Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

Now the followers of Christ get their turn to answer this question: Who is Jesus, and what was his central message when he walked this earth? A few days ago I gave atheists and skeptics the first opportunity to answer this question. There was a mixed response, including many who thought there was something wrong with the question. For followers of Christ, one adjustment most would probably prefer is that I put it in the present tense: Who is Jesus, not who was he? But as I did last time, I’m still looking for answers that are based in the New Testament record, and for the message he presented while he was here among us as a man.

I’ll write my own view on this in a day or two. (I’m still in an unusually busy season, so I’m letting you have the floor for now.)

When I put the question before the non-Christ followers, I asked believers to wait and not throw in their opinions. I don’t think I’ll make the same kind of request here. For those who do not believe in or follow Jesus Christ, if you have a response to what someone says here, please feel welcome to share it.

69 thoughts on “Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

  1. First of all, I think the diversity among scholarly portraits of Jesus has been overemphasized. The portraits among those who use good historical method (Wright, Dunn, Theissen, Sanders, Meier, Fredricksen, Allison, etc) all converge to Jesus as a charismatic teacher, healer, exorcist and prophet who believed himself to have a pivotal role to play in God’s eschatological drama. I think his message was clear: he issued an invitation to get right with God and submit to His reign and help to make it a reality on Earth. All his teaching centers around this, and the ideal outcome of following Jesus’ teachings is that the Earth becomes a more transparent image of God’s glory. But one thing that liberal Christians easily lose sight of is that Jesus was very far from a simple preacher of universal Love and tolerance. On the contrary, in his teaching he strongly emphasized the judgment and wrath of God. He basically told people that God’s triumph was unstoppable, so they better get on the winning side if they want to survive into God’s new age. He couldn’t stand hypocrisy and thought that loyalty to God’s kingdom was more valuable than loyalty to family and friends.

    I believe that he really did perform genuinely miraculous cures (not just psychosomatic) and wonders (like walking on the water) by the power of God’s spirit. He was crucified for a variety of reasons, including the jealousy of the chief priests, Roman suspicion of him as a troublemaker and inciter of dissent and an angry crowd looking for a scapegoat. He really died and was raised to life again by God, the first of a new order of creation which will spread to the rest of the world at the climax of this age, however long it lasts.

    Geez, I could say a lot more about this question, but I’ll close by repeating that the diversity of opinion about Jesus has been overplayed. The more eccentric portraits are easily identifiable as such, as focusing exclusively on one aspect of the tradition or making the Gospel narrative conform to a picture derived entirely from another source, like anthropology or some philosophical school.

  2. Let me just take the claim about the Gospel of Mark.
    Dave did a good job of showing that Jesus was repeatedly referred to throughout as the Son of God. But Jesus was also called the Christ in Mark’s Gospel. The Christ is not His name, but a title. It is the Greek version of the Hebrew term, Messiah.
    And by the later prophets the Messiah is not only seen as a king and ruler of the entire world, the Son of Man and the Son of God, but God Himself.

    “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD [Yahweh] is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:5-6

    Mark’s narrative is focused not on showing that Jesus was Messiah, but that the concept of Messiah had to change somewhat because of Him. It had to include His Crucifixion and Resurrection – which was not anticipated Second Temple Jews (The Son of Man must die).

    Jesus is the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, our intermediary (as Job was looking forward to) in Heaven. He is our Saviour, the only name by which man can gain Eternal Life and peace with the Father. He is our Redeemer and our King, whom we seek everyday to follow and obey out of love, gratitude and awe.

    He died for each one of us out of love. If you were the only person on earth who His sacrifice would have saved He would still have died only for you.

  3. Found on David Warren in an article about “field natural history.”
    http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=1036

    Indeed, a dragonfly is a wonder of pure brilliant mechanical design — this little roving eye of nature, that first appears, fully-formed with incredible precision, in the fossil records for more than 300 million years ago. And there is little as unforgettable as to watch a dragonfly emerge from its dead larva skin, and crawl tenuously out on a log — pale, utterly feeble, and crinkled. And then, before your eyes in the space of minutes, its abdomen extends, its wings fill out, its colouring begins to appear, and a glorious creature takes its first flight, towards the woods. It is a miracle that will help you contemplate the mysteries of Creation and Resurrection.

  4. I started cobbling together a response in my mind when I read this from Charlie.

    Jesus is the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, our intermediary (as Job was looking forward to) in Heaven. He is our Saviour, the only name by which man can gain Eternal Life and peace with the Father. He is our Redeemer and our King, whom we seek everyday to follow and obey out of love, gratitude and awe.

    Brief and to the point, which I can appreciate, so I’m going to claim it as my own response. 😉

    What was Jesus’ central message? Very briefly, and without too much Christian lingo…

    …that nihilism/atheism/relativism/physicalism/materialism is false. That there is The Way, The Truth and The Life. That I (Jesus) am here to explain how reality is, and how it ought to be, and how I will – and DID – bridge the gap between the two (to which the rebelious reply: “Says you! Who made you God?”).

    Books have been written on the subject so please don’t anyone point out the important stuff I missed. I know I missed it.

  5. Thanks,Tom, for your analysis.
    But I think you are right, I missed answering a bit (in hurrying this morning):
    I think Jesus is largely contrived by later authors, but I probably buy into the model of Jesus as yet another apocalyptic figure who did not perform miracles and did not think that he himself was part of the eschatological unfoldings he saw coming and was indeed surprised at his own execution. I think the story, as is common in cults, was remade in the shock of confusion among followers.
    Then, to my post, believers cherry pick their image of Jesus and carry on an imaginary nurturing of that image to talk about in their heads and with others.
    I think Jesus disrespected family and money because he felt the end times was coming and he was wrong, like many before him.
    I agree that he taught not only obeying the spirit of the law but probably was big on the law itself like his brother(?) James.

    I am an ex-fervent believer. But heck, I could be wrong again. Hope that fills out to be a better answer.

  6. Sabio,

    But I think you are right, I missed answering a bit (in hurrying this morning)

    You have a strange way of (mis)using the English language. Reading your blog post from today the only conclusion one can draw is that “missed answering a bit” means “didn’t answer at all” to the rest of the English speaking public.

  7. Boy, I am feeling the Christian hospitality here !

    Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

    Let me humbly show why I thought I was answering the question:

    1) My post: Since, as Tom says, for non-believers, Is makes the question difficult. Because I believe Jesus died and Is no longer just as my parents are no longer. BUT, to answer the question’s intent, I showed how I think Jesus to modern evangelicals is an imaginary friend resulting from cultured characterization of some cherry picked stories from the Bible.

    2) My comment: But if you want to know who I thought he may have been, my comment covers that.

    But I thank you for your loving concern for meaningful dialogue. Remember, Tom did ask.

  8. Sabio,

    Let me humbly show why I thought I was answering the question

    You mean this question? (notice the ‘is’ and ‘was’)

    “Who is Jesus, and what was his central message when he walked this earth?”,

    With this additional clarification?

    “I’m still looking for answers that are based in the New Testament record, and for the message he presented while he was here among us as a man.”

    Nothing you wrote answered the question because nothing you wrote was based on the was of the NT record, nor the is of faith. Besides, as a non-believer, you were asked to answer a similar question here.

  9. I did indeed ask for two different groups of answers on two different threads, as SteveK said, and I thought that distinction was clear in the post here. Sabio, you apparently missed that, which I’m willing to consider a simple and honest case of reading too quickly and missing a line. The reason I’m viewing it that way is because a) you said he had done that, and b) I’ve made the same mistake more than once myself. I know it’s an easy thing to do.

    Having said that, I will add that I really did have a purpose for separating the two groups of questions out, so Sabio, if you want to present your view, I would invite you to pick it up on the previous thread, which is linked above in the original post.

    And I will also add (as has been pointed out) that I had a more specific question in mind: what do you (speaking to non-believers, skeptics, etc.) think the New Testament record says about Jesus? That’s an approximation of the question I asked there, at any rate; you should read it in context. And I had a purpose for asking that specific question, rather than opening it up for just any opinion about Christ.

    I hope that focusing things that way doesn’t feel inhospitable to you. It has always been my practice to welcome all kinds of disparate views here. But I have also found that discussion is more fruitful when it has a focus. So if you would like to continue to participate here, please feel welcome to do so, but please also help us keep it focused as I have requested here.

  10. Tom, Thanks for your patience and the explanation.

    Rereading the earlier post, my answer remains the same. I will answer why it remains the same on the previous post where it belongs, I guess.

  11. I believe that the NT presents Jesus as the culmination and fulfillment of God’s actions to reunite His creation (i.e., us) to Himself, through Jesus’ sacrificial death and regenerating resurrection. Jesus’ central message was (and is) that being thus reunited to God is the most important and valuable thing we can do, and we can do it only through Him.

  12. What’s interesting about that is that he seems to have not preached this openly but only to his disciples (at least, I can recall no occasions when he made these claims openly in the Gospels—if you can think of any please let us know).

    Why do you think that was? Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels are mostly historically accurate.

  13. @ Earl & like-minded believers
    Please tell me that at least once you wondered why God requires human sacrifice just like all the “false gods” of old.

    Apparently Yahweh commanded it in Exodus 22:29-30

    You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The first-born of your sons you shall give to me. You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its dam; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

    He even confesses to it in Ezekiel 20:25-26:

    Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life; and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born, that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know that I am the LORD.

    It seems he only looked down on human sacrifices to other gods, not to him — he was a jealous god, after all.

    But seriously, this never felt strange to you believers? Did you even know your holy documents says this?

  14. Hi Sabio,
    I am somewhat loath to answer this question since it has virtually nothing to do with this thread but here goes anyway …
    It’s true many Christians don’t read the entire Bible and don’t spend much time trying to understand it. But it is a mistake to presume that to be the case on a blog entitles Thinking Christian.
    More true, yet, is that you can’t get a sense of what the Bible says by pulling snippets off the internet and out of context.
    God never endorses human sacrifice and, in fact, He forbids it.

    For your Exodus quote, giving your sons to God is not to sacrifice them but to sanctify them for His service. This is how Samuel, for instance, came to be a judge and prophet.
    In addition, the sanctification was most often symbolic as the son would be redeemed from this service by the parents offering a price to the priests. This was done with firstborn livestock as well.

  15. On Ezekiel, it is obvious that this quote ignores the context of the passage:

    I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. 12 Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy.

    13 ” ‘Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—although the man who obeys them will live by them—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the desert. 14 But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 15 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the desert that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, most beautiful of all lands- 16 because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols. 17 Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the desert. 18 I said to their children in the desert, “Do not follow the statutes of your fathers or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”

    21 ” ‘But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws—although the man who obeys them will live by them—and they desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in the desert. 22 But I withheld my hand, and for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the desert that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries, 24 because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their fathers’ idols. 25 I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; 26 I let them become defiled through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn [a] —that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.’

    27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In this also your fathers blasphemed me by forsaking me: 28 When I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices, made offerings that provoked me to anger, presented their fragrant incense and poured out their drink offerings. 29 Then I said to them: What is this high place you go to?’ ” (It is called Bamah [b] to this day.)

    Judgment and Restoration

    30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will you defile yourselves the way your fathers did and lust after their vile images? 31 When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your sons in [c] the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will not let you inquire of me.
    32 ” ‘You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen. 33 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will rule over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. 34 I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. 35 I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. 36 As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD. 37 I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

    39 ” ‘As for you, O house of Israel, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols. 40 For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD, there in the land the entire house of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, [d] along with all your holy sacrifices. 41 I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will show myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. 42 Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your fathers. 43 There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done. 44 You will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, O house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ “

    As in previous books, God gave the rebellious Israelites over to their own hearts – being creatures of free will, after all. And through their rejection of Him, and their following after idols and the practices of their neighbors, He taught them shame and the benefit of following after Him, the True God.
    And yes, this is the God we believe in, the God who forgives and forgives those who repent, Who gave His decrees that they might come to live and to know HIm, and Who sent His Son as the fulfillment of what He taught in the Old Testament.

    Now please do not continue in this vein on this thread. Too often have I answered these supposed atrocities of the OT to have the interlocutor merely pluck another off some website, devoid of context and meaning or any understanding of the Bible itself.
    I hope you are above that.


  16. What claims did Jesus never make publicly?

    I was referring to Earl’s comment below:


    Jesus’ central message was (and is) that being thus reunited to God is the most important and valuable thing we can do, and we can do it only through Him.

    And the associated claims: that Jesus was the Son of/Incarnation of God; that he was the Messiah.

    At least I don’t recall him making these claims publicly in the Gospels. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  17. My comment 17 sounds like I am assuming the authority of the blog owner. I didn’t mean it to come out that way. I am merely making a suggestion/request.

  18. Ha! I crashed the site again but this time I’d saved my comment! Take that!

    Anyway…
    Hi davidellis,

    And the associated claims: that Jesus was the Son of/Incarnation of God; that he was the Messiah.

    Ah, good. I was hoping this was what you meant.
    Jesus agreed publicly with the Pharisees that He was the Christ during His trial.
    Matthew 26:

    62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, \Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?\ 63But Jesus remained silent.
    The high priest said to him, \I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ,[e] the Son of God.\

    64\Yes, it is as you say,\ Jesus replied. \But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.\

    So that’s that. But for some gravy …

    Notice He also tells you that the Son of Man and the Christ are one and the same (also in Matthew 19 He tells us the Son of Man will be enthroned in the Kingdom – making HIm the Messiah. In Matthew 18 He tells us the Son of Man is the Suffering Servant – Isaiah’s Messiah). Further below He shows that the Son of David and the Christ are the same. Claims to one, then, are claims to the other.

    In Matthew 27 Pilate twice announced to the crowd that he knew that Jesus was referred to, as they would know, as the Christ.

    In Matthew 8 He is referred to as ‘teacher’ and calls Himself the Son of Man – as this comment shows elsewhere, He tells us also that this means He is the Christ:

    18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, \Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.\
    20Jesus replied, \Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.\

    Why is it important to me that He is called and answers to \teacher\?:
    In Matthew 23 He tells the crowd:

    8\But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    Of course, He is their teacher.

    He told the people during His discourse on Olivet that when people tried to enter God’s Kingdom crying \Lord, Lord\ He will send them away because He does not acknowledge them.
    He, the Son of Man (again, making the Son of Man the Messiah who divides believers and unbelievers on the threshing floor also Matthew 16) will send His own angels to divide believers from unbelievers, those who enter Eternal life from those who don’t (Matthew 13)
    When John asked if He was the Messiah after all He sent the disciple back to tell John that He was, indeed, doing what Isaiah attributed to the Messiah – He was not merely (yet) doing what John thought the Messiah would do.
    He commanded the elements, He forgave sin, He gave life, He gave sight, hearing and bodily health.
    Matthew 9:

    4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, \Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….\ Then he said to the paralytic, \Get up, take your mat and go home.\

    He claims to be the Son of Man – which I’ve shown means He’s calling Himself the Christ, He takes God’s prerogative of forgiving sins AND the Pharisees know that He is doing this when they accuse Him of blaspheme.

  19. In Matthew 12 He takes the title Son of Man and declares Himself Lord of Yahweh’s Sabbath:

    8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

    And, in the theme of these posts (true, this meets your previous stipulation about not being public – but it is the explicit statement of which all of the above attests):
    Matthew 16

    13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
    14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

    15″But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

    16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ,[b] the Son of the living God.”

    17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,[c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it.[e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[f] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[g] loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

    Again, privately to the disciples He tells them explicitly in Matthew 24

    4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,[a]’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.

    In Matthew 22 He declares the divinity of the Son of David:

    41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42″What do you think about the Christ[d]? Whose son is he?”
    “The son of David,” they replied.
    43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
    44” ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
    until I put your enemies
    under your feet.” ‘[e] 45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

    And with the Son of David established as the Christ we see that Jesus, is known by and answers in Matthew 9 to that title:

    “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

    40″As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

    also in Matthew 15:

    21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”

    and in Matthew 20:

    29As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
    31The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

    32Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

    33″Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

    34Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

    and:

    14The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

    16″Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
    “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
    ” ‘From the lips of children and infants
    you have ordained praise'[g]?”

    Here he is quoting the Messianic Psalm 8 and referring to Himself as Yahweh
    http://www.bibleinsong.com/Song_Pages/Psalms/Psalm8/Psalm8.htm

    So that’s the first Gospel.
    I trust we don’t need to do the other three?

  20. For fun, here’s the other candidate for earliest Gospel:
    In Mark 2 Jesus says, as in Matthew, that the Son of Man is Lord of Sabbath and has authority to forgive sins

    Mark 3:

    9Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11Whenever the evil[a] spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.

    Notice He doesn’t say that He is not the Son of God, but admits that He is.

    Mark 5

     6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

    Mark 8
    As in Matthew, Peter says He is Christ, He calls Himself Son of Man, and He equates the two. Here He also prophecies and says that the Son of Man will be delivered up.

    Mark 8

     34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life[c] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

    He tells the crowd that He is the Son of Man, Who we know to be the Christ, and Who He says here will come in the Father’s glory and with the angels – making Him the Messiah.

    Mark 9 and 10, Prophecies again that the Son of Man will be betrayed, to be raised from dead.
    Blind Bartimaeus calls Him Son of David.

    Mark 12, Son of David IS the Christ:

     35While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ[h] is the son of David? 36David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
       ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
          “Sit at my right hand
       until I put your enemies
          under your feet.” ‘[i] 37David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
          The large crowd listened to him with delight.

    Mark 13: comes in great power

    14
    Son of Man is betrayed by one who dips bread – as OT said of Messiah ( Psalm 41 http://www.allabouttruth.org/messianic-prophecy.htm)

    Mark 14:

     60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. 
      Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ,[f] the Son of the Blessed One?”
     62″I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man
    sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
     63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64″You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

    With children at least with them, He calls Himself Christ:

     39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

    Mark 12, Son of David is Christ

  21. Concerning human sacrifice in the OT: Curious that Abraham barely flinched at the command to sacrifice Isaac.

    @ Charlie: you seem like you need a post of your own to exercise your verbosity and authority.

  22. It seems you’re padding your quotes a bit Charlie. A large percentage of the quotes are things he said privately to his disciples—not something I disputed. And many of the quotes in public have Jesus being more suggestive that he was the messiah rather than openly declaring it (he calls himself, for example, the Son of Man—and in one of your quotes he specifically says that others (the public) mostly take this to mean he was the return of a great prophet.

    And Son of David is pretty equivocal too. Yes, the messiah is said to be of the house of David so the messiah would be a “son of David”. But the term could just mean that Jesus was a descendant of David and not the messiah. With this term, too, he seems to play a bit coy with the public.

    And, of course, there is this passage you yourself quoted:

    Mark 16:20–“Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”

    and this one (also quoted by you):

    Mark 3:11-12 “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.”

    Which is pretty weird if what I said, that he wasn’t openly declaring himself the Christ, wasn’t true.

    Wikipedia has a brief introduction to this subject (the messianic secret) for any interested:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianic_Secret


  23. Obedience, commandments, choice, forgiveness and repentance – all things God puts before us – all presuppose free will.

    Then how do you explain the biblical quotes in the essay I linked to? They certainly seem to contradict free will.

  24. Hi Sabio,

    @Charlie: you seem like you need a post of your own to exercise your verbosity and authority.

    Thanks.
    —-

    Hi davidellis,

    It seems you’re padding your quotes a bit Charlie.

    Just being thorough.

    A large percentage of the quotes are things he said privately to his disciples—not something I disputed.

    Granted several times.
    But they give context and meaning to His explicit claims and, then again, lots of them aren’t – like His frank admission before the Sanhedrin.

    And many of the quotes in public have Jesus being more suggestive that he was the messiah rather than openly declaring it (he calls himself, for example, the Son of Man—and in one of your quotes he specifically says that others (the public) mostly take this to mean he was the return of a great prophet.

    This much is true.
    But then it also demonstrates things like the public declaring both that He was the Son of David and that the Son of David was known to be the Christ.

    And Son of David is pretty equivocal too. Yes, the messiah is said to be of the house of David so the messiah would be a “son of David”. But the term could just mean that Jesus was a descendant of David and not the messiah

    It could mean that, but I don’t think so. For instance, He explicitly asks, “Who is the Son of David” and the Pharisees, in public, declare that He is the Christ. He also told them that the three terms meant the same thing. This is why I was thorough with my quotes – if you read the whole Bible there is no doubt what He was saying and how He was taken.
    For instance, the references to the threshing floor and winnowing fork (a public declaration by John and alluded to by Jess later) are common terms for how God and His Messiah will divide the “goats from the sheep”. Jesus’ reference to His sheep are reminders that the LORD is my shepherd and that Isaiah called the Messiah the shepherd, and talked, as Jesus did, about how the sheep are lost and gone astray.
    You need to know the Book to make a credible critique of it.

    As per the orders to keep silent, His ministry followed different stages. As you read the Gospels you will see that His declarations become more and more frequent and more and more explicit – culminating in His trial wherein even Pilate calls Him the Christ, and His Crucifixion. He obviously was revealing the truth slowly and, while some publicly acknowledged His Divinity earlier, He did tell them not to broadcast it.

    For whatever reason you want to focus upon His public declarations your requirement is met. “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
    “I Am”.
    The rest is context and explication. There is no way you can deny that the NT affirms He made the claims. Many times the Pharisees wanted to do away with Him for blaspheming and making Himself equal with God.

    —-
    As I already said, predestination and election do not negate the existence or exercise of free will. We each of us exercise our will within the confines of our natures, habits and predispositions. When the Bible tells hundreds of times about people making decisions, being told to choose and told to change their minds it presupposes the centrality of will to Judaism. Why would God give options if there were no options? Why would He put before us life and death and tell us to choose life? Why would He tell us “if you do such then such will be your reward”? Why would He say “don’t take plunder from the conquered city” if nobody had a choice as to whether or not they were going to take plunder because of strict determinism?


  25. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

    This refers, of course, to:

    Exo 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

    This seems pretty plainly to deny free will. The author even responds to the most obvious objection: that it would be unjust to punish someone for something when they aren’t free to do otherwise (but gives only the very inadequate response of, paraphrasing, “who are you to judge God”).

    Personally, I have no problem with the idea of free will and foreknowledge being compatible. But the quotation isn’t saying that God foreknows what we will freely choose. It says he “hardens the hearts” (at least of some). One has to employ some major pretzel-logic to try to make that statement compatible with free will.


    Why would God give options if there were no options? Why would He put before us life and death and tell us to choose life?

    Unlike you, I’m not assuming these documents came from God (and therefore reflect perfect wisdom and goodness) nor that they’re mutually consistent. So inconsistencies aren’t a problem for me…..its Christians who feel the need to explain them away.

  26. Hi davidellis,

    This seems pretty plainly to deny free will.

    Actually, it doesn’t.
    I’m glad you selected Pharaoh for long before God hardened his heart Pharaoh hardened it himself as a result of the exercise of his own will. He then arrived at the point where your quote comes in. You can easily Google this question with regards to free will and see how the Jews taught about it.
    And, even if it were the case that God took away the free will of this man at this time to accomplish this purpose it does not follow that He took away everybody’s free will at all times (as you imply yourself) and, thus, it has nothing to say about whether or not the Israelites followed their own will in the passage previously discussed – in fact, it gives a pretty good explanation of what it might mean for God to harden one’s heart.
    Indeed, if it were the case that free will was nullified for all why would the writers say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart at all? Why wouldn’t they just say Pharaoh danced, like everyone, to God’s strings?

    Indeed, we can dispense with all proof texts and refer simply to the Bible itself.
    If it teaches that there is no such thing as free will, that there is nothing but strict determinism, why write it? Why would an author write to people that he believes have no choice but to do exactly what they are going to do, write to them what they ought to do? What’s the point of repentance and forgiveness, which I’m sure you’ll admit are relatively central teachings of the Bible, without freedom of will?

  27. Why would God give options if there were no options? Why would He put before us life and death and tell us to choose life?

    Unlike you, I’m not assuming these documents came from God (and therefore reflect perfect wisdom and goodness) nor that they’re mutually consistent. So inconsistencies aren’t a problem for me…..its Christians who feel the need to explain them away.

    As I thought. You aren’t really concerned with what the Bible says or whether it teaches one thing or the other and your claim then isn’t that it unequivocally teaches that there is no free will or that this is its actual message. This is good. So then let’s, with the Jews who interpreted their own book and emphasized, perhaps above all else, responsibility to conform to the law take it that the Bible presupposes free will.
    I say the passages which seem to challenge this need to be interpreted in light of this obvious and logical truth and that, like all of life, depends upon nuance and perspective.
    You can claim that the Bible is inconsistent and self-contradictory. I presume this of you anyway, so other than providing a brief explanation I am not going to bother to try to convince you otherwise. It took me decades of Christianity to accept the opposite.

    But let us return to your challenge then. I said the Israelites were following their own rebellious and deviant ways, not God’s commands (obviously He didn’t command the sacrifices in question) in the passage quoted.
    You responded and said the Bible doesn’t teach free will.
    But at best you can say it may or may not teach free will inconsistently with other things it teaches. And this has nothing to say to the passage in question where God clearly says that they were rebelling against Him, rejecting Him, following idols rather than Him, desecrating His ordinances, defiling themselves, etc., and in so doing they were incurring His wrath. So they got what they wanted and later and later, what they did and who they became they would come to loathe.
    Against all this all you have is that elsewhere the Bible inconsistently implies there is no free will. If so, if it is a contradictory book, then we have no reason to weight your passages above the point here.

  28. If the bible has no consistent message because it contradicts itself all over the place then why do convinced skeptics try to sort it out by asking Christian’s to explain various passages and tie OT teachings to NT teachings? After all, if there is no consistent message taught in history and in the text then it follows that Christianity is whatever you want it to be. If the skeptics are right, you don’t need to ask questions because you can decide on your own what Christianity is all about.

    Is it for the sake of entertainment that the convinced skeptic asks questions – so they can snicker at attempts to explain unexplainable nonsense? Or does the skeptic think there really is a message, if only it could be explained/understood properly?

    Which description best fits you, david ellis?

  29. @ SteveK
    Well put, You put the options at:
    a) snicker at attempts to explain unexplainable nonsense
    b) really is a message
    but you forgot c)
    c) wants to help believers see through the nonsense part of their faith, not to snicker, but because they believe that nonsense has bad consequences for people. Not saying that all the psychology of your religion is bad, but some central thoughts enforce bad ideas which stop the progress of science , divide people and re-inforce hatred.
    I vote for “c”. Thanks for asking.

  30. Since option c is based upon false and ahistorical stereotypes it is a perhaps noble but seriously misguided option.

  31. Since Charlie’s opinion is based on false and historical stereotypes, though perhaps noble is seriously misguided and rhetorical to say the least.

  32. Ouch, tu quoque, tu quoque!

    So I guess this thread will be a clearinghouse for all and sundry claims against Christianity. Never a surprise.

    For starters, on science, Tom has done a series starting here:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/C278308471/E20061205192512/index.html

    And here:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2008/05/atheism-required-for-science/

    I don’t have a good metric for hatred. I’m thinking, perhaps, that a death count might suffice to some degree. Christianity compares exceedingly well compared to other worldviews on this measure.
    There are ways to measure its opposite, love, of course. Charitable giving is a good indicator.
    So is volunteerism.
    http://www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/statistics.html
    Ending slavery, infanticide, developing universal education and health, inventing civil rights, I think, are other good indicators – in which Christianity, of course, figures prominently.

  33. Sabio,

    c) wants to help believers see through the nonsense part of their faith

    Are you saying you understand the faith better than most and that you want to help Christian’s understand it better so to have a more accurate/robust faith? If so, that would fall under (b).

    But I haven’t seen you argue for that here or on your blog. I’ve seen you argue that the Christian faith rests on a bed of lies. But that means all of your comments and questions fall under (a) – snickering optional, of course.

    Explain how (c) fits into what you do because I don’t see you practicing it.

  34. @ SteveK
    No, I don’t think it is (b) because the both the NT and OT are an amalgam of documents reworked over time blending both agreeing and contradictory views to match a prevailing view of the editor. Thus there is no one view as is clear from the vestiges of this process.
    So that is why you haven’t seen me argue for one message. There is not one message. The bible is a bunch of guys arguing their views of reality and then editors shifted things a bit as they could.

    The reason it is not (a) is because we all read things trying to gather what we can that will be helpful to ourselves and those we love. Christians are not exception. The problem is, many Christians say , “God said it, so that is final” and cover their ears. Many liberal Christians understand that the Bible is erroneous and not literal.

    It is this blind treatment of their scriptures (Mormons, Muslims do the same) that I try to address — not snickering, not believing but pointing to more informed ways of understanding.

    Now that may fall under self-righteous, but then all communication about the truth of a claim usually comes from a position of “I-think-I-am-right”.

    @ Charlie: If you want to arm wrestle over which worldview has better outcomes, try this: Society without God. Of course this is not intended to convince you, but a few open-minded readers may be interested. And Charlie, seriously, build your own site — it may prove therapeutic !

  35. Sabio, you wrote,

    @ Charlie: you seem like you need a post of your own to exercise your verbosity and authority.

    Somehow in your sarcasm you seem to be implying there’s something wrong with him answering a question. I’m here to say there is not. davidellis asked why Jesus so seldom made his claims public, and Charlie showed it was not seldom. That takes more than one reference to show. The Ezekiel passage he quoted to show the context, which cannot be done (surprise!) without showing the context.

    I have no policy against verbosity. (Kevin Winters knows this.) I do have a policy against discourtesy. Your tu quoque wasn’t very impressive in that respect either, by the way.

  36. Regarding Jesus’ public claims, there is the whole extended passage of John 6:22 through 6:71.

    And every public preaching, every public miracle that Jesus did, was a sign of who he was and claimed to be. This is why the answer he gave John’s disciples in Luke 7:18-23 was really an answer: to those who were alive at the time, it was not coded language, it was as clear as it could have been. See Luke 4:16-21 in support of that: it was a Messianic passage he quoted there.

    He did not reveal everything about himself to everyone, agreed. But he did make enough of his reality known to the crowds, that your claim begun in comment #14 does not stand.

  37. One thing I find very intriguing about this discussion on free will is the title of the blog post David Ellis linked to: “Little-Known Bible Verses: Predestination.” Friends, this is not a little-known controversy, except among those who know little about Bible or theology. I had Ephesians 1 memorized more than 30 years ago. Romans 8 and 9 are extremely familiar and have been worked through time after time after time, and there are biblically/philosophically satisfactory solutions to the problem. (William Lane Craig offers one based on middle knowledge; unfortunately I don’t know of a good web link to it.)

    It’s okay on the one hand to point out that there is an issue here that requires some work, but to call it “little-known” seems to reflect how little the author knows.

  38. Sabio, you dropped this grenade in the discussion with no evidential/historical support. Charlie pointed that out and you said in effect, “Well, so’s your old man.”

    c) wants to help believers see through the nonsense part of their faith, not to snicker, but because they believe that nonsense has bad consequences for people. Not saying that all the psychology of your religion is bad, but some central thoughts enforce bad ideas which stop the progress of science , divide people and re-inforce hatred.

    The burden of proof is on the one who makes an assertion like this. Lacking some evidence, this is merely insult, not argument; and as I said, I have a policy against discourtesy.


  39. Indeed, if it were the case that free will was nullified for all why would the writers say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart at all? Why wouldn’t they just say Pharaoh danced, like everyone, to God’s strings?

    Again, I do not assume consistency between the views of different authors of books in the Bible. It seems that the OT writer was only referring to something done to the pharaoh. But the NT writer used this OT verse to support a much broader position that the OT writer never intended (not an unusual occurrence—many of the claims of messianic prophecies made by NT writers based on OT verses seem pretty strained as well).

  40. Here is one reference on middle knowledge I’ve been able to find, and another one here.

    Not all commentators agree to this position, but it is one that has some support, and that most assuredly leaves room for free will.

    David Ellis, I think you were expressing agreement with Charlie when you wrote, “the NT writer used this OT verse to support a much broader position that the OT writer never intended”? In other words, it seems to me you’re agreeing that the OT writer never intended to preach universal predestination and the negation of free will, which is one thing Charlie was saying. If you’re going to find a negation of free will, you’ll have to find it in Romans.

    Is there something wrong or inconsistent, though (as you seem to imply), in alluding to the OT to illustrate a point here?

  41. Hi davidellis,

    It seems that the OT writer was only referring to something done to the pharaoh. But the NT writer used this OT verse to support a much broader position that the OT writer never intended (not an unusual occurrence

    Okay then. So in Exodus neither God nor Moses was teaching that man does not have free will.
    Neither was God nor Ezekiel teaching this in the passage on sacrifice.
    So 1) God did not command human sacrifice.
    2) The Israelites disobeyed God, rejected Him, followed their own desires, etc. when they committed human sacrifice.
    So that was the intent of the authors of those books.

    You are left then with a declaration that because Paul teaches predestination and election, which man receives without exercise of his will, that it is taught that he does not have free will at all. Of course, that is not implied by this doctrine at all. There are things that happen to each of us that we do not will but that does not negate our will.
    But you say this isn’t about election but about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart – except we’ve already dealt with Pharaoh and we see that his case is not a negation of free will either.
    Also, in the Romans 9 quotation we have this evidence:

    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    Does this teach that man can not run? Of course not. It teaches that it is not by his running that he has found God’s Grace.
    Likewise, it teaches that man does have free will, but that it is not by his will that he is saved.

    This in no wise contradicts God’s consistent teaching in the OT.


  42. In other words, it seems to me you’re agreeing that the OT writer never intended to preach universal predestination and the negation of free will….

    But that the NT writer, even though he made reference to this OT passage, was.


    Is there something wrong or inconsistent, though (as you seem to imply), in alluding to the OT to illustrate a point here?

    Not intrinsically. But I don’t think the OT passage in question actually supports the position the NT writer is taking (assuming I’ve not misunderstood either of them, always a possibility with documents written in an entirely different culture and in translation on top of that).

  43. Hi Sabio,
    Good thing, because I am not convinced. Not even close. First, your link calls these nations “organically atheistic” but they are both about 23% atheistic. Second, they are ranked quite high in terms of “offical” (governmental) altruism. But the U.S. gives by far the most, per capita, and they do so privately. And, as noted, the Christians give the most per capita in the States. So rather than proving your case that Christian doctrine fosters some special degree of hate and impedes science you’ve, at best, shown that atheists can be good people. Nobody ever disputed that on this blog and your link’s claim, that religious people claim you need religion to be good is, when applied to the thinking around here, nothing but a strawman.

    Interestingly, your source admits that most Danes and Swedes maintain affiliation with their Christian roots by observing the rites, holidays, songs, stories, foods and culture, etc.
    So whatever your thesis here, you can’t divorce their culture now from its Christianity (hateful and ignorant though it may be) and act as though you have a non-Christian society which grew up “organically” from non-Christian roots just because the population is now, generally, oblivious tot eh grounding of their society.

    Shame my mind is so closed, though.

    And seriously, thanks again for the great advice. Will you help me pick out the colour scheme?

  44. “Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of western culture for almost twenty centuries… It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.”
    Jaraslov Pelikan

  45. Billions believe in Taoist deities.
    Hundreds of millions in Shiva and Vishnu for more years than Jesus.
    In America, Astrology is believed by more than we’d like to admit.
    Certainly we don’t want numbers or time to decide the truth !

  46. @ Charlie
    First, you should be sure that I have absolutely no desire to change your opinion. These comments with you are only written so that other readers may consider.
    I’m sure you won’t like the source, and I’d love to hear other source stats, but concerning divorce rates:
    Born-again Christians 27%
    Atheists, Agnostics 21%
    Sure, Christianity only saves your soul and redemption on this earth is a process. But for every claim that Christians have made that are empirically testable — from money, to health, to good relationship all prove false. I just wish they’d stop making those claims — you might actually agree.
    Seems Christianity only offers you a better afterlife — well, I guess that ain’t bad.
    Sure, I will help you with your color layout.

  47. Sorry Sabio, but you can’t convince an unbiased reader with those stats, let alone someone who’s mind is as closed as mine.
    It’s really interesting that you’ll look for anything to stick against the wall, though.

    A real look at the numbers:
    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/03/want-good-marriage-go-to-church.html

    What you have to do is compare the divorce rate to the marriage rate, not the population as a whole.

    Like here:
    http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/key_findings.htm

    A sampling of the stats at
    http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/images/image022.gif

    NO RELIGION 29,481,000
    19% married 5,601,390
    9 % divorced 2,653,290
    47% divorced/married

    CHRISTIAN 14, 190,000
    56% married 7,946,400
    9 % divorced 1,277,100
    16% divorced/married

    CATHOLIC 50, 873,000
    60% married 30.523,800
    9 % divorced 4,578,570
    15%

    Assemblies of God 1,105,000
    73% married
    10% divorced

    Evangelical 1,032,000
    74% married
    7% divorced

    Total US
    59% married
    9% divorced

    Tom (your host here) has a post entitled:
    Church-going Christians Have Happier, Stronger Marriages

    And says:

    Quoting Brad Wilcox from an interview in Christianity Today:
    “Churchgoing evangelical Protestants, churchgoing Catholics, and churchgoing mainline Protestants are all significantly less likely to divorce. . . . between 35 and 50 percent less likely than Americans who attend church just nominally, just once or twice a year, or who don’t attend church at all. It is true that people who say they’ve had a born-again experience are about as likely to divorce as people who are completely secular. But if you look at this through the lens of church attendance, you see a very different story.”

    I think your false claim has failed again to show Christianity promotes hatred and impedes science.

  48. Gee, instead of an online back and forth quote of stats from our favorite sites, in both cases, it seems the differnce between groups is not significant. And if we are talking about GOD coming into your life, gee, I think they would be huge.

  49. Since you were going to dispel the nonsensical beliefs that make Christianity hateful, psychologically damaging and averse to science I would have thought so as well.

    Your use of bad history, bad science and bad logic have been ineffectual, though.

    I’m thinking green for the header. Is that therapeutic, do you think?

  50. And if we are talking about GOD coming into your life, gee, I think they would be huge.

    The spiritual transformation process can be slow, and not everyone is as committed to God as they ought be. In addition, temptations and sin remain even with God coming into your life. The constant drumming of a secular society encouraging you to do sinful things can be hard to ignore. Sabio knows this fact very well, but for some reason he is playing games.

  51. @ Steven
    I agree, the temptations abound, but they abound for us poor atheists too and us atheists, as you know, don’t have a holy ghost working in us (sure, I use to, but apparently he left).

    So all your concerns are well controlled for and thus, if the holy spirit/jesus (or someother person of your god) does work on a person, we should be able to see it. For both atheists and believers face the same temptations.

    Wait, I have an out for you — the devil pours it on tougher for the Christians. Darn, I don’t think I can counter that one.

    @ Charlie: no, no, not green ! I think rageful red would work much better.

    Boys, I can’t tell you how pleasant it is getting to know you guys.

  52. Since you’ve suggested it as a therapy I take your point – that I am too calm and relaxed and need to try to raise my ire artificially.
    I’ll give it some thought but I’m not sure your psychologizing is any better than your arguments.

  53. By the way, as per Tom’s Discussion Policies, proper nouns are capitalized.
    Since you get it right on some names it ought not be hard to do so with Jesus’.

  54. So all your concerns are well controlled for and thus, if the holy spirit/jesus (or someother person of your god) does work on a person, we should be able to see it. For both atheists and believers face the same temptations.

    15While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

    17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
    Mark 2:15-17

    It is one of the common errors, both within and without the church, to think that Christians are somehow “better” than the average guy on the street. We aren’t any better, we just happen to realize (or at least we should realize) how bad we actually are.

    18″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
    Mark 10:18

    That includes Christians. We are not “good” – we just know how bad we are. And how blessed we are that God still cares even though we don’t deserve His care. He is merciful as well as just. He forgives our failures through the work of His son, Jesus Christ, whom we declare ‘God in the flesh’.

    14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    Romans 7:14-20

  55. Sabio,

    So all your concerns are well controlled for and thus, if the holy spirit/jesus (or someother person of your god) does work on a person, we should be able to see it. For both atheists and believers face the same temptations.

    Implicit in your argument is that, when it comes to morality, the only metric worth measuring is the outcome. Want to know which group can claim the title of moral superiority, just count the number of divorces or the number of murders.

    Well, that data is certainly important, but that alone won’t give us the answer. Measuring morality requires looking at the means used to acheive the outcome and I don’t think any of these studies go into that kind of detail.

    From a Christian perspective, it’s not considered morally virtuous to acheive desireable outcomes while thumbing your nose at God. Thus the rebelious non-believer (or believer) who sacrifices the same and gives the same amount of money to the poor as another person, except they do it while thumbing their nose at God or claiming credit themselves, is not thought to be on equal moral footing.

    On a related note, nobody is claiming that atheists can’t be good, moral people. They can, but none of that really matters because being good doesn’t help the Christian either unless we start at the ground floor. The claim is that morality must be objectively grounded before you get to the question of HOW a person can make moral progress. Otherwise, we’re just arguing over who has the better morally relativistic system – pointless as pointless can be.

  56. @SteveK:
    Your argument: “You don’t believe in our spooks so nothing you do counts.”
    Now there is a devastating argument. I guess you win.
    Thank goodness not all Christians think like you.

  57. Sabio,

    I was going to ask how you came to this conclusion:

    Gee, instead of an online back and forth quote of stats from our favorite sites, in both cases, it seems the differnce between groups is not significant.

    And you’re welcome to answer. As you answer, though, I am asking you to bear in mind what it means to be a visitor. I go to others’ blogs and disagree sometimes, but I don’t go there and insult. That’s not what visitors do in others’ homes, workplaces, etc.; and I don’t know why you would expect to do it as a visitor on a blog.

    This blog is different from most homes, of course, in that I am looking for good discussion and debate from people who don’t agree with me; so it’s more like a debate room than a home, but (I’m sure you know this) debates generally have expectations of courtesy, too.

    You appear to be trying to walk a fine line, where your sarcasm is on the just-barely-acceptable side of what will get you tossed out, but as far as I’m concerned you’re not succeeding, and you’re over the line.

    I’ve said it often and I’ll risk the redundancy of saying it again.: disagreements are welcome, but discourtesy is not. Your welcome here is strained and you are on notice of that fact.

    Read the Discussion Policies and the Starbucks Standard before you post here again, please.

    If you’re willing to engage in dispute and discussion on that basis, then by all means do so. If you’re not willing to do it on that basis, then I invite you to find some other place where the approach you’ve been using is practiced and tolerated. We don’t do it that way here.

  58. Tom,
    To me it is surprising that you can not see the nature of the tone of voice, attitude and language of your fellow believers on this site. I chat on several other Christian sites with no problems — but then they are more liberal Christians and several now follow my site. While chatting here I have come to realize that our discussion is not fruitful. It is the nature of religion to take offense at their sacred items. Philosophers hold nothing sacred in discussion. Actually I feel your side has been the least courteous in these exchanges.
    Best wishes with your site.

  59. Sabio,

    Your argument: “You don’t believe in our spooks so nothing you do counts.”
    Now there is a devastating argument. I guess you win.
    Thank goodness not all Christians think like you.

    If you want to discuss the question of moral grounding and it’s necessity with respect to genuine, non-relativistic moral progress, then fine – because I’m pleased as punch to do it and you can start by reading that link. If you just want to insult me and twist my argument around to mean something I never intended, then please take Tom’s advice and spend your time on other blogs.

  60. News to me…

    I’ve long held that the fragment of John’s Gospel, P52, the John Reynolds Papyrus, was/is the oldest extant portion of the NT left us. It dates from late 1st century to early 2nd century.
    I thought that was great, especially since critics used to like to date the writing of the Gospel itself later than the dating of this portion.
    But today I am reading Eye Witness To Jesus which offers an examination of the dating of the Magdalen Papyrus, a portion of Matthew’s Gospel. This, P64, dates to no later than A.D. 66 and likely as early as 50. It used to be dated hundreds of years later because it is a codex, and not a scroll. This was a false presumption about the use of codeces (St. Paul wrote, in Latin, about his use of a codex style “notebook”). Of course, being a codex it was copied from a pre-existing scroll, likely as that scroll wore out from years of use – pushing the writing of Matthew’s Gospel even closer to the events it depicts.
    From Qumran cave 7 is a portion of a scroll of the Gospel of Mark, again, from at least before A.D. 68. This Gospel fragment has not a word of a quote from Jesus, and, thus, is not the supposed “sayings” literature that is supposed (by some) to predate the Gospels.
    We also have a portion of Luke’s Gospel, P4, from just slightly later than these, and actual fragments of 1st Timothy from 66 as well.

    Not only do we have actual, extant portions of all of the Gospels and some of Paul’s letters from the era before the Christians fled Jerusalem (A.D. 66) but we also have further evidence of the high Christology of these first believers. After the martyrdom of James and the rift growing between Jews and Jewish Christians, and when copying scrolls to codices, a new trend came into the writing. What the Christians had been preaching in relation to the OT (that Jesus was the Christ) became explicit in the writings. Just as God is written GD, and Yahweh YHWH, Jesus, Christ, God and the Holy Spirit came to be abbreviated in the nomina divina manner – demonstrating the divinity of all three of these members of the Trinity. Again, before A.D. 66 or 68 … at the latest.

    There remain thousands of scraps to be investigated for the first time and many more presumptively dated based upon the idea that the codex was a late invention and that there could be no Greek Christian material among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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