of degree, not control nor purpose.With all your shouting above you probably didn't even notice what just happened here. In denigrating human rationality you earlier said "HA. what a laugh. those ideas change like the tides" and then cited the earth's topology and chocolate's healthiness. I then schooled you on intellectual history, and so now you've blatantly moved the goalposts -- from understanding the universe to having total control over it.
N: 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.LOL. You're the one who desperately changed the context from the cognitive (rationality) to the affective (love). I merely pointed out that even in the affective domain, your position is untenable. I already say in my book that rationality cannot provide objective purpose or values.
H: 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.)
N: Defending rationality by attacking Christianity? c’mon buddy, you’re better than that!
H: Obviously, my choices aren't just that Jesus was either a completely secular carpenter or a self-proclaimed deity. As I say in my book, he was a preacher, faith-healer, and apocalyptic prophet who in the months leading up to his anticipated execution came to believe he was the Jewish Messiah and even the divinely-special savior of mankind.
N: If you say Jesus’ family did not believe His claim of deity, then you cannot say Jesus made no such claim.A blatant and clumsy misrepresentation of my position. I of course have never said that Jesus made a "claim of deity" that his family didn't believe, and I defy you to quote me to the contrary. All I've said is that Jesus' family were not believers in his ministry during his lifetime, whatever that ministry may have preached. My position couldn't possibly be any clearer, and any further repetition of your misrepresentation can only considered an outright lie about me.
N: it does not matter WHO accepted or rejected the gospel. Jesus’ family were just people like anyone else, no more important or less so. There were other people who knew Jesus as well or better and they did believe. The point is people are subject to biases, prejudices and differing dispositions (e.g. jealousy)."e.g. jealousy"? In the face of my repeated requests that you offer an explanation for the disbelief of Jesus' family during his lifetime, this single word is the best you can do? In the face of Jesus' angelic annunciation and miraculous conception, why would Mary possibly be "jealous" of him? Do you not have the intellectual integrity to admit that you aren't even attempting to explain Mary's disbelief?
N: the fact that Jesus’ family doubted and then believed makes an even stronger case for how effectual the gospel is, it can convert those who doubt.Again you dodge the burden of explaining Mary's disbelief throughout Jesus' ministry (even though she allegedly was present for Jesus' first miracle [Jn 2]). By contrast, I can easily explain the later conversion of Jesus' family: seeing a loved one martyred for his cause could easily make a distraught family seek to salvage some meaning (and power!) from the martyr's wasted life.
H: Jesus' family are the best possible witnesses to testify about the validity of his ministry, and their verdict was unanimous that his ministry was not authentic. Only after the trauma of Jesus' execution did they decide to step in front of the parade that Jesus had been leading.An unsupported assertion. None of the apostles knew Jesus before the beginning of his ministry. The apostles knew him for a year or two; his family knew him for thirty.
N: No they are not the best possible witnesses. His disciples were because they knew Him better than anyone
N: and believed it so strongly as to author the most well read books of all time and even become martyrs for the cause.The strength of their belief is obviously a good reason to be skeptical of the gospel authors' claims. That you would cite it instead as support for their claims suggests that you have very little experience preaching to anyone other than the choir. Also: 1. The gospels are anonymous. 2. There is no evidence that any of the gospel authors were martyred. 3. There is even no evidence that alleged apostolic gospel authors Matthew or John were martyred.
N: Secondly, Jesus’ family’s eschewing of His ministry was TEMPORARY! The timing of their decision is irrelevant.I heard you the first time when you pointed out that his family (actually, just Mary and James for all we know) eventually converted. You here have no answer to my point about trauma and stepping in front of his parade, and merely dismiss it without any pretense of argument.
N: A person on their deathbed can accept the gospel and go to heaven. How can this be fair? Because God can use their conversion as a testimony to other people that they need to get right with God.("Get right with God"? OK, now you are indeed sounding like a "holy roller".) The issue obviously is not the consequences of the conversion or the fairness of those consequences; the issue is the timing and motivation. You don't explain them; I do.
N: When I said human I wasn’t referring to the virgin birth. I was referring to people having trouble believing it which certainly is natural for a person to doubt.It is natural for a rational person to doubt 2000-year-old tribal myths. It is not "natural" for a woman to doubt a miraculous conception when she was certain she was a virign. You simply cannot deal with the alleged facts from your own holy text.
N: Actually I have reconciled it because they DID BELIEVE in the end.You obviously have not reconciled or explained the delay in their belief. Saying they eventually believed does not in the least explain why they ignored for one or more years the virgin conception, the angelic annunciations, and the miracle(s).
N: Again, whether they believed or not is not relevant to His claims or the reality of His divinity. There is no need for Christians to reconcile the disbeliefs of Jesus’ relatives.Calling it "contrived" or "irrelevant" or a "preoccupation" obviously does not change the undeniable fact that you have no explanation for their initial and prolonged and stubborn disbelief in the face of repeated miracles and after knowing for all his life the most perfect and only sinless human who ever lived. Calling their disbelief "natural" is pure hand-waving.
H: This is nothing less than abject surrender in the face of the evidence. Your holy text is so inconsistent that you don't even attempt to muster a defense of it.
N: I’m looking back over this response that I’m sending to you and I would hardly call it surrender. I have given a thorough explanation as to why the WHO is not as important as the WHAT or the WHY. That is why your preoccupation with the contrived “reconcile” is irrelevant.
N: The explanation is their doubt was temporary and the timing of their temperamental change is irrelevant.They doubted for at least a year. Calling that "temporary" is not to explain it, but to trivialize it. Calling their disbelief of repeated miracles (including virgin conception!) "temperamental" is a pathetic display of intellectual dereliction. I challenge you to complete this sentence: "Mary and her family ignored Jesus' angelic annunciation, miraculous conception, lifelong sinlessness, and a year-long miraculous ministry because X". So far, all you've offered for X is "it is only natural to doubt". That "explanation" is ludicrous. Why not just say that this is one of the mysteries of the biblical revelation that we weren't meant to understand? Are you afraid you've invoked this lame mysterianism one time too many already?
H: A specious analogy, since you (yet again) ignore the element of contrarian parents disregarding miraculous conception and annunciation.Your stonewalling amounts to intellectual cowardice. It's laughable to say that the single word "natural" constitutes an explanation at all, let alone a "well documented" one.
N: I will save us the time of repeating myself again. The reason has been well documented.
N: the miracles were so impressive that 37 separate instances were recorded, several by multiple authors.Wow. When authors who admit they are trying to get us to "believe" report miracles you take them at their polemical word, but when those authors admit six seperate times that the alleged miracles were not very impressive or convincing to many people, you dismiss this damning admission as "subjective". This is nothing less than a brazen determination to only believe what you want to believe.
H: Of course the gospel authors tried to make the miracles seem impressive; that's to be expected. What's remarkable -- and what you ignore -- are the verses in which we see traces of the miracles' original unimpressiveness (Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24). If the miracles had actually happened, these verses should simply not exist. Nor would a competent deity been reported as reluctant [Mk 8:12; Lk 11:29, 23:8; Mt 4:7, 12:39, 16:4; Jn 2:18] and limited [Mk 6:5, Mt 13:58, Lk 4:24] concerning his abilities.
N: Again, unimpressiveness and competency are subjective standards.
You merely dismiss with one word "subjective" my ten other citations documenting how Jesus was far less than fully competent as a worker of signs and wonders. You are in a sense correct: it is hopelessly "subjective" for you to dismiss this documentation without argument and nevertheless opine that Jesus was fully competent.
N: What we need to prove our atheistic case is refutation and/or contradiction.Your own holy text says the man couldn't do miracles here, did unconvincing "miracles" there, refused to do miracles repeatedly, was secretive and evasive about his identity, was disbelieved by his family and home town, had no prior acquaintances as disciples, repeatedly avoided danger, heard voices in his head, made incorrect prophecies, and despaired in the face of death. Not only does the substance of these gospel admissions refute and contradict the gospel message, but their mere existence disqualifies the gospels as the self-revelation of a competent benevolent deity.
H: while we both can explain the vivid passages (I say myth, you say truth), only my thesis explains the problematic ones. If Jesus had competently executed his self-revelation, those problematic passages simply would not exist.You seem determined to concoct whatever amount of "faith" is required to believe in the god(s) that your parents told you to believe in. If Christianity takes so much "faith", then why spend so much time arguing you have an objectively convincing case for it? (Then again, typing "subjective" or "opinion" thirty times probably doesn't take very long.)
N: Not so. That is one area where the “faith” is required. You might not like the amount of faith required,
but that too is temporary. The faith or willingness to have faith changes in a person based on age, life experiences, wisdom, external influences, divine revelation, etcI'll stack my life experiences, wisdom, and lack of confounding influences up against any Christian's. I doubt you can say your faith is free from any of these confounding influences. As for personal "divine revelation", such preferential treatment by your god(s) would clearly be unfair when the stakes are eternal torment by hellfire.
N: . The way you answer now won’t always be the same.I've searched pretty hard but have been unable to find a single atheist who converted to Christianity despite him having had a verifiable familiarity with the arguments against it. By contrast, there are quite a few cases of well-churched and even professional Christians who later converted to atheism. I've already scrutinized the best available amateur and professional arguments for Christianity, while you seem to be reeling from my amateur arguments against it. Thus the evidence suggests that you are more likely to become an atheist than I a Christian.
N: Mat 9:3- there IS a distinction between Jesus the man and God. That does not preclude Jesus’ duality.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.". The "on earth" and "given such authority to men" phrases make no sense if Jesus is Yahweh.
N: John 10:34- Yes, He cited the psalm as a precedent of divinely ordained authority. However, that reference does not refer to His condition but to the origination of His authority. The psalm does so by the use of the word “elohim” which is literally “mighty ones or gods”. The citation of the psalm does nothing to detract from His oneness with God. Now show me how that’s ignoring of context!Simple: you cited Jesus being accused of claiming to be God in Jn 10:33, but you ignored the fact that in 10:34, Jesus did not say anything like "Yes, I'm God". Instead, he cited a psalm in which mere men are called "gods": "If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came [..]". The referents of Jesus' word "them" are mere men, and he is saying that if those men can be called gods, so can he. Your "detract from His oneness with God" is pure hand-waving to distract from your unwillingness to deal with Jesus' actual words.
N: Your use of the word vague is an opinion because to me that statement clearly implies togetherness, not separateness. It is crystal clear to me that “in me” and “in the Father” mean oneness and that it can be true to a certain extent of all believers.Your "certain extent" blatantly concedes my point that mutual inclusion is far too vague to be considered a claim of identity.
N: One does not necessarily negate the other as they both can be true simultaneously. Alright, let’s dig into this one.You're confused about my claim. I'm not saying that Jesus said "I am not God". I'm saying that Jesus never said "I am God".
N: “Whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner”. What human can reproduce what God does? No one! What human can be called “Son” e.g. salvific messiah? No one. “The Son gives life to whom He will” and “has committed all judgment to the Son”. These are actions not reproducible by any humanYou're again confused about my claim. I'm not saying that Jesus said "I am merely human". I'm saying that Jesus never said "I am God". How can I possibly make my position any clearer to you?
N: again confirming that He is not drawing distinctions.A blatant switching of context. The quotes you just gave are not from Jn 10 at all. In the context of Jesus' assertion of oneness and mutual inclusion the only thing we find in Jn 10 are distinctions:
“Him who sent me” can only be said of someone who existed before human incarnation.Actually, the early traditions of the Jesus movement just considered Jesus' baptism to be his "sending".
N: John 14:10-if we take this verse in context we see that He made some very interesting comments afterward:These are easily answered:
- I go to my Father
- And whatever you ask in My name I WILL DO (who? God, that’s who), that the Father may be glorified in the Son
- Keep MY commandments (people don’t have commandments, God does)
- I will not leave you orphans (meaning He is going to send the Holy Spirit when He departs earth. Only God can send the Holy Spirit)
- My peace I give to you
- I am coming back (after He is resurrected)
N: and I can provide verses and explanations for any questions you may have.Oh, like an explanation for why Jesus' family disbelieved throughout his entire lifetime despite angelic annunciation, supernatural conception, prophecy fulfillment, lifelong sinlesssness, and witnessed miracles? I've asked for such an explanation about six times, and all you've said is that such disbelief is "irrelevant" and "natural". In the light of your performance on this question, your assertion above is untenable.
H: (You find these passages useful when you naively propose to take them at face value, but you are defiantly non-responsive above to the obvious inference that their truth should have made Mary and Joseph support Jesus' ministry.)You are again defiantly non-responsive on the issue of why they disbelieved for so long, and feebly dismiss the issue as "subjective".
N: The truth of the passages DID make them support His ministry, just not when YOU think it should have based on your subjective criteria.
H: I of course do not "contradict myself", because my point in quoting these passages is to note that the disbelief of Jesus' family implies that these passages are in fact false.There is no good reason to think that anyone believed in Jesus' specialness at any time before his baptism. You are so mired in your dogma of biblical inerrancy that you can't even grasp my thesis that the supernatural elements of the nativity are fiction (and are not just propositions that the historical Mary et al. considered at the time but decided not to believe in). When I said "these passages are in fact false", did you really understand me to be saying that I think angels told Mary something but I just thing the angels were wrong? Can you really be that obtuse?
N: Oh, so ONLY Jesus’ family AT THAT TIME was correct that the passages were false? No one else who DID believe at that time or any other is incorrect?
That is so unbelievably exclusive it’s pathetic. You are WAY too smart for that! Please do not sink to that level! Our conversations have been much too stimulating for us to intellectually fall that low.It's more sad than amusing that your utter miscomprehension of my thesis has led you to strike this pose of shocked disappointment. In the future, please spare me such snide remarks, and instead invest your time in trying to read what I actually write.
H: Jesus indeed called himself a (or possibly the) "Son of God", and that of course is a distinction from Yahweh, not a claim to be Yahweh. Even the alleged direct angelic annunciations forgot to mention that Jesus was identical to Yahweh.Like the mythical Yahweh, I too have a son who died. When I talk about my son, I'm not talking about me. It's laughable that you can say with a straight face "son of X does not imply distinction" from X. The prima facie sense of "son of" implies distinction, and no verse in the Bible overrides this sense in Jesus' use. What you need is for the OT to have said "Yahweh will appear as a man and call himself Son of God", but that verse just isn't in there.
N: I try not to use this word but you are incorrect. Son of God DOES NOT imply distinction.
We see clearly from the scriptures I have provided that the Son of God has been sent by God from heaven where they co-exist. It is not a claim to be Yahweh AT THAT CURRENT TIME.You have failed to demonstrate that Jesus ever claimed he was Yahweh at any time, and I have given overwhelming documentation of his repeated distinctions between himself and his Father.
H: [..] the 100 or so biblical verses I cite in my case against Christianity, as well as these extra-biblical reports: Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Syncellus, Julius Africanus, Thallus, Philo, Celsus, Tertullian, the Barraitha account, the Toledoth Yeshu, and (most damning of all) Josephus.You here blatantly ignore the fact that my intra-biblical sources report crucially damning eyewitnesses: Mary, Jesus' brothers and sisters, the "many" disciples [Jn 6:66] and entire towns [Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13] who saw alleged miracles but still did not believe, and Jesus himself (who forgot to tell anyone he was Yahweh, etc.). As for extra-biblical sources, Josephus counts as an eyewitness to the fact that the Good Friday eclipse and earthquake never happened.
N: Yes your precious extra biblical sources are not eyewitness accounts, do not include the testimony of eyewitness accounts and merely provide a possible alternative explanation.
H: Jesus to Joseph: "You're not my real dad! Yahweh is my real dad!"(Do you think that merely repeating this bald assertion constitutes an argument?) I note that you make no effort whatsoever to substantiate your charge of contradiction between my thesis of Jesus' self-identification and my thesis of Jesus' attitude toward Joseph.
N: Again contradicting your other statements that Jesus never claimed to be Son of God.
H: I have never once (let alone multiply) stated that "Jesus never claimed to be Son of God". However, I do deny that claiming to be son-of-X is the same thing as claiming to be X.
N: I repeat: Son of God DOES NOT imply distinction or bifurcation.
N: He temporarily gave up heavenly glory to take on earthly manifestation. This was so clearly understood to be blasphemy by the jews, they were ready to immediately stone Him.Blasphemy is simply any inappropriate invocation of the name of the Hebrew tribal deity described in the Torah. Apologists always repeat your assumption that blasphemy implies a claim to be Yahweh, but the word is never used that way in the OT: Lev 24:11, Ex 22:28, 2 Kings 19:22, Neh 9, Is 37, Ez 20:27. You are again refuted by your own holy texts.
H: how likely it was that Jesus' awareness that Joseph wasn't his father led Jesus to adopt Yahweh as his fatherNo "kind of factual basis"? That, sir, is a lie. I've cited twenty separate verses from your holy texts in support of eight separate facts:
N: Your conclusion is based on your own subjective criteria and not ANY kind of factual basis.
N: Based on the bible verses you supplied, it seems the people mentioned were informed as to who He wasYou completely miss my point: just because I "supplied" bible verses describing an angelic revelation that is inconsistent with the family's disbelief, that does not mean I endorse (or am obligated to endorse) the truth of those verses..
H: You cannot seriously think I believe that Mary and Joseph were actually told by angels that Jesus was divinely special.
N: Why not? Do you have some source that provides information to the contrary?
N: If you disbelieve it, that’s ok. Not everyone believes what the bible says. However, without some other source to base your belief in, you are in effect saying “I don’t have a reason to disbelieve other than my gut feeling that it is improbable”.No, I am actually saying "I don't have a reason to disbelieve other than a detailed and rational argument based on a massive and unrebutted body of historical and textual evidence". Labeling my argument a "gut feeling" is just amateurish name-calling, not rational counter-argument.
N: I haven’t seen you mention Simeon, Anna or John the Baptist, all of whom also knew exactly who Jesus was even when He was a child.In other words, you were simply wrong when you said the Baptist really knew all along "exactly who Jesus was". Once again, a statement of yours is refuted by your holy text, and you make no effort to defend your original statement.
H: You here just blithely assume that the gospels are literally true. Even so, your holy texts undermine your claim:This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' " [Lk 7:17-20]Thus even in your holy text John the Baptist is recorded as being unsure (or not telling his own disciples) "exactly who Jesus was". This incident is inexplicable if the Baptist really knew all along "exactly who Jesus was".
N: John, like lots of other people, is slightly confused that Jesus is not the militant messiah that many expected. He sends his pupils to make sure.
N: No I do not blithely assume the bible is true because I don’t have to. It is a book that has never contradicted anything empirical, never contradicts itself in any way despite the plethora of authors and is perfectly true to the 24,000 existing manuscripts.The Bible is well-documented as containing scores of contradictions, scribal errors, and mistakes of geography, history, biology, and cosmology.
N: Your precious pliny the elder’s works have only 7 extant manuscripts left available and the oldest is 750 years AFTER he wrote them! You would believe that non-doctrinal opus that is so poorly supported instead of the bible? Like I said, you’ve got a lot of faith.I have zero faith. I don't take Pliny the Elder's works to be the inerrant revelation of any deity. Anything in Pliny (or the Bible) that is reasonable to believe, I believe. Anything in Pliny (or the Bible) that is unreasonable to believe, I doubt.
N: BTW, I did notice that you skated around the simeon and anna testimonies.You apparently failed to "notice" my obvious implication that those reports are fabrications.
H: Of course the gospels aren't going to say "Jesus resented his parents because of his illegitimacy". My point is that the evidence is consistent both with Jesus being merely a resentful human and with him being an ideosyncratic deity incompetently executing his self-revelation. The former thesis has more explanatory power and economy than the latter.No argument here, just an "I disagree". That's fine, we can agree to disagree, and end this "debate".
N: If there were nothing else written about Jesus other than His alleged resentfulness, I would say you have a good point. But in the context of the entirety of His ministry, all things considered, I disagree with your assessment of explanatory power and economy.
H: Jesus seems to have been known to be illegitimate in his community [Mt 1:18-24, Jn 8:41]So as long as a few confused Hebrews in ancient Palestine believed something, that's good enough for you?
N: some believed that but some didn’t
H: Jesus repeatedly stressed [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.He is resentful to his family for not making his ministry a priority. You still have no explanation for why they didn't for so long. At least you don't get bitter about it, like Jesus did. Ironically, you seem to have more faith than he did...
N: He is not saying eschew your family, He is saying to know your priorities.
H: There isn't a shred of evidence that Jesus' family didn't consider him "out of his mind" [Mk 3:21] for the entire duration of his (miraculously conceived and annunciated!) ministry. If any of Jesus' family had joined his ministry before Good Friday, the gospels would surely have mentioned it.Sorry, try again. You simply have no explanation whatsoever for why the family's disbelief happened at all and continued all the way until Jesus' traumatic martyrdom.
N: I think the book of james and His martyrdom are sufficient to refute that statement.
N: Again, the timing of someone’s belief in Jesus is irrelevant because it’s subjective."Irrelevant .. subjective .. opinion...". Wake me when you come up with an actual argument.
N: People change, they make mistakesHow could Mary make a "mistake" about a child conceived supernaturally, annunciated by angels, and able to turn water into wine? Tell me; I dare you.
H: the body of NT evidence about Jesus' relationship with his family is much more easily explained by Jesus being a resentful illegitimate schizophrenic than by him being God incarnate whose virgin conception was given angelic annunciation and then was ignored by his earthly parents.The single phrase "his ministry" is of course not an argument, even when you dress it up with "in the context of the entirety" and "all things considered". If you have no argument and just want to agree to disagree, that's fine.
N: I repeat: If there were nothing else written about Jesus other than His alleged resentfulness, I would say you have a good point. But in the context of the entirety of His ministry, all things considered, I disagree with your assessment of explanatory power and economy.
N: Empty tomb "could have"resulted. Meaning you aren't sure. Well let me know when you are sure"sparkling record supported above"? Most of what you've offered "above" is baldly unscholarly assertions that sound like they were parrotted from Bible camp. If you think that what you've offered is "sparkling" support for your thesis, then we have identified the root of the problem here.
H: It's indicative of the level of sophistication of your thesis that you think a lack of dogmatic certainty is a vice and not a virtue. When I get security camera videotapes of the tomb over the Easter weekend, you'll be the first to know. :-) Until then, I challenge you to assign your own numeric probability estimates to the various possible explanations of the gospel evidence.
N: No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that due to lack of evidence to the contrary and given the bible’s sparkling record (supported above), I see no reason to discount their validity.
N: Yes, my beliefs are influenced by cultural and personal factors. But, as I hope you can see from the exhaustive nature of my research, they are supplemented by reasoning and, of course, faith. I do not summarily dismiss alternate theories.You certainly do: you dismiss my explanation of Mary's disbelief as "irrelevant" and "subjective", and you offer no "alternate theories" whatsoever.
N: I treat them for what they are, alternate theories, and no more. They are not doctrine, nor are they intended to be. They are speculation created by men of whom none I intend to worship. Like I said before, their writings are tools and nothing else. They are not intended to transcend man to a new level of existence.Nobody here is asking you to worship anyone or anything, and nobody here is claiming that rationality will or could offer you "transcend[ence ..] to a new level of existence". You either misunderstand my position, or misunderstand what one should expect from one's worldview.
N: BTW, you are guilty of the same charge you leveled against me. You don’t have dogmatic certainty because the only tool you have used is higher criticism and not any empirically factual template but it’s ok for you to do that because you are a Christian opponent.This comment by you is triply incoherent.
First, my charge was that you think certainty is a virtue. I disagree.
Second, I barely use "higher criticism" at all. I use zero form criticism. I use source criticism only insofar as to agree with the scholarly consensus about the the gospels' order of composition, date of composition, and anonymity. I use no redaction criticism, and make no arguments about layers in the texts. Unlike many anti-Christian polemicists, I for the most part read the Bible strictly literally, and merely seek to reconcile its plain meaning with itself as well as with history, science, logic, and human decency. I take the Bible's claims seriously, and just because you don't, that's no basis to dismiss my analysis as navel-gazing scholastic "higher criticism".
Third, the text of the Bible is itself a huge body of "empirical facts" that are relevant to the truth of Christianity. When the Bible says X and Y, we can't assume X and Y are facts, but we certainly know that "the Bible says X" and "the Bible says Y" are empirical facts. In my Arguments Against Christianity I cite and explain over 100 such empirical facts, all of which argue against the supernatural claims of the gospels. I cite no archaeology simply because 1) there is no archaeological evidence that is dispositive for any of the NT's supernatural claims, and 2) refuting OT literalism leaves the job of refuting Christianity unfinished. I cite no biology or cosmology because most intelligent Christians don't even bother to defend creationism or biblical cosmology, and I'm not interested in refuting merely the orthodox minority -- I seek to refute the supernaturalism of even the most liberal Christians.
N: Your list of explanations is amusing; people trying to assign values to possibilities. That is the epitome of subjectivity and an exercise in futility. Why? Because there is no room for faith in these subjective designations. What ratings I assign doesn’t mean diddly squat to someone else. This isn’t a popularity contest.Yet another example of your abject retreat from rational understanding.
N: You use the word dogma like it’s bad.Thank you for admitting you're dogmatic.
N: You’re dogmatic about what you believe. I’m dogmatic and I have perfectly reasonable explanations for my beliefs. Oh wait, I’m sorry. Only Christian dogma is bad, your dogma is good.My lack of dogmatism is demonstrated by my admission of (and probability estimates for) various possible explanations of the gospel evidence. Your dogmatism is similarly demonstrated by your total refusal to consider any possibility other than what your parents taught you to believe.
N: Who moved the two ton-stone blocking the tomb UPHILL, thus breaking the roman seal (a horrific crime)? Oh, and how did they get past the 16 roman soldiers who if they neglected their duties would suffer a painful death (not to mention the fact that they simply had pride in what they were doing and disliked Jews on top of that)? The conspirators even suspected the apostles would take Jesus so Pilate instructed them to use whatever resourced necessary to prevent that.More blatant dogmatic assumption of the Bible's truth.
H: You again (for the fourth time in your message!) argue the truth of the Bible by assuming the truth of the Bible. All we can reliably infer from the account in Mat 28 is that there must have been a body-theft story in wide circulation that the evangelist thought was important to somehow rebut. Thus Matthew's guarded-tomb rebuttal only strengthens my case, as does all the gospel concern over a possible body-theft conspiracy.
N: Except that many people saw Jesus as an apparition after His resurrection.
N: Oh wait, I forgot. They were all simultaneously hallucinating.Lacking the intellectual integrity to quote my actual thesis, you spew yet another blatant strawman.
N: As far as my alleged “circular” argument, you make the same argument in reverse except without something to back it up. You have the weaker position in that you are saying because there is a possible alternative explanation it is more likely than what the well supported book of the bible says based on eyewitness accounts.You here offer no answer to my point -- admitted by all mainstream biblical scholars -- that we can naturally have more confidence in the embarrassing things the gospels admit than in the miraculous things it evangelizes.
N: Additionally, the truth of the bible is again supported by the there is no historical mention of Christians being charged with false witness regarding Jesus.Excuse me? Mat 28 mentions that many Jews believe that at least some Christians not only bore false witness regarding Jesus but actually stole his body.
N: I like the way you deflected the question I asked.Declining to share your conclusion of the inerrancy of the gospels is hardly a "deflection".
N: You assume that a merely possible alternative explanation is factualIt's not an assumption; it's a conclusion. You apparently realize you can't answer the arguments for my conclusion, and so you deceptively label it an "assumption". This is typical of the intellectual integrity of Christian apologists.
N: but then fail to answer the proposed questions regarding the logistics of the hilarious “body theft” theory.The main problem with the body theft thesis lies not in Easter circumstances (rocks, guards) alleged decades after the fact in the anonymous and polemical and unreliable gospels. No, it lies in explaining why one or more disciples would deliberately deceive the others. I would guess the prior probability of that happening at something less than 1 in 1000. However, I would estimate that the prior probability of superhuman creation of gospel-style evidence is several orders of magnitude lower, which is why body theft is the more likely (by inference to best explanation)..
H: It takes only a few neurons -- and zero faith -- to imagine how an executed man's body could be stolen to fake his ascension under circumstances that were first described in writing only decades later -- by people desperate to believe in that ascension. You blatantly assume the gospels are like contemporanous court transcripts, and then say I have faith. Ironic.Thank you. Now, are you able to muster an evaluation of the probability of that contingency, or do you just reject it based purely on dogma?
N: You are correct that one can imagine how His body could be stolen.
N: What is your enlightened explanation as to how the resurrection account has been misunderstood? They weren’t desperate, they SAW Him. Lots of people saw Him.We don't know that anybody "saw him". We know that Paul claimed vaguely 10+ years later that there were spiritual manifestations to various people. We know that the anonymous polemical non-eyewitness gospel authors wrote decades later that the apostles had confusing and often ambiguous encounters with physical humans who allegedly were believed to be Jesus and sometimes even were claimed to have had Jesus' appearance and wounds.
How did these claims come to be written down? The most likely explanation is as follows. First, out of zeal for the cause and ministry of their charismatic and righteous martyr, some disciple(s) of Jesus arranged to have his body stolen, as in the rumor reported in Mt 28. Possible conspirators were Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene, a longtime disciple [Lk 8:2] "out of whom [Jesus] had driven seven demons" [Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2] and who (unlike any apostle) attended both the crucifixion and entombment. She was the first to visit the tomb on Easter [Mt 28:1, Jn 20:1], and the possibility of removal [Jn 20:2,14,15] was not unimaginable to her. She weepingly and suspiciously lingered [Jn 20:11] after the apostles left the empty tomb, and thereupon was the first [Mk 16:9, Mt 28:9, Jn 20:14] to claim seeing an appearance. Mary or some other (possibly non-conspiring) disciple could have exaggerated a feeling or vision of a morally triumphant and spiritually resurrected Jesus, a vision which other core disciples soon unconsciously induced in themselves (and elaborated on). As the story spread throughout the movement over the ensuing years by repeated retelling with inevitable exaggeration and one-upsmanship, the story grew from Paul's spiritual resurrection to the tales of physical appearances that we see develop in the gospels from earliest to latest.
N: You’re right. All that stuff I said about the historicity of the bible was lies. No intelligent person would believe the mountain of evidence supporting the bible over PLINY THE ELDER because he was secular and only secular people are ever accurate about historical events despite how little information we have to corroborate their opus and all the lacunae that historians conveniently have to patch up.Thank you for yet another demonstration that you cannot even fairly characterize -- let alone cogently argue against -- my actual thesis.
H: 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]. [Thus] Jesus' failed Torah-abiding imminently-apocalyptic Jewish ministry was far different from Paul's successful Torah-transcending vaguely-apocalyptic Gentile ministry."These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.'" [Mt 10:5] "He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.'" [Mt 15:24] Never once in the gospels did Jesus minister to a gentile audience or in a gentile locale. Jesus no doubt echoed the Torah theme that "all nations" would witness the majesty of the Father, but his only command to actually convert and baptize "all nations" is in a post-Easter (i.e. fabricated) speech alleged only in one gospel [Mt 28:19].(and in an appendix later added to Mark [16:15]).
N: Matthew 15:21-28-Jesus ministers to a gentile. I only needed to show one passage to refute your claim that Jesus’ ministry was exclusively Judaic, but there are others.
N: There are other NT authors that had the same idea that Jesus’ ministry was “torah-transcending” so they all must have gotten their idea from somewhereThe Torah-abiders in the Jesus movement ran into a little problem known as the destruction of Jerusalem. Perhaps you've heard of it?
N: but it couldn’t possibly be from their common teacher Jesus because that would support the bible.Is this whining, or an attempt at sarcasm?
H: 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.And then you said in response: "they had no need to rewrite the bible, they accepted what it said". That obviously is a claim that some or all of these four authors was familiar with at least some NT writings. You've identified no "contradiction", and you remain disqualified from any serious discussion of the historicity of the gospel accounts.
N: Why re-write what everyone already knew? I’ll give you a reason, to either give their own, differing version of the story or to refute it altogether. Their silence is deafening indeed! Their silence actually confirms that they had no need to rewrite the bible, that they accepted what it said.
H: It's laughable to suggest that Josephus, Philo, Seneca, or Pliny the Elder was familiar with any writings of the New Testament. Your comment fatally disqualifies you from any serious discussion of the historicity of the gospel accounts.
N: Another contradiction. YOU mention those secular authors and then say “It's laughable to suggest that Josephus, Philo, Seneca, or Pliny the Elder was familiar with any writings of the New Testament.” I didn’t mention those names, you did.
N: I don’t care what first-century author you reference. They weren’t there, didn’t know anyone who was there andYou indeed clearly don't care to explain the available extra-canonical evidence. You have your holy texts -- written decades later by inconsistent anonymous non-eyewitness polemicists -- and that's good enough for you. By all means, don't let the evidence get in the way of your dogma. First-rate apologists at least make a pretense of addressing the extra-canonical evidence. Why don't you go study such apologetics for a few years and then come back and try again?
N: they don’t claim to be the leader of a religion or even a code of conduct. They’re just historians and their writings aren’t nearly as well documented as the bible.Replace "documented" with "cherished", and your first statement fully explains your second.
N: As I said, all they are doing is providing a possible alternative which is just that, an alternative. Well, that may be good enough for you, but it’s not for everyone else because it’s subjective and thus nothing more than opinion, NOT FACT!Which do you think is your better tactic here: repeating "subjective" for the twentieth or so time, or using capitals and an exclamation point? Nobody but us will read all this, and you can't possibly think comments like this will persuade me, so you must be writing this just to reassure yourself.
N: Also, Christians are able to explain apparent inconsistencies in the bibleYou forgot to include "subjective" and "irrelevant" in this tiresomely insubstantive reply. You also (typically) do not respond to my points about Christian intellectuals and deity competence.
H: Like you're "able to explain" why Jesus' family ignored his virgin conception and angelic annunciations?
Sorry, but the OT is so embarrassingly inconsistent that a plurality of Christian intellectuals don't even try to defend its literal truth. The NT is not only riddled with minor inconsistencies, but is crippled by the fatal ones that my book documents. Christian apologists try feebly to explain them away, but their explanations are strained and baroque, and they can't explain how a competent deity could have allowed such prima facie consistencies in the first place.
N: Strained and baroque. You [sic] opinion, not fact.
N: BTW, let’s hear about those vaunted inconsistencies you keep mentioning.I just described one -- why Jesus' family ignored his virgin conception and angelic annunciations -- and mentioned "the fatal ones that my book documents". The problem with biblical inconsistencies is that there multitude devalues their currency. For example, Morgan's list of around 400 inconsistencies mixes the fatal ones with others that can (for a liberal Christian) easily be explained as
H: It's absurd to claim that the NT is literally true but that Josephus would completely ignore these miraculous events and barely even mention Jesus in his excruciatingly detailed account of first-century Judea.Your desperate hope here is in vain. We have the complete text of his Antiquities, and it describes the events of 1st century Palestine in detail up to 66CE. It gives considerable commentary about John the Baptist, but Jesus is mentioned only in passing. Your savior didn't even make the obituary pages, let alone get any miracles onto the front page.
N: Let me give an explanation as to why any first century historian’s opus doesn’t mention the events of the bible. Look at the body of evidence from first century authors. There’s not much of it. So it’s possible that Josephus did write about these things but we haven’t found it yet.
N: The fact remains that we have no documents that refute the bible and the bible is so unbelievable trustworthy, it’s seems to be a moot point.Your constant repetition of your dogmatic belief in the Bible's truth and unrefutedness is hardly an argument. The testimony of Josephus is of course one the most fatal refutations of the gospels, but feel free to continue dismissing it as "moot".
H:  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?Again: you still have not addressed a single one of my six evidentiary claims above.
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: What you call shyness is actually design. Divine evidence is inversely proportional to the faith required to believe the doctrine. I’m quite sure God has the balance correct.
H: You quote my six evidentiary claims but don't address a single one of them; you argue by mere assertion. If your faith is so indefensible, then there is little point to our conversation.
N: I think my defense has been pretty exhaustive so far.
H: It's historically illiterate to deny that the truth and intellectual confidence of Christianity has not been under seige in the last few centuries by advances in philosophy and biology and cosmology and physics and biblical scholarship.I am delighted to let the record stand regarding my assertion about the intellectual status of Christianity over the last few centuries. I am supremely confident that even the most dogmatic inerrantist would not be impressed by your feeble rejoinder ("subjective") to my above assessment of Western intellectual history.
N: Also, just because you call it shyness due to a lack of discernment doesn’t mean you are correct.
H: Yet another "nuh-uh" non-argument.
N: It’s ok for you to give an “uh-huh” argument but not ok for me to respond in kind? Anyway, let me rephrase the response; your assessment is subjective, not factual.
H: I agree that the El/Yahweh of the OT is ridiculously different from the Father that Jesus preached, which only proves that neither OT nor NT can be referring to an actual eternal deity, and instead relate the evolving human conception of a mythical Mesopotamian tribal deity.The OT's EL/Yahweh is indeed ridiculously different in the sense that he constantly demanded extravagant sacrifice and was constantly engaging in ham-handed intervention in Israel's history.
N: The OT manifestation of God is different than the one Jesus preached? I thought you said that Jesus’ ministry was exclusively torah abiding. Please explain this apparent contradiction.
N: Your statement regarding Jesus’ miracles is contradictory. You say that He forced them, and then you say they were modest. So which is it?There's no contradiction: forcing is a threshold, and even the more-modest alleged NT miracles are above it.
H: The NT miracles were undeniably far more modest than the OT miracles, and yet any miraculous evidence is far more than what has been provided to recent generations (who at last have the communications and science needed to skeptically investigate alleged miracles). There is obviously no contradiction in my position.
N: Your response didn’t address the contradiction.
You imply that God’s miracles in the OT were fantastic in breadth thus cajoling, compelling, coercing and leaving people with little rational alternative. But Jesus’ miracles were much more modest in scope. How can that be as forceful as the former?I didn't say they were "as forceful"; I said they were both forcing. You didn't address my point that the NT's miracles were more modest than OT's -- were Yahweh's batteries running low? :-)
N:the nature of miracles hasn’t changed since the closing of canon so the timing of our ability to use technology to “skeptically investigate” is irrelevant.A blatant dodge of my point that you have no justification for why modern generations are not offered biblical-style miracles to save them from Hell. Instead you just say circularly that the canon is closed because God is done making revelation, and God is done making revelation because the canon is closed.
H: By "force", I'm quoting the Christian excuse for why Yahweh is lately so non-caring and impersonal that he doesn't provide any miracles for modern humans to witness.You call it "pouting" to cite prima facie unfairness in the evidence Yahweh is willing to show different people when the stakes are eternal torment by hellfire? If you sincerely and viscerally believe I am headed for Hell, then your flippant attitude here is morally abhorrent.
N: Don’t pout because you haven’t gotten your “burning bush”.
N: God can reveal Himself in so many more subtle ways which is so much more apropos today. Think about it. Remember the formulation of faith vs. divine intervention. What divine intervention exists is probably going to diminish because the whole point is for people to realize they need God. [..] My point is God allows us enough freedom to be at the threshold of our own apparent independence and self sufficiency versus the acknowledgement that we need to rely on Him because we are insufficient in and of ourselves.Nothing here even attempts to explain why 1st-century residents of Palestine got to be saved from Hell by large-scale public miracles, while so many others didn't.
N: The amount of technology that exists today still hasn’t disproved an iota of the bible and it in fact continues to affirm it. So in that sense we are seeing miracles thus accrediting the balance.Science and history have confirmed not a single supernatural claim of the Bible, and in fact have discredited so many that even most Christians don't take the Bible literally. Your second sentence is simply a non sequitur, and exemplifies the quality of your arguments.
N: Miracles are not forcing belief in regards to spirituality. You can choose to ignore them or not. Forcing would mean that you don’t have a choice in the matter, which clearly you do.Christian apologists know all about faith, but they still argue that modern large-scale public miracles would be a forcing of belief that violates our free will.
H: Excellent -- you've just destroyed the traditional Christian excuse for why Yahweh doesn't provide any miracles for modern humans to witness.
N: Now you have committed the excluded alternative because of your omission of faith.
N: Also, we do have miracles. The point is for us to be wise enough and humble enough to appreciate their subtlety.Nothing here even attempts to explain why 1st-century residents of Palestine got to be saved from Hell by large-scale public miracles, while so many others didn't.
H: What if I'm wrong, and one or more gods exist? In particular, what if the gods reward and punish humans based on policies significantly different than my humanistic principles? What if they then allow me to horribly suffer -- or at least to have horrible regrets -- because I did not believe in some revelation about them? In that case, I can only hope that the gods will not have also interfered with my ability to remember and reason, so that I will at least be able reaffirm to myself my current belief that I am ethically superior to any being that would see me horribly suffer just for my sincere and prima facie reasonable beliefs.Perhaps your reluctance to be thought of as trying to convert me is why your responses to me arguments are so weak -- or non-existent, as in the case of my point here about my ethical superiority to your god(s).
N: “I can only hope….” No, there’s something so much better than that! I won’t go into it unless you ask because I don’t want you to think I’m trying to convert you.
H: 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.If faith at all contributes to knowledge, then faith is within the domain of epistemology -- the study of knowing. I of course agree that faith is unreasonable, and I'll take this as a concession that the Divine Shyness doublethink is unreasonably circular and could only be believed on faith.
N: Hmm. Unfalsifiable. Sounds like you just made my case even more water-tight
H: You're apparently not familiar with the notion in epistemology that unfalsifiability implies meaninglessness for an empirical theory.
N: I need to retract my last response because I don’t think unfalsifiable is an appropriate term to apply to the so called divine shyness idea. Why? Because epistemology is not a valid discipline to apply to this aspect of God’s personality and it’s relationship to us due to the fact that epistemology cannot account or allow for faith which is not a subset of reason. Faith can and should be supplemented by reason but it does not exist within the realm of rationality.
N: Missing evidence is a moot point because until the evidence is apparent, we only have the existing evidence to apply to the idea epistemologically or theologically. We can speculate all we want, but it will be mere speculation.False. It is an undeniable fact that Thomas is alleged to have experienced first-hand evidence of a resurrected man's wounds. It is an undeniable fact that such first-hand evidence is missing in my experience. It is an undeniable fact that this difference is prima facie unfair if such evidence could save me from eternal torment. None of this is "mere speculation" or "moot". These are simply facts, for which you have no answer.
N: The real question lies in the word “meaningless”. That particular word doesn’t apply to an idea such as “divine shyness” because of the added aspect of faith. With rationality being subjectiveChristian apologists usually claim to be able to prove Christianity objectively and rationally, but your case is so weak that you flee from objectivity and rationality. If you don't believe that Christianity's truth can be established objectively and rationally, or that the arguments against Christianity's truth can be rebutted objectively and rationally, then we should just agree that belief in Christianity requires faith and end this discussion.
N: and faith being fluid, meaninglessness is relative. Divine shyness doesn’t have weight to a non-Christian because it is not relative to their life. Their life is governed by a completely different set of values. For a Christian, divine shyness is the very essence of their relationship and daily walk with God. The journey to find out what God’s will means to your life. If one tries to understand this idea in a solely epistemological sense, the understanding will be incomplete and arid."fluid"? "daily walk"? "journey"? The above is almost entirely content-free, although I agree that the circular reasoning inherent in Divine Shyness is indeed "the very essence" of a Christian's worship.
N: You have yet to show evidence to the contrary and missing evidence doesn’t prove your point. Sounds to me like your attitude is becoming “I don’t care if it’s correct, I’m still not believing in it.” Please clarify if I am wrong about your attitude because it’s one thing to not comprehend the truth of Christianity, it’s another to understand it and reject it still.The text of the Bible is itself a huge body of "evidence" and "facts" that are relevant to the truth of Christianity. When the Bible says X and Y, we can't assume X and Y are facts, but we certainly know that "the Bible says X" and "the Bible says Y" are empirical facts. In my Arguments Against Christianity I cite and explain over 100 such empirical facts, all of which argue against the supernatural claims of the gospels. Your denial that this is not "evidence whatsoever", and your dismissal of it without argument as "higher criticism", are simply further examples of how you just baldly disagree with my conclusions while offering no counter-argument.
H: It's simply hilarious that you can repeatedly ignore my evidence and arguments, or just baldly disagree with my conclusions while offering no counter-argument, and then here claim that it's me who is doing this instead of you.
N: You haven’t had any “evidence” whatsoever. Evidence requires fact, not higher criticism. If it’s higher criticism we’re talking about,
N: you’re right in that I have disagreed. Guess what? It’s opinion at that point and I think I have represented my beliefs exhaustively.You have indeed offered very little other than your opinion that you disagree with my arguments, and it is indeed exhausting to document how you repeatedly offer no defense for your beliefs against my arguments.
N: I have had a reasonable response to every point you have made.Thus you do not even bother defending the truth of your previous claim that you had "had a reasonable response to every point" I had made. If your claim then was indefensible, why should anyone believe your new claim here that all 15 have been addressed?
H: That, sir, is a batantly false statement. Here are some of the points in my emails (never mind my links) that you have completely ignored: [..]
H: Thus I've made a least 15 separate points to which you made no response whatsoever. Your claim to "have had a reasonable response to every point" I've made is simply bizarre.
- 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).
N: I have pored over these 15 theses and have made sure that each and every one has been addressed in this response to allay any fears that I am ducking the issues.
In fact, you explicitly admit high above that you are not responding to my point about "room to debate", when you say:
N: Hold on a second, chief. Let’s see your response to this correspondence.I have established here that you simply are not competent at assessing at any given time whether or not you've responded to all my arguments up to that point. So please spare me from any further vouching that you have answered all my arguments.
N: “kingdom of God” refers to His transfiguration which happened shortly thereafter. The passage is literally translated “into the kingdom” with the word into being understood.
N: or that we will always struggle with it.Earlier, you mentioned hope of humanity someday finding a text by Josephus that confirms the gospels. Now, you allude to some future day when Jesus' failed prophecies will not seem prima facie false. I've never seen this apologetic strategy before: overtly hoping that someday the evidence will not be so obviously contrary to Christianity.
N: you take the phrase “son of man coming in clouds” out of context. That passage is from a previous idea; the coming of the son of man. A new idea starts with the fig tree parable in v.32.False. Mt 24:32-34 is:
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.It's absured to say that "all these things" in verses 33 and 34 refers just to figs blooming annually, and that Jesus is merely saying that "this generation" will indeed see another summer. "All these things" obviously refers to the entire prophecy in Mt 24:4-31.
N: I personally have not seen any hermeneutist connect those two passages to the same line of thought.Then you must never have read any skeptical analysis of the Olivet Prophecy, or even any Christian arguments for or against preterism.
N: [..] Based on the research I have done, I believe genea is referring to the people who make up the church age (the people to whom He was speaking) in the dispensation of grace.This web page refutes you:
A quick glance through any Greek lexicon or concordance of the New Testament will quickly show that genea is always used in the sense of a generation in a specific point in time. Nowhere is this usage more obvious than in the Gospels themselves.
Matthew, for example, uses the word in 1:17, where he counts "fourteen generations from Abraham to David". The word is again used in Matthew 12;41, where we are told that "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here." It should be fairly obvious that "this generation", in this context, is the one to which Jesus appeared.
N: You still have a lot to learn about Christianity.It's hilarious that you consider the Bible to be "evidence" when its text supports Christianity, but not when its text fatally contradicts Christianity.
H: I know enough to expose its fatal contradictions, its lack of evidence, and its inconsistency with science and rationality and human decency.
N: Still waiting on those contradictions. Lack of evidence? You mean something factual like archaeology? I’m all ears, I can’t wait to hear this.
N: I will not refute your claim that the bible does have some events that are “inconsistent” with science and rationality as we know it now. However, the events are not impossible just improbable. I’ll even go so far as to say they are hard to believe if you handicap yourself by not allowing faith to be supplemented by rationality."As we know it now" -- another hint of vain hope for future evidence.
N: Human decency is relative and subjective, not an appropriate measuring stick for the bible.It's hilarious to hear a fundamentalist Christian argue for the relativity of ethical values. We apparently agree that Yahweh's morality is incompatible with what most people consider basic human decency.
N: Are you denying the rationalism of Aquinas, William of Ockham or Montaigne?I never said it did. Are we done asserting things the other doesn't deny, or would you like to start a round of such assertions again?
No, I'm denying their infallibility.
N: I never said they were infallible. I used them as an example to show that Christianity doesn’t necessarily equal intellectual ignorance.
H: Being rational just isn't the same thing as having access to the evidence that e.g. Doubting Thomas had access to. Feel free to continue ignoring this point.I myself might be convinced enough to die a martyr's death if I had Thomas' access to alleged evidence for Jesus' resurrection. (Are you not in the least embarrassed or ashamed that you've ignored my point again, even after I called attention to your doing so?)
N: The same Thomas who AFTER he doubted preached in Babylon, then Persia, sailed to malabar to witness and then died a martyr’s death in mylapore? Sounds to me like he was pretty convinced!
N: You assert that there are no biblical accounts that claim first hand knowledge of biblical events. This is a ridiculous claim because the “I was there” is understood.Mainstream scholarship is the consensus of the relevant peer-reviewed scholarly literature.
H: Mainstream scholarship unequivocally denies that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Calling this scholarly consensus "ridiculous" demonstrates that you simply are not equipped to answer serious arguments against Christianity.
N: So now exegesis is our topic. Well, what is “mainstream” scholarship? Is it merely the majority? Please don’t say yes because we should definitely not use that criterion.
N: Copernicus was in the minority when he believed in the heliocentric theory. Christopher Columbus was in the minority when he believed the world was round. So what are we left with? Two opposing views.You may run as fast as you can away from humanity's collective scholarly judgment, and you may pretend as hard as you can that no judgment is more rational or better-validated than any other, but all you wind up doing is 1) undermining the purported validity of your own feeble arguments, and 2) appearing laughably unreasonable to anyone whose mind is open even a sliver.
You can quote exegetes that agree with your position and I can do the same. For instance, the study notes of my Bible attribute the (eyewitness) apostles Matthew and john as being the authors of those respective gospels. I have the new King James Version, believer’s study bible that lists 53 credited scholars. At least 35 of those have received their doctorate in divinity, philosophy, or theology. [..] Apparently, my claim isn’t so ridiculous after all.I defy you to quote a single accredited biblical scholar saying that it's "ridiculous" to deny that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. You of course cannot, and intellectual integrity demands that you admit it was indefensible for you to say that a denial of eyewitness authorship is "ridiculous". Your refusal to either substantiate or retract your comment further demonstrates that you simply are not equipped to answer serious arguments against Christianity.
H: Obviously, my choices aren't just that Jesus was either a completely secular carpenter or a self-proclaimed deity. As I say in my book, he was a preacher, faith-healer, and apocalyptic prophet who in the months leading up to his anticipated execution came to believe he was the Jewish Messiah and even the divinely-special savior of mankind.No verse in the Bible can possibly substantiate your misrepresentation of my position, since the Bible makes no statements about what Brian Holtz believes. Again: I of course have never said that Jesus made a "claim to deity" that his family didn't believe, and I defy you to quote me to the contrary. Go ahead, make my day. Type a quotation mark, cut and paste something I wrote, and type another quotation mark. You can't do it, because I never told you that Jesus made a "claim to deity".
N: You claim that Jesus’ family didn't believe His claim to deity but you state Jesus never made such a claim.
H: A blatant and clumsy misrepresentation of my position. I of course have never said that Jesus made a "claim to deity" that his family didn't believe, and I defy you to quote me to the contrary. All I've said is that Jesus' family were not believers in his ministry during his lifetime, whatever that ministry may have preached. In the face of my previous correction of this point, your recidivism here exemplifies why answering you is such a low priority for me.
N: I will address your backpedaling. I can tell you what Jesus’ ministry “may have preached”: [biblical verses omitted]
N: you observe that Jesus’ family didn’t believe His claims during the ascribed time period (lots of people didn’t know what to make of Him).Your (non-)explanation of their disbelief is laughable, as you (yet again) lack the courage to address the family's knowledge of the angelic annunciation, supernatural conception, and water-to-wine miracle.
N: But you also claim that He made no such claims to deity (which, BTW, are refuted above pointing out yet another contradiction). If they didn’t believe what is clearly listed above, then there is no way that you can say He never made a claim to deity, the meaning of His ministry. So it would appear that the contradiction does indeed still exist and remains unresolved by your position despite your obfuscation.It's ludicrous to call it "obfuscation" for me merely to insist that we not beg the question of whether Jesus claimed to be Yahweh instead of claiming to be some divinely special person who nevertheless was distinct from Yahweh. You are so mired in your oxymoronic trinity dogma that you can't even fathom that I question whether Jesus' statements in the gospels amount to a claim to be Yahweh. Your logic is simply: "everybody knows Jesus claimed to be Yahweh, so to say that anybody rejected the claims of Jesus' ministry is to admit that Jesus claimed to be Yahweh".
N: The point is that it is inconceivable that we will ever be able to do anything to stop that inevitability thus begging the question of the ultimate importance of rationalism.You've blatantly moved the goalposts -- from understanding the universe to having total control over it. Is rationality such a threat to your worldview that you have to discount it with the tautologous indictment that rationality does not make the impossible possible?
N: As I have said, it is a great tool, but it cannot fill the God sized void in a person’s soul."In the brain of every religious person there is a god-shaped vacuum."
N: There is more to the universe than just existing in it and merely comprehending it.Indeed. If you want to know just how much more, I've written it down here.
N: BTW, my cosmological proof is supported on my website. I’m curious to see how you relate the aggregate net energy of the universe to the cosmological argument for God’s existence.Sorry, but your behavior in this discussion has made satisfying your alleged curiosity a non-priority for me.
N: At any rate, you refused to provide a sufficient defense for your stances by deflecting and/or repeating, you resorted to personal quips such as the sophist remarks about not responding to my arguments and my alleged lack of sophistication and you summarily dismissed some of my responses.Quote it. Make my day. I've rebutted every gospel verse you've cited of anyone "saying explicitly that they understood [Jesus] to be God". When you've failed to substantively answer a rebuttal, I have indeed sometimes repeated it. The simple fact is: I've answered your every substantive argument, and I've disproven your every allegation of evasion on my part.
H: These charges are laughable. I defy you to quote in my responses through Jun 6 a single instance of "deflecting", or a single instance of repeating an argument that you had already substantively replied to. Ironically, your charges here are themselves just a repeat of your earlier charge:
N: 1. there are 3 examples of Jesus and the disciples saying explicitly that they understood Him to be God. Since you could muster no rebutta, I'll just repeat: I gave 3 explicit examples and you summarily dismissed them and then repeated a previously stated assertion instead of addressing my examples
N: 2. 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!
H: 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: [..]
N: You didn’t address the question. It’s nice that you provided these verses but they are irrelevant to the statement. A missionary invoking verification of Jesus’ divinity has nothing to do with validity of eyewitness accounts.You said "it would have never been believed by ANYONE if it weren't verifiable". I demonstrated from your own holy text that the claims of Jesus' disciples about remote supernatural events were believed without any hint of even attempted verification. You have provided zero evidence that verifiability played any role whatsoever in the rise of Christianity, whereas I provided evidence to the contrary. It's thus ludicrous to say this counts as an instance of me "deflecting" an argument.
N: 3. and then I say it’s not so great, my statement does nothing to diminish the substance of your website.Hah! I point out precisely the element that you have never had the courage to explain, you then decline to repeat your alleged explanation (because you know it doesn't exist), and now you want to count this as an instance of me deflecting an argument. Thank you; I always enjoy a good laugh.
H: A specious analogy, since you (yet again) ignore the element of contrarian parents disregarding miraculous conception and annunciation.
N: I will save us the time of repeating myself again. The reason has been well documented
N: 4. N Jun 4: which you seem to make a common practice of.Bzzt. It remains perfectly true that in your Jun 3 email you ignored Mt 9:3, Jn 10:34, and Jn 14:10. I already told you in my Jun 11 email that responding to your post-Jun-6 emails is a low priority, so obviously this does not count as satisfying my challenge for "you to quote in my responses through Jun 6 a single instance of 'deflecting' [..]". (Your Jun 8 arguments have as of this writing been completely annihilated, as promised.)
H Jun 6: This charge is amusing, given that in my previous [night of Jun 3] email I documented you [in your Jun 3 email] ignoring scriptural context three times: Mat 9:3, Jn 10:34, and Jn 14:10. You didn't even try to answer these three points.
N Jun 8: Ok. I’ll answer them again except with my contextual answers: [..]
N: 5. N Jun 4: I haven’t seen you mention Simeon, Anna or John the Baptist, all of whom also knew exactly who Jesus was even when He was a child.Bzzt again. What part of "June 6" don't you understand? (Again, your Jun 8 arguments have as of this writing been completely annihilated, as promised.)
H Jun 6: You here just blithely assume that the gospels are literally true. [..]
N Jun 8: In this particular passage, john’s faith is being tested [..] No I do not blithely assume the bible is true [..] BTW, I did notice that you skated around the simeon and anna testimonies.
N: 6. N Jun 4: Who moved the two ton-stone blocking the tomb UPHILL [..]Bzzt yet again. My Jun 6 email answered your arguments of Jun 4, and I had told you that your Jun 8 arguments were a low priority but would eventually be answered. And they have.
H Jun 6: You again (for the fourth time in your message!) argue the truth of the Bible by assuming the truth of the Bible.[..]
N Jun 8: Except that many people saw Jesus as an apparition after His resurrection. [..]
N: 7.N Jun 4: Your statement regarding Jesus’ miracles is contradictory. You say that He forced them, and then you say they were modest. So which is it?My Jun 6 response answered your obviously fallacious claim, and your Jun 8 comments are now a smoking cinder as well. Again, my challenge remains unmet.
H Jun 6: The NT miracles were undeniably far more modest than the OT miracles, and yet any miraculous evidence is far more than what has been provided to recent generations (who at last have the communications and science needed to skeptically investigate alleged miracles). There is obviously no contradiction in my position.
N Jun 8: [..]
8. N Jun 4: Additionally, this list doesn’t include any corrections I have made in your statements.My Jun 6 response answered your assertion with a counter-assertion. #8 here is a double loser, because your allegedly unanswered statement came on Jun 8, and you don't even list any Jun 4 arguments of yours that allegedly were unanswered in my Jun 6 message.
H Jun 6: You have not successfully contradicted a single thing I've said.
N Jun 8: Hold on, I have some questions that remain unanswered.
N: Whew. There’s 8 examples of me having provided you with a response and you either ignored it, dismissed it or deflected the issue.I defied you "to quote in my responses through Jun 6 a single instance of 'deflecting', or a single instance of repeating an argument that you had already substantively replied to." You are zero for eight in your effort. Thank you for playing, please enjoy a copy of our home game.
N: And that’s only from ONE EMAIL RESPONSE. I didn’t even review the others.If you had read my emails through Jun 6, you would have realized that I had answered your every argument offered up to that point. If you had read my next email (Jun 11), you would have seen me say that "completing any response to your latest [Jun 8] effort is going to be a very low priority". Thus you have UTTERLY FAILED to document a single case of me purporting to answer all your arguments while not actually doing so. (How many times must you subject yourself to this sort of humiliation before you devote all your effort here to trying to actually answer my arguments, instead of vainly claiming I don't answer yours?)
N: You have not liked some of them. You have summarily dismissed others. But there has not been ONE instance when I have said “I don't know” or “I cant explain that”.Your reading skills fail you yet again. I didn't ask you to quote your arguments. I asked you to quote me "summarily dismissing" an argument of yours, or merely saying I don't "like" it. You once again have UTTERLY FAILED to substantiate a claim about my performance in this debate. (Do you think I issue these challenges to you without reviewing what I've written? Do you think I'd "defy you" to quote me saying such-and-such without confirming that I hadn't actually said it?)
H: To which I responded:H: I just identified FIFTEEN cases where you had nothing to say whatsoever. This doesn't even count e.g. your repeated and defiant unwillingness to explain how the virgin conception and angelic annunciation is consistent with Jesus' family disapproval of his ministry. I defy you to quote a single instance of me responding to a substantive point of yours by "summarily dismissing" it or merely saying I don't "like" it.And what quoted statement of mine did you offer in response to my challenge? Why, absolutely none, of course:N: Any one where you responded subjectively instead of factually.N: Ok. I’ll repeat my responses AGAIN:
N: [1-8, 10-12, 14-15]Of your fifteen responses, I here omit the ones that I fully rebutted when you wrote them the first time, before cutting and pasting them here verbatim.
H: 9. 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).You of course dare not offer an explanation for why this point is debated, while the others I list aren't. (My thesis of course explains the difference quite well.) Instead, you cower behind the laughable Divine Shyness doublethink. And when you tried that "robot" line on me before, you didn't have the courage to give yes-or-no answers to my questions:  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?
N: There are lots of things in Christianity that are debatable. There’s nothing wrong with that. Again, that’s by design. If doubt didn’t exist, then the journey wouldn’t be as meaningful. We would be more like robots..
H: 13. 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: [six NT episodes cited]Which is precisely what is predicted by my thesis that the gospel claims were unverifiable and unfalsifiable at those those times and places so remote from the actual events.
N: Yet these caesarians don’t at all debate the testimonies of the apostles. They don’t even say that they have heard anything to the contrary.
N: Another interesting note is that the witnesses numbered more than one which is certainly harder to refute than just a single witness.So if two Moonies or Mormans knock on your door, you'll convert?
N: Lastly, if these caesarians were in doubt, they wouldn’t have had to travel very far to corroborate the apostles’ stories.There is no evidence in Acts of verification ever being cited or attempted or even being described as possible for any claim of a remote supernatural event.
H: In Antioch, Paul admits [13:27] the people of Jerusalem "did not recognize Jesus", and seeks to excuse their disbelief by making [13:31] the qualification that "for many days [the resurrected Jesus] was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem".No, it doesn't. If Jesus wanted his resurrection to be noticed, he should have shown his wounds not to Thomas but to Pilate and Herod and everyone in the Temple. And if he wanted his resurrection to be convincing, he would have arranged to have been beheaded like the Baptist instead of merely hung on a cross for an afternoon.
N: I think there is a misinterpretation of 13:27. He is referring to the jews who crucified Jesus who certainly wouldn’t have known Him and didn’t walk with Him. He then adds that Jesus didn’t appear to them post resurrection which seems to make sense.
H: In Berea (Greece), Paul's audience does not try to verify his story but merely [17:11] "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."We don't know what Paul told them, either. At any rate, your comment here does absolutely nothing to show that the gospel claims were empirically verifiable or falsifiable for people hearing of events a decade or more earlier and several weeks' journey away..
N: And yet there is no mention of anyone finding any inconsistency.
H: In Achaia (Greece), the missionary Apollos "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." [18:28]Does it say Apollos proved from empirical evidence or eyewitness testimony that Jesus was the Christ? No -- it says he "proved" it "from the scriptures". Brian 4, Verifiability 0.
N: I don’t follow the mention of apollos debating the jews
H: When Festus describes [25:19] the case of Paul as being "about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive", Festus says [25:20] he "was at a loss how to investigate such matters", even though the events were less than 20 years and 20 miles removed.My quotes are always from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified. Young's Literal Translation says "and I, doubting in regard to the question concerning this, said, If he would wish to go on to Jerusalem, and there to be judged concerning these things". Still, it sounds as though Festus believed that the question at issue could not be settled a mere 20 miles from Jerusalem. Also, Paul declined Festus' offer of a Jerusalem hearing, implying Paul's realization that the testimony available in Jerusalem would hurt his case more than help it. Brian 5, Verifiability 0.
N: Your rendition of acts 25:20 is quite different than mine. I have “and because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters.” Sounds to me like he had a very good idea of how to handle this situation.
H: Before Agrippa, Paul recounts his persecutions and subsequent missions, adding [26:26] "I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner". However, even though Agrippa recognizes [26:28] that Paul is trying to convert him, Paul does not cite any "vindicating evidence" of the Resurrection, but instead admits [26:8] that his listeners "consider it incredible that God raises the dead".NIV: Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
N: Again I find your version of acts to be quite different than mine. I have “why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”
N: Indeed, it is incredible, but not for God which is what paul is trying to get across. He is supplementing the previously stated accounts with this exhortation.Paul doesn't say "and everybody in Judea and Galilee knows from the Passover miracles and the subsequent resurrection appearances that God raised Jesus from the dead". Instead, he admits that his listeners would find this claim hard to believe -- thus showing that there was no corroborating evidence available.
N: Incidentally, you mentioned that paul didn’t cite any vindicating evidence but after he recounts his persecutions of the Christians, he goes on to talk about his conversion.He says "I saw" and "I heard", but of his companions he merely says that they "fell down". Thus, given the chance to cite the appearances and miracles allegedly witnessed by thousands or millions in Judea and Galilee, Paul instead cites his own personal (heat-induced? epileptic?) vision/seizure, as corroborated by the fact that when he fell down he tripped his companions as well. This hardly qualifies as "vindicating evidence".