Posts filed under ‘Jesus’

Proof 50: Ask Jesus to Appear

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At a close friend’s wedding, I met her grandfather. He told me that he met God personally, and that God had spared him from an early death in order to tell everyone he met what he saw in that encounter. To meet this man and hear his story, there is no doubt that he is sincere, that he is rational and sane, and that he truly believes that he had an encounter with God.

It is my sincere belief that Marshall Brain would blow this story off as a hallucination, or something similar. Why? Because it contradicts the point of his final proof–that Jesus doesn’t appear to anyone today. This is simply false–Jesus can and does appear to a select few people in each generation.

In the first few chapters of The Purpose Driven Church, pastor Rick Warren emphatically states several times that God “spoke to him.” By reading the story of the early beginnings of Saddleback Church, there is no doubt that Rick Warren was moved by something special to build the largest church in the United States. Rick Warren, like my friend’s grandfather, had a personal encounter with God.

No doubt Marshall Brain would dismiss this as well, even though the story of Saddleback Church’s beginning would have too many coincidences to be anything but divine intervention.

My own wedding came together in less than a month. Most weddings take a year or more to plan. We were able to have the wedding of my wife’s dreams, planned an executed within a month. Now maybe everything that came together did so by coincidence, but that is an awful lot of coincidences. My wife and I began our marriage with a personal encounter with God.

Despite having fertility problems and being ill during ovulation, my wife and I were able to conceive our daughter on the first try. Could this also be a coincidence? Sure, but an awful lot of things had to work in our favor in order for that to be mere coincidence. I believe that it is another personal encounter with God.

Jesus may not physically manifest himself in our presence and speak to us, but he makes himself known in other ways, as I have illustrated above. We encounter him through the circumstances and people in our lives. We see his work through the church.

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December 6, 2008 at 2:55 am 1 comment

Proof #43: Realize That a “Hidden” God is Impossible

Marshall Brain’s summary of God:

Jesus claims to be God, and Jesus is a physical being running around Israel for all to see. He apparently performed millions of miracles in front of millions of people. The God of the Bible is not hiding — God is so hungry for publicity and exposure that he actually incarnates himself and then starts performing miracles for everyone on the planet. Then he creates a God-breathed book to describe everything and publishes billions of copies all over the world.

All true.  And yet atheists ignore all of that evidence.  Pity.

March 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm 7 comments

Proof #39: Realize that Jesus was a Jerk

Marshall Brain tries to make the case that Jesus is a jerk. He actually fails quite miserably, as I will demonstrate.

Brain cites Matthew 5:43 and Luke 6:26, where Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Then he cites Mark 16:15-16, and makes a new twist on an old argument: that by sending people who do not believe to Hell, Jesus is a hypocrite. He’s telling us to love our enemies, but He is not being loving to His enemies by condemning them to Hell.

The problem here is no case has been made for why unbelievers would be perceived as enemies. There is no mention in that verse that those people are enemies, and Brain makes no positive case for why they should be considered enemies.

As to whether condemning an unbeliever to Hell is loving, I propose that it is. First, understand that Hell is not torture in a lake of fire. It is punishment, but it is not torture. Hell is chiefly separation from God. The unbeliever has already separated himself from God in his earthly life, by not choosing to believe in Christ and live his life accordingly. Therefore, an afterlife separated from God is what the unbeliever wants.

Now, for Brain’s list of contradictory Bible verses:

  • Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1:  Not a contradiction.  The difference is in motivation.  Practicing righteousness solely to get noticed by others is what Jesus is condemning.
  • John 14:27 and Matthew 10:34:  The former passage is talking about inner peace while the latter is talking about world peace.  There is a huge difference.
  • 2 Kings 2:11 and John 3:13:  Answered here.
  • Exodus 33:11 and John 1:18:  Not being able to see God refers only to God’s full glory.  It is possible to see God in other ways, such as through Christ.
  • Mark 9:40 and Luke 11:23:  The first says that whoever is not against Jesus is for Him.  The second says whoever is not with Jesus is against Him.  Sounds like the same thing said two different ways.

Next, Brain states that someone who breaks a promise is a jerk. He thinks that Jesus breaks promises in the form of unanswered prayers, based on Mark 11:24 and a long list of other verses. Prayer has been answered already here.

Then Brain tells us that someone who makes up stories is a jerk, and insists that Matthew 4:8 cannot be true because there is no way to see every kingdom in the entire world even from Mount Everest. Obviously, this is an example of dramatic language not meant to be taken literally. Just in case Brain still insists on being hyperliteral, the words were penned by Matthew, not by Jesus. Which means that this is evidence of Matthew being a jerk, not Jesus.

In Matthew 15:22-26, Brain rips a verse out of context to make his point. He ends the story with Jesus calling a Canaanite woman a dog after she asks Him to heal her daughter. What Brain doesn’t tell us is that in following verses, Jesus heals her daughter and compliments her faith in Him.

Brain then cites Mark 11:1-3 and Matthew 8:28-34 as examples of Jesus stealing things. But there is a problem with the assertion that Jesus actually stole the colt and the herd of pigs. The problem is that Jesus is the Son of God, and God gave everything over to Jesus (Jn 3:35). God owns everything (Deut 10:14). How can the one who owns everything steal? By definition, He can’t!

Next, we have two examples of Jesus’ emotional outbursts. Somehow, this is supposed to prove that Jesus is a jerk, but I think it only proves that Jesus is human as the Bible clearly teaches (Phil 2:5-8; Col 2:9). The writer of Hebrews insists that it is the humanness that makes Jesus the perfect propitiation for our sins:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:14-18, emphasis added)

After the emotional outbursts, Brain states that contradicting oneself is a good way to be perceived as a jerk. He then launches into the same line of reasoning in the video on heaven, which has been answered here. There are no contradictions because Scripture teaches only one way to get to heaven: God’s grace, which gives us saving faith in His Son.

Brain hasn’t shown that Jesus is a jerk. He has, instead, ripped Bible verses from their context, read them hyperliterally, and misapplied them. None of this proves that God is imaginary.

March 3, 2008 at 12:34 am 13 comments

Proof #35: Notice Jesus’ Myopia

Marshall Brain’s complaint is that Jesus could have ended a lot of problems that are problems now, 2000 years after He walked the earth, if He wanted to. The fact that He didn’t is somehow an argument against His deity, and therefore an argument against the existence of God. So let’s look at each problem that Brain cites.

I’ve answered slavery here. I’ve answered sexism here. The slavery of the Bible is not the vicious and cruel slave trade of the 1800s. As for sexism, the Bible (if used properly) can only elevate women, not denigrate them. These should not be issues.

Brain wonders why Jesus didn’t perform what he refers to as “real” miracles, such as ending all disease for good or teaching the people to rise above the primitive living conditions of the day.  He also thinks Jesus should teach responsible uses of a host of sciences that–Brain must not realize–they had in those days already. First of all, it is my understanding that the Romans had running water, vending machines, and other so-called “modern” devices. This society was not as primitive as Brain would have us believe.

As for the sciences he mentions, they definitely had metallurgy back then. They founded modern chemistry through alchemy. I’ve read that the ancient Greeks were the first to forward the theory of evolution. I don’t know what level of understanding that they would require of physics or what they would need to manufacture. The Greeks had a firmer understanding of mathematics than almost any culture before or since. As for engineering, many of the ancient Roman buildings and technologies still stand today, 2000 years later. I think that they had it under control.

As for the statement that Jesus could have deterred nuclear proliferation, I have no idea what Brain is trying to say. I’m also confused as to how Jesus would have done this. This statement is so utterly ridiculous, I think that it invalidates every argument on his site for its sheer stupidity.

In regard to solving poverty and sharing wealth, Jesus did teach that. Throughout the book of Acts, the early church lived in a communal style, sharing wealth and property with each other and the less fortunate. Jesus did, indeed, teach that we should share our wealth. This is the Christian concept of “stewardship:” of using what God has given us for the benefit of the entire world, not selfishly hoarding it for our own benefit. That is part of loving our neighbors.

The article that Brain links to on tithing is a perfect example of sharing wealth.  Tithing is sharing wealth with the church, God’s visible beacon on this earth.  Tithing supports missions, other essential church functions, and helps feed the poor and alleviate some of the suffering of the less fortunate.

Brain’s next statement is worth quoting. He says:

Most importantly, Jesus 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 religions. By doing this, Jesus could have completely prevented the Crusades and 9/11, among many other things.

How is Jesus’ godliness not obvious? He rose from the dead–what more proof does Brain need? As for all six billion people on the planet aligning with Him, the Bible makes it clear that that is not going to happen. From my brief stint in sales, I have discovered that most people say “No” immediately when faced with a deal, no matter how good that deal happens to be. Even when the pot is sweetened, the answer is still “No,” usually more emphatic. So it is with eternal life and God’s grace–humanity still says no because they are enslaved to their sins and want no part of obedience to God. Incontrovertible evidence vindicating the Bible and Jesus’ deity will not change this fact.

As for the Crusades and 9/11, these are perversions of religion and as such are not evidence against anything. They are evidence that humanity gravely misunderstands the messages of Christ, because neither of these acts are loving your neighbor as yourself.

None of these arguments make it obvious that Jesus is an ordinary human being, since none of these arguments are against the Resurrection–the one thing that vindicates Jesus’ deity above everything else. The rest of these items just exemplify the problem of pain, which many people see as evidence against God. But these are problems we create and we can solve by living out Jesus’ teachings of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus gave us the tools by which to do this, and God has left it up to us to use those tools in His name and for His glory.

Brain’s arguments only make it obvious that humans are not living up to God’s expectations. He has done nothing to prove God does not exist.

February 15, 2008 at 2:57 am 7 comments

Proof #33: Contemplate the Crucifixion

So far, this proof has the most hollow understanding of the Trinity and the Atonement of anything I’ve read so far from Marshall Brain’s site. It also uses human logic to attempt to explain the divine. All human attempts to understand God are doomed to failure.

Let’s look at the Trinity and the Atonement briefly to understand why Brain’s introductry paragraph is fallacious. Having a better understanding of the Trinity and the Atonement will show that what Christians actually believe isn’t even close to what Brain writes in his sarcastic summary.

At its most basic premise, the doctrine of the Trinity states that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one of essence (that is, ontologically equal to one another) while being three separate persons (that is, functionally different in the roles that they fulfill). This means that they are all the same God, but they have manifested in different ways.

The obvious objection here is that I’m saying that they are the same, yet different. In a sense, that is exactly what I’m saying. The doctrine of the Trinity almost boils down to the fact that Father, Son, and Spirit are the same but different. This isn’t really an objection; it is more of an observation. The Trinity is a tough concept to explain in only a few words–entire books have been written on it–but the best way to do that is with an earthly example: water.

We can see steam, ice, and water as one substance. It is very clear that each has the same chemical makeup, but has very different properties. Ice is solid, water is liquid, and steam is gaseous. Though it may be somewhat of a mystery to us why this bit of matter can (or for that matter, does) exist perfectly in each state, understanding that it is the same matter no matter its state is not a problem for us.

So it is with the Trinity.  For a lengthier discussion, look here.  For a defense of the Trinity using the Old Testament, see here.

Even with a better understanding of the Trinity, that isn’t the only reason that Brain’s statement that Jesus really said, “Myself, Myself, why have I forsaken me?” on the cross is just plain stupid. Jesus was attempting to call attention to Psalm 22, the first line of which reads, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” The rest of the Psalm contains an excellent description of Christ’s crucifixion.

Brain’s introductory paragraph also contains a very faulty understanding of the Atonement. First, the Atonement was necessary because of God’s wrath; this much Brain seems to have correct. God’s wrath must be understood side-by-side with His love, not in opposition to it. With that in mind, look at what happened when Adam and Eve first sinned. God immediately kills an animal and uses it to cover the pair (Gen 3:21). In Exodus and Deuteronomy, a system of animal sacrifice is set up. Why? Because there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22). This is God’s wrath.

What we need is a sacrifice for all time that will cover every iniquity, and we find that in Christ’s atoning death on the cross. Predicted in Isaiah 53:5, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice (Heb 7:26-28) for our sins:

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:23-26)

Paul goes on in Romans to say “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). That’s the Atonement right there: Jesus lived a perfect life so that we don’t have to. His death was unfortunately necessary because without blood, no sins can be forgiven. Thanks to Christ, we may now draw near to God with confidence. Not presumptuously, not by our works, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ–in His work.

With that understanding, we can now see that Brain’s article is flawed in all respects.

February 11, 2008 at 6:23 am 6 comments

Proof #32: Talk to a Theologian

The first half of this proof centers around prayer, which I’ve already answered here and here. Then Marshall Brain asks his imaginary theologian why Jesus doesn’t love his enemies, wants to murder half the population of the U.S., why God is sexist and supports slavery, and finally why the creation myth is complete nonsense.

None of this proved anything before, and therefore it doesn’t prove anything now. Brain is reading the Bible hyper-literally, leaving no room for accepted literary devices like metaphor or hyperbole. In fact, he dismisses those explanations as rationalizations. All this proves is that there is little hope of communicating with him on these topics.

January 15, 2008 at 7:51 pm 10 comments

Proof #29: Think About Communion

Marshall Brain, not surprisingly, has completely missed the spiritual practice of communion and has turned it into a bizarre ritual for the benefit of trying to prove that God is imaginary. Looking at the verses that he cites, one needs only to read the next few lines to see that communion is meant to be a spiritual teaching and not literal cannibalism.

Brain cites Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:14-23, and John 6:53-55 as proofs. However, if you read the passage in John carefully, you will see that these are spiritual teachings and not literal ones.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:53-63)

It is significant that Brain cites The Da Vinci Code as evidence. This book has been refuted dozens of times by people who aren’t Christians or even theists. The history in it does not represent accurate history. Here is a refutation of that book. Several books have been written about it, this is one of the better ones.

Communion is a spiritual teaching and not a literal one.  The Jews of the first century believed that eating something and drinking its blood would make you like that thing.  That is why they didn’t eat “unclean” animals–they did not want to internalize anything that God had declared “unclean,” lest they become unclean themselves.

Subsisting upon the flesh of Jesus would make you like Jesus, which is one of the primary tenants of the faith–to be more Christ-like (Paul said it indirectly at 1 Cor 11:1).  Jesus was asking the crowd to internalize his teachings, and in a way that Scripturally savvy people would understand.

Let’s look at this another way.  In Jewish apocryphal literature, the Law is compared to bread.  Before the verses that Brain quotes, Jesus talks about the bread that was given in the wilderness–the manna.  He says that the forefathers ate that bread and they died.  However, He is the true bread that has come down from heaven and to eat this bread the people will live.

This idea of bread as a metaphor for law works with the prediction of the prophet Jeremiah (31:33) that new law that would be coming, a law of grace rather than a works-righteousness law (see Gal 3:10-14).  Jesus is identifying Himself as that new Law, and is saying that if we internalize His teachings that we will have eternal life.

January 10, 2008 at 4:39 am 2 comments

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