Apr 10, 2011

39 Atheist behavior incurs God’s wrath on world

Believer says: Atheists need to get right with God. They are living immoral lives if they don’t obey God. The atheist world will suffer God’s wrath if it doesn’t repent.

But skeptic says: Well, what can I say? Because, as I understand it, the New Testament says Christians should solely judge brother and sister Christians in sin. That is to say, in the writings of Paul, Christians are directed not to judge non-Christians:

1 Corinthians [Y]ou must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Recap: Paul says don't judge non-Christians. So Christians shouldn't say judgmental stuff such as "atheists are living immoral lives if they don’t obey God."

Related post:
37 Non-Christians are atheist, which can’t be good...

Apr 9, 2011

38 Nobody was there to see evolution taking place

Believer says: We don’t know and we can’t know that humans evolved, since we weren’t there to see it.

But skeptic says: Well, detectives weren’t there to see the crime committed. Christians weren't there to see the world created, either; so they don’t know that the Bible God made the cosmos come.

Related post:
 43 Did God plant phony fossils in the ground

Apr 8, 2011

37 Non-Christians are atheist, which can’t be good

Believer asks: Why do you want to be an atheist?

Skeptic replies: Well, I say that all Christians are atheists, because they believe in a god that doesn't exist.

Recap: I’m also fond to say that isn't an indictment to be called an atheist. The atheist simply sees no good evidence for the god that you name.

Related post:

Apr 7, 2011

36 Is Christianity true if people have died for it

Believer says: People have died for Christianity, so that fact proves its truth.

But skeptic says: People’s willingness to die for something doesn’t prove its veracity.

For instance, David Koresh wasn’t a prophet simply because his followers were willing to die. And there’s no truth to Islamic doctrine simply because Muslim terrorists are willing to die.

Related post:
06 Would Apostles have knowingly died for a lie

35 Did Plato get many of his ideas from the Jews

Believer says: The Greek philosopher Plato knew the Torah (Old Testament). And that’s how he came up with many of his ideas.

But skeptic says: There's one instance in which Plato (fourth century BC) appears know Genesis. 

But first an aside: Plato, a polytheist, supported the public worship of the Greek gods to the degree of Big Brother of 1984, George Orwell’s totalitarian story. That is, Plato's Republic recommends that the state should reindoctrinate the citizens who fail to adhere to the state-religion. 

Anyway, in Timaeus 9, Plato's beginning of creation opens like Genesis. But the difference is that Plato's craftsman-creator created from cosmic building blocks that have existed by themselves eternally. So the creator didn't create from nothing. 

The craftsman god--Plato doesn't give it a name--fashioned the cosmos and created the Olympian gods and human souls. The craftsman then handed things over to the Olympian gods for them to finish creation. Humans possessed souls that were not extinguished at death. Thus Plato's creation might start out like Genesis but soon sounds unlike the Bible. 

In fact inTimaeus 10 Plato teaches that the earth is a living soul, too. 

And in Phaedo 79d-84b, people who lived righteous lives returned to a star from where they had come. People who hadn't lived righteously got reborn in lesser bodies until they lived justly. Thus Plato teaches that people get reborn, the doctrine of reincarnation.

Recap: Jewish literature may have influenced Plato a little. But he sounds as if he learned from the Buddhist and Hindu doctrines, too.

Apr 5, 2011

34 Do letters of Pilate prove Jesus existed

Believer says: Pontius Pilate, who was Roman prefect of Judea and who presided over Jesus’ trial, spoke of Jesus in his letters. Among the numerous reports and letters he sent to Rome, one of them says:

“It seems that all Galilee is agog about Jesus.” (W.P. Crozier, 1928, Letters of Pontius Pilate: Written During His Governorship of Judea to His Friend Seneca in Rome)

But skeptic says: Letters of Pontius Pilate are fictions. The main source for such letters come from W.P. Crozier, editor Letters of Pontius Pilate. Perhaps unknown to the faithful, it’s Crozier’s first novel and a fictionalized account of what he imagined Pilate would write. In fact reviews of the day reveal it to be a work of fiction.

Crozier, a newspaper editor, attended Oxford University and retained an interest in Latin, Greek, and the Bible. Although in fact there are letters from Pilate to Seneca--he was a Roman statesman--Pilate and Seneca never mention Jesus in their writings.

Apr 4, 2011

33 Did the Old Testament prophesy Jesus a lot

Believer says: The Old Testament contains literally scores of prophecies about Jesus.

But skeptic says: The prophecies aren’t really about Jesus. The supposed Jesus prophecies are easy to dismiss. For examples:
#1) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Isaiah 53 predicted that Jesus would be a “suffering servant.” On the cross he would take our sins onto himself. 

But it wasn't about Jesus. It referred to Israel’s faithful during turbulent times around 550 BC. God would save Israel thanks to the faithful. But no thanks went to anybody who had strayed from God’s law. In other words, the faithful carried the burden, and so they were the “suffering servant.”

#2) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Psalm 22 predicted the cross and said about Jesus, “they tear at me, and they're at me like lions.” 

But wasn't about Jesus. It talked figuratively about David in the tenth century BC, when he was on the lam and afraid of his enemies who the psalm calls “bulls, dogs, and lions.” David was hunted by his enemies more than just once. One of the times was when they were at him “like lions.” 

#3) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Deuteronomy 18:15,18 says Moses predicted Jesus. 

But wasn't about Jesus. It simply stated that “a prophet like Moses” (or prophets in the plural like Moses) would serve the people after Moses. We could count many prophets after Moses in the Old Testament.

#4) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Psalm 110 says that God talked with Christ. 

But it wasn't about Jesus. The psalm opens with “the Lord said to my Lord.” God made a declaration to the new king, likely King Solomon in the tenth century BC. The psalm begins by saying God welcomed "my lord." In other words, the new Jerusalem king. Thus God didn't talk with Jesus.

#5) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Isaiah predicted that a virgin woman would give birth to Jesus. 

But it wasn't about Jesus. It predicted that “a maiden" would conceive a son.” It didn't say the maiden would have a miracle birth. It also predicted the future when the son got to be five or ten years old in war-torn Judea of 734 BC. There wasn't any news of a virgin birth then.

#6) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Genesis 18 has a story that included the Christian Trinity--the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

What Trinity? In the story Abraham came out of his tent and greeted God and two angels. They were Abraham’s three supernatural visitors. 

#7) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Psalm 2:7 says God talked to his son, who was Jesus. 

But it wasn't Jesus. The psalm says “you are my son.” It says the son sat on the Jerusalem throne. Any king was regarded as God’s son.

#8) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Psalm 69:21 predicted that Jesus would be given poison to drink on the cross. 

But it wasn't about Jesus. The psalm says “when I was hungry, they gave me poison.” On the whole the psalm was a complaint from David about his enemies in the tenth century BC. 

#9) A supposed Jesus prophecy
Genesis 49:10 predicted that Jesus would become king of Judea.

But it wasn't about Jesus. Genesis predicted that “the scepter belonged to Judah’s tribe until another person rules in its place.” Rightful kings came from the tribe of Judah; the kingly line was supposed come from that tribe alone. But kings who weren't rightful ones would sit on the throne eventually. They would rule in Judah's place. There was nothing about Jesus.

Recap: Christians claim there's a host of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. But Christians say, too, they were double prophecies whenever the context pointed away from Jesus. They say one part was about contemporary events and another part was about Jesus. But I say the context pointed away from Jesus altogether. Or it was vague. If you drew from double prophecy and vagueness, you could make room for most any claim.

Apr 3, 2011

32 Why is Christianity so popular

Believer asks: How do you explain the popularity of Christianity? 

Skeptic answersWell, I say that since people want to go to heaven, they turn to Christianity (or to a different religion) and its promise of heaven. Ironically, popularity of any Christian church doesn't guarantee that it was the original Christian church. But it's popular because it's so-called cafeteria Christianity, a version or other of Christianity. 

Islam and Mormonism are popular, too, but certainly not because they're both right. Rather, because they, too, teach the doctrine that their adherents will go to heaven. 

Recap: Why is Christianity so popular? Because folks wish to go to heaven and believe that Christianity will get them there. But I say there's no assurance the doctrine is "spiritually" true.

Apr 2, 2011

31 US historic site reveals Christian foundations

Believer says: The Main Reading Room of the Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., depicts images of Moses and Paul, revealing America’s Christian foundation.

But skeptic says: America’s founding fathers professed biblical faith to a greater or lesser degree, and they wrote essays and personal letters on the good and bad points of biblical religion. 

The Jefferson Building is decorated with images of historical personalities that had an influence on Western Civilization. A couple biblical figures are depicted in the area of religion, since biblical faith contributed to the development of Western Civilization.

Figures that also represent Western thought and civilization are Herodotus, Plato, and Homer. These men wrote ancient literature that talks about the existence of other gods. 

In fact on the Jefferson Building first floor there are eight pairs of statues of the Roman goddess Minerva. She’s the goddess of peace, war, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, crafts, and the inventor of music. Her Greek name is Athena. 

Recap: The Jefferson Building represents a melting pot of history, including biblical and pagan figures. Moses and St. Paul are the biblical figures. In other rooms, pagan figures are on display. Thus the site doesn’t feature Christian foundations alone.

Apr 1, 2011

30 Did Josephus (AD 97) write about Christ

Believer’s statement: The Jewish historian Josephus knew and wrote about Christ in his work Antiquities of the Jews. 

Skeptic’s response: The non-Christian Josephus says “perhaps he was the Messiah.” Other copies of his work are uncompromising: “he was the Messiah.” A Jew, Josephus greatly expected the Messiah deliverer to come and change the fortunes of the Jews. So it's strange that Josephus looks at it in such an offhand manner.

Since Christian writers didn't quote the passage until the early fourth century AD even though they were keen to quote from other portions of Josephus, critics wonder whether the passage was invented in the fourth century. It was when Eusebius, a Christian intellectual, quoted it for the first time. 

Josephus’ “Jesus paragraph” goes as follows:
Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3 At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

Recap: Christians didn't quote the “Jesus passage” before the early fourth century, so critics suspect it was invented and inserted into Josephus' work at that time.