Sunday, April 9, 2017

Marvel Comic Used in Indonesian Politics

Last week, Marvel released a new X-Men comic book series called X-Men Gold #1. A controversy arose when people started to point out some symbols the artist, Ardian Syof, had drawn into the book. The symbols don't mean anything out of the context of Indonesian politics and culture, but once you are clued in you can't see anything else. The symbols include:  "QS 5:51",  "212", "51".  has really good article about this entitled Marvel Responds to X-Men Gold Artist Controversy and for a good explanation of the politics of these symbols in Indonesia please read Marvel will discipline an X-Men artist after controversial references to protests in Indonesia. In this blog post I want to focus on the "QS 5:51" symbol. Reportedly it is a reference to Surah 5:51 in the Quran.According to the CBR article:

Syaf, who is Indonesian, drew X-Men character Colossus wearing a T-shirt reading “QS 5:51,” meaning Quran Surah 5:51 — a verse of the Quran, as relayed by Bleeding Cool, commonly translated in Indonesian as “Muslims should not appoint the Jews and Christians as their leader.” The translation reads, “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”

This caught my attention because I thought that all Muslims would have translated this passage the same. I usually have heard it quoted the way renders the verse. But given the political climate in Indonesia with a Christian running for president in Muslim majority nation, it's not surprising that they would understand the passage this way. It's the backlash that is throwing me. People seem to be angry that including this message encourages division and persecution against Christians and Jews. I agree. But why is it no one is seems to be discussing if the Quran is right or wrong on this? I have not found any Muslims responding that this passage is not divisive or intolerant. From  my own reading and study I would conclude that the Quran is endorsing Muslims  hating and subjugating Christians and Jews. I think that 1this important because some radicalized Muslims use this passage as justification for their actions. For example, this verse is cited by ISIS member for when they do things like blowing up churches in Egypt yesterday, April 9, 2017. They see it as a licence for the evil they do against others. If they have the wrong interpretation, then what is the correct understanding of Surah 5:51. Here is a video to consider,

Friday, February 10, 2017

FacePlant of the Day: Debunking Christianity: Is the Church really filled with hypocrites? No.

Well, David Madison is at it again - trying to take down Paul's letter to the Romans and demonstrate that his conclusion that it is bad theology and that people should ignore it. He has already written three attempts and this is his third. The last two points were failures of a faceplanting nature. Let's ee if his third attempt is any better at showing how bad Paul's thinking it is.  SPOILER: Madison fails a third time. My comments in red He is coming out of Romans, chapter 2.

Even in Christianity-soaked northern Indiana where I grew up several decades ago, there were cynics: those who gave wide berth to the church because, as they put it, “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites. Those people show up on Sunday, then forget about their religion the rest of the week.” Having been a pastor of two churches myself, I’ll side with the Christians on this one. I don’t think the blanket charge of hypocrisy is fair. But yes, there are those folks who preach one thing but do another.
One thing I wish is that Madison had defined "hypocrisy". Paul is talking about a person's actions being contrary to what they say they believe. Therefore I will use that concept to define hypocrisy. And using that definition, every  human being is a hypocrite.

It seems to been an ancient problem as well. The apostle Paul spotted the hypocrites and comes down hard on them at the start of chapter two of his Letter to the Romans. The second chapter is the topic of this post—as we make our way through all 16 chapters of Romans—one post at a time.

Paul does indeed point out the hypocrisy of condemning another person for the same acts you yourself doing.  But I think Madison misses Paul's larger point in this chapter.

“Why bother?” you may ask. Well, this epistle has been idealized and idolized forever by Christian scholars, who obsess about its potential for revealing the mind of the Almighty. Just scratch the surface—in fact they go far deeper than the surface—and the word of God is sure to come
seeping out. But Paul was a mediocre thinker and a bad theologian; couldn’t God have done better? There is so much bad stuff in the Bible, and it doesn’t hurt to keep pointing out that some of the most treasured Christian texts deserved to be sliced out. Thomas Jefferson took his scissors to the gospels to cut out the nonsense; I’m sure he would not have been kind to Romans.

I truly think this a worthwhile exercise to closely examine Paul's writing in Romans. But I disagree that Paul was a mediocre thinker and he was not a bad theologian. In order to demonstrate this,  Madison has to show evidence in Romans. This he has failed to do so far. Might this be the post that shows Madison is right?  Naaaaaaah.

Paul goes on this rant against hypocrites although he had never visited the congregation in Rome. Near the end of the letter, in chapter 16, he says “hi” to quite a few people whom he knows there, so maybe he had reports of unsavory conduct. In 1:11 he had written, “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” Hence his strong words against hypocrisy; maybe he’s giving advance warning?

 Advanced warning of what? Paul's point does not apply just to the church at Rome but to every person. The interesting thing is that it applies not just to them but to anyone at any time as well.

We can give him credit for impatience with hypocrisy, but then nasty Paul resumes the rant. God will run out of patience: “…for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does
evil” (vv.8-9). Wrath, fury, anguish, distress. Paul’s message here reminds us of John the Baptist’s severe words for the religious leaders who came out to hear him preach: “You brood of
vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? …even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7-10) Yes, there are Hallmark moments in Paul’s letters, but there is uncompressing [sic]
severity as well. Don’t get carried away bragging about a ‘god of love’ in the New Testament.

So, Madison give Paul credit because he does not like hypocrisy, but calls him "nasty" because Paul said that those who are selfish and doe evil are going to suffer?  Huh? Whether you agree or not that God punishes bad people, I think everyone wants to see evil people be punished for the bad that they do especially when it is personally directed against us. How is this nasty or bad? If someone killed your child and laughed about it, would it be uncompromisingly severe for them to be punished for it? I don't think so. Paul is talking more about that. He's talking about everyone who has ever lied on you, stolen from you, and every other wrong befallen you. It goes both ways also. You deserve the same punishments for all the evil you have perpetrated against others. This is  Paul's point.

Can It Be? A Hint at Secular Ethics?

Again,to his credit, Paul saw that being in God’s favor didn’t depend on being Jewish, i.e., in the company of those who had heard God’s law for centuries. “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (v. 13). No matter who you are, you can qualify, and I find vv. 14-15 startling; did Paul really realize what he was saying: “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness…”Do instinctively…written on their hearts…their own conscience bears witness? Atheists who argue that we don’t need religion to behave morally embrace these very concepts.

I think this is where so many people get confused. Secular ethicists make a startling assumption that people are capable of fulfilling moral law. Paul's not arguing from that point of view. In order to be justified by law one has to obey it completely and faultlessly. He's not saying that the gentile that does the right thing without having the law is perfect.. He is only saying that he/she is better than the Jew in those areas where their consciences are aligned with God. but the jew who has the law that does not obey it. No where does Paul say that anyone is righteous by obeying the law and in Chapter 3, he goes into why no one is righteous.

But Paul is caught in a major contradiction here, because he really doesn’t mean what he says in verse 10, i.e., that glory, honor and peace are for everyone who does good. The heart of Pauline theology, so earnestly embraced by Luther, was justification by faith, as stated so bluntly by Paul in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No amount of ‘doing good’ will do the trick. British scholar Michael Grant: “Paul commits flagrant self-contradictions, which caused
Augustine, among many others, the deepest anxiety.” (St. Paul, 1982, p. 6)

Paul is not caught up in a contradiction. The problem is that Madison does not understand what Paul said. He's not arguing that anyone is justified by the good that they do. He's pointing out that's it is better to follow the law than to disobey it but he doesn't argue that you just stop there. If he was suggesting that we all just obey the law, Romans would have been much shorter. I wonder if Madison has read chapter 3 yet because the rest of the letter is Paul explaining how he is not setting up a contradiction between faith and works. Madison seems to be getting ahead of Paul who has not even brought up "faith" yet. If you are gonna critique a man then at least follow his arguments more closely.

The Invasion-of-Privacy God

No surprise: personal monotheism is stated here with a vengeance. Paul is
confident that, on the Day of Judgment, “…God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.” (v. 16) God will judge your thoughts! The theologians who came up with this idea discovered the formula for terrorizing people. Jesus was in the same camp (at least as depicted by those who created the fictional Galilean peasant); he claimed that the hairs of our head are numbered—and the deity knows as well the thought-crimes inside our skulls: lust is the equivalent of adultery.

Exactly. This is why we know Paul is not  arguing for Justification by works. WE all know not one us can be justified by those standards. 

I once had a parishioner who was worried that people were watching her through the TV. Crazy, yes, but just drop the TV, and that’s what personal monotheism is: God is always watching you.

Given what's come out how the camera's on your phones, tablets, and game consoles (not to mention all the cameras in public) maybe she ain't that crazy.

Who thinks it’s cool to have cameras—installed by the state, our boss, landlord or a god—spying on us in our bedrooms and bathrooms—indeed, everywhere? And with the capacity for getting inside our heads. This evil theology should be off-putting to decent people. As for the folks who have lost their faith and mourn its passing, Christopher Hitchens asked why—why would you want it back? Personal monotheism is totalitarianism: you can’t even have ‘secret thoughts’ without God knowing. Heaven, Hitchens said, is a celestial North Korea. He couldn’t imagine anyone yearning for it.

The problem here is equivocation. God is more than right to expect us to act the way God says we should act. He is not another human being equal to us. How is it evil to recognize it. Sure you might not like it but not liking something does not make it evil. I don't like Brussels sprouts so does that mean you and all of  humanity should call Brussels sprouts evil?! Who's crazy now?

Paul and Jesus should rub people the wrong way because they claimed to be on a first name basis with the Invasion-of-Privacy god. Beware all who position themselves this way—and posture accordingly. They rate themselves as supremely qualified to tell the rest of us what to do. As
we go through the Letter to the Romans we will see that Paul specializes in just that.

Paul did not rate himself better than anyone else. He once referred to himself as the "chief of sinners". He just said what had been revealed to him. As for Jesus he has every right. He is positioned above us. He is better than you and me. His more than qualified to tell us how to live and how to think. Her made you. You are accountable to him. So am I.

A Positive Note at the End

Paul had little patience with the notion of Chosen People. So being circumcised was irrelevant; this outward mark on the flesh counted for nothing: “Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God” (v.29).

Praise is not the same as salvation. Notice that Paul did not say that such a person who is spiritually circumcised has earned salvation.If you think a person can earn salvation on the basis of their own merit that you completely misunderstood Paul.

A nice sentiment indeed—now if only Paul’s theology had not been excessively infused with magical thinking, i.e., the notion that believing that a holy man had risen from the dead was the key to winning eternal life.

The only way anyone could prove that Paul's theology is bad is to show that he was wrong about Jesus. Good luck with that. Otherwise, all Madison has managed to do is to show that he does not understand Romans 1 or 2 and that he does not like being held accountable for his sin - welcome to reality.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years and has a
PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.

Keep paying for David Madison.

Debunking Christianity: Is the Church really filled with hypocrites? No.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Faceplant of the DaY: Debunking Christianity: Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…

Well, I thought that because it took so long for David Madison to do a follow-up post on Paul's letter to the Church at Rome that maybe he wised up about his critique of the book. I was wrong. But on the other hand, I think that such posts that objectively evaluate Paul's letter to the Romans would be useful. I found Madison's evaluation really poor and fails to support his claims that the book of Romans is flawed. His words will be in black while my comments will be in red.

Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…

…But It’s a Contender

It would be such a relief—such a gift to the cause of compassionate religion—if Christians (especially of the paid-apologist variety, e.g., theologians, priests, ministers) could get over Paul’s Letter to the Romans..

I wonder if Madison thinks that all Christian clergy and apologists get paid for their work? If he does then he needs to meet more Christians. Also why should we chuck Romans under the bus? The only reason we should is if it is false and cannot hold up to scrutiny and does nothing to help us. Let's see if Madison can prove that the book of Romans is indeed false and unnecessary. 

In my post on this blog 14 October 2016, I characterized this 16-chapter patch of scripture as a ‘toxic brew of bad theology,’ and stated my reasons for doing so. I also announced my plan to write analyses of each the 16 chapters, my atheist critique to be wrapped by January. I fell short of that goal: here I am starting in January. So, here goes, my take on Romans 1.

This post is not a faceplant because Madison failed to finish his chapter-by-chapter commentary by the end of  January. It's a faceplant because it fails to demonstrate that Romans is a ‘toxic brew of bad theology,’ I am willing to agree that if he could have shown that Romans chapter one was as bad as he says it is we should throw out the whole letter and everything else Paul wrote. However, Madision is unsuccessful in making a single meaningful comment toward his thesis.

Scholars suspect that Paul’s opening paragraph was based on a liturgical formula current at the time (1:2-5), more or less summing up basic Christian thought, one key point being that Jesus Christ was a
descendant of King David. So I begin with a digression: There is little doubt that Paul belonged to the school of thought that Jesus had been conceived/born the same way everyone else is. We search in vain throughout his letters for any mention of the virgin birth (which would have canceled “descended from David”). Matthew’s famous proof text, Isaiah 7:14, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” was the furthest thing from his mind. He would have laughed it off.

Paul is not writing his letter in a vacuum. We know he got a lot of his interpretations from what Christians believed at the time. He was not making stuff up so vs 2-5 in chapter one is of couse something that would be definitional of Christianity. 

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, [a]called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a [b]descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power [c]by the resurrection from the dead, according to the [d]Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship [e]to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, - Romans 1:1-5 (NASB)
It is of course not a given conclusion that Paul did not believe in the Virgin birth. Just because he did not talk about it directly, does not mean that he assumed or taught that Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse just like everyone else. Instead Paul focused on Jesus pre-existing his own birth in his letters - just like the Apostle John also said in John 1:1.  For example, look at  Colossians 1:16-20

16 For [x]by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He [y]is before all things, and in Him all things [z]hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For [aa]it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the [ab]fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in [ac]heaven.

Paul is saying that Jesus is everything that Jesus says He is in the Gospels. I find it impossible to assume that Paul did not believe Jesus had a miraculous birth given that he believed that everything that makes the Father God dwelled in Jesus Christ. This isn't a question of if Paul was right or wrong when it comes to what Madison wrote. He seems to imply that it's a unanimous conclusion that Paul would have rejected the thought of a virgin birth, but Paul himself never says anything of the sort. Faceplant number one. (I might keep a running count of his faceplants, but I have not decided yet).

Also look at the NASB translation of  Romans 1:3. Paul does not in any way claim that Jesus is Joseph's son. However "born of a descendant of David" could refer to Mary. Faceplant number 2.

Notice how explicit he is in 1:4: Jesus was declared son of God by his resurrection. That is Paul’s obsession; virgin birth would have diluted resurrection as the only credential that mattered. The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke (representing the minority school of thought in the New Testament)
indulged this fantasy that seeped into Christian thought decades after Paul wrote; some of the pious assumed it would be cool to graft the pagan his-mother-was-a-virgin idea onto the Jesus story. Those who want to adore Mary will not find an ally in Paul—who never so much as mentions her.

A lot of front-loaded assumptions here. Paul taught that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews have been waiting centuries for. For him the Resurrection was proof, but there is no reason that the virgin birth would have taken anything away from the message. Madison only asserts without proof that the virgin birth belief was added to Christian belief decades after Paul wrote Romans. Where is the proof of that? Sure a lot of people today are teaching that  but that does not mean it's true. I'm not going to get very far into the fallacy that Jesus' birth story was stolen from pagan myths because Madison does not bother to prove it so I'm gonna just ignore this fourth faceplant and just count this assertion that the virgin birth is a fantasy and the failure in asserting that the virgin birth detracts from the Resurrection as one faceplant - faceplant number three.

Matthew, by the way, insults our intelligence in the first chapter of his gospel. He begins by tediously listing Jesus’ ancestors back to King David (gotta have that pedigree!) then drops the story of the virgin birth on us: Nope, Jesus didn’t have a father. How come the original readers didn’t catch this glaring non sequitur? And how come this is not the point that Christians today realize that Matthew was a fraud and toss the New Testament into the trash?

Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience and wanted to show that Jesus was the Messiah whom had to be a descendant of  King David.Who said that Jesus had to be that descendant by a father? Mary was (from what I understand) his biological mother and a descendant of David. Also recall that Matthew's genealogical chapter is rather interesting in that it lists some women in the record and does not list every single individual in every single generation. This points to the face that one can't just ignore the women who played the part in bringing our Lord and Savior to earth. Faceplant number four.

End of digression.

Good maybe we will finally get a good argument. 

If I ever get around to writing a secular commentary on this dreadful epistle, I have the title ready: Paul’s Letter to the Romans: God Is Wrath. After his unctuous flattery of the Roman congregation (1:8-15), he gets down to business, to his flawed, ugly theology.

I want to mention four points.

No, God is not obvious by looking around at nature

In verse 20, Paul lays the groundwork for condemning unbelievers: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” So God’s power and nature can be “understood” through what he has made? Actually, precisely because God’s nature and power are invisible, they are not understood. Presumably Paul had the natural world in mind, but theologians with a couple thousand years of practice know that this is feeble: indifferent nature shows no mercy to humans. I suspect Paul didn’t give enough thought to this, because in his letters he explains endlessly what God expects and demands. So rules of conduct to convictsinners aren’t at all so obvious from the “things that God has made.”

Faceplant number 5: Just because something is invisible does not mean it can't be understood. We know something of God's character and power from what God has made just like we can look at a piece of art, not matter the medium, and know quite a bit about the artist's skill, abilities, tastes, and personality. All of the earth, the stars, and everything we can see, count, and measure is in the best possible place for us to not just be sustained in our existence but to also be observed. Science, by it's very nature, depends on the assumption that the universe is intelligible and something that we can figure out. Atoms are invisible to use but we can not only detect them but use them to do amazing things technologically. We can find black holes by observing how they affect visible stars around them. Mathematics is not made up by us but discovered.This is why we can use it to describe nature to the point that we can make accurate predictions. We can tell what stars are made of and what kind of atmospheres distant planets have by studying the light coming from them. All of this points to the kind of God we have. No, it does not tells us about his expectations and commands  or rules of conduct - that is what the rest of Romans is about. Paul never tells us it is enough to stop at the first chapter and you know everything about God  What we are without excuse about is the fact that there is a God.

God can’t wait to get even

Because people resorted to other gods, especially idol worship, God kicks them to the curb. In verses 24, 26 and 28 Paul states explicitly that God “gave them up”—and we get insights into Paul’s tormented personality by his list of things that God gave people up to: (1) the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies; (2) to degrading passions; (3) to a debased mind and things that should not be done. Hmmmm…obsessed about sex much? More about that on the next
point. Suffice it to say here that Paul’s concept of God is weighted heavily toward revenge and punishment: God himself gives people up to sin. All this because people did not see fit to “acknowledge God.” No slack given here to folks who didn’t see eye-to-eye with Paul on
religion, those who—and this was the big no-no for Paul—cheerfully embraced lust (we’d all be better off if Paul had given it a try). Paul doesn’t seem to have heard the stories about Jesus
hanging out with sinners.

Faceplant number six: God has every right to give people over to themselves. Do not forget. Paul just argued that we have no excuse for not acknowledging God. Also those are thing that God keeps people from. Paul is not pretending that he is some saint who deserves God's mercy. He is building the case that that if you deny God, God has every right to turn you over to yourself. All the lusts and degradation that Madison seems to think that Paul is wrong in casting in a negative light are things that will destroy you if you are caught up in them. They are what is wrong with our society and they are why Donald J Trump is President of the United States. These things are the consequences of God allowing us to have what Madison says he wants - God gone out of the public sphere. It's not a punshment but consequences of what the unregenerate and unrepentant want. Makes me wonder if Madison has ever bothered to read the rest of the letter.

Knee-jerk disgust about women loving women, men loving me

Now, full disclosure before I get into this one: I am gay, so it’s no surprise that I have no patience with Paul’s rant against same-sex love. Sure, we can cut him some slack since his thinking was influenced by severe teaching in the Old Testament—and he lived centuries before human
sexuality had been studied. What would we expect? But the folks who want to point to these verses in Romans 1 (vv. 26-27) as binding “word of God”—because “saint” Paul said them—are blind to their own hypocrisy: they don’t notice that Paul shuddered at heterosexuality as well!
Everything in his writings about sexuality screams dysfunction! And we have the impulse to scream at Paul, “Get a life!”

I disagree. Paul did not hate sex and the Bible in no way - anywhere - casts sex as evil. It does put limitations and commandments on how sex should be practiced. Because God has given humanity the gift of sex he has every right to tell us how to use it properly so we don't destroy ourselves. We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to have sex.  For example God says don't have sex with your close family members. Is that because it's icky and disgusting or is it because it will destroy your family? Would not an omnipotent and omniscient deity know better than you do about what to do with your genitalia? I would think so. The point is that God does want you to have a life. Your best life.

Paul disdained men loving women: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.
But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1-2) You read that right: marriage is okay because liability to immortality should drive you to it. Or how about this gem: “And those who belong to Christ
Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). And this: To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am” (I Corinthians 7:8). True enough, Paul’s delusions about Jesus returning soon warped his thinking: “…the
appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none” (I Corinthians. 7:29).

Madison has made this flawed argument before and it's just wrong. Faceplant number 6. Paul said that if you can remain unmarried and not be tempted by sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage) stay unmarried.  He did not say that you are less saved or immoral or angering God because you want to get married. Paul had nothing against marriage.

Outside of the most pathetic cults, you will never find a marriage counselor who urges couples to follow Paul’s advice. So please don’t quote him as an expert on love, marriage or
sexuality—hetero or homo. And since he was so wrong about so many things (see my 14 October 2016 post), don’t credit him with being tuned into God’s thoughts—about anything. Yet Paul remains the default authority on homosexuality for so many today. No doubt with Romans 1 in mind, the
Catholic Church cannot budge from its official position that gay people are “disordered.”

Paul's point is entirely missed. Madison again fails to point a single thing Paul got wrong. Of course, Madison can disagree with Paul, but it sure would be nice if he could explain how Paul is wrong. Paul is building up to chapter 3 demonstrating that all of us - gay and straight - are sinners and disordered. 

Paul’s long list of those who “deserve to die”

Full stop, Christians. How can anyone read the ending of Romans 1 and say, with a straight face, that Paul should be called a saint? Or that this text merits inclusion in “the good book”? Here he shows us his full venom: “… they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish,faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die…”

I wanna ask Madison: "Do you wanna be around people who are "gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish,faithless, heartless, ruthless"? Honestly? I do not. Yet we are. At some point, you, me, Madison, and everyone you know has  been guilty of at least one of these. It's not that all of them deserve to die - we are all guilty.

It’s a common Christian dodge that the nasty god of the Old Testament gave way to the loving God of the New Testament. But Paul does his best to keep the wrathful god alive and hovering over hapless humans. He includes gossips and rebellious children among those who deserve todie—according to God’s own decree. I guess it’s actually a good thing that—apart from obsessive scholars—the Letter to the Romans is pretty much ignored by the faithful, for whom The Man Upstairs is a benevolent
figure, a cosmic buddy. Hildegard of Bingen is a saint with far moreappeal than Paul: “”God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.”

I agree that many Christians do try to dodge the force of  Madison's argument but thst unnecessary because Paul is not arguing that people who do evil things deserve to die for their sins and people who believe in his teaching do not deserve to did because they are better people. Paul's argument is that every person is a sinner in need of a savior.. He is building a case starting wit the simple fact that you should at least recognize that you have a creator to whom you are accountable.

One of those obsessive scholars was C. H. Dodd, who wrote in 1939 that The
Letter to the Romans is “the first great work of Christian theology.” Please, say it ain’t so.

Dodd makes a valid point that Madion has failed to disprove.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years. He has a
PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.

Keep praying for him

Debunking Christianity: Maybe It’s Not the Worst Book in the Bible…

Sunday, November 20, 2016

FacePlant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: The Day God Overslept (Well, One of Many Days)

It's that old chestnut again: The Problem of Evil. This time a slightly different slant is given by David Madison over at Debunking Christianity. I will again leave his word in black with my responses in red font. Let's see if this slant is any better than any of the others trotted out.

Theodicy, AKA The Litany of Excuses

In March 1996, in Dunblane, Scotland, a gunman walked into a school and killed sixteen children and their teacher. Among the many flowers that were left outside the school in thedays following, one bouquet was accompanied by a Teddy Bear with a note tied around its neck: “Wednesday 13 March 1996–the day God overslept.”

I remember when this incident happened. Unfortunately it was not the first time nor the last time such a horrific thing has happened. The annecdotal note and the article under consideration here seem to be making a point that if God was awake and active that gunman would not have killed all those people. The thought assumes that God is obligated to keep bad things from happening to people in general and to us in particular. The Bible never tells us that but many of us people are still quick to make this assumption.

For those raised to believe in a good god who also happens to be all-powerful, such evil is inexplicable. Theologians have given it their best shot—over and over, throughout the millennia—but none of their explanations really satisfy. As one of them, Uta Ranke-Heinemann has admitted, “The question of the origin of evil, of what causes the tears
and deviltries of the world, the question that no
theologian has so far managed to answer, is one that humans have always posed.” (Putting Away Childish Things, p. 62)

People who find the problem of the origin of evil as inexplicable to the point of absurdity should really consider if they understand what the Bible means where it says that God is "good". I think what people really think is that if God is good then it is unthinkable that he would allow anything bad to happen to good people. We think that we ourselves in particular are too good to deserve the bad things in life that befall us  Therefore, of course God should not allow us to suffer. When we see someone else suffer, especially when we think they are innocent, we wonder why it happens and if something like that or worse could happen to us?

Many serious thinkers have concluded from the existence of massive evil andsuffering that there probably isn’t a good god overseeing the Cosmos. Most believers can’t go that far, and reach for other explanations. Hence one mourner in Dunblane chose the metaphor of oversleeping to excuse God’s inattention. This metaphor is milder than Nietzsche’s famous declaration that “God is dead,” but “God overslept” is still just an attempt—tinged with cynicism it seems to me—to come to terms with God’s absence or indifference. Why didn’t God—almighty God who knows if even a sparrow falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29)—jam the gun that day?

Just because something bad happens does not mean that God is not inattentive. It does not mean that God did not know it was going to happen. It does not mean that God did nothing. Obviously the situation could have been far worse and that does mean that God constrained it to make it not as bad. as it could have been. For example, what if the man had succeeded in killing every person at that school that day. I think that was intention. What stopped him? God.  What about the people that was killed? I don't know! I think we should not be afraid to admit that. I don't know why God does what He does in every situation. None of us do. That should be okay. He is sovereign and under no one. This is where trust and faith kick in. We know that God knows what God is doing and he does what is best for everyone in the ultimate sense that will bring God the most glory although I do not understand it all now!

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? God could have jammed the gun. Why not? But even
many Christians would respond, “Well, the world doesn’t work that way.”Of course not. But why not, if “he’s got the whole world in his hands”? The disconnect between such sentimental religious banalities and the real world can be very jarring. With so much evil and misery on this planet, how is it consoling, let alone true, that “he’s got the whole world in his hands”?

I know people who have experience the "gun jammed" moment. Instances where people were in life threatening situations but God miraculously saved their lives - including having a loaded gun's trigger pulled in their face but God making the gun jam. I say God did it because the gun should have gone off,. God does exactly that kinds of stuff even today. That being said, God does not do that all the time nor are we promised that he would do it all the time. God having "whole world in his hand" is only consoling if you know him!

Many explanations have been offered to account for suffering in our tiny corner of a Cosmos supposedly supervised by a caring and all-powerful god. The result of this major theistic preoccupation can be labeled The Litany of Excuses (although it’s officially called theodicy). Most Christian laypeople can usually round up a few of the standard apologies if asked point-blank why God tolerates so much evil and suffering.

"The Litany of Excuses" appears to presupposes that God has to defend his decisions and ways in terms of what happens to us He is the potter and we are clay. He gets to do what he wants and does not answer to any of us. I hope by "apologes", Madison is using the word in its classical definition as "defenses". God does not need to say "sorry" to anyone for anything. 

But I’ve found that believers balk at any hard thinking that would require serious homework on this issue. They usually don’t grasp how fraught with difficulties the common excuses are. The apologies sound okay only on the surface. Folks who blithely offer two or three excuses for God’s tolerance for suffering and evil usually have not thought deeply enough about the excuses to see how vulnerable they are. For example, those who claim that free will lets God off the hook on a lot of suffering don’t
grasp how free will goes off the rails before it accomplishes much of anything. Nor do they seem to be aware that the standard excuses have been vetted by non-religious philosophers, and commonly found wanting. They seldom—if ever—ask where they can find the exhaustive theodicy literature that is available. I’ve never heard a Christian say, “I’d better read up on this. There must be lots of books on my favorite apology for God. Where can I find them?”

Finally something Madison writes makes sense. The "free will" theodicy is indeed not a good argument  and is not Biblical. It has been 2000 years and plenty of good answers for this.

Secular philosophers understand that the excuses don’t hold water—that’s commonly why they became secular philosophers—and theologians differ as to which are worth clinging to, and offer strained and forced defenses of those that they prefer.

It seems that Madison is coming from an Arminian perspective and I find that theology woefully inadequate for answering the Problem of Evil because all you really have the free will defense that I think that it really sucks, To see see better discussion seen Genesis 50, Romans, Habakkuk, the works of Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, John Piper, RC Sproul, James White, and many others.

David Madison was a pastor in the United Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published by Tellectual Press in August 2016.

Keep praying for David Madison

Debunking Christianity: The Day God Overslept (Well, One of Many Days)

Jesus vs. Dionysus

Sunday, October 23, 2016

FacePalm of the Day Debunking Christianity - Jesus Got It Wrong, Really Wrong

The thing that amazes me is that some men and women really think that they have not just the right to critique God but also that they have the ability to accurately critique God. This particular post from Debunking Christianity really highlights the problems that arises when people attack Jesus' teachings without so much of a clue of what they are talking about. The "Facepalm" is caused by this post due to the assumption of Jesus being wrong not because the author misunderstood the teaching.

Jesus gets major demerits for hardening the Old Testament teaching about divorce, thereby bringing incalculable anguish during the ensuing centuries.

Unfortunately, many Christians have the wrong understanding about what Jesus taught about divorce. They just don't go as far as adding blasphemy to their error as David Madison does in his post.  Jesus teaching does not being anguish. If there is anguish it comes from disobeying Jesus. All one has to do is look at how divorce devastates lives and families.

Many billions of people have gone into marriages for a wide variety of reasons, e.g., convenience, lust, desperation, family obligations and alliances, pregnancy—sometimes even love. It dawns on a lot of people, months or years into a marriage: “Well, this was a mistake.”

The issue is that people get married for the wrong reasons. Marriage does not fix problems or heal wounds. And if you get a divorce at the first feeling of having made a mistake you have definitely missed the point. What I like about Jesus' teachings on marriage is that He makes it clear what the point of marriage is and what it is not. When Madison points out that people sometime marry for "love" what kind of  "love" does he refer to. Bet it isn't the kind of love the Bible says married people should have for each other.

Jesus is guilty of a grievous logical fallacy in his pronouncement on divorce. Why do men and women get married? Jesus sees the “natural order” as God’s idea, and said this to the Pharisees:

“Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them
male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his
father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become
one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God
has joined together, let no one separate." (Matt. 19:4-6)

 Jesus was not responding to the question "Why do men and women get married?" The question that the Pharisees asked was “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (vs 3) Therefore Jesus' answer was that it's not lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason because divorce is not part of God's perfect plan.

If you operate within a theological context, there’s nothing wrong with the idea that God arranged for men and women to hook up, but it doesn’t follow at all that God has actually arranged all marriages, picking each woman for each man, ever since humans began cohabitating.

 I think this point brought up by Madison is very important. Why is this conclusion untenable?  The Bible teaches that God has put each and everyone of us in the circumstances we find ourselves in so that we can best Find him (Acts 17:24). This would have to include our births and assigning who are parents are,

It is shortsighted, destructive and dangerous to argue that God’s law and intent are violated when couples don’t get along after all. Yet Jesus does just that in Mark 10. He condemns divorce, culminating in the famous verse 9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one
separate.” Did Jesus really think that it is God who makes all the matches, so many of which are disastrous?

Interesting how Madison asks the next logical question as if the Pharisees did not also ask it. Look at Matthew 19:7

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

The Pharisees did not like Jesus' answer and sought to justify the view that they could divorce their wives with impunity, Jesus explains why the Torah makes provision for divorce.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:8-9

God permitted divorce to keep society intact because people are not able to live the right way.

To Mark 10, we can add Matthew 5:31-32: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

In Mark and Luke we do not find the words “except on the ground of unchastity.” Somehow, in a small mercy, Matthew saw fit to add that modification.

It is not a modification. Mark 10 and  Matthew 19 are parallel passages and answering a specific question. Matthew 5:31-32 is in another context. He gives these commands in Matt 5:31-32 right after Jesus taught about adultery. Not a modification but a clarification.

Let it be noted, by the way, Christians have shown far more common sense than Jesus on this matter: They do get divorced as much as their non-Christian neighbors. They’ve figured out that the layer of theology imposed on marriage (“what God has joined together”), is irrelevant and impossible to sustain in reality. They know that Jesus was wrong. This is one of his failures as a moral teacher.

No Way. Jesus words about why why people, even Christians, get divorced is still true today: we are sinners who are unable to perfectly follow God's laws. However with the power of God that saves us from sin and death we can keep our marriage vows.  My parents have been married for 58 years. It's possible. Divorce is not a sign of God's failure but of human sin and depravity. A failed marriage has many different causes but the bottom line is one or both spouses decide not live according to God's way. 

The Catholic Church has maintained a level of rigidity on divorce that defies all logic and compassion—based on Jesus’ bad counsel on the matter. Yet the church has, for money, figured out ways to help couples escape matrimonial bonds. Don’t we all have our favorite stories of
shrewd Catholic maneuvering? Mine is about the man who, for enough cash, after more than 20 years of marriage and three children, was able to buy an annulment. The church, it would seem, is not opposed to laying up treasure on earth.

I don't see how any church's twisting of Jesus' commands nullify what Jesus said. Buying an annulment is an example of ignoring Jesus' teaching not upholding it. As for the opposite extreme  of counseling a person to stay in an abusive marriage, this is also not what Jesus was saying. If you can read what Jesus said and think that Madison is right about what he thinks Jesus said about divorce, you should re-read it.

DavidMadison has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University, and was a pastor in the
United Methodist Church for nine years. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published by Tellectual Press in August.

Debunking Christianity

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jesus vs. Krishna

Truthbomb Apologetics: Video: Old Testament Violence by Larry Alex Taunton

Truthbomb Apologetics: Video: Old Testament Violence by Larry Alex Taunton

Royce Mann, Age 14, "White Boy Privilege", Slam Poem

Answering Muslims: Free vs. Controlled Transmission in Regards to the Qur'an and New Testament (with Dr. James White)

Answering Muslims: Free vs. Controlled Transmission in Regards to the Qur'an and New Testament (with Dr. James White)

List of non-canonical books mentioned within the Bible | True Freethinker

Here is a great list of books that are mentioned within the Biblical texts that are not part of the cannon. I'm really interested in this and will probably see if I can track them down to see if I can get access to them. 

List of non-canonical books mentioned within the Bible | True Freethinker

Saturday, October 15, 2016

FacePlant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Toxic Brew of Bad Theology

With the title of this particular article recently posted on Debunking Christianity I was expecting a thorough explanation and proof of Apostle Paul's "toxic" and "bad" theology. I am very underwhelmed. I think it's easy to see a very to see this as a true faceplant of epic proportions. I want the article to speak for itself and will annotate the article in red.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Toxic Brew of Bad Theology

A number of years ago, in conversation with a Christian friend, I mentioned Paul’s Letter to the Romans. “I don’t know it,” she responded. I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, since the Letter to the Romans is not an easy part of the Bible to get through and understand—which is why very few Christians even give it a try.

I do not need to rebut or even try to refute this. I was raised in a Christian household and been in church all my life and I have been hearing, reading, studying and digesting the Epistle to the Romans my whole life. I do recognize that this isn't the same for all Christians, but it still amazes me that some people have not read it. It is sad. We, as Christians, need to do better.

The gospels have far more appeal and get a lot more traffic. But still, such ignorance of basic Bible material surely isn’t a good thing for believers who aspire to be—or even assume they are—Bible-based Christians.

Agreed. But this isn't true of all Christians that I know. If this is true about all the Christians that you know I would have to suggest you should get out more and meet more people.

No  matter the indifference of laypeople to the Letter to the Romans, it is a source of bewilderment to secular thinkers that Christian theologians have been obsessed—and I do mean utterly obsessed—with the Letter to the Romans, for centuries. Those of the Protectant [sic] persuasion might be aware that Martin Luther urged Christians to memorize it, but I suspect that ordinary folks in the pews would be dumbfounded to learn that every syllable, word and verse of Romans—every jot and title—has been scrutinized and analyzed, over-analyzed, super-analyzed, painstakingly, exhaustively, by Christian theologians. They tease out, squeeze out the tiniest bits of revelation that might have sparked from Paul’s mind onto the scroll…as if the fate of the Cosmos were hanging in the balance. But I guess, of course, for those in the Christian cult, that’s what Romans is about.

I think that this is where the faceplant starts.  I don't think its weird at all to scrutinize Romans or any of the Bible. If it is truly the word of God it would be stupid not to look at it carefully. If you don't look at it carefully, how would you be able to determine if it is God's word or not? That is why I'm interested in going through Romans with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. The fate of the universe does "hang in the balance".  If Paul was a liar or insane then he and the other Apostles were wrong. Jesus was wrong and Christianity is a waste of time. It would be sheer stupidity to be sure. This is not a matter of faith (as defined by John Loftus and many other wrong Atheist as being "believing despite and instead of evidence). The point here: Is the Bible true in general and Romans in particular? The writer of this article and Atheists in general would argue that the Bible is not true. It falls to them to demonstrate something the Bible is wrong about. David Madison in this case has to show Paul got something wrong is some way and not merely just assert that Paul was wrong. He has to show the toxicity and badness of  Paul's theology.  Let's examine the article to see how he does. Spoiler: a major faceplant.

 Do I exaggerate about the ‘utter obsession’? Well, Ben Witherington’s 400-page analysis of Romans (Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 2004) includes an 18-page bibliography of scholarly works on Paul and Romans, a list he says that “could go on for miles.” In 1996, evangelical scholar Douglas Moo published a 1,000-page commentary on Romans (The Epistle to the Romans), one of a series, the New International Commentary on the New Testament, “loyal to the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.” A thousand pages on the sixteen chapters of Romans? The legions of Christian scholars, who can’t get enough of this dense patch of scripture, assume that scholar and theologian C. H. Dodd, got it right when he declared in 1939 that Romans is “the first great work of Christian theology.”

Another great paragraph full of nothing to disagree with.  

But, of course, it’s not. Because Paul was a crank. In my book I argue that he was a ‘delusional cult fanatic’—but ‘crank’ is good shorthand. He was the prototype for Christian crazies who have shown up repeatedly in the centuries of the Christian era.

Almost every great thinker throughout history was considered a "crank" at best by his or her detractors. Do you know what separates a "crank" from a "genius"? The genius is right about the thing(s) so many others thinks they are wrong about, Can Madison prove the theology that Paul wrote down in Romans was wrong?

 How so? I mean, really, how can anyone take this guy seriously? 

So...Madison thinks that Paul's ideas should not be taken seriously. Why not?

 (1) Paul assured one of his congregations that, when the Lord came back, their dead relatives would pop out of their graves to meet Jesus in the clouds—with musical accompaniment, no less (I Thess. 4:16-18).

Just because Madison considers  the rapture ridiculous does not mean that it's not going to happen. Where's the evidence and argument that Paul is wrong. This is just an assertion.

(2) Paul scolded Christians for taking one another to court; didn’t they know they were qualified to settle their disputes? Why? Because one day soon they would be judging angels—after Jesus’ return (I Corinthians 6:3).

Use context much?will be judging angels.  Also because we should be treating one another with love and esteeming each other higher than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) we should be able to settle our disputes without going to court. True that most Christians have not lived up to this but it is what we are supposed to do. Unbelievers should not not hold the failure of Christians against the Bible. If you think you can do better, come show us how to do it.

 (3) He advised married Christian men to act as if they no longer had wives, because “the appointed time has grown short”—i.e., Jesus would arrive soon (I Corinthians 7:29); this matches his advice in Romans 13:14: “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

 That's not really true. Why did Madison fail to refer to the whole passage. Read the whole Chapter and you will see the Paul never said to married men to live like they no longer had wives. This contradicts verses 10 and 11.

1To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
If you are going to bad-mouth Paul I expect something way more factual.

(4) Paul had no interest in good government (or in art, culture or education, or that matter).He assured his readers—this is in Romans 13—that all leaders are in power because God put them there.

No Paul told his readers to obey the laws of the land because God put the leaders in charge. How is this crazy. Is Madison and anarchist? Paul most definitely was not. Paul was reminding believers that our trust - our faith - is in God and not any particular government. Go back and read Romans 13. 

 (5) He embraced a magic formula for eternal life that sounds straight out of Hogwarts: “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is just a start, but I rest my case: Paul was a Jesus groupie and nothing else.

If putting all my egg into Jesus' basket, like Paul did, makes me a  "Jesus groupie" I'll gladly represent that remark. If Jesus, Paul, and all the believers from Adam to today are right, there is no other sane response. It's not magic. If one thinks Paul just made up Romans 10:9 out of no where then one has misunderstood the whole book of Romans. Go back ans start with Chapter one. You will not understand Romans 10 if you did not understand Chapters 1-9

 Randel Helms (Gospels Fictions, The Bible Against Itself) has said that the Bible is self-destructive artifact, and the Letter to the Romans is Exhibit A in making the case that this is so. It has land mines in almost every chapter. Christians can see theology exploding in their faces if they venture to step through these chapters, unaccompanied by apologists.

More assumptions. The thing about the book of Romans is that it is not a simple picture book. It has deep theology and philosophy and requires much study. It's not a Twilight novel.

 During the coming weeks—spilling over into January, I suspect—I will offer a few reflections on each of the sixteen chapters in Romans. I will make the case that this over-adored epistle is indeed a
toxic brew of bad theology.

Oh goody - more entertaining faceplants to read!

Ben Witherington, by the way, undermines any confidence that Romans is revelation, when he warns his readers on page one of his 400-page work, “…the goal of understanding this formidable discourse is not reached for a considerable period of time.” So God planned it that way?

How does the fact that it took a lot of time to understand Romans (and still learning from it) undermines the letter as being revelation from God. Everyone is growing in different rates and I know I am still learning from Romans and I have read it multiple times.God did plan it that way. Recall that Christianity is a relationship with God. Relationships grow and we learn more and more. God does not grow because he does not have to. We do.

Why would we have to work so hard to grasp revealed information? Did you get my hint of ridicule when I mentioned Douglas Moo’s huge tome above? Yes, I am baffled by his efforts. Lest I be accused of anti-intellectualism, however, in scoffing at a 1,000-page book on Romans, let me say that, of course, academicians who specialize in antiquities are justified in pursuing their passions. Our heritage is enriched because there are countless weighty tomes about the works of Solon and Homer, about the hieroglyphed walls in Egypt and the pornographic murals in Pompeii. The authors were motivated to understand human genius and creativity, to increase our quotient of enlightenment. But the motivation for obsessive study of Paul is to figure out a god. The scholars who do this are on a holy mission.

It makes sense that God tells us to study. Why would it be easy? We can only do it with God's help.Why would we think our finite minds could easily and quickly comprehend the infinitude of God? I'd say it is like putting the pacific ocean into a thimble. Not going to happen.

Sadly—can’t they admit it?—Paul was not channeling a god in his hallucinations. He was an obsessive-compulsive mediocre thinker and bad theologian.

I'd like to see Madison prove that.

 He churned out reams of theobabble, which, by an accident of history, were elevated to the status of scripture. The academicians who study Paul are determined to distill the essence of God’s will, to discover the divine mind. They are on fool’s errand.

Where's the beef? Madison at this points makes a lot of assumptions without no evidence to prove them.

Their pursuit is as worthwhile as studying the minutia of old letters written by medieval astrologers or alchemists. I am not anti-intellectual; I just have so little patience with the faith-blinded assumption that digging through this ancient text will yield data about a god. When scholars also happen to be ordained ministers, it’s hard to overcome the faith-blindness.

I'd agree with Madison if the book of Romans did not tell us anything about God and his reconciliation  of humanity from sin and death but it does.

No, we don’t have to believe C.H. Dodd’s glowing assessment: “…this great epistle, into which [Paul] has packed the ripe fruits of many years of thought and work, of preaching, controversy, and the cure of souls, of trial, suffering, and spiritual experience.” The Letter to the Romans deserves to be at the bottom of the scrapheap of history. Paul is an embarrassment.

Madison indeed does not need to agree with Dodd but if he cannot demonstrate that Paul was wrong then this series is just a faceplant and an embarrassment.

David Madison was in the Methodist ministry in Massachusetts for nine years. He has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University, and is the author of Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (Tellectual Press).

Debunking Christianity

Friday, September 16, 2016

Muhammad vs. Jesus: Judging Religions by Their Central Figures (David Wood)

David Wood has posted a video that everyone should see. He manages to explain the differences between Jesus Christ and Muhammad and why we can't judge a religion by its adherents instead of its founder.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Matthew Dowling: Proof of Evolution That You [Can't] Find on Your Body"

Here is the orginal video detailing how some scientist conclude that human anatomy contains evidence for evolutions

And here is a counter response

Matthew Dowling: Proof of Evolution That You [Can't] Find on Your Body"

Monday, November 2, 2015

Truthbomb Apologetics: Is the Bible Reliable?

Here is a great list of audio programs that present arguments for the reliability of the Bible! Great stuff!

Truthbomb Apologetics: Is the Bible Reliable?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Faceplant of the Day - Debunking Christianity: God Cannot Be Perfect Because Perfect Does Not Make Sense

I have seen a few posts from Jonathan MS Pearce on Debunking Christianity in which he tries to use philosophy to disprove Christianity. I don't doubt that he is well educated in philosophy, but he does not seem to understand the Bible or what it says. His words are in black and my comments will be in red

In another post I was talking about how God, prior to creation (at least according to classical interpretations of God based on the Ontological Argument), had ontological perfection. That is to say, he was in a perfect state of being (since this is built into the definition of God). The argument followed that, in creating the world, God would be either lacking something and thus having a need, which is incoherent with ontological perfection, or he was downgrading his perfect state in the process of creating this world.

"Ontological Perfection" does not mean that there is a standard of perfection which God meets. Instead it means that the standard by which perfection is measured is the being of God. God does not have perfect qualities, God is perfection. Why does it follow that God created the world  because of a need? The Bible does not say that God created the universe out of needing to fulfill something. I realize that some well-meaning Christian philosophy make the argument that the universe was created so that God could make humans so that He could have loving relationships. It's a popular idea, but it's not in the Bible. God does not need us. Yes, He made us because He loves us but he does not need us to express his love. This is why God's Triune nature is such a major doctrine. The Being of God has three persons - eternal and equal - and any need is fulfilled and satisfied in God's own being. Jesus said

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. - John 3:35

I won't take the time to demonstrate the reality of the Trinity, but it's essential given if you are going to argue from a Biblical perspective. 

Now, this argument is all good and well, and it certainly assumes the classical understanding of God in being ontologically perfect in every way. Not exactly as he framed it. The Ontological Argument does not depend on God having made the universe out of need.

However, this post is going to look at the idea that any such argument for or against God does not really get off the ground since it is contingent upon the idea of perfection being logically coherent as an intrinsic value and characteristic. This, I am afraid, is wrong. One cannot make this assumption because perfection, as a stand-alone conceptual characteristic to ascribe to anything, is nonsensical.

Strangely, I have to agree with him on this point because he is starting in the wrong place So far he has not defined what definition of perfection he is using. If you don't ground perfection in the being of God of course the argument (and all rationality) becomes nonsensical. 

I can only understand perfect as a goal-directed adjective such that A is perfect for B, or this catapult is perfect for getting this stone over the wall in such and such a manner. Now, one could say that God is perfect at being God, but this implies an infinite regress or circularity. What does it really mean to say that God is perfect? Is he perfect at getting a stone over the wall? Perfect at being loving, merciful and just; at being prefect, designing and moral?

Aah...finally something of a definition for "perfection". It is not a Biblical definition. He gives what he understands "perfection" is and then just runs with it. Just because that is the way he understands what "perfection" is does not mean that is what the Bible is talking about. It's more than just being unable to fail at reaching a goal or being loving or merciful or being moral. A more accurate Biblical description that someone from his mindset might understand is this: God is unable to fail. 

Even establishing what a prefect painting is, is an entirely subjective process, depending upon personal tastes. And this applies to all sorts of things such that perfection becomes either subjective or incoherent. Being perfectly powerful and knowledgeable are admittedly simpler proficiencies to hold, conceptually.

This is why God - due to who God is - is best to objectively and exhaustively define perfection. Not you. Not Pearce. And most certainly not me.

The other problem is that perfection of a being involves multiple aspects such that, as the classic problem goes, God cannot be perfectly just AND perfectly merciful since to be perfectly just assumes punishing justly for a misdemeanour, and to be perfectly merciful assumes some kind of leniency.

True if only you misdefine "justice" and "mercy". God's justice is perfectly satisfied and displayed in that most certainly all sin is atoned for because God the son paid the punishment for sin. God's mercy is perfect because He saved some from the penalty of our sins. God remains in control because it's his choice about how much mercy we get.

With all of these characteristics which conflict, the theist retreats to maximal perfection, a sort of optimal scenario given all of the nuances and variables. But this becomes arbitrary and subjective. One more ounce of mercy and one less ounce of justice might be perfect for a God wanting to achieve A, but vice versa might be better for wanting to achieve B.

Pearce is setting up a false dichotomy. It's not either mercy or justice. God is perfect because He is both. We are not. 

Therefore, we need to establish, without circularity or incoherence, what God is to be perfect FOR, before establishing whether God is or can be perfect. To have a timeless God sitting there and label it as perfect is, to me, meaningless (as a stand-alone descriptor).

Why? Pearce seems to be assuming that there are things that God is not perfect FOR. Understanding that there is nothing God is not perfect about in His being and actions would be an answer to the issues he is raising in this article.

And, therefore, given the subjective nature of appraisals of perfection, I see any argument using the term perfection as incoherent.

Using his definition he is right. Too bad Pearce does not seem to realize that the Bible is not using his definitions. 

Recently, I released an ebook called The Problem with "God", which looks at the issues inherent with the nature of God seen in classical theism: omnibenevolent, -scient and -potent. There are a whole number of reasons why it is problematic. I have written a good deal on this topic over many years of blogging, so thought I would put this to good use and compile many of the posts, together with some original material, into one easily digestible anthology at a reasonable price. I also talk a little about Satan and hell, because these entities and ideas, if existent, must make sense in light of a God who could get rid of them with the omnipotent click of the fingers. This was another short little hint of the issues apparent with this kind of God, and the idea of a nemesis following on from my post last week.

I think reading, Pearce's ebook is a good idea because it will help understand where he is coming from. I fully disagree that the nature of God is programmatic or that there is contradiction with God's existence and the reality of Evil.  I too have  blogged on these issues and Christians have dealt with these issues for the last 2000 years. People like Pearce intrigue me because it's like they have never read/heard what Christians have already because they never interact with the answers and ideas that have already been given. I do plan to read his book. Maybe he will finally interact with the really good answers Christians have given or at the very least provide more entertaining faceplants and facepalms.