Dialogue with Bradley and Keith at “The Secular Outpost” (re: Historicity of Jesus)

On January 5, Keith Parsons wrote the post The Gospels and Critical History at The Secular Outpost.  I responded to Keith and, subsequently, to Bradley Bowen who was also commenting there.  You can follow the exchanges in the comments that follow the original post, beginning here.  [Editorial Note, June 26, 2016: It appears that the pages to which I was linking are no longer available online.  Sorry.

Dialogue with Others at “Debunking Christianity” (re: Faith and Reason)

Yesterday John Loftus of the blog Debunking Christianity wrote the post The Power of the Delusion is So Strong We Cannot Ordinarily Reason Believers Out of Their Faith.  I entered into the comment exchange, which you can follow there, at least in part.  I say “in part,” because it appears John Loftus no longer maintains this page – at least not at the original address – and it is only available on the “Wayback Machine” (Internet Archive).

Dialogue with Angra Mainyu (re: The Morality of God)

This conversation began at The Secular Outpost blog, and I have previously referred to it.

At this point, I am giving answers to some extended points and questions from Angra Mainyu (AM).

AM:  But that will not bring guilt or confusion. What will bring guilt and will make him feel really bad is to believe that looking at a woman and desiring her is always immoral if he’s not married.  As far as I can tell, your position is not limited to directly looking at her – staring may well be wrong in many cases -, but encompasses looking at pictures and/or watching videos: Is that a correct assessment of your position?

Mike:  Yes.

AM:  Moreover, it applies even to using his imagination, right?

Mike:  Yes.

There is a distinction which should be apparent, but in case it is not, let me make it now.  A person is not responsible for being tempted – only if he capitulates to the temptation.  Thus it is not the presentation of an immoral thought that defiles a person, but rather meditation upon it.  You can’t control who knocks on your door, but you can control who you invite in to entertain.  Or as Martin Luther may have put it, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

AM:  Of course, most teenagers may not even take that seriously. But many will, and they will suffer a lot because they will believe that they are immoral and will hate themselves for that, try to control themselves with little chance of success, etc.

Mike:  Only through our awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in every place on earth can we find the grace to achieve success such as this.  He Himself gives us the strength to resist temptation by virtue of our desire to please Him.  Boys find the ability to resist pornography while in the presence of their parents, and men find the ability to resist it while in the presence of their wives.  Therefore, everyone has the ability to resist viewing pornography.  The power to resist is found in the presence of eyes one does not want to displease.  Thus an awareness of the eyes of Christ gives us the power to resist meditation on immoral thoughts even when no human authority figures are around.

AM:  So, there are good reasons to believe that spreading that belief would have serious negative consequences for many people. But I still don’t see the consequences you’re talking about. Could you be more specific, please? 

Mike:  You don’t need more specifics from me.  You just need to use your imagination to realize that my world is the reverse of yours.  In your view, guilt and confusion are the consequences of thinking that a man lusting in his heart for a woman is immoral and judging oneself by that standard.  In my view, guilt and confusion are the consequences of thinking that a man lusting in his heart for a woman is moral and judging oneself by that standard.  What we both agree on is that having the wrong idea about what is and isn’t moral will eventually lead to guilt and confusion.  The guilt comes from the immorality and the confusion comes from differing standards.

You seem quite mindful of the damage that can come if my views of morality are spread because you are currently convinced that your views are right.  However, you seem oblivious to the harm your view causes if you are wrong.  Please think about it.

I am deeply concerned about the harm that your view causes not just to teenagers, but to people of all ages in our society.  I am sixty years old.  If I compare generally accepted societal morals when I was younger to what they are today, using the former as a baseline, I would characterize the change in my lifetime as follows:  Fifty years ago society’s morals were a C and people thought of themselves as C, while today morals are D- and people think of themselves as a B+.  That is, there is an inverse correlation between actual morality and perceived  morality.

You demonstrate this enigma by labeling immoral behavior as moral.  That is, at the same time we become even less like God than we were before, we proclaim ourselves more moral than He.  Therefore, be assured that the burden of proof to demonstrate that you are not corrupting good morals is as great for you as you perceive it to be for me.  In other words, you are not the only one concerned about “serious negative consequences” of holding and spreading the wrong view of morals – not by a long shot.

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AM:  No, I’m not confusing them.  The biblical god claimed or implied that they deserved it, so I asked what your assessment is. While I could have asked both whether you assessed that their actions were immoral and whether they deserved it, given the biblical god’s command, asking the latter was sufficient.  Still, if you want to answer both, that’s no difficulty – as long as you answer whether they deserve it.  The problem is, however, that you refuse to answer.

Mike:  As I’ve said, we can deal with the Mosaic Code in due time.  It’s not that I’m unwilling to answer, it’s just that I don’t want to major on a minor.  Until we settle the issue of Jesus Christ, the Mosaic Code is a moot point for us.  Neither of us is a Hebrew living between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, so the Mosaic Code has never had any applicability to us.  The New Testament claims that Jesus does have authority over us.  Therefore, we need to deal with that first.  If we conclude that the New Testament is wrong and that Christ doesn’t have authority over us (because, for example, He lived or taught immorally), then we can disregard consideration of the Mosaic Code entirely because it could not restore that lost authority to Him.  If we conclude that Christ does have authority over us, then we can examine whether your claims about the Mosaic Code do or do not discredit Jesus (i.e. undermine His moral authority and therefore delegitimize Him).

When you’re hiring a new employee, you don’t check references from prior employment until you’re otherwise satisfied that you want to make the hire.  Similarly, focusing on what Jesus may or may not have done in a completely different prior context is premature if we don’t think Jesus in His New Testament context is sufficiently moral to command our attention.  If you are unwilling or unable to judge Him as a man how in the world will you have the ability to judge Him as a god?  For we only know how to be human; we have no experience as gods.

Therefore, if you can be patient, we will get to your question about the Mosaic Code after we decide about Jesus of Nazareth.  If, on the other hand, your patience is exhausted, it’s fine with me to stop now.  Perhaps you already believe Jesus of Nazareth is unimpeachable without bringing in the Mosiac Code argument.  If so, I hope you’ll acknowledge that.

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AM:

a) If a man married two women and they were mother and daughter, the three of them deserve to be burned to death.
b) If a woman was the daughter of a priest and a prostitute, she deserved to be burned to death.
c) If a woman had premarital sex and then got married to someone who didn’t know that, she deserved to be stoned to death.
d) If a woman was betrothed to a man, but had sex with someone else, both she and her lover deserved to be stoned to death.
e) If a woman had sex with a non-human animal, both the woman and the non-human animal deserved to be killed for their actions.

Case a):

i) Are you saying that the man in “a” is immoral, or that he acted immorally in that particular case?
There is a big difference.

Mike:  I’m saying he acted immorally in that case.  Similarly, I am only commenting on what you have written in these five cases.  Therefore, each of my comments has been about what I see as moral or immoral in that case.

AM:  ii) What about the two women?
Case b)
Your reply to b) is surprising.
Are you really saying that she did not do anything wrong for becoming a prostitute?

Not that I claim that she acted immorally, but I’m extremely surprised that you would say she did not do anything wrong.

Are you certain that you didn’t misread?

Mike:  Maybe I did.  I thought you were asking me to comment on the morality of the daughter.  I  see nothing she did wrong.  Her mother the prostitute was acting immorally by being a prostitute, and, of course, the priest was acting immorally with the prostitute.

AM:  Case c)

Perhaps, she lied. Perhaps, she simply said nothing. Why should she?  In any case, she would have been punished if she’d said something, so again, why should she?

Mike:  If she knew that the person she was marrying was pure and that he was expecting her to be pure, then she had a moral duty to him to disclose that she wasn’t.  The same duty applies if their roles were reversed.

AM:  Case d)

No, the man in d) did not necessarily cheat on his fiancee, since the man in d) does not have to have a fiancee.  Rather, the woman in d) is the one who is betrothed to another man.  However, that may not count as cheating, if she did not choose to be betrothed to the man she’s betrothed to – i.e., she could have been the victim of her father’s choice.

Mike:  You’ve introduced another factor with the possible father’s choice.  I’m not an ethicist; I’m just trying to answer the questions you posed to me.  Let’s keep it simple.  You know that I believe sex outside of marriage is immoral; therefore, I believe that betrothed woman and her lover acted immorally.

AM:  Case e)
You say that the woman acted immorally.  But what about the non-human animal that had sex with her? Let’s say he’s a dog. Did the dog act immorally as well? 

Mike:  No.  Animals are not moral agents.

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AM:  Two questions:

1) Does that include the non-human animal in e), regardless of what species he was?

Mike:  Humans have moral capacity and responsibility, and are thus distinguished from animals.  Animals, by definition, cannot sin; they act by instinct.

AM:  2) Are all of those judgments the result of your intuitive assessment, or what you think Jesus believes? 

Mike:  He has been working on my conscience so long it is hard to determine with any certainty what it would say apart from His influence.  My most fervent wish is that my conscience match His, because His is the best conscience I have ever seen in operation: that is, a conscience which leads one to do the least harm and the most good for other people.

Perhaps to your point, I did not arrive at my answers by looking up chapter and verse in the New Testament to see what Jesus said about such cases.  Rather, I infer from His nature, His example, and His precepts.  My conscience is the only tool I have for inferring.

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AM:  That’s very disappointing.  You’re interested in the truth, right?  So am I, and I’m asking you what your intuitive moral assessment is about the claims in question, in order to learn about your method for making moral assessments: Essentially, the question is as follows:

All I’m asking is for you to please use your own own sense of right and wrong – not your religious beliefs – and let me know whether you truly assess that – in ancient Israel, of course:

a) If a man married two women and they were mother and daughter, the three of them deserve to be burned to death. 
b) If a woman was the daughter of a priest and a prostitute, she deserved to be burned to death. 
c) If a woman had premarital sex and then got married to someone who didn’t know that, she deserved to be stoned to death. 
d) If a woman was betrothed to a man, but had sex with someone else, both she and her lover deserved to be stoned to death. 
e) If a woman had sex with a non-human animal, both the woman and the non-human animal deserved to be killed for their actions.

Mike:  I’ve answered you on all this so I’m not sure what else you’re asking at this point.

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AM:  Are you saying that your own sense of right and wrong does not tell you whether or not those women and men deserved to be stoned to death, or burned to death, and that you do not know whether the non-human animal in question deserved to be executed for having sex with a woman?

Mike:  I thought I was being obliging by answering your questions about the morality of each case.  As for the sentence imposed for disobedience, I’ve stated repeatedly that I am willing to address this after we have settled on whether Jesus was moral.

You want to ignore the human life that Jesus lived and impeach Him solely on the evidence of what you deem to be immoral about the Mosaic Code.  That tells me you must feel uncomfortable trying to attack the morality of Jesus of Nazareth.  I don’t blame you.

AM:  If that’s what you’re saying, I have to say that you have a very odd sense of right and wrong.  If that’s not what you’re saying, could you please let me know what your sense of right and wrong tells you about that?

Mike:  Given some of your views about morality I can see how you would think my views were odd.  In fact, I know exactly how you feel.

AM:  That aside, you can’t reasonably claim moral goodness of Jesus while ignoring the Mosaic Code and at the same time claiming that Jesus is the same entity who commanded that code, since, well, those are his actions, and in order to assess whether he was morally good, we have to assess his actions the best we can – not just ignore some obviously evil actions.

Mike:  As I’ve said, I’m willing to discuss Jesus and the Mosaic Code in due time.  It appears to me that you just want to avoid Jesus entirely and focus on what you consider the sensational aspects of the Mosaic Code in 21st-century eyes.  You cleverly concede the idea put forth by Jesus’ admirers that He is Yahweh, but only for the purpose of ignoring His life, death, and resurrection – which is the only reason we Gentiles have any benefit in the Bible.  Address the morality of Jesus of Nazareth, His life and death, and this conversation will advance.

AM:  For that matter, a brutal tyrant may love his children. But it would not be reasonable to ask people to judge him on the base on that alone in order to establish legitimacy, and then claim that in the cases that appear “problematic” (i.e., obviously immoral), he must have had a good reason, since he was good.

Mike:  Poor example.  I am not talking about partitioning one part of Jesus’ earthly life from another, as is the case in the analogy you propose.  On the contrary, I’m saying look at His life as a whole.  Attack it if you can.

AM:  Sorry to be blunt, but I already spent many hours on this, and we’re going nowhere: This is not about disagreement between your moral intuitions and mine; it’s about the lack of rationality of the criterion that you’re using.

Mike:  I’m sorry about your time loss, but I’ve given you multiple opportunities to drop the  discussion with me.  As I’ve said from the beginning, I am interested in defending the morality of Jesus Christ.  If you can’t demonstrate Him to be immoral, or you are unwilling to attempt to demonstrate Him to be immoral, fine.  Just move on without me.  If there is anything irrational here it is a person insisting on debating the morality of the Mosaic Code without any basis for thinking it might apply to him.

AM:  Still, let me try another angle:

A) If Jesus was the same entity as the biblical god, then he was a monster for the reasons previously explained.  The commands he gave to the ancient Hebrews and the claims he made are relevant when it comes to assessing his moral character, simply because those are some of his actions.

Mike:  Yes, you’ve said this.  And I’ve said that I reject it.  And we’ll get to debating it if you have the patience to get there.

AM:  B) If Jesus was entirely human, going by the biblical description (minus the claims of superpowers), he apparently was a cult leader, who told men to hate and abandon their families to follow him.  That’s probably not enough to qualify as a monster, but that’s not right.

Mike:  It would only be wrong if He were only human.  But if He were sent by God as the Messiah, it would be wrong for Him not to have said those things.

AM:  C) If Jesus was neither the biblical god nor entirely human, but some other sort of entity, it remains the case that he does not appear to have been morally perfect. For instance, he still falsely claimed that the biblical god was good, and also told men to hate and abandon his families to follow him.

Mike:  C) is superfluous to your point because it is merely a repetition of A) and B) framed differently.

AM:  However one slices it, he wasn’t morally perfect.

Mike:  Correction:  In the way you slice it, He wasn’t morally perfect.  Not everyone slices it as you do.

I note that you identify here no immorality in Jesus other than His allegiance to, and claim to represent, the Old Testament God.   That’s significant.  Should I take this to mean you ascribe no immorality to Jesus other than these two points (which are really the same point you have been trying to make from the beginning).

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AM:  First, you’re not addressing my question.  I did not ask whether other humans should punish them. I asked whether they deserved to suffer the aforementioned punishments, according to your intuitive sense of right and wrong.

Mike:  We can discuss this when we get to the Mosaic Code.

AM:  Second, why would you leave it to the biblical god?  How is he any better than human judiciary systems?

Mike:  Human judiciary systems are entirely inappropriate for dealing with sins of the heart.  I’m shocked you’d even suggest it.  Human governments getting involved in that sort of thing raises the specter of “thought crimes.”

AM:  Actually, due time was long before, and is now as well.  And I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re not being rational on this matter, for the reasons I’ve explained throughout this discussion.  You may not be able to understand them because your faith gets in the way, but I find an irrational reply on this matter particularly problematic, as it dismisses a repeated and very accurate explanation of what’s epistemically wrong with what you’re doing – actually, a number of them -, and which is crucial to the matters at hand.

Mike:  A legal code that expired two millennia ago is hardly a “matter at hand.”

I understand your frustration.  You do not want Jesus to have authority over you.  Neither do you want Him to have authority over anyone else because that could still affect you, presumably through laws, social customs, etc.  You need to discredit Jesus.  If you can’t discourage people from following Him you at least want to discourage bystanders from starting to follow Him.  So you ask yourself, “How can I discredit Him?”  You can find no way to do that in His own earthly life which was unparalleled both in the scope and quality of kindness shown to others.  Neither is there a life that approaches His in terms of unjust suffering endured with graceful acceptance.  Truly, His is the finest human life ever lived.  Thus you must avoid discussing it at all costs.  The Old Testament – ah, yes, that’s the place you need to focus.  It is a much easier target to attack.  And, the good news is, you get to discredit Jesus through discrediting it.  It’s just so frustrating to you when someone won’t play along and forget Jesus and focus on the Mosaic Code – as if deciding anything about it was going to help a human life one way or the other.

I claim that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.  Attack Him if you will.  But if you can’t or won’t, just admit it and go back to playing your Old Testament game with whoever you can get to play it with you.

I am a seeker of truth.  That’s what led me to Christ and that’s what keeps me there.  The only way that the Old Testament applies to anyone today is if the New Testament does.  Therefore, focusing on the Old Testament before deciding about the New Testament is wasting time, procrastinating, and avoiding the issue at hand.

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AM:  Okay, so you put Jesus’ words over your own sense of right and wrong.
What makes you believe that he’s got a better sense of right and wrong than you do, and that he was truthful about morality? 

Mike:  I’ve never seen another human life anywhere close to it.  It’s morality is beautiful beyond description.  Oh, that I could be like that when I grow up!

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AM:  Okay, so you give him this right to moral authority because he was the biblical god. But why?

Mike:  Because He lived a morally perfect life and claimed to be God.  Based on my experience, only God could lead a morally perfect life.  I know of good people – I know of no other perfect ones.

AM:  If the biblical god said that it’s morally right to rape children for fun, would you believe that it’s right? 

Mike:  I cannot imagine Him saying such a thing.

AM:  If not, then why do you believe that what the biblical god says is right, is right? – because the reason why you put Jesus’ judgment about your own sense of right and wrong seems to be precisely that he’s the biblical god. 

Mike:  I put His judgment above mine precisely because He is more moral than I am.  Everything He says elevates my sense of morality from where it was before I heard Him.

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AM:  First, that is irrational on the part of Jesus.  An entity of immense power would not need to lie and issue immoral commands. And he shouldn’t, actually.  Second, the biblical god claimed or implied that, in ancient Israel:

a) If a man married two women and they were mother and daughter, the three of them deserve to be burned to death. 
b) If a woman was the daughter of a priest and a prostitute, she deserved to be burned to death. 
c) If a woman had premarital sex and then got married to someone who didn’t know that, she deserved to be stoned to death. 
d) If a woman was betrothed to a man, but had sex with someone else, both she and her lover deserved to be stoned to death. 
e) If a woman had sex with a non-human animal, both the woman and the non-human animal deserved to be killed for their actions.

Was he lying to, or did he believe those claims? 

Mike:  Please send me the chapter and verse for each of these (I presume you’ve taken them from the Old Testament), as I’ll need them when we come to discussing the Mosaic Code.  Once you admit me to that Jesus’ human life was unusually moral (I won’t even require you to say it was morally perfect; I just want you to acknowledge that it was exemplary), I’ll be ready to argue why His belief in “the biblical god” as you call Yahweh, was well-founded because Yahweh is as moral as Jesus was.  If, on the other hand, you convince me that Jesus is immoral, then you will have won your case without even having to appeal to the Mosaic Code.

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AM:  Thanks, but I’m afraid that only very limited progress is possible in this way.

The main difficulty is not the cases that you don’t remember, but the ones when you misunderstand the question and/or choose not to answer because of a non-rational procedure of making moral assessments. 

Mike:  I’ve worked hard on this dialogue with you.  If I’ve misunderstood you, it’s been a mistake made in good faith.  I understand that you fail to see rationality in how I make moral assessments because I fail to see rationality in how you make yours.  I at least have a standard to which I can appeal – a standard which transcends both of us.  You are arguing that I should accept as moral what you consider moral without offering me any objective basis for doing so.  In the non-theistic mindset which you embrace, there can be no true north.  All direction is a matter of taking a vote, which is why your standard of morality seems to match generally accepted moral principles of today’s American society – a subjective and rapidly-declining standard.

Jesus Christ offers an enduring and unchanging standard of morality for us all.  He is not the God of Christians – He is the God of all human beings.  He is not the God of religion, He is the God of morality.  That is, He does not judge the world according to religious standards.  Rather, He judges it according to moral standards.

There was indeed the Law of Moses that applied to a very select group of people for 1,500 years in ancient times.  But the requirements God places on all of us today are much greater than the requirements of that code.  In order to avoid God’s judgments today we must not just act properly, we must think properly.  This, however, is not a hardship.  On the contrary, thinking morally is the most peaceful, the most sublime way that a human being can live.  Nothing is more inwardly satisfying and enjoyable than doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason.  Through Jesus Christ we can do this.  And this life of righteousness (which is the word the Bible generally uses for morality) is full of peace and joy.  I pray that it will soon be yours…and everyone’s.

Answers for “articulett” at “Debunking Christianity” – 4

[I have posted some interactions with “articulett” which began on this post of Debunking Christianity.  The previous such post can be found here.]

“articulett” made the following statement in this comment.

“But now I am much more interested in what is true.  I don’t want to be fooling myself.”

I love this quote.  It describes exactly how I feel about my own search.  It is the motive that got me where I am, and I’m certainly not going to abandon it now.

While there may be many things about which “articulett” and I disagree, this motivation is not one of them.

Answers for “articulett” at “Debunking Christianity” – 3

[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.

Answers for “articulett” at “Debunking Christianity” – 2

[This exchange stems from interaction I have been having with “articulette” at the website Debunking Christianity.  I answered “articulett” in a previous post as well.]

articulett:  I think that’s the Jesus in your head– not the Jesus in the bible… 

Mike Gantt:  The only Jesus in my head is the one that got there from my reading the Bible.

articulett:  Why do you suppose Jesus didn’t command against Slavery? Torture? Pedophilia Sexism? Why would he instead focus on “thought crimes” like coveting?

Mike Gantt:  “Thought crimes” is a term that applies when humans try to control thoughts of other humans.  It is an inappropriate term for describing our thoughts before God.  So, let me use the term “sinful thoughts.”

The reason Jesus focuses on sinful thoughts is that this is the starting point from which all the evils you list come.  To deal with sin at its roots is the only effective way to eliminate it.

articulett:  Why would he not teach people useful scientific things– like “wash your hands frequently and your beloved children will be less likely to die from childhood diseases?” Or “the male determines the sex of the child, so quit punishing women for not having sons?” Or “Don’t blame rape victims for rape or force them to marry their accuser as the bible advises” or “There is no such thing as witches… “treat all humans the way you wanted to be treated– even the ones that are female or different races or different religions or that you think might be possessed or witches or demonic.” 

Mike Gantt:  Lay the moral code you just gave alongside the Sermon on the Mount and compare the two.  You really think your version of morality is superior to His?

articulett:  The Jesus of the bible endorsed slavery… he did not treat women as equals… he encourages men to hate their families and follow him… and if he is also the god of the old testament (as monotheism requires) then he is horrific. He advised people to “dash the little ones upon the rocks”! He commands all sorts of murder and commits all sorts of murder himself.

Mike Gantt:  You are just reciting a list of contrived grievances, put together for the sake of making a case against faith in Christ.  You are talking about Jesus the way Jesus talks about Satan.  Do you really think Jesus is evil?

articulett:  I think you may be a nice guy Mike and you are projecting your niceness onto Jesus. But if you discriminate against homosexuals or non believers or those of differing faiths, then I don’t think I’d think you were so nice.  If you try to disrupt the teaching of science with creationist obfuscation, then I would rescind my compliment.  

Mike Gantt:  I am not projecting my niceness onto Jesus.  I am trying to put myself in a position each day so that He can project His niceness onto me.  Although I am a long way from perfection, I am also a long way from where I used to be.

articulett:  I think you are more moral than Jesus, because if Jesus existed, he doesn’t any more. The only thing we can know about him is in the bible and, as Bart Ehrman discovered, much of it was not in the very earliest writings. Some stuff that was in the earliest writings were left out.  The gospels conflict. I think you’ve trained yourself to see Jesus through your belief that he is divine.  

Mike Gantt:  I know something about the lives of Jesus of Nazareth and of Bart Ehrman.  Faced with a choice, I know who I would trust with my life.

articulett:  What do you think is the most divine thing Jesus did or said. Is it something that you would expect from an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent being? 

Mike Gantt:  The most divine thing I think Jesus ever did is not something I would have expected from an omnipotent, omnisicent, omnibenevolent being:  He died for my sins on a cross of cruel rejection.  And not for mine only but for those of the whole world.

Answers for “Zach” of “Debunking Christianity” – 2

[This response is to a comment made by “Zach” at this point on a post at Debunking Christianity.  (I answered Zach in a previous post as well.)]

Zach:  If you think there is one central message to the bible than you are the one denying the obvious and you have exposed you personal bias and laziness. Study more about the numerous interpretations of the bible than come back to me. 

Mike Gantt:  The central message of the Bible is Jesus Christ.  See John 5:39.  See also Luke 24:27 and 44.  And John 1:45.  All other messages of the Bible are subordinate to this truth and supportive of it as well.

It took me many years of study to fully realize this…but you and others don’t have to take so long.

Answers for “Zach” of “Debunking Christianity”

This response is to a comment made by “Zach” at this point on a post at Debunking Christianity.

Zach:  Who says that Jesus’ times didn’t produce anyone else like him? That’s just a statement based on your predetermined belief that he was perfect.

Mike Gantt:  No, it’s a statment based on reading the account of His life in the New Testament.  If you have found a life that is comparable to it in that age – or any age – please tell me whose it was.

Zach:  Now I will say I don’t you or WiiliamBurns that well so maybe I am overstepping my bounds by assuming you are more moral than Jesus but I would be quite surprised if you weren’t.

Mike Gantt:  I take it you’re saying that if you find a reasonably good person in America today, his morals would be better than those of Jesus.  Again, I’m just staggered that you would think this.

Zach:  Jesus had some great ideas but none that were particularly unique to him or that pushed human morality forward in any great way.

Mike Gantt:  Of course, everything Jesus said about morality wouldn’t be brand new.  He was proclaiming the truth of God and certainly a fair amount of that truth had been available since the dawn of creation.

However, to say that He didn’t push human morality forward in any great way is to ignore not only his life, but all the lives since then that have been inspired by His.

Zach:  I know that’s tough for most Christians to accept but if one takes the gospels at face value and compare the morality espoused by Jesus to modern ethics one finds he comes up very short.

Mike Gantt:  In what ways?

Zach:  Now having been a Christian most of my life I know that is very tough to see when you’ve blinded yourself to it. Christians allow Jesus to define what actions/sayings are right or wrong and so of course by definition he cannot do or say anything wrong. But if one allows Jesus’ actions/sayings to define him and thereby determine if what he did/said was right or wrong than one finds he did and said many immoral things.

Mike Gantt:  Since you think there are “many” please list 4-5.  Or even one.

Zach:  Maybe one day you will see that for yourself but I know it was a long, painful process for me and it took a lot of hard work and personal honesty that most believers are not willing to put in.

Mike Gantt:  My daily walk with Jesus Christ takes a great deal of hard work and personal honesty.  I submit my thoughts to Him.  I want those thoughts to please Him.  That eliminates a lot of thoughts I used to think.  If anything, it would take less work if I were to walk away from Him because then I would have to answer to no one but myself for what I think.