[This exchange stems from interaction I have been having with “articulette” at this post on the website Debunking Christianity. (I also answered “articulett” in this previous post, and this one before that.) Someone had made the point that Jesus couldn’t be as moral as we can be today because He did not know what we know. That led to my question, which “articulett” then answered with a long list. I’ve broken down that list so as to answer item by item.]
Mike Gantt: What do we know today that Jesus didn’t?
articulett: Germ theory. Genetics.
Mike Gantt: I don’t see how knowing these subjects would improve one’s morality. On the contrary, I’d say you hope that those who study these fields are moral people. Either good or evil can be done with such knowledge. And indeed both good and evil have been done with them.
articulett: There’s no such thing as witches.
Mike Gantt: I’ve heard different definitions of witches. And there are people who claim to be witches today. I don’t recall Jesus speaking on the subject, so I wouldn’t count it important per se. The important thing is to be moral.
articulett: Slavery is wrong.
Mike Gantt: I don’t consider anyone who didn’t speak out against slavery before the Industrial Revolution as immoral. If so, we’d be calling many of history’s great people immoral. Besides, I don’t think we ought to pat ourselves too hard on the back for eliminating slavery. Mankind has seemed pretty opportunistic about the subject, not generally shedding the practice until machines were around to do the work.
Even though Jesus did not explicitly teach against slavery, however, He did teach the mindset that eventually saw morality and compassion in its abandonment. And you can see that mindset already at work in the short letter of Philemon written by Paul, and echoed ever so briefly in 1 Corinthians 7:21.
articulett: Women aren’t property.
Mike Gantt: I’ve read the gospels and can’t find anything Jesus said that would lead me to believe that He thought women were property. On the contrary, you can see Him showing women a level of respect which did not normally seem to be accorded to them in that age.
articulett: Computer languages.
Mike Gantt: As with germ theory and genetics, I don’t see how knowing computer languages puts you in a better position to be moral, but I do see how the morality of a computer programmer affects whether his work is good or evil.
articulett: The fact that the father determines the sex of the offspring.
Mike Gantt: Indeed His Father did determine His sex.
articulett: That DNA tests we’ve developed today could have shown who his real father was.
Mike Gantt: He already knew who His real Father was. And, besides, no one could have located the Father in order to administer the test anyway.
articulett: That fig trees can’t produce figs out of season.
Mike Gantt: It is an unusual story, but I see no reason to assume from it that Jesus was ignorant of the seasons. On the contrary, His teachings are filled with references to planting, harvesting, seasons, and such.
articulett: That it’s culty to ask people to give away their possessions and “hate” their family to follow you.
Mike Gantt: If you’re merely a human being, yes…but not if you’re God.
articulett: That people cannot be their own son.
Mike Gantt: His situation was a unique one, I’ll grant you that.
articulett: That allowing “thou shall not suffer a witch to live” to be in your holy book can incite witch hunts with horrific results.
Mike Gantt: On the contrary, He was quite aware that the word of God could be corrupted by human beings. He warned about this on multiple occasions, and nowhere more forcefully that in His denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23).
articulett: That discrepancies in biblical interpretation would lead to holy wars.
Mike Gantt: How can you imagine that He didn’t know this? He obviously knew that “discrepancies in biblical interpretation would lead to” His own death by crucifixion.
articulett: That humans did not descend from two people… we descended from apes… there were no “first two people”.
Mike Gantt: Given that evolution is a theory, and that, in the history of science, theories can be displaced by new theories, you might want to withhold judgment on that one for a bit longer.
articulett: That death isn’t really a sacrifice if you are just going to start your “happily ever after” in some other realm.
Mike Gantt: If you know your scriptures, you know that Jesus sweated blood while praying for deliverance from death the night before the crucifixion so maybe the one going through sacrificial death doesn’t see as quite the cakewalk that you do.
articulett: I could go on and on and on…
Mike Gantt: So could I.
Science as a field of study did not exist in the time of Christ. Morals, however, have always existed…though they’ve only been practiced to varying degrees. I have no problem with someone suggesting that Jesus’ mind was not occupied by some of the scientific knowledge that occupies ours. However, for any human being in the 21st Century to assert that he or she possesses more moral knowledge than Jesus (and by that I mean a higher degree of morality), all I can say is that I would like to see the record of that life laid alongside the gospels for purposes of comparison.