Convince Me There’s A God: The New Testament Part 1

We started our special series, Convince Me There’s A God, almost six years ago. The purpose was simply to answer the question atheists have asked me for almost 50 years – why did I leave atheism for Christianity since (in their opinion) there is no evidence for it? I thought it might be helpful to present the evidence that convinced me of God’s existence and the truth claims of Christianity, so the Convince Me There’s A God series was born.

So far we’ve looked at some of the scientific, philosophical, historical and textual evidence that was available for me to investigate in 1971. Let’s continue!

We most recently looked at the Intertestamental Period that ran from the end of the 5th century BC to the early part of the 1st century AD. That time is also known as the “Silent Period” because God did not speak to His people through prophets as He had done for centuries before.

The final Old Testament prophet was a man named Malachi. His name means “messenger” and that was the purpose of his letter. God gave a clear message to Malachi that included a prophecy about another “messenger” who would “prepare the way before” God. Who would that messenger be and when would he come?

“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

We see several important things in this one verse of the Old Testament written toward the end of the 5th century BC:

  1. God would “send” His messenger to Israel.
  2. That messenger who would “prepare the way” before God the Lord.
  3. The Lord, whom the people Israel sought after, would suddenly come to His temple.
  4. God further identified the “Lord” who would come to His temple as “the Messenger of the covenant” in which the people delighted.
  5. God emphasized the fact of the coming of the Lord, the Messenger, by saying – “Behold, He is coming,’ Says the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi, who was God’s messenger to the people of Israel at the end of the 5th century BC, prophesied that God would send two future messengers. One would “prepare the way” before God. The other is identified as “Lord” and “Messenger of the covenant.”

Malachi doesn’t begin or end with chapter 3 verse 1. There is more detail about the Messenger who would come:

“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:2

God spoke powerfully, clearly and fiercely through Malachi. In the chapters leading up to chapter 3 verse 1, God chastised the Israelites for their polluted offerings (chapter 1) and corrupt spiritual leaders (chapter 2). God offered Israel a time of future hope by promising a messenger and the Messenger, but it would not be without difficulties for some –

“For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1-3

Notice also that God promised to those who feared His name “The Sun of Righteousness” who would arise “with healing in His wings.” This prophecy was in the context of God judging the wicked while also protecting those who feared His name. The wicked would be burned up, while the righteous would be healed. They would grow in size and trample the wicked. The wicked would be “ashes” under the soles of the feet of those who feared God “On the day that I do this.”

God also promised to send “Elijah” to Israel. That’s interesting since Elijah lived during the 9th century BC and Malachi wrote at the end of the 5th century BC.

[We should also note that the Bible reports Elijah did not die – he was taken to Heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2).]

Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LordAnd he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6

Remember these words from Malachi because they will be important to our study in the near future.

The “Messenger” After Malachi

Where do we find these “messengers” of God? Where is the “Lord” who would “suddenly” come to His temple? Did they come to Israel during the Intertestamental Period? At a later time? Is the coming of the “messengers” still future?

The Jewish writings of the Intertestamental Period do not demonstrate that Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled during the time of those writers. In fact, Jews who lived during the rule of  ancient Persia, Greece and Rome continued to look for the deliverance promised to them in the prophetic writings (Nevi’im).

It is in the writings of the New Testament of the Bible that claims are made that God sent both of His messengers to Israel during the early part of the 1st century AD.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LordMake His paths straight.’ John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, ‘There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8

You might notice that Mark’s quote is from Isaiah 40:3 –

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LordMake straight in the desert A highway for our God.” 

Malachi was the last of God’s prophets to prophesy to Israel about God sending a special “messenger,” but he was not the first. Isaiah prophesied centuries before Malachi.

The King James and New King James versions of Mark 1:2-3 do not mention the name of Isaiah because his name is not included in the 1550 Stephanus Greek New Testament (Textus Receptus). Instead, the word προφήταις (prophets) was used without mentioning Isaiah.

Ὡς γέγραπται ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, Ἰδού, ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου

Many other versions of Mark 1:2-3 do include Isaiah’s name because they use other Greek texts (e.g. 1904 Nestle, 1881 Westcott and Hort). They used the words Ἠσαίᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ (Isaiah the prophet).

Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαίᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου·

There is no question about which prophet is referred to in Mark 1:2 because the quote comes directly from Isaiah 40:3.

Mark is not the only Gospel to mention this –

For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LordMake His paths straight.’” Matthew 3:3

“… as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LordMake His paths straight.” Luke 3:4

He said: ‘I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:23

[The Textus Receptus does include Isaiah’s name in similar references in Matthew, Luke and John. It’s only excluded in Mark’s Gospel.]

Comparing Old and New

Here is the full context of Isaiah 40:3:

Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.’ The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:1-5

Here is the larger context of the Gospel accounts –

“… the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LordMake His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:2-6

“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’ He said: ‘I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:19-23

Keep in mind that the nation of Israel had not heard a “new Word” (prophecy) from God for more than 400 years. Jews knew the prophecies about God sending a “messenger” and a “voice” that would cry out in the wilderness, but generations had come and gone with no fulfillment of those prophecies. In light of that it’s interesting to see how the Jews of the early 1st century AD responded to the preaching of John the son of Zacharias.

We just read in John’s Gospel account that “the Jews” (Jewish leaders in Jerusalem) sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John about his identity. Was he the Christ (Messiah)? Was he Elijah? Was he the Prophet (possibly the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15)? John’s answer was that he was not. He was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.” John claimed to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Next Time

In the next part of our study, we will look at John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, the two “messengers” prophesied in Malachi.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Convince Me There’s A God: The New Testament Part 1

  1. in that the Jews don’t agree with you, why should we believe that Christians, who had a vested interest in making up a story to fit (poorly) the prophecies, have the right interpretation?

    1. Hi, Clubs. Thank you for writing. I visited your blog and saw that you’re an atheist. Am I correct that you don’t believe in the God of the Jews or Christians? Curious why you are interested in Jewish prophecies if you don’t believe in the Prophesier? I look forward to our discussion.

    2. Hello, FASD. You can call me Vel, if you’d like, and find my “why I’m an atheist” story on the “boss’s office” page on my blog. I was raised Christian, was a Presbyterian, and have read the entire bible as a believer and as not.

      No, I do not believe in any gods, including the god of the Jews and the Christians. I’m interested in what theists claim since they often have no evidence for their claims and their beliefs often cause much harm. I’m interested in all religions and their stories and claims. The idea that I once believed such things fascinates me and I am curious on why people believe in the things they do. I’m also interested in the idea of morality and culture.

      Per your blog, you seem to think you have evidence for your beliefs. One thing I noticed when I was losing my faith was that theists all make very similar claims, that their god was the creator of the universe, that belief in their god is the only way to be saved from some type of eternal torture, etc. I also noted that Christians do not agree, and was exposed to a fair amount of anti-Catholicism.

      What type of Christian are you?

    3. Hi, Vel. I read your atheist testimony and it sounds similar to mine in some ways. I grew up in a Christian home and church (Baptist), but got away from it as soon as I could in high school. I studied martial arts as a teenager and got interested in Buddhism (one of my teachers said he was a Buddhist monk). I found Buddhist philosophy worked well with atheism and became an atheist during college.

      You asked what “type” of Christian I am. The only type of Christian I find in the New Testament is a follower of Jesus Christ (disciple). I am a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ type.

      I did follow a trail of evidence to eventually become a theist and Christian. That’s what I’m writing about in the series “Convince Me There’s A God.” Thanks for writing! Mark

    4. Well, since atheism is nothing more than no belief in god/s, it works with most any philosophy.

      Christians disagree on what a Christian is, and they all cite the bible to show that they and only they are the True Christians. Do you accept only what Jesus supposedly said or do you add Paul, etc, into that too?

      I’ve been looking at your evidence. Most of it has been claimed by other religions or it is based on pure presupposition. Is there any evidence you think shows that your version of your religion and only your religion is the correct one?

    5. You wrote that atheism is “no belief” in god/s. Do you mean that you have “no belief” in god/s or that you do “not believe god/s exist”?

      What do you mean by “most any philosophy”? I’ll respond to your comment about how atheism “works with most any philosophy” after understanding what you mean by that.

      You wrote that “Christians disagree on what a Christian is.” Examples of that disagreement?

      What is a “true” Christian? How do think that a person who is a true Christian would disagree about what a true Christian is?

      What does it mean to “cite” the Bible? How do Christians “cite” the Bible?

      I “accept” what Jesus said. I “accept” what His disciples said and wrote. Is that not what a Christian should do?

      What of my “evidence” do you think is claimed by other religions? What religions claim similar evidence to Christians?

      What do you mean by “pure presupposition”? How is “evidence” based on pure “presupposition”?

      What do you mean by “version of your religion”? I am a Christian, so what “version” of Christianity do you have in mind?

      The fact that I was an atheist and am now a theist is because of evidence for theism and Christianity.

      Thanks! Mark

    6. Hi Mark,

      Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. Merriam-webster, my seventh grade teacher’s favorite dictionary says this: 1A: a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods I as an atheist have no belief in god/s. A Christian can be said to be an atheist in regards to other gods: 1B: a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods. This is despite their god mentioning other gods in the bible.

      How much do you know about philosophies, Mark? There are many of them, ways of thinking, and they often have nothing to do with any form of religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_philosophies One doesn’t need a god to have certain beliefs. I am an atheist and I find that Epicureanism to be the philosophy that I find most appealing. Does that help?

      I find your request for examples of Christians not agreeing with Christians to be rather disingenuous. However, I’ll provide them by asking you some questions: Is baptism required to be a Christian? How should one be baptized? Is there an eternal hell? Is heaven just for a few or for all? Will all people one day all accept Christ? What was the nature of Christ, human, spirit, etc? Did Jesus have another gospel about his adventures in the western hemisphere? Should people be allowed to be divorced? When is the sabbath? Which of the commandments should be followed? Should everyone listen to the Pope? Are there saints and do they intervene? Is there free will or predestination? Those are all differences in what Christians believe. Now, most Christians I have chatted with have tried to claim that these differences aren’t “important” and do their best to ignore them. They also often claim that the people who disagree with their version of Christians aren’t really Christians and try to avoid the disagreement that way.

      Indeed, what is a true Christian? As you can see above, there is no agreement. Then we can add what Paul supposedly said, which disagrees with what Jesus said. One of the glaring examples of that is:

      Luke 21: 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.”

      Romans 13: 11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near.

      Another is

      Matthew 12: 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

      Romans 3: 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

      In these instances, we have disagreement to the point where I find it hard to believe that Paul knew of the gospels at all considering the diametrically opposite claims. And it’s not me who dug these up, it is Christians http://www.voiceofjesus.org/paulvsjesus.html

      The term cite means this: 1 to call upon officially or authoritatively to appear (as before a court) 2 : to quote by way of example, authority, or proof” Christians call upon verses of the bible to claim that their version is the only correct one. As you see above, they often end up either citing Jesus or Paul or some part of the Old Testament depending on what they want to claim. For example, Christians disagree on what the bible has to say about homosexuality. Some will cite the commandments and Paul, some will cite Jesus with loving everyone.

      In that there are contradictions in what Jesus and the authors of the bible have written, there is a problem in saying you “accept” this. As above for instance, which do you accept when it comes to homosexuality? Or as another example, should we treat people equally or are women to be considered second class citizens as Paul would claim?

      Other religions claim that their prophecies were fulfilled e.g. Islam, Hinduism, Hopi, Mohawk, etc. Other religions claim that the universe is evidence that *their* god was the creator e.g. any religion with a creation myth. Other religions claim that miracles happen and that is evidence for their god e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc . Other religions claim real places and people in their stories, and that suposedly is evidence for their god e.g. the greco-roman religion, the Egytpian religion, etc.

      What I mean by “pure presupposition” is you assuming that the bible is true with no evidence. You refer to stories from the OT, which cannot be shown as true, as evidence for stories in the NT, which cannot be shown as true. Presupposition is not evidence which is why when you make your claims they aren’t based on evidence.

      As you may note above, Christians do not agree and each has their version of their religion, so this is exactly what I meant when I said “versions of your religion”. As for versions of Chrisitanity, some big ones are Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, the various Orthodox Christianities, Coptic Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, etc. All claim that they are the only right ones and that everyone else at best has only a partial truth and at worst is damned to eternal torture. I got to watch a lot of anti-catholicism when I was young.

      Hope this all clarifies things.

      Now, I have a question, what evidence do you have that is not what another theist would cite as evidence for they follow their particular religion? What is unique about the evidence you claim?

    7. Hi, Vel. I didn’t mean to upset you with my questions. I like to be sure that all parties in a conversation understand how words are being defined so we have the best communication possible.

      I like Merriam-Webster as well – “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism”

      Atheism, I believe, is a belief system. When I was an atheist, I did not believe in the existence of God or gods. A lack of belief in something means you don’t have a belief about it. You wrote “Atheism is the lack of belief in god.” So, do you lack a belief about it (as in you don’t have any belief about the subject one way or the other) or do you believe that God/gods do not exist? It seems from what you’ve written that you believe God does not exist. Am I correct that that is your belief?

      Pagans called Christians atheists centuries ago because they didn’t believe in the “gods.” I understand your point. The Bible does refer to many ancient pagan “gods” as “gods.” Jews were told not to worship “other gods.” The Bible further describes these gods as man-made images from wood and stone.

      I know a little something about philosophy. That’s why I asked what you meant by it. Not everyone defines or understands some terms the same. I’m familiar with Epicureanism. Am I correct that Epicureanists did not deny the existence of gods? I believe they denied that the gods were involved in this world. Are you that type of Epicureanist? You don’t deny the gods exist, but believe they are not involved in this world?

      I don’t know why you think my request for examples of Christians disagreeing about what a Christian is would be “disingenuous.” We’re getting to know each other and I don’t want to make assumptions about what you think or believe. Thus the questions.

      I’m all too familiar with disagreements that Christians have – as in the examples you mentioned. Followers of Jesus Christ were first known as “disciples.” The name “Christian” began years later in Antioch, Syria. Both names have been used for centuries to describe followers of Jesus Christ. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not hard to understand, but people have muddied the water through the centuries for a variety of bad reasons. Some people do it because they want people to follow them. Some do it because they want money, popularity, power, control, etc. Jesus and the apostles warned that would happen and it has.

      A good rule for understanding the Bible, and other texts for that matter, is “text and context.” What does each word mean in its original language and setting? What is the context of the text? I’ll respond to your examples:

      “Indeed, what is a true Christian? As you can see above, there is no agreement. Then we can add what Paul supposedly said, which disagrees with what Jesus said. One of the glaring examples of that is:

      Luke 21: 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.”

      Romans 13: 11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near.

      Another is

      Matthew 12: 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

      Romans 3: 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”

      The context of Luke 11 is Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Then Jesus said something very interesting in the context of the Jews being led into captivity – “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Then Jesus said –

      “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:25-28

      Since we haven’t seen the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, that appears to be a future event. Jesus said that the “times of the Gentiles” have apparently not been fulfilled yet.

      That’s the same thing Paul wrote years later –

      ” For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’ Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Romans 11:25-28

      It would seem that Paul is on the same page as Jesus, but let’s look at your reference to Romans 13: 11 to see if there’s a disagreement there. The context of the text is Paul’s admonition to Christians in Rome to love their neighbor and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill their lusts. The fact was that the Romans were closer to their ultimate salvation than when they first believed in Christ. Paul was talking about their behavior as followers of Christ on earth not the future return of Christ to earth.

      The context of Matthew 12 is Jesus answering the charges of his enemies, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus was telling the religious bigots of His day that on the future “day of judgment whey would have to give an account for every careless word they uttered and that they would be justified or condemned by their words. That squares with other Scriptures concerning the future judgment of people.

      The context of Romans 3 is that Jews and Gentiles are all guilty before God and will be judged by Him. However, Paul wrote – “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:21-22). Paul placed the timing as “present” rather than future – “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) That’s the context of Romans 3:28 -“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

      Jesus said the same thing when He spoke to Nicodemus – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ‘He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18)

      You wrote – “In these instances, we have disagreement to the point where I find it hard to believe that Paul knew of the gospels at all considering the diametrically opposite claims.”

      I don’t see the disagreements that you see. Paul certainly knew what the other apostles were teaching. He met with them individually and then in a large group where they agreed that Paul would take the Gospel to Gentiles and Peter, James, John and the other Jews would take the Gospel to the Jews.

      You wrote – “What I mean by “pure presupposition” is you assuming that the bible is true with no evidence. You refer to stories from the OT, which cannot be shown as true, as evidence for stories in the NT, which cannot be shown as true. Presupposition is not evidence which is why when you make your claims they aren’t based on evidence.”

      I have never assumed the Bible is true. In fact, I assumed the Bible was false until I investigated the evidence. From what you’ve written I think you know that much of the information in the Bible can be verified. I agree that presupposition is not evidence, which is why I asked you the question. Presupposition and evidence are on different sides of the scale. The truth claims of the Bible are based on evidence, not presuppositions.

      You wrote – As you may note above, Christians do not agree and each has their version of their religion, so this is exactly what I meant when I said “versions of your religion”. As for versions of Chrisitanity, some big ones are Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, the various Orthodox Christianities, Coptic Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, etc. All claim that they are the only right ones and that everyone else at best has only a partial truth and at worst is damned to eternal torture. I got to watch a lot of anti-catholicism when I was young.”

      I don’t agree that all the members of those groups are Christians. Christianity is not a denomination. It is a worldwide movement of people who follow Jesus Christ. They are people who have done what Paul describes in Romans 10 – “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Membership in an earthly group that calls itself “Christian” does not mean that it is in fact Christian and that the people who belong to it are Christians. The only people who are Christians are those who have confessed the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. They are “saved,” which is to say they are true Christians.

      You asked me a question – “Now, I have a question, what evidence do you have that is not what another theist would cite as evidence for they follow their particular religion? What is unique about the evidence you claim?”

      I’m assuming that when you say “another theist” you mean another “monotheist.” Is that correct? Theists have little in common with polytheists, pantheists, or panentheists.

      The three Abrahamic religions do have some things in common, but a correct understanding of Jesus Christ is not one of them. Jews do not believe Jesus is the Messiah of Israel or the eternal Son of God. Many Jews believe Jesus was a false prophet and sorcerer. Muslims believe Jesus was the Messiah of Israel and a prophet and messenger sent from God, but they do not believe that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, was buried and rose from the dead. They also do not believe that Jesus is eternal. Neither Jews nor Muslims believe about Jesus similarly to how Christians believe about Jesus.

      While Christianity shares a history with Judaism and Islam borrows some of its beliefs from Christianity and Judaism, Christianity stands alone in its beliefs concerning Jesus Christ.

      Hope that helps! Mark

    8. As I indicated, I’m not upset at all. I’m wondering why you would think so.

      Atheism, no matter what you would like to believe, is not a belief system. It’s a lack of belief, and claiming it is a belief system is akin to saying not playing baseball is a sport. I’m fascinated why many Christians try to claim a lack of a belief is somehow a belief system like theirs. What seems to be the case, in my opinion, is that theists want to claim an equivalency that is not there, to excuse their beliefs and actions e.g “well you guys do the same thing”, when atheists don’t.

      I have come to the conclusion that there are no gods because there is no evidence for such entities. That’s what “lack of belief in god” means. I have no belief in your god or any other. You are correct that members of other religions called Christians atheists because they didn’t believe in their gods. You still do that now, and you are an atheist when it comes to Allah, Vishnu, Tezcatlipoca, Sekhmet, etc. If one is to believe your bible, there are other gods, and your god is jealous of them, per that first of the exodus commandments. Now, if they are of just images, why would this god be jealous?

      It’s good you know about philosophy. It can be a morass to slog through all of the various ones. And I try to use the dictionary definition to eliminate any question, so that’s why I gave you what I meant. Unfortunately, I’ve run into many many Christians who want to alter standard definitions of words so their religion might stay intact. I find that very deceitful. I’m glad you are interested in clarifying what we both mean.

      Epicureanism is one of the places we get the classic problem of evil question: “God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god’s nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?”

      So, it seems that the existence of gods is an open question for Epicureanists and with the problem of evil, not one that gods come out very well in. Gods may not exist or may be malevolent, or may be lacking power, definitely not the omnipotent god of Christianity. Since I see no evidence for gods of either description, powerful but not omnipotent entities, or omnipotent entities, I conclude that they do not exist. Could some powerful being exist and not bother with humans, not have created the universe, or created the universe and just walked away, essentially the Deist position? There is some terribly small probability, but that entity is not the gods that humans claim exist, and definitely not the god you are trying to claim is real.

      The reason I would think that your question about Christians disagreeing with each other is disingenuous is that many Christians deny that this happens. I am on a forum called Why God Won’t Heal Amputees http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php and we currently have a Christian making that exact claim. I’m glad you are aware of the many disagreements between Christians on the very basics of their religion.

      However, Mark, you seem to be using the typical excuses of a Christian, that those Christians you don’t agree with have less than stellar motives, to make them an “other”. Those Christians you don’t agree with can make the same claims about you. This is why I question why any of you should be believed since none of you have any better evidence for your version than the rest. They also claim that I should use “text and context” to understand the bible and I should agree with them.

      I do use text and context to understand the bible. And I can note when Christians make up nonsense about their bible to fit their own beliefs; using what amount to personal magic decoder rings to insist that their personal interpretation is the right one and no one else’s is. This also applies to what parts they want to consider literal vs metaphor, hyperbole vs really meaning what is written (we have another Christian on that same forum who claims that he can figure out what bits are which, a Jehovah’s Witness), and which are written by this god and which are written by man and can be ignored.

      Your claims that your interpretations of the verses I mentioned are typical of what Christians claim, that they and only they have the right context and text. I’m not sure why you are mentioning Luke 11 when I didn’t. I’m guessing you meant Luke 21. Other Christians insist that these words are about the end times, not the destruction of the temple. There is also the problem that none of what Jesus claimed would happen, earthquakes, signs in the skies, the “son of man” in a cloud, etc. happened during the known destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Since the prophecy failed, some Christians put the events forward in time because they couldn’t handle a failed messiah. You want to claim context for the first part but you want to ignore the context for the second part to excuse the failure of the prophecy. It is also curious what Jesus meant about the Gentiles since he said his religion was not for them, another part of the context.

      In that Paul took the word to the Gentiles and JC said not to, Paul doesn’t seem to be on the page with Jesus at all. You seem to assume so because you take the prophecy out of its context; assuming that since the events didn’t happen when predicted, they must mean a future time, not that the prophecy was nonsense. Each generation of Christians is sure that the predictions will come true in a short time, often in their lifetimes, and the predictions always fail, just like Paul’s did. This is another place where Christians often try to change the standard meaning of words, trying to claim that “soon” doesn’t mean “in a prompt manner; speedily “ but somehow it means thousands of years. You appear to be trying that too. And I do understand why this is done, but it doesn’t make it accurate; it is yet one more baseless interpretation.

      Words are also not faith and deeds are not faith. JC and Paul are not saying the same thing. Trying to claim that they do, when the words do not mean anything similar, is again an attempt to redefine words to suit your needs. The verses from John also do not support the claim that somehow words equal faith. It states that those who believe in Jesus are saved and in context, one must follow the laws when one believes in Jesus, that the laws have not ended since heaven and earth are still here. This is the differences between Christians in the whole “sole fide” and grace argument. If one’s faith is all that gets one in, and that faith is only given to certain peole by this god, there is no free will. If free belief is what get one’s saved, and one’s actions/words, then there may be free will, but that contradicts what the bible claims.

      I can understand that you don’t see the disagreements that I see and that other Christians see. You have your version of what you want to believe and you do your best to resolve things based on that presupposition. It’s like when fans of something like Star Wars don’t like a story but create stories on why the character did what they did, a context that did not exist in the original. In my version of Christianity, there was no way to allow for free will, predestination was the “truth”. And of course, I would be one of the chosen. Convenient, eh?

      We don’t know what Paul knew. What we have are claims, and those claims are not supported by evidence. What a lot of Christians forget is that the books of the bible are the claims, not the evidence. Paul can’t even keep his origin story straight so he appears to be a untrustworthy narrator. And Paul was a Jew.

      Mark, when you make claims about the bible and its prophecies, you have assumed it is true; one builds on the other necessarily being true. I know that much of the bible cannot be verified, including every unique occurrence important to the religion. There is no evidence of a divine creation, no evidence of a world-wide mountain-deep flood, no evidence of an exodus, no evidence of a tower of babel, no evidence of battles between hundreds of thousands, no evidence of any vast temples or palaces with tons upon tons of precious metals, no evidence of Solomon or David as claimed in the bible, no evidence of Jesus Christ, son of God, and so many more. The only things can be found is that there was some war with Babylon, that some of the cities did exist, some of the personages did exist, but nothing different than the claims of other mythos. Please let me know what evidence you think there is for your religion.

      It is no surprise at all that you would claim that other people who claim that they are Christians aren’t Christians at all. This happens all of the time, and again, none of you have any better evidence or claim to the title than the next. Why should anyone believe that you have the only right answer? Those others you are sure aren’t Christians are equally sure you aren’t.

      I meant what I said when I asked you this: ““Now, I have a question, what evidence do you have that is not what another theist would cite as evidence for they follow their particular religion? What is unique about the evidence you claim?” It doesn’t matter if someone is a monotheist or pantheist or polytheist or panentheists. You have plenty in common with all, in that you make claims that are often unsupported. One of the big things is that you all claim (except for maybe the panentheists) that some entity created the universe and the universe is “evidence” of that god’s existence.

      You claim that only Christianity has the “right” understanding, and evidently only your version because you have taken the stances that those Christians who do not agree with you aren’t Christians. How do you know this? Other theists will make the same claim, and again, none of you have any evidence to support your claims. In that we can’t find that Jesus Christ, Son of God, existed, or did anything that was claimed, is no reason to think that Christians have any truth about this character. No one noticed this person gathering a legion’s worth of men (plus women and children) outside a occupied city twice, no one noticed that there was a major earthquake, the dead walking and the sun going dark on one day. The gospels can’t even keep their stories straight e.g. what did the “thieves” do? Did the event in Gesthemane happen? Who went to the tomb? And what happened there?.

      Jesus was a Jew, and said to keep the Jewish laws. It seems that Christianity has much more to do with Judaism than most Christians would want. Christians might have a unique view of Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t mean that any of this ever happened. We need evidence that the version of the story is true.

      Later!

    9. Hi, Vel. You’ve given me a lot to cover! 🙂

      I thought that when you wrote that I was disingenuous that you were upset. So glad you are not. You may think I’m being dishonest and insincere (disingenuous), but I’m not. I think we’re having an honest discussion about sincere beliefs.

      You wrote – “The reason I would think that your question about Christians disagreeing with each other is disingenuous is that many Christians deny that this happens.”

      I don’t deny that Christians disagree with each other. I wanted to make sure what you meant before answering you on that point.

      You wrote – “Atheism, no matter what you would like to believe, is not a belief system. It’s a lack of belief, and claiming it is a belief system is akin to saying not playing baseball is a sport.”

      I was an atheist and strongly believed that God did not exist. I mocked theists for their beliefs and let them know that I did not believe in any gods or supernatural anythings. That was my belief until I believed God did exist. I changed my beliefs. If someone has no belief in something, they have no belief about it. If you have no belief about God (lack of belief), then we don’t have much more to discuss about that. You have no belief one way or the other about God? If you do not have a belief about the existence of a God or gods, then we can change the subject of our discussion to something else.

      Concerning my views about the millions of gods in other religions, I do not have a “lack of belief” concerning those gods. I “do not believe” they exist. I do believe something about other gods. That’s not a lack of belief.

      You wrote – “If one is to believe your bible, there are other gods, and your god is jealous of them, per that first of the exodus commandments. Now, if they are of just images, why would this god be jealous?”

      God called the Jews out of Egypt so they would know the truth and worship and serve Him alone. God’s jealousy concerns His people worshipping false gods instead of Him. God loves and desires love in return. He called Israel to be His people and did not want them worshipping other gods like the rest of the nations around them. God called Israel to be His special people.

      You wrote – “I have come to the conclusion that there are no gods because there is no evidence for such entities.” You wrote the words “no evidence” many times in this response, so it appears you really believe there is “no evidence” for theism.

      Many atheists have become theists because of “evidence” for theism, myself included, so we know that evidence for God exists. I think it would be better for you to say that you are “not convinced” by the evidence theists present that God exists rather than say there is “no evidence” for theism. Here’s why I say that.

      I became an atheist more than 50 years ago and believed that theists had “no evidence” for their beliefs. When I met theists who presented evidence to me about the existence of God, I investigated the evidence and changed my view from they “have no evidence” to “convince me” about their evidence. We can disagree about how convincing the evidence is, but the evidence does exist. Would you agree?

      You wrote – “Mark, you seem to be using the typical excuses of a Christian, that those Christians you don’t agree with have less than stellar motives, to make them an “other”. Those Christians you don’t agree with can make the same claims about you. This is why I question why any of you should be believed since none of you have any better evidence for your version than the rest.”

      I could respond that you are using the typical excuses of an atheist, but that doesn’t help develop a good dialog about such an important topic. Coming from an atheist background into Christianity through the process of investigating evidence, I don’t think I am a “typical” Christian and I certainly don’t view discussing evidence as “using excuses.”

      I don’t think that Christians who don’t agree with me have “less than stellar motives.” Many of the Christians who don’t agree with me have good motives. I don’t think of Christians who disagree with me as “other.” All Christians are members of the Body of Christ – the same spiritual family. We discuss our differences and work them out as best as we can.

      You wrote – “I can understand that you don’t see the disagreements that I see and that other Christians see. You have your version of what you want to believe and you do your best to resolve things based on that presupposition.”

      I’ve been both an atheist and theist, so I do see the disagreements that you see and other Christians see. Atheists don’t believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Some Christians don’t believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Other Christians do believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Atheists don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Some Christians don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Other Christians do believe Jesus rose from the dead. That’s not a “version of what you want to believe.” That goes to the core of Christianity. The idea that I do my best to “resolve things based on that presupposition” is to misunderstand my history as an atheist and a theist.

      My presuppositions as an atheist were that God did not exist, Jesus did not exist, the supernatural did not exist, the Bible was a bunch of myths and legends, and there was no evidence for any of it. I went through my life with those presuppositions until I looked carefully at the evidence for theism and Christianity.

      You wrote – “We don’t know what Paul knew. What we have are claims, and those claims are not supported by evidence. What a lot of Christians forget is that the books of the bible are the claims, not the evidence. Paul can’t even keep his origin story straight so he appears to be a untrustworthy narrator. And Paul was a Jew.”

      We know a lot about what Paul knew because he wrote many of his thoughts and beliefs in letters that have been available to scholars and students to study for centuries. What a lot of atheists forget is that the Books of the Bible are evidence – like thousands of other ancient writings. I’ve heard many attacks on the Apostle Paul through the decades, so please tell me why you think his “origin story” is not straight and why he is an “untrustworthy narrator.” And what does Paul’s being a Jew have to do with that?

      You wrote – “Mark, when you make claims about the bible and its prophecies, you have assumed it is true; one builds on the other necessarily being true.”

      I don’t “assume” the Bible and prophecies are true. I believe they are true because of the process of verifying the evidence.

      You wrote – “I know that much of the bible cannot be verified, including every unique occurrence important to the religion. There is no evidence of a divine creation, no evidence of a world-wide mountain-deep flood, no evidence of an exodus, no evidence of a tower of babel, no evidence of battles between hundreds of thousands, no evidence of any vast temples or palaces with tons upon tons of precious metals, no evidence of Solomon or David as claimed in the bible, no evidence of Jesus Christ, son of God, and so many more. The only things can be found is that there was some war with Babylon, that some of the cities did exist, some of the personages did exist, but nothing different than the claims of other mythos. Please let me know what evidence you think there is for your religion.”

      I’ll refer you back to my earlier comment about your belief that evidence does not exist for “every unique occurrence important to religion.” I also refer you to hundreds of articles on this website and thousands of other websites that address the evidence for these “unique” occurrences important to Christianity.

      You wrote – “It is no surprise at all that you would claim that other people who claim that they are Christians aren’t Christians at all. This happens all of the time, and again, none of you have any better evidence or claim to the title than the next. Why should anyone believe that you have the only right answer? Those others you are sure aren’t Christians are equally sure you aren’t.”

      Here is what I wrote in my last response about being a Christian –

      “Christianity is not a denomination. It is a worldwide movement of people who follow Jesus Christ. They are people who have done what Paul describes in Romans 10 – “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Membership in an earthly group that calls itself “Christian” does not mean that it is in fact Christian and that the people who belong to it are Christians. The only people who are Christians are those who have confessed the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. They are “saved,” which is to say they are true Christians.”

      I know many people who call themselves Christian who disagree with what the Bible says about being a Christian. Why wouldn’t I think they are wrong if they believe the textbook of Christianity is wrong? People who believe the Bible is correct and are careful in their study of it should come to many similar conclusions – the most important being how someone becomes a Christian.

      You wrote – “It doesn’t matter if someone is a monotheist or pantheist or polytheist or panentheists. You have plenty in common with all, in that you make claims that are often unsupported. One of the big things is that you all claim (except for maybe the panentheists) that some entity created the universe and the universe is “evidence” of that god’s existence.”

      I see very little in common between monotheism and polytheism, pantheism and panentheism. Monotheism presents the belief that one God created the heavens and the earth. Many polytheists I’ve spoken with believe that multiple gods were involved in creation at different levels of involvement and influence. Many pantheists I’ve spoken with believe the universe is uncaused, uncreated, and is god. The panentheists I’ve spoken to have varying views of how the universe came into existence. Some say that God turned into the universe while creating it. Others say that all things are physically part of god. Each seems quite different to me as a theist, but I understand how you view it as an atheist. You don’t believe in the existence of God or gods or anything supernatural. However, lumping everyone from these very different worldviews as being alike doesn’t work.

      You wrote – “You claim that only Christianity has the “right” understanding, and evidently only your version because you have taken the stances that those Christians who do not agree with you aren’t Christians. How do you know this? Other theists will make the same claim, and again, none of you have any evidence to support your claims. In that we can’t find that Jesus Christ, Son of God, existed, or did anything that was claimed, is no reason to think that Christians have any truth about this character. No one noticed this person gathering a legion’s worth of men (plus women and children) outside a occupied city twice, no one noticed that there was a major earthquake, the dead walking and the sun going dark on one day. The gospels can’t even keep their stories straight e.g. what did the “thieves” do? Did the event in Gesthemane happen? Who went to the tomb? And what happened there?”

      I don’t claim that Christians who do not agree with me are not Christians. I hope I made that clear in my response above. As to your claim that “none of you have any evidence to support your claims,” I refer you to my earlier responses about evidence. There is evidence that Jesus Christ existed and did what is claimed about Him. The issues you raised have been addressed many times by many people over a period of hundreds of years. I’m assuming you are familiar with those responses but are not convinced.

      You wrote – “Jesus was a Jew, and said to keep the Jewish laws. It seems that Christianity has much more to do with Judaism than most Christians would want. Christians might have a unique view of Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t mean that any of this ever happened. We need evidence that the version of the story is true.”

      Jesus was a Jew, which in itself is verification of Old Testament prophecies. He kept the Jewish laws, again verification of OT prophecies. Christianity is rooted in Judaism and the mystery that God was going to bring Jew and Gentile together through the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced that the evidence for Christianity supports that it is true.

      Thanks!

      Mark

    10. Hi Mark,

      Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back.

      Did you grow up atheist or did you come to that later? Most people in the US don’t grow up atheist so I’m wondering. I’m also wondering what you think mocking is. Is it just telling someone they are wrong, or does it involve something else?

      I know that the god described by Christians and in the bible doesn’t exist. There is no evidence for any of the events in the bible that are required to be a Christian. I don’t believe in your version of the Christian god as much as I don’t believe in Allah, in Quetzalcoatl, or a Christian Scientist’s version of the Christian god. I also don’t believe that Darth Vader exists, but I can have an opinion about the character being a weenie, as much as I can have the same opinion about Thor or Loki. You seem to be trying to twist my words and I find that odd. I have a lack of belief in your god as a real entity. I have knowledge that your god doesn’t exist. Does that make it clearer?

      Now, I’m assuming you feel the same way about Allah, etc, that there is no evidence, so you don’t believe in them. From what you have said “I “do not believe” they exist.” This is a lack of belief in those gods are real. You may believe e.g. a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing, that those gods don’t exist, but you have no more or less evidence than those people who do believe that those gods exist.

      Well, since there is no evidence of the Exodus, your point is moot. However, one has to be jealous of something that poses a threat. If this god knows that other gods aren’t real, then jealousy doesn’t mean anything in this context. As for your version of your god loving anything, it can’t even come up to the definition of love in the bible, so I find that claim incorrect. The question of why this being needs love is also a big question

      I know that there is no evidence for any gods, including your version of the Christian one. From my experience, many atheists have not become theists because of the evidence for a god. In that you seem to be one, what was this evidence that you found irresistible? And what of atheists who became theists worshipping other gods? What convinced them that would not convince you?

      I’ll get to the rest in the next day or two.

    11. Hi, Vel. I was a first generation atheist. My parents were Christians, but the hypocrisy I saw in church as a child led me to look at other belief systems. I studied Buddhism and Taoism in high school and became an atheist in college.

      I view mocking as ridiculing, deriding someone for what they believe, how they look, etc. Telling someone you don’t agree with them is not mocking if you aren’t ridiculing them for what they believe.

      You wrote – “I know that the god described by Christians and in the bible doesn’t exist … I have a lack of belief in your god as a real entity. I have knowledge that your god doesn’t exist.”

      I’m interested in knowing more about the “knowledge” you have that God doesn’t exist. Are you using the term “knowledge” is the sense of – “the range of one’s information or understanding: answered to the best of my knowledge” or “the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind” (Merriam Webster).

      You wrote – “Now, I’m assuming you feel the same way about Allah, etc, that there is no evidence, so you don’t believe in them.”

      Muslims do have evidence for their beliefs, but I am not convinced by their evidence. Not being convinced by evidence is different that saying there is no evidence.

      You wrote – “I know that there is no evidence for any gods, including your version of the Christian one.”

      Are you saying you have absolute and total knowledge that evidence for God or gods does not exist or that you are not convinced by the evidence for God or gods?

      You wrote – “You may believe e.g. a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing, that those gods don’t exist, but you have no more or less evidence than those people who do believe that those gods exist.”

      I believe there is more and better evidence for Christianity than for other religions.

      You wrote – “Well, since there is no evidence of the Exodus, your point is moot.”

      Are you saying that evidence for the Exodus of Jews from Egypt does not exist or that you are not convinced by the evidence that exists?

      You wrote – “From my experience, many atheists have not become theists because of the evidence for a god.”

      I have also met many atheists who have not become theists because of the evidence for God or gods. I have met many atheists who have become theists because of the evidence for God. People look at the evidence and are convinced or not. I think the quality/quantity of the evidence and quality of the investigation play a role in being convinced.

      You wrote – “And what of atheists who became theists worshipping other gods? What convinced them that would not convince you?”

      I have investigated the available evidence for many other religions and found their evidence unconvincing. I could evaluate the evidence that convinced an atheist to worship a god or gods from another religion once I knew what evidence they used and how they investigated it.

      Until next time!

      Mark

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s