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REPLY #68c 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 third 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.

(R) One day, the antichrist will appear on earth and display all kinds of miracles and sadly, he will deceive many.
(MB) Who's to say that this isn't what happened 2000 years ago? Certainly, many have been deceived by the writing and preaching of those who interpret and spread the story.

(R) TODAY is the day of salvation! Christ has paid it all! Thank God I'm forgiven!
(MB) Why "today"? Why hasn't the time come and gone or why isn't it still sometime in the future? What did Christ "pay"? He didn't die or sacrifice anything. How do you know that you have been "forgiven" of anything and how do you know that it is Yahweh who is to thank for it? In Hinduism's holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, it is written that no matter what god you believe yourself to be worshipping, in reality, you are actually worshipping Vishnu. Can you show this to be wrong?

Peter, in Acts 15:8-10, counsels that adherence to the Law is no longer necessary, while Jesus, in Matthew 5:8, advocates strict adherence to the Law.
(R) What does Matthew 5:8 have to do with adherence to the Law?
(MB) That should have been Matthew 5:18. Now, how does one harmonize Peter's and Jesus' statements about whether or not adherence to the Law is necessary?

It's clear that the Bible, when read in toto, presents a rather confusing story.
(R) Since all those "contradictions" were disproven, this statement is not valid.
(MB) Since none were disproven and since most have actually been reinforced by your own arguments, we still have the same confusing story.

(R) Have any more "contradictions" you would like to bring up?
(MB) Hundreds of them -- each at the appropriate time. You haven't yet successfully defended the original problems and I've given you a few more to chew on in the course of the previous discussions. I'm sure that your responses to these will open the door for more of them.
    In the meantime, here's another goodie for you to chew on. Matthew 23:35 quotes Jesus as saying, "...the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar." However the OT story (2 Chronicles 24:20-21) says that the prophet who was stoned in the temple is Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. It is clear that either Matthew is quoting Jesus incorrectly or that Jesus himself is wrong in his statement. Either case is damaging to the picture you wish to paint of the inerrancy of the Bible.
    There is an alternative explanation for the error. It is known that someone named Zechariah the son of Baruch was murdered in the temple precincts in 68 CE and Matthew may have mistakenly mixed up his stories while writing his Gospel since the dating of that event is close to the accepted period of authorship for that Gospel. Of course, this explanation indicates an anachronism in Matthew's account -- which is a serious error since he would be putting words into Jesus' mouth that could not possibly have been said.


(R) There are three kinds of people who read the Bible. Those who believe in it, those who read it objectively, and those who read it to find contradictions. I think it is clear that while you claim to be in the second category, you are really in the third.
(MB) I don't read the Bible to find contradictions. I find contradictions in the course of reading the Bible objectively. My initial studies of the Bible were meant to reinforce my beliefs. However, the more I read and studied, the more problems I encountered. Most people never read the Bible at all and only "know" the carefully-selected verses that are presented to them in church and in tracts. They are also more than willing to believe any harmonization (no matter how nonsensical) of problems that they might encounter in order to preserve their beliefs. This has been evident in most of your rebuttals -- which seem to have been largely influenced by (or copied from) popular apologetics materials. May I ask what your personal favorite apologetics works/authors are?

(R) I am sorry to be harsh, and I know you want to make sure you are making the right decision, but you are preventing yourself from eternal life because of your eagerness to understand everything.
(MB) How could a better understanding prevent me from attaining eternal life if that is actually a fact? Truly, one would have to think that a better understanding of something that actually exists would inevitably lead to a stronger belief in it and an *improved* chance of gaining the benefits it had to offer. On the other hand, if it doesn't exist, a better understanding of that fact would enable one not to make the mistake of wasting his time trying to attain that which isn't there. I can see absolutely no downside to increasing one's understanding of *anything* -- including stories of God.

(R) We can never fully understand God.
(MB) Does that mean we should abandon any efforts to try to get as close as we can to that goal?

(R) And if you are waiting for the moment you do, that day will never come, and it will be to late.
(MB) It is not necessary to have a full understanding of anything in order to believe in it or to know that it is true. All that is required is sufficient evidence for a reasonable and rational decision. At this point, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that non-belief is the only rational alternative.
    However, I am willing to believe in anything should the evidence support it. I would believe in the existence of one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eaters if shown compelling evidence of their existence and the same applies to God or any other proposed deity. Is that not a reasonable methodology?


(R) Everyone will bow before Jesus as Lord.
(MB) Assuming, of course, that he actually exists and is as you describe him to be. If the reality of the situation is that Odin is Lord, those who are worshipping Jesus are in trouble. If no deities exist at all, no amount of bowing and scraping will be anything other than a waste of time and effort.

(R) You can do it in this lifetime, and be with Him forever, or on Judgment day and spend an eternity apart from Him. The chose is yours. Choose wisely!
(MB) I already have. You, also, are advised to choose wisely since there are so many alternative possibilities.

(R) I am praying for you nightly that God would make Himself known to you in a real and undeniable way.
(MB) Why do you think that your prayers could possibly have any influence over the actions of an all-powerful and omniscient God? He's going to do what he's going to do whether or not you pray. If such a deity exists at all, my fate (as well as that of everybody else) has already been determined and no amount of bended knees will change it.
    Also, you may wish to check out the prayer challenge that I will be offering near the end of the last part of this response.


Yes, it holds that God and Jesus are #1, but that's about it as far as any "unity" goes between the stories.
(R) So you admit that both God and Jesus are held as #1 in the Bible thus making Jesus equal with God?
(MB) I have admitted no such thing (as previously stated). Jesus is #1 in the New Testament, but that is not the entirety of the Bible and Jesus isn't even mentioned in the Old Testament. Only God is mentioned throughout.

(R) Until convincing contradictions are brought forth, the unity of the Bible still stands.
(MB) I await your responses to what was presented previously. The "unity" of the Bible is still on shaky ground.

The Gospels were written *after* the epistles. It is now widely accepted that the Epistles of Paul were the first writings concerning Christian belief.
(R) Galatians was written around 49 AD. 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written around 50-51 AD. 1 and 2 Corinthians were written around 54-55 AD. Romans was written around 55 AD. MARK was written in the late 50's early 60's. Philemon was written around 60 AD along with Colossians and Ephesians. LUKE was also written around 60 AD. Phillipians was written around 61 AD. 1 Timothy was written around 62 AD along with Titus. 2 Timothy was written around 63 AD Matthew was written in the 60's. John was written in the late 80's early 90's. Thus, some of the epistles were written before the Gospels and some were written after making your above statement false.
(MB) The following commentary on the question of the dates of authorship of the Gospels was recently posted to the Biblical Errancy mailing list and provides current scholastic support for dating them after 70 CE:
    The gospels were written after the break between Jews and Xians had taken place, i.e., after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the year 70. I think [name of list member deleted] will agree that Jesus was not associated with the Sadducees, who were Jews of the conservative sort, who did not believe in a soul or life after death.
    Jesus, however, believed in the Jewish Law and a resurrection and judgment after death. This would make him a Pharisee. The Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 destroyed the Sadducees along with it, leaving the Pharisees as the principal upholders of the Jewish religion. But by this time some of the Jewish followers of Jesus had broken away and formed their own religion, in which Jesus was no longer a Jewish man but a divine savior who had been sacrificed to God in order to save those who believed in him. Such a religion was at the opposite pole from Judaism, where one is judged by one's own deeds, just as the Hebrew Bible and Jesus the Jew had taught.
    So after the conversion of Jesus the Jew to Christ the Savior, it was no wonder that enmity grew between the Jews and the upstart Xians. So when the gospels were composed, Jesus had been changed from a Pharisaic Jew to a Pharisee-hating Xian. And we mustn't forget that at the same time the Xians were most anxious to disassociate themselves from the Jews in the eyes of the Romans.
    Paul considered himself a Jew, not a Xian; he was proud to be a Pharisee. But he lived, and possibly died, before the cataclysm of 70, so he had no reason to condemn the Pharisees for apologetic reasons, as the later Xians did.
    This is further reinforced with the knowledge that Mark is considered to contain a collection of the preachings of Peter that weren't written down until after his death in 67 CE. It is also instructive to note that Pope Clement I, who died in 97 CE, never quoted nor even mentioned any of the Gospels nor acknowledged any of the Gospel writers by name.


It is more likely, therefore, that the Gospels were written to flesh out the philosophy of Paul.
(R) Where do you get this idea?
(MB) Since Paul laid the groundwork for the belief system that would come to be called Christianity, since he never once quoted from any of the four Gospels, and since his writings were well-known prior to the authorship of any of those Gospels, it is reasonable to conclude that the primary purpose of the Gospels was to provide detailed stories in support of the emerging religion and its central character.

(R) The Gospels were written to preach the good news of Jesus. Where in the Gospels are the writers ever trying to sort out the philosophy of Paul?
(MB) I didn't say that the Gospels "sorted out" Paul's philosophy. I said that they provide the details of the purported life and teachings of Jesus upon which Paul bases his philosophy.

The four Gospels that made it into the New Testament were the survivors of several dozen Gospels that were considered for inclusion at the Councils of Nicea, Hippo, and Carthage between 325 and 397 CE.
(R) The vast majority of the New Testament canon was settled in the second century.
(MB) Untrue. That is a Protestant revision of history that even most apologists acknowledge as being a fabrication. For example, Richard Sisson ("Answering Christianity's Most Puzzling Questions") writes:
In fact, after the death of Jesus a whole flood of books that claimed to be inspired appeared. Disputes over which ones were true were so intense that the debate continued for centuries. Finally in the fourth century a group of church leaders called a council and took a vote. The 66 books that comprised our cherished Bible were declared to be Scripture by a vote of 568 to 563.
    In "The Light of Reason", Schmuel Golding writes:
First the NT was not written by any of the disciples of Jesus nor by persons who even lived in that era. When the church fathers compiled the NT in the year 397, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. They decided by vote which of the books out of the collection they had made should be the word of God and which should not. They rejected several, they voted others to be doubtful, and those books which had a majority of votes were voted to be the word of God. Had they voted otherwise, all the people since calling themselves Christians would have believed otherwise. For the belief of the one comes from the vote of the other.
    I think the real truth of the matter is crystal clear.


(R) We can discern this just from the way early church fathers cite the New Testament as authoritative.
(MB) How could the early church fathers cite the NT as "authoritative" when it didn't even exist yet and they couldn't agree on which books were "inspired"?

(R) Over 90 percent of the New Testament can be reconstructed from quotes of the early fathers up through the third century.
(MB) The individual books certainly existed (along with many others that didn't make it into the NT). Referencing any of those books prior to the official compiling of what was or was not "Scripture" in 397 means nothing special. What about the references to books that didn't make it into the final version of the Bible? The Old Testament itself contains references to other books that didn't make the final cut. Examples are the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21), the Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13), the Book of Nathan and Gad (1 Chronicles), and the Book of the Acts of Solomon (2 Chronicles). Even the New Testament contains such references. For example, Hebrews 11:35 refers to II Maccabees and James 1:19 refers to Ecclesiasticus. These are in the Apocrypha, but neither made the cut as voted upon by the fourth century councils to become a part of the 66 books of the "official" Biblical canon.

(R) The only reason anyone became concerned with canonization is because heretics came along who hated Jews and rejected parts of the Bible while forming their own.
(MB) Rubbish. Official canonization would not only unify the various factions of early Christianity, but would also give some sort of force to declarations that the Bible is the inspired word of God.

(R) The first know "official" list of canonized books we have is the Muratorian canon, which dates about 170 AD. The list we have here is almost identical to the one you find in every Bible today.
(MB) I can see you haven't actually read the Muratorian canon. The books of the current NT that are mentioned are Luke and John (the only two Gospels actually named, although it states that there are four Gospels), the Pauline epistles of 1&2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, 1&2 Thessalonians, and Romans, Revelation (to John), Philemon, Titus, and 1&2 Timothy, Jude, and 1&2 John.
    Books mentioned that are not in the current NT are Pauline epistles to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Revelation to Peter along with the author's stated non-acceptance of Arsinous, Valentinus and Miltiades.
    Books that are in the NT but not mentioned in the Muratorian canon include Acts, Hebrews, James, and 1&2 Peter.
    In view of these facts, it is a rather dubious claim to state that the list of books in the Muratorian canon is "almost identical" to the list contained in the current NT.


It's difficult to see how the books can make an orderly progression of a unified story when their selection, ordering, and canonization didn't take place until three centuries after they were written!
(R) This was already disproven above.
(MB) I think you may now wish to revise that claim.

So, what does that prove?
(R) What doesn't that prove? It proves that the Bible cannot be explained by chance or coincidence.
(MB) So, who is trying to say any such thing? You are trying to ascribe divine inspiration to the Bible solely on the basis that all of its books feature the same main character(s). This makes no more sense than to say that all of the books, movies, and TV shows associated with Star Trek must be divinely inspired since they all feature the same cast of characters and exhibit a unified theme.
    BTW, if you wish to continue to advance your argument, you are going to have to explain the presence in the Bible of the Book of Esther -- the only book in which God is never mentioned.


(R) It proves that there was a divine designer.
(MB) It proves no such thing unless you are also willing to accept that Gene Roddenberry is a divine entity.

(R) If it is unlikely for those people to agree, how much more for the writers of the Bible!
(MB) Just how difficult is it for different people to write books about the same character?

I'll bet that those same ten people couldn't agree on *anything* -- important or not.
(R) That's exactly right! If they couldn't agree on anything, how much harder would it be for the writers of the Bible, speaking different languages with different backgrounds and culture, during different time periods, with all the controversial issues with no contradictions, to agree?
(MB) The contradictions are still there, despite your desperate denials. Even the four Gospel writers can't agree on important details. As another example, why can't they agree on what Jesus' final words on the cross were?

The longer the time between the event in question and the stated opinions of those individuals concerning the event, the more muddled the accounts are likely to be.
(R) Since you don't believe in God or the divine inspiration of the Bible, I can see how you could have a view like this.
(MB) This has nothing to do with belief in any particular thing. My statement applies equally to accounts of purely secular history as well as to Biblical events.

(R) Jesus promised that "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will REMIND you of everything I have said to you." The Holy Spirit reminded the writers of the things which ACTUALLY happened.
(MB) Obviously, the Holy Spirit did a rather inadequate job of jogging the authors' memories. Also, it's difficult to see how authors who did not witness the events in the first place could possibly be "reminded" of them several decades after the fact.

(R) Thus, your belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible comes down to your belief in Jesus as God which is obvious from His resurrection.
(MB) In other words, you gotta believe before you can believe. I think we've heard that refrain before. As to the resurrection, the idea that any such thing ever actually happened (much less that it "proves" Jesus to be God) is still highly debatable. There will be more on this later in this response...

That's what we observe in the contradictory stories in the Bible which speak of events that took place anywhere from decades to centuries prior to having been written down.
(R) Decades? Probably. Centuries? I think not.
(MB) The Bible records events that it dates as taking place thousands of years before the story tellers even had a written language! The stories had to be passed down through the many preceding generations as oral traditions. As we all know, such stories are prone to embellishment and inaccuracies in the retelling. The longer the time span, the less likely it is that the most recent version was anywhere near the same as the original.

(R) The Holy Spirit reminded the disciples of events (see above).
(MB) Once again, you are incorrectly confining "The Bible" to the New Testament alone.

(R) Proven contradictions are yet to be presented as to show otherwise.
(MB) Once again, you may now wish to revise this claim. Most apologetic writers would agree. For example, a famous work of apologetics by John Haley ("Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible") opens with the following admission:
No candid and intelligent student of the Bible will deny that it contains numerous "discrepancies", that its statements, taken prima facie, frequently conflict with or contradict one another, may safely be presumed. This fact has been more of less recognized by Christian scholars in all ages.


The "unity" consists only of the main theme -- as should be expected since that is the overriding reason for the Bible's existence in the first place.
(R) Yes, the Bible does have a main theme: Jesus Christ. I am glad to hear you are finally coming around to see that (*grin*).
(MB) I've never said any such thing. I've said that the main character in the Bible is God and that Jesus is never mentioned in the Old Testament at all. This is not difficult.

(R) The overriding reason for the Bible's existence is to reveal God's ultimate plan for the salvation of mankind: Jesus Christ.
(MB) Since the Old Testament says not a single word about Jesus (and you cannot quote a single verse which contains his name or which refers clearly to him in any way), a claim that Jesus is the reason for the Bible's existence cannot be supported.

(R) The unity of the Bible goes far beyond just a main theme.
(MB) Oh? How so?

The details, however, quickly degrade into a murky mess upon closer inspection.
(R) Evidence to support this statement has yet to be shown.
(MB) The evidence has been shown, it has been supported and more has been presented. The flaws in your rebuttals have been demonstrated. There is no other rational conclusion to be drawn.

(R) If the statement is going to be made, at least show some semi-convincing information (just messin' with ya).
(MB) This is what I have been asking of you in regards to all the claims you have made for the existence and nature of God and Jesus in addition to all the wild claims about the Bible.


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