Rather, "Chapter 25 - Trying and failing to redeem myself."
If we were to talk to a Christian about Jesus, the conversation might go something like this:
Chris: You are completely wrong about Jesus. Jesus is Lord! Jesus is resurrected and Jesus sits on the right hand of God the father almighty!
Bright: Oh, hey guys! Good to see you two again.
Norm: Why do you believe that?
Chris: I know it in my heart. I talk to Jesus every day. I have a loving, living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ!
Bright: What about the fact that there's a great deal of evidence to support it, Chris? I think we should stop pretending that Norm isn't aware of these things.
Norm: How do you know that Jesus is resurrected?
Chris: It says so right in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were real people. So was Paul. They have no reason to lie. They saw the resurrected Jesus.
Norm: I understand what you are saying. The thing I would like to help you understand is that the Bible is full of problems. There is no reason why we should believe the Bible when it talks about the resurrection.
Chris: The Bible is not full of problems!
Norm: That is what we saw in Section 2. The Bible thinks that slavery is great, that women are to be hated, that people should be sacrificing animals and that God loved killing children. We can open the Bible to nearly any page and find nonsense. We know that the story of Noah is nothing but a story. And so on. There are problems with the Bible everywhere we look. Given all of these problems, there is no reason to trust anything the Bible says.
Bright: Rather, it regulated a process far different from what you would call "slavery," it values women as precious children of God, and features God enacting judgment on individuals (saying nothing about God "loving" anything). Of course, you're right on one thing...It does say we should practice sacrifice. Just like every single other culture on the planet at one point.
But even if all of those were true and espoused by the Bible, that still would not prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that Jesus isn't God. You're viewing the Bible as one monolithic source, which is an invalid way of viewing it. An apparent contradiction in Genesis and Second Kings doesn't discount that...
Chris: Jesus is resurrected! Jesus is Lord!
Bright: Thanks, Chris.
Norm: Let's pray to Jesus and ask that he appear to us right now to settle this.
Chris: He can't do that! Jesus can't appear to us!
Norm: Why not?
Chris: He cannot!
Bright: Hold on now, Chris. Nobody said anything about "can't" here. After all, I have a friend that claims he did directly appear to her. My grandfather, in another case, says that God appeared to him in the form of an external, audible voice. What about them?
Norm: But why?
Chris: He's so busy doing everything God needs him to do! Plus, if he just appeared right here out of thin air, it would take away our free will. We would both KNOW that he exists. He can't do that!
Norm: Then how was Jesus able to appear to Paul? How was Jesus able to appear to the 500 brethren? Why was it OK for them to KNOW that Jesus exists?
Chris: That was different.
Bright: Because Paul was a mass murderer who was killing Christians, and if it weren't for Paul and that initial five hundred brethren, Christianity would have been relegated to the status of a cult religion that lasted maybe a few years and then died off forever.
Chris: Jesus had only been dead a couple of days.
Bright: Correct. And God doesn't need to do anything more than what he's already done for us, in actuality.
Norm: Why does that matter to a timeless, omnipotent being?
Chris: You are so wrong about this!
Norm: OK, then let's pray to Jesus about anything. Let's ask Jesus to do anything for us right now. What we saw in Section 1 is that Jesus does not answer any prayers. Why don't we ask him to move a mountain for us?
Bright: What's all this "Section" business? Are you quoting a book or something?
Chris: You are so wrong.
Norm: Why can't we pray to him right now? In Mark 11:24 Jesus' message is crystal clear: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." He says, "Ask, and you shall receive." In Luke 1:37: "For with God nothing will be impossible." Nothing is impossible through prayer. Why won't he respond to us if we pray to him right now?
Chris: You are completely wrong. That is not how prayer works!
Bright: Right. Prayer was never intended to be a gumball machine. There are a litany of valid reasons for why prayers are not answered by God.
Norm: Here's another way to look at it. Why don't we take a vote? We take all six billion people on the planet and we ask them to vote on whether Jesus is God or not. Only two billion people on the planet are Christian, so the other four billion are going to vote against Jesus. For every Christian, there are two non-Christians who think you are delusional.
Bright: What's your point, Norm?
Chris: They are all wrong! If only they knew the Lord Jesus like I do!
Norm: You are telling me that all one billion Muslims are wrong? They believe that Jesus was a man, not God. It says so right in the Koran [Koran 5:75].
Chris: The Muslims are delusional!
Norm: Those are fightin' words.
Bright: ...Coming from a guy that believes 90% of the world's population is COMPLETELY wrong about something as fundamental as the existence of God, or the validity of spiritual experience.
Chris: They are delusional! Everyone knows it! Jesus is Lord!
Norm: So there are a billion Muslims who think that all the Christians are delusional. And there are two billion Christians who think all the Muslims are delusional. Would you consider, at least for a moment, the possibility that all three billion of you are delusional?
Bright: But there are a billion people who describe themselves as non-religious. What if they are delusional?
Chris: I am not delusional! Jesus Christ is our resurrected Lord! I talk to him every single day and he talks to me! And he answers my prayers!
Norm: OK, then give me anything -- give me any evidence at all that shows me that Jesus exists.
Chris: The Bible talks all about Jesus!
Norm: So you think we should reinstate the slave trade? You think that Christians should hate women?
Bright: You're ridiculous, Norm. Give up your childish reasoning and act like the adult you are.
Norm: Give me anything.
Chris: I cannot. Jesus must remain hidden! If he were not hidden, we would all know that he exists. It would destroy faith.
Norm: If Jesus must remain hidden, then how do you know that he exists?
The conversation can go on and on like this. See, not if you were actually talking to a theist. It's easy to make a conversation circular if you're the one talking on both sides.
To anyone who stands outside the Christian faith and looks at Jesus rationally, it is obvious that Jesus either was a complete myth who never existed at all, or was a normal human being who was turned into a myth after-the-fact. Only someone as arrogant as you would claim that such a thing is "obvious." I don't think it's "obviously" true that Muhammed was not a legitimate prophet. That takes serious argument to demonstrate. Yet, despite all the problems, contradictions and lack of evidence, a Christian will cling to Jesus. You will begin to understand why Christians do that in Chapter 27, but for now let's simply review the evidence that we have seen. Exactly what we need: psychoanalysis.
In this section of the book we have looked at Jesus from a number of different angles. False. You have looked at Jesus from a single angle: the atheistic view. What we have found is that Jesus was a human being just like you and me. Of course, this was determined merely by asking why he doesn't do miracles for every person ever. This is clearly not a valid way of finding anything out. We simply ask the questions that any normal person would ask of someone who claims to be God. For example:
- If Jesus is God, why did he never prove it in a meaningful way? Overturning the laws of nature and rising from the dead isn't "meaningful?" Why are none of his miracles visible today? How could any of them possibly be? We examined this question in chapter 19. And my response is here. Of the questions asked in this section of the book, this one is the most important. And when it's thrown out, so is the rest of your argument against Christ. It is important for this simple reason: If a man were to walk up to you today and state that he is God, you would want to see proof. Name one instance where Jesus "walked up to" someone, out of the blue, and said he was God. The proof would have to be obvious to everyone and scientifically irrefutable. Jesus is no different. Which is why he did such things as feed 5,000 people using a single lunch. Obvious, and scientifically irrefutable.
- If Jesus is God, and Jesus is resurrected, then why hasn't he appeared to you in the flesh to prove that he is resurrected? Because most of us really do not need him to. We examined this question in chapter 20. Click here. In order for the Apostles to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to them. Because without a knowledge of the resurrected savior, Christianity would not exist today. In order for Paul to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to him. Because without him, Christianity would not exist today, and there would have been a lot more Christians murdered by the terrorist himself. Why would Jesus, who is all-loving and timeless, think of you as any less important than Paul? It's not that we're less important. It's just that God doesn't need us to create a religion. The reason is because Jesus did not appear to anyone. Your conclusion does not logically follow.
- Why do we need to eat Jesus? We don't. It's a symbolic ritual that isn't required for anything. We examined this question in chapter 21. My response is here. We have Jesus -- the all-loving creator of the universe -- demanding that we ceremonially cannibalize his body and satanically drink his blood if we want to have "eternal life." No, communion is not required for any inheritance of eternal life. It's a reminder of his sacrifice, and nothing more. The source of this bizarre ritual is not Jesus. The ritual comes from primitive pagan religions that were common at the time. His source for this is The Da Vinci Code, interestingly enough.
- Why do so many children live in poverty, and why does Jesus misspeak so many times in the New Testament? In chapter 22 we examined a number of statements where Jesus is wrong. And in my response, we examined why you were mistaken, and why the amount of children in poverty do not effect the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Why would a perfect God write things in the Bible that are incorrect? A loaded question, isn't it?
- Why does Jesus need money from you every Sunday morning? In chapter 24 we examined this interesting paradox. There is absolutely nothing paradoxical about it. To call it a paradox is a grievous misstatement.
There are broader pieces of evidence as well. Like what? As pointed out in Section 1, Jesus does not answer prayers. As pointed out in Section 2, the Bible is provably the work of primitive men. And so on. If you've read anything up to this point on this blog, you'll know that neither of them are the case.
We can look at Jesus from several other angles and reach the same conclusion.
The biggest problem with Jesus
The biggest problem with Jesus is his incredible myopia. We can see that now looking back at him 2,000 years later. Why didn't Jesus use his omnipotence to actually do something magnificent and beautiful on earth rather than squandering his "power" as he does in the Bible? Again, how is walking on water, feeding a huge crowd with virtually nothing, healing crippled people and curing disease by touching them, or rising from the dead, not magnificent or beautiful?
At the very least, Jesus could have transcribed passages into the Bible that would have ended sexism, racism and slavery forever. Hello: Jesus didn't "transcribe" anything in Scripture. We've been over this before. As the simplest example, think of all of the suffering that slavery has caused. As described in chapter 13, millions upon millions of people have suffered through the bondage and the remarkable brutality of slavery because Jesus and his Bible fully endorse slavery. "Fully endorse" is a meaningless concept given what Jesus actually says about slavery, and what kind of slavery it actually was back then. If Jesus had simply made a clear statement -- "Slavery is forbidden, free all the slaves" -- he could have prevented much of that suffering. Is it his job to prevent suffering, or ours? Yet he did nothing of the sort. He also never spoke about marijuana, or pedophilia, or lots and lots and lots of things. That doesn't make him evil. In the same way, Jesus could have chosen women to be six of his apostles and made several speeches on the topic of women's equality and he would have put a huge dent in sexism (see chapter 15). Notice that the witnessess to Jesus's resurrection were women, and their testimony was not valid in court. The very fact that Mary Magdelene was considered a disciple, and that women could prophecy in church, should illustrate the point that Christianity was leaps and bounds ahead in terms of gender equality than its neighbors. Still today we see the effects of Jesus' shortsightedness in this area. Ironic, considering that most people regard Jesus's morality as far ahead of even contemporary models of morality.
At a larger level, if Jesus were God, he could have performed so many real miracles. You haven't even really diagnosed any of the real miracles he did perform. What business is it of yours to suggest something like this? He could have, for example, eliminated smallpox and a host of other diseases that science is busy eliminating today. And the fact that he did not proves absolutely nothing. Jesus could have given the people of Israel the knowledge that they would need to start a technological society and raise themselves above the primitive living conditions of the day. As mentioned in Chapter 17, Jesus could have taught the Israelites about metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physics, manufacturing, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc., etc., etc. And all of it would have been meaningless and ineffective to the homeless peasant people he was talking to. He could have also taught them how to responsibly use these technologies to solve the problems of pollution and habitat destruction that so often accompany them today. He could have made clear statements to deter nuclear proliferation. Because "nuclear proliferation" means a heck of a lot to a first century Isrealite, and they totally would have considered that to be relevant enough to record in Scripture. He could have taught mankind to share wealth so that the immense problem of global poverty that we see today would have been solved long ago. He could have laid down a template for governance that would have ended monarchies, dictatorial regimes and warlords forever. Yes, we all know that governments specifically model their ideas after the Bible. He could have made his message so clear, and the proof of his godliness so obvious, that all six billion people on the planet would have aligned with him rather than fragmenting into dozens of bizarre and often warring factions. The problem is not that the message is unclear. The problem, as usual, is with you.
Jesus, if he actually were God, could have done so much. He could have prevented massive amounts of human suffering with his words and deeds. Instead, he did none of this. To any rational person, these problems make it painfully obvious that Jesus was a normal human being. No. Normal, rational people don't demand such actions out of Jesus, because he already did so much for us.
Jesus, the eternal torturer
Simply take a moment to think about the following statement:
"Hello, my name is Jesus. I love you deeply. I have loved you since you were conceived in the womb and I will love you for all eternity. I died for you on the cross because I love you so much. I long to have a loving personal relationship with you. I will answer all of your prayers through my love. But if you do not get down on your knees and worship me, and if you do not EAT MY BODY and DRINK MY BLOOD, then I WILL INCINERATE YOU WITH UNIMAGINABLY TORTUOUS PAIN IN THE FIRES OF HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!"
Think about this message. We have a being who, according to the Standard Model of God, embodies love. Yet, if you do not get down on your knees and worship him, you will be physically tortured for all eternity. No, not physical torture. Not even emotional "torture." The usage of terms like "fire" are clearly metaphors. What sort of love is that?
Imagine a human being who acted this way. Imagine that a human being for some reason "falls in love with you." This person sets up hidden cameras and begins tracking you everywhere you go every minute of every day. This person leaves a book on your doorstep that professes how much he loves you. But this person gives you a deadline and says, "If you do not begin to love me by my deadline, I will capture you and physically torture you in the most hideous ways." How would you describe such a person? We would call such a person a lunatic, and we would put such a person in prison for life. On a basic level, because no human has the right to demand love.
Asking Jesus to appear
Here is another way to prove it to yourself. Simply get down on your knees and pray to Jesus. Ask him to appear to you, in the flesh, just like he did to Paul (see chapter 20). Paul's vision was auditory, not visual. Ask Jesus to demonstrate to you, personally, that he is resurrected. When he appears, take your family camcorder and record the event for posterity. Frankly, if we're talking about "just like Paul," then I know someone who had a similar experience: my grandfather. But of course, you would dismiss this out of hand.
Of course, Jesus will not appear.
What Jesus says in John 14:12 is so clear:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Yet, predictably, Jesus will not appear. I don't really need Jesus to appear, though. Most people who you would want to pray this prayer do not.
Now I would ask you to examine it at a deeper level. Look at what is happening inside your mind right now. You have read the Bible and seen Jesus' clear statement: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." It's also clear that there are a great number of things that have to happen before you can get to that place. He does not say, "I might do it." You have prayed for Jesus to appear and Jesus has ignored you.There are probably a thousand good reasons for why this occurs.
Even though Jesus did not appear, and even though Jesus says to you quite clearly in the Bible that he will, look at how you deal with this setback. Do you draw the obvious conclusion from the evidence? Yes, because the evidence is not contingent on whether or not Jesus appears to me. Even if he doesn't, the rest of the evidence is still there. If you are a Christian, then probably not. Wrong. Instead, in your mind, you are coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not appear:
- It is not his will - Which is not a rationalization, but a valid reason.
- He doesn't have time
- He may appear, but it will be in the afterlife
- I didn't pray the right way - You're right, we probably don't.
- I am not worthy - You're right. We are not.
- I do not have enough faith - You're right. We don't.
- I cannot test the Lord- Etc.
- Jesus only appeared to the apostles
- Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, and is no longer appearing on earth
- Jesus is actually all around me, but I cannot see him
- It is not part of Jesus' plan for me
- Jesus will not appear in the flesh, but instead will appear by rearranging the dust motes in the air. But it is not dusty enough here.
- Jesus will appear in my dreams
- Jesus is here -- I can feel him in my heart
- And on and on and on...
But here is the more interesting thing. Let's say that there is some legitimate reason that Jesus did not appear to you. Ooh, finally trying to consider the opposition. For example, it turns out that you happened to be wearing blue jeans as you prayed, and Jesus does not like the color blue. I guess we're not actually going to try, then. The fact is that the resurrected Jesus has not ever appeared to anyone. Unproven assumption that goes contrary to the evidence. Zero people are worthy, or we would see the video clips for sale at Christian book stores. There are hundreds of videos of miracles on YouTube. Do you believe any of them?
It is easy to imagine how a Christian would respond to this experiment:
Chris: Of course Jesus would not appear to you -- that would take away your free will. And if you video taped it, it would take away the free wills of everyone else.
Norm: So Jesus can appear to no one, is that correct?
Chris: Yes, that is correct. That is why the resurrected Jesus does not appear today.
Bright: This is where your argument falls, Chris. It's not that he "can't" appear to anyone. It's that he has valid reasons for not doing so, and it is not needed anymore.
Norm: Then how did Jesus prove that he was resurrected?
Chris: By appearing to people, of course. How else would we know that Jesus was resurrected?
The reason why Jesus does not appear to you has nothing to do with your free will. It has to do with the fact that Jesus appeared to no one.
The evidence of Jesus
Another way to prove to yourself that Jesus does not exist is to ask yourself this simple question:
Is there any evidence that Jesus exists today?
As you think about this simple question, you will realize that there is not. Hmm. Strange, I came to the opposite conclusion. Everything else that you believe in has left behind some sort of evidence that proves its existence. But with Jesus there is nothing except five hundred witnesses who claim to have seen him alive after he was crucified, a long trail of disciples that were willing to die for what would have been a lie otherwise, a religion that has withstood the test of time, and billions of people who claim to experience Jesus as a reality in their lives. There is no physical evidence of his existence. There is also no physical evidence of the laws of logic or mathematics. There is no miraculous evidence -- it is very strange, but not a single one of Jesus' miracles left behind any physical evidence for us to see today. You still have not really specified how this would be possible with the miracles Jesus performed. There is no prayer evidence. Except for that time when a close friend of mine prayed in Jesus's name for a deaf and mute woman to receive her sight and power of speech, and immediately afterwards, she heard and spoke for the first time in twenty years. No matter how much we pray to Jesus, nothing ever happens (see section 1). Eh? There is, quite simply, zero evidence to prove that Jesus exists today. Hold your ears if you want. Suit yourself.
A devout Christian would point out that there is the Bible -- God's perfect word. Yes, there is the Bible. The Bible talks all about Jesus. It predicts Jesus' coming (see chapter 23) and then tells us about Jesus' time on earth.
But this same Bible also tells us that slavery is great, that women should be hated, that animal and human sacrifice is necessary, and that massacring babies and small children is one of God's favorite pastimes (see Section 2 for details). We don't believe the Bible when it talks about slavery, misogyny, etc. Why would we believe the Bible when it talks about Jesus? Because the logic that one morally objectionable passage proves the entire book is morally objectionable is completely, 100% flawed.
Understanding the evidence
There are two options with Jesus. Either Jesus is God, or Jesus was a regular human being. Or, that Jesus was insane. You would have to be to carry on such a ministry and really believe you were God. When you look at all of the evidence, which of these two options seems more likely to you?
If you are a Christian, and if you have believed all your life that Jesus is resurrected and Jesus is God, all that I would ask you to do is take a few moments to look at all of this evidence.
I have. It conclusively shows that Jesus was God, and he rose from the dead. All the attempts you have made to show otherwise have failed.
See also chapter 27 to understand where your beliefs about Jesus may be coming from. I look forward to this.
© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.