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REPLY #68b TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the second of a nine-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

...and, of course, the famous problem with the conflicting genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.
(R) This is no contradiction at all. The two Gospel writers are simply tracing the line of Jesus through two different lines of ancestors. Matthew is tracing it through Joseph, while Luke is tracing it through Mary.
(MB) This is a famous harmonization attempt and is also the most famous utter failure -- as we shall see.

(R) Matthew is writing to Jews and thus wants to portray Jesus as the rightful heir to the throne of David. Luke is writing to a Gentile audience and thus traces Him back to Adam.
(MB) Quite true. However, the purpose of both genealogies was to show that Jesus met the basic qualifications to be the Messiah, i.e., that he was a descendant of David. The intended audience is really irrelevant.

(R) Further, Luke does not say he is giving Jesus' genealogy through Joseph. Rather, he notes that Jesus was "as was supposed" the son of Joseph, while He was actually the son of Mary.
(MB) If this is correct, what's the point of the long list of names in Luke? If Jesus was not a blood descendant of David, he could not be Messiah. Luke's genealogy can't be correct in any case, since he traces it through David's son Nathan, while the OT clearly states that all future Kings must be descendants of David through Solomon. It is physically impossible for any person to be a descendant of two different blood brothers.

(R) Finally, the fact that the two genealogies have some names in common does not prove they are the same genealogy.
(MB) They *have* to be the same genealogy since they both end with the same person -- Jesus!

(R) These are common names and further, even Luke's genealogy has a repeat of the names Joseph and Judah.
(MB) Most of Luke's genealogy is unverifiable from any other Biblical account while Matthew's is primarily a listing of the famous Kings up until after the Exile. There is no possible harmonization of the two genealogies that can be justified.

Examples of doctrinal and philosophical contradictions include Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16 (which say Man is justified by faith alone) vs. James 2:20 (which says the faith without works is insufficient),
(R) Paul (writer of Romans and Galatians) and James are not contradicting each other here. If they were speaking about the same thing, they would be.
(MB) Well, let's see what they are saying:
Romans 3:20 -- Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.

Galatians 2:16 -- Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

James 2:20 -- But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
    Now, let's see how you'll try to harmonize these verses...


(R) Paul is speaking about justification BEFORE GOD, while James is talking about justification BEFORE HUMANS. This is indicated by the fact that James stressed that we should "show" (2:18) our faith. It must be something that can be seen by others in "works" (2:18-20).
(MB) This is silly. What other people can see makes absolutely no difference as to whether or not one's faith in God/Jesus is sufficient. James is basically saying that people should practice what they preach (whether it can be seen by others or not), while Paul states that faith alone is enough. James makes more sense since to do otherwise is to risk being hypocritical about one's beliefs.

(R) Further, James acknowledged that Abraham was justified before God by faith, not works, when he said, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (2:23). When he adds that Abraham was "justified by works" (v.21), he is speaking of what Abraham DID THAT COULD BE SEEN BY PEOPLE, namely, offer his son Isaac on the altar (2:21-22).
(MB) Abraham was not in a public place nor was he witnessed by anybody else when he prepared to sacrifice Isaac. He was on a mountain to which God had led him. The story certainly indicates that Abraham's faith alone was not sufficient for God. Of course, one has to wonder how an all-knowing, all-seeing God could not know the strength of Abraham's faith and could only justify him by testing him.

(R) Further, while Paul is stressing the ROOT of justification (faith), James is stressing the FRUIT of justification (works). But each man acknowledges both.
(MB) This is pure speculation without Biblical basis in the verses under discussion. Neither Paul nor James refers to justification in those terms.

(R) Immediately after affirming that we are "saved by grace through faith" (Eph. 2:8-9),
(MB) Don't forget the rest of it:
Ephesians 2:8-9 -- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    Sounds like a pretty clear statement to me.


(R) Paul quickly adds, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
(MB) That verse actually reads "...created in Christ Jesus *unto* good works..." which has a very different meaning.

(R) Likewise, right after declaring that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5-7), Paul urges that "those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (Eph. 2:8).
(MB) Besides giving the wrong verse (it should read Titus 3:8), you left out some of it again. Why? Let's look:
Titus 3:8 -- ...be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
    Notice that Paul is not saying that one should do good works to gain God's favor. He is saying that we should do them for the benefit of our fellow men. Actually, it's hard to disagree with that sentiment.


Deuteronomy 24:16 (which says that children are not to be punished for the sins of their parents) vs. Exodus 20:5, 34:7 and Isaiah 14:21 (where God orders such punishment),
(R) Deut. 24:16 is a precept laid down by which the legal system of Israel would function once they were established in the land. It was not the right of the human courts to exact capital punishment from the children of guilty parents if the children were not personally guilty of the crime. However, that which restricts the power of human courts does not restrict the right or authority of God.
(MB) The obvious problem with this argument is that it is *God* who is speaking in this verse. It is not a secular statement of a concept of any legal system.

(R) Deut. 24:16 is speaking of the GUILT of the father's sin never being held against the sons, but Exodus is referring to the CONSEQUENCES of the fathers' sins being passed on to their children.
(MB) What's the difference? If someone is guilty of a crime or a sin, there are consequences to be paid. Also, if someone is forced to suffer the consequences of a sin that he did not commit, that is a grave injustice. Finally, your argument runs into a contradiction with Ezekial 18:19-20, which says "The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father..." Notice that it says the son shall *not* bear it. Now, which of these two (Exodus 20:5 or Ezekial 18:19-20) is right? They can't both be right since they are exact opposites.

(R) Unfortunately, if a father is a drunk, the children can suffer abuse and even poverty. Likewise, if a mother has contracted AIDS from drug use, then her baby may be born with AIDS. But, this does not mean that the innocent children are guilty of the sins of their parents.
(MB) Sounds like you've been reading Carl Johnson. Unfortunately, his analogy breaks down when you realize that the consequences of another's behavior are not something which can be forced upon anybody else by judicial fiat. Johnson's analogy flatly contradicts the commandment of God in Exodus 20:5.

(R) Further, even if the Exodus or Isaiah passages implied that moral guilt was somehow also visited on the children, it would only be because they too, like their fathers, had sinned against God. Noteworthy is the fact that God only visits the iniquities of "those who hate" Him (Ex. 20:5), not those who do not.
(MB) The problem here is that this runs afoul of Romans 5:12, where Paul says that "all have sinned". Since you cannot both love God and sin (otherwise, there would be no need to beg for forgiveness), there are no cases where God wouldn't apply Exodus 20:5 and condemn all generations.

...and the ever-interesting 1 John 3:6 ("Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not") vs. 1 John 1:8 ("If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us").
(R) John nowhere claims that believers are without sin or never commit a sin. 1 John 3:6 is in the present continuous state. It is better translated in the NIV. "No one who lives in him KEEPS ON SINNING".
(MB) Why is this verse better translated this way? It seems simple and concise enough as it reads. It also makes perfect grammatical sense as the verb forms agree with each other. Unfortunately, the NIV is somewhat prone to apologetic rewordings.

(R) If a person habitually practices sin, and is not uncomfortable, he is not born of God.
(MB) This begs the question of the definition of "sin". Can a faithful follower of Hinduism "sin" in the Christian sense? What about activities of Christians which would be considered "sins" by Jews (or by Muslims, for that matter)?

(R) As James argued, true faith will produce good works (2:14).
(MB) This is an analog of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. Can't one do good works without having faith in the Christian God?

(R) If a pig and a lamb fall into the mud, the pig wants to stay there, but the lamb wants to get out.
(MB) Actually, the pig would also prefer not to be in the mud. It only goes there because the mud keeps the pig's body cooler. Pigs are smart animals -- not dirty ones. They have an erroneous reputation since the most efficient way for them to relieve overheating is considered "dirty" by humans. That reputation leads to silly analogies such as the one you offered. Given the choice, pigs prefer a clean environment.

(R) Both a believer and an unbeliever can FALL into the same sin, but a believer cannot STAY in it and feel comfortable.
(MB) Only because the believer has a preconceived notion of what "sin" is. The unbeliever will either not consider a given activity to be "sinful" or will not subscribe to a belief system that considers that activity to be a "sin". If both faithfully follow their beliefs, who's to say which one of them is "wrong"? To make any such claim will require proof that "sin" has an independent existence.

It also seems fairly obvious that Peter, Paul, and Jesus have three differing views about what Christians are supposed to believe or practice. To relate just a few of the numerous examples, Jesus says at least three different times that his teachings are not meant for non-Jews (Matthew 10:5, Matthew 15:24, John 4:22) while Paul, in Acts 13:47, says that the Lord commanded him to "be a light for the Gentiles".
(R) These apparent contradictions refer to two different periods.
(MB) That's a ridiculous argument even if it had any meaning. If Jesus was as you portray him, he knew ahead of time what would happen to him and what sort of reaction his teachings would provoke from any given crowd. He is clearly quoted as saying "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:5) and "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), whereas Paul plainly writes "The Lord has commanded us, saying, I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 13:47). It will take a wild piece of illogical fabrication to make any claim that these statements are not contradictory.

(R) It is true that Jesus' original mission was to the Jews. But, the Scriptures testify that "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). The official Jewish position was to reject Him as their Messiah and to crucify Him (Matt. 27; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18).
(MB) Obviously, Jesus was not a very compelling figure to the very people to whom he had originally intended to minister. If they saw and heard him first-hand and were not impressed, why should anybody have a different opinion 2000 years later?
    Side question...can the Gospels be considered "Scripture" in the Biblical usage? I ask because every Pauline usage of the word refers to the Old Testament. In fact, it would have to be that way since Paul wrote his Epistles prior to the appearance of any of the Gospels and did not quote from any of them at any time.


(R) Therefore, it was after His crucifixion and resurrection that the mission of the disciples was to go to the nations.
(MB) Sure! After the people who saw you turned you down, why not send your few remaining disciples out to try to convince those who did *not* ever see or hear you and who would have no way to verify the truth of what was being preached to them? Makes sense to me.

(R) This was in fulfillment of prophecies about the Gentiles.
(MB) And, just which "prophecies" were these?

(R) Thus, the Apostle Paul could tell the Roman Christians that the Gospel was "for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).
(MB) This is dubious on two counts. First, the verse is actually talking about salvation for "every one that believeth". If the Jews rejected Jesus to the point where they had him crucified, they were clearly not believers. How, then, could Paul say that salvation was for the Jew first? Second, in this verse, Paul contradicts statements he made on two other occasions (Romans 2:11 and Ephesians 6:9) where he says there is "no respect of persons with God". These also are in contradication of yet another verse from Paul (Romans 9:13) which says, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated". So, in two places, Paul suggests that God has a pecking order for salvation and/or love, whereas, in two other places, Paul suggests that God does not play favorites. Clearly, they can't all be right.

(R) Because of their rejection of Jesus, the nation of Israel was cut off (Rom. 11:19), but, when the subsequent "fullness of the Gentiles" (11:25) has been completed, then Israel will be grafted in again (11:23,26).
(MB) So, what Paul is saying here is essentially that God has been such an uncompelling figure to his "chosen people" that he needs new branches for his tree since he had to cut off some of the originals. Note that Paul is referring to God and the OT rejection of him by some Jews. He never once mentions Jesus, so your interpretation is incorrect.

(R) Of course, even though Jesus' mission was officially to the Jews, He did not neglect Gentiles. He healed the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter (Mark 7:24-30).
(MB) According to the story, Jesus is apparently not going to heal the woman's daughter at first. He goes so far as to portray the Gentiles as "dogs" while the Jews are referred to as "children" whose needs have priority.
Mark 7:27 -- But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.
Then, the woman makes a clever retort to Jesus which impresses him enough to reconsider and perform the healing.
    BTW, there's another problem related to this story. Supposedly, it takes place in Tyre. Yet, Ezekial (in chapters 26-27) condemns the city and predicts that it will be destroyed and never rebuilt. Of course, Tyre exists even to this day.


(R) He went out of His way to minister to the woman of Samaria (John 4).
(MB) Jesus did not go "out of his way". According to John 4:4, Jesus needed to go through Samaria on his way to Galilee. His meeting with the woman was, therefore, a chance encounter and not a deliberate act.
    John 4:5 begins "Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar...". A problem here is that Samaria has never had a city called Sychar.


(R) He told His disciples of His anticipated work (through them) among the Gentiles (John 10:16),...
(MB) Let's look:
John 10:16 -- And they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    Given that there over 1500 separate Christian sects in existence, it certainly doesn't sound like Jesus was very accurate with this prediction.


(R) ...and His Great Commission was to "make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-20).
(MB) The problems surrounding the Great Commission are numerous and legendary. Let's look at a few of them beginning with another Pauline contradiction. In Matthew 28:19, we read Jesus as saying, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Yet, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:17 writes, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel". Then, there's Peter, who seems to think (in Acts 2:38 and 10:48) that baptism should be done only in the name of Jesus.
    Matthew 28:18 has Jesus saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth". This is interesting when compared with the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, where he says "The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders". Who is it, then, who has "all power"? Jesus? The lawless one? Satan? Perhaps they are all one and the same or are all equally powerful?
    Apologists have a difficult time resolving the Great Commission with the philosophical problem of how God will deal with people who have never heard of him. Sure, we "know" that unrepentant sinners will be condemned and that the repentant ones are eligible for eternity in Heaven. But, what about the people who have never heard of God and know nothing about him? What will be their eventual fate? It doesn't seem fair to condemn them since they have not knowingly rejected God. But, neither does it seem fair to allow them eternal bliss since they had done nothing to earn it. Nor, does it seem fair to deny their souls a continued existence after the death of their mortal bodies. What to do?
    In "I'm Glad You Asked", apologist Kenneth Boa writes:
These concerns have led some people to the conclusion that those who have never heard about Christ will escape the judgment of God. If this is true Christian missionaries are not only wasting their lives but may be doing great harm by preaching the gospel to those who are unaware of Christ, they have brought people from a state of innocence to a state of moral culpability if they do not respond. This would mean that passages such as the Great Commission make no sense at all. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should have been kept a secret.
    In "Reason to Believe", apologist R. C. Sproul reaches a similar conclusion:
Since the native is not guilty of this we ought to let him alone. In fact, letting him alone would be the most helpful and redemptive thing we could do for him. If we go to the native and inform him of Christ we place his soul in eternal jeopardy. For now he knows of Christ, and if he refuses to respond to Him he can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse. Hence, the best service we can render is silence.
    It would seem, then, that the Great Commission (or, at least, the Christian interpretation of it) may not be something that is well thought out.


(R) But, both in order of priority and time, the message of Christ came first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.
(MB) I guess things have changed over the years, eh?

Peter, in Acts 2:22, says that the ability to do signs and wonders can be used to prove that one is approved by God while Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, says that Satan and his followers can also do signs and wonders.
(R) Acts 2:22 states that Jesus was accredited by God to them through miracles which GOD did among them. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 states that the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of SATAN. Notice any difference?
(MB) Yep. That was exactly my point! You often claim that one proof of Jesus is in the miracles he performed. Yet, even the Bible shows that miracles, in and of themselves, are no proof that they or the individual performing them are divine. You may well try to argue that miracles originate from different sources. However, to do so is to prove my point since the person who witnesses a miracle cannot tell who is ultimately responsible for it.

(R) So how are we supposed to distinguish between spirits? 1 John 4:2 says "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."
(MB) This is illogical since it does not address the cases of the individuals who are convinced to change their views either for or against Jesus. If we acknowledge that a believer's spirit is from God, what happens when he renounces his beliefs? He still has the same spirit he always had. Same for the former non-believer who converts to Christianity. His spirit is also still the same as before. How does one get a spirit that is not "from God" if God is responsible for everything that happens?

(R) A divine miracle is supernatural, connected with truth, associated with good, never associated with the Occult, and always successful.
(MB) Just what would an "unsuccessful" miracle be? Also, Jesus' cursing of the fig tree is classified as a "miracle", but it could hardly be considered something that is associated with "good".
    Incidentally, this incident is also contained within another contradictory account between Matthew and Mark. Matthew 21:12-19 has Jesus cursing the fig tree after cleaning the temple, whereas Mark 11:13-15 reverses the order of events. They can't both be right! How do you account for this?


(R) A satanic sign is supernormal, connected with error, associated with evil, often associated with the Occult, and not always successful.
(MB) Please explain the difference between "supernatural" and "supernormal". Also, you'll need to give details of a specific satanic sign and show how it meets the criteria you listed.


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