Gospel Disproof #45: A self-fulfilling prophecy

Back when I was an active member in the Church of Christ, I got myself in trouble with the pastor and the elders because I pointed out some discrepancies I’d found between what the church teaches and what it was actually practicing. For example, one of their big teachings is that the church has to have New Testament authorization for everything it does, and yet they’d taken it upon themselves to substitute grape juice instead of wine in the weekly communion. They had all kinds of arguments about why this exception—or “necessary inference,” as they called it—was ok, but these inferences were fairly easy to expose as mere rationalizations.

They, unsurprisingly, didn’t want to hear it, and the eldest of the elders took it upon himself to warn me about the error of my ways. “You think too much,” he declared. “You’re on the road to atheism. Everyone I’ve met who thought about the Bible like you do ended up as an atheist.” If he’d come up to be and literally dumped a bucket of ice cold water over my head, my emotional reaction (at the time) would not have been much different.

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Gospel Disproof #44: The Bride of Christ and her abusive husband

[Here’s an excerpt from this week’s On Guard post at Evangelical Realism. The post is about William Lane Craig’s defense of Hell, but this one part makes a nice Gospel Disproof all by itself. I’ve added an introductory paragraph at the beginning, but the rest is from ER.]

One of the big inconsistencies in the Christian Gospel is the whole idea of a “loving” God sending His own children to Hell for the trivial offense of failing to believe He exists—as though He Himself weren’t provoking this unbelief by His consistent and universal failure to show up in real life! It’s an issue that a lot of Christians struggle with even among themselves, and more than a few have become liberals or even agnostics because of the intractable nature of the problem. And in many cases, those who try to defend Hell, like Craig, end up making a bad situation even worse.

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Gospel Disproof #43: The hallucination hypothesis

Over at the Evangelical Realism blog, we’ve just finished looking at William Lane Craig’s attempt to discredit the hypothesis that the postmortem appearances of Jesus were actually just hallucinations on the part of the disciples. He gave it his best shot, and used some of the best debating tactics he knows, but couldn’t quite pull it off. And yet for all that, the hallucination hypothesis does have a flaw: it’s overkill. Christians don’t need anywhere near that amount of psychological incentive to induce them to believe that they’re receiving some kind of special visitation from supernatural divinity.

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Gospel Disproof #42: The infallible test

Have you ever wondered whether there is an almighty, all-knowing, all-wise, and all-loving God Who wants a personal relationship with each of us badly enough to literally die for it? Well, fortunately there’s a simple test you can do that cannot fail to tell you whether or not such a God exists. Ready? All you have to do is say, “God, can I see You for a minute? I want to talk with you.” Then have a digital camera ready. If He shows up to talk to you, take His picture and post it on the web, and you will have proven that He exists. The cool thing is that this test will work for anybody and everybody, so if anyone claims you might have faked the photo, they can just repeat the test themselves.

What makes this test infallible is the nature of God, as specified in the test. Because He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise, by definition there is no greater power than God to prevent Him from showing up if He wants to. And because He is all-loving and wants a personal relationship with each of us, He wants (by definition) to show up to participate in that relationship as long as no greater power is able to prevent him. It is thus impossible, by definition, for this test to fail to reveal the truth about whether such a God exists.

In fact, there’s only one flaw.

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Gospel Disproof #41: The Case of the Lying Guards

I’ve been enjoying a stimulating conversation with Jayman on the topic of resurrection, and one of the things I’ve realized as a result is that the story of the guards in Matt. 28 is unmistakably a fraudulent addition invented long after the time of the alleged Resurrection. See if you can spot the clues that give it away:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it… The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men…

[S]ome of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

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Gospel Disproof #40: The law of sin and death

This may surprise some of you, but according to the Bible, Christians are actually supposed to be free from sin. Sure, temptation may still be around, and our mortal bodies may still be subject to the lusts of the flesh. But thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, those things no longer have any power over believers. Or at least that’s what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law [of Moses] could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us…For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you… If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Did you catch that? Without God you have death and sin; with God you have life and peace, right here, right now, in your mortal body. And God can give you that life—which is the opposite of sin and death—through the Spirit of God who dwells in you, because the flesh has been put to death.

It’s a fantastic promise except for the fact that it’s complete bollocks.

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Gospel Disproof #39: The Sign of Jonah

In Matthew 12, Jesus makes a prophecy concerning his own burial.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for asign; and yet nosign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

This same story also appears in Luke 11 in more general terms, and there’s a further reference to the Sign of Jonah in Matthew 16, but Matthew 12 is unique in specifying exactly three days and three nights. And it’s a problem, because according to the Gospels, this prophecy got the duration wrong.

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Gospel Disproof #38: The guards at the tomb

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, there’s an interesting story that appears nowhere else in the Bible. According to Matthew, the chief priests were worried that the disciples might steal Jesus’ body to fake a resurrection, so they went to Pilate and got permission to post a guard on the tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead, the guards reported it to the priests, and the priests bribed them to claim that disciples stole the body while they were asleep. And thus, says Matthew, the Jews were reporting “to this day” that the body was stolen by the disciples.

Cool story, bro, but if you look at it a bit more closely, there’s something kinda fishy about it…

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Follow-up on Lazarus

This is way overdue, but I hate to leave a loose end dangling. I wanted to go back and spend a little more time with Jayman’s comment on the Gospel Disproof about Jesus and Lazarus. There were a couple of points where I think he misunderstood me, plus a few difficulties he doesn’t really resolve, so if you’ll forgive me for digging this up again (groan), I’ll go into detail below the fold.

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Gospel Disproof #37: Lazarus

In Gospel Disproof #36, we looked at how the resurrection story of Lazarus shows that the resurrection of Jesus is not about resuscitating the latter’s physical body. Even apart from the question of Jesus’ resurrection, though, there are some significant inconsistencies in the story of Lazarus and his alleged resurrection.

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