Gospel Disproof #33: The Word of God

I mentioned in Gospel Disproof #32 that your salvation depends on believing what fallible men say about God. A Christian commenter named Eric replied:

Not at all. God has given us His supernaturally preserved Word which has proved to be a trustworthy guide for life and practice through the ages.

He is referring to the books of Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the evangelists, collectively known as “the Bible” or “the Word of God.” For almost 2,000 years, the writings of these men have led and guided the Church in their role as God’s Word—even though none of the authors is God. If you grew up Christian like I did, it seems perfectly plausible and natural, but if you stop and think about it, it’s really a very peculiar situation. Why would you need to be led by a humanly-authored book about God if you had a real God to guide you?

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Dialogs with Eric, Part 2: Does God believe what men say?

In my post on salvation by faith, I mentioned the fact that God does not behave as though He believed all the things men say about Him, particularly as concerns His alleged love for us and His alleged desire to be part of a personal, loving and real relationship with each of us. Eric takes issue with this observation, and offers a number of standard Christian responses, but also expresses the wish that I would say more about what I mean. And I’m glad to do so.

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Gospel Disproof #32: Salvation by faith

In Gospel Disproof #28 we looked at conditional salvation and how bizarre it was to suppose that a loving and self-sufficient Father would create a situation where His beloved children would go to Hell forever unless they met certain rarely-obtained conditions. As a parenting scenario, it just doesn’t work, but by an odd coincidence it works great as a tool for manipulating people and making them think that they have to submit to you and your teachings in order to be saved.

Salvation by faith takes that manipulation one step further: not only does your salvation depend on submitting to some human teacher, but you have to believe that what he tells you is absolutely and infallibly true. It’s not enough to merely try to be good or to behave in ways that make you an asset to the community. You have to believe, even when it makes no sense, and even when it’s in conflict with what you see around you.

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Gospel Disproof #31: Burning coals

Ask the average layman who Jesus was, and if they’re a more secular/liberal sort of person you’ll probably hear that he was a “great moral teacher.” Ironically, however, the one uniquely Christian moral principle he taught was this:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Great philosophy, isn’t it? Let’s dismantle airport security and send Al Qaeda free tickets. Do good to those that hate you, give them whatever they want, let them hurt you and take your stuff and get away with it.

Obviously, for all their praise, even Christians do not follow Jesus’ one uniquely Christian moral teaching, except on rare occasions when it’s to their advantage to do so. This is a doctrine whose true virtue lies not so much in practicing it as in just teaching it. Hypocrisy aside, there’s a certain gloss of nobility and selflessness in the idea of being more generous to one’s enemies than they are to you.

Unless you look at this sentiment in its biblical context.

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Gospel Disproof #30: Tim Tebow

I wasn’t going to do another Gospel Disproof today, but I saw Ed Brayton’s post on how Worldnetdaily is now hawking “Tebow trash” (or as I prefer to call it, “Teboloney”), and it struck me that Tebow is a great Gospel Disproof.

See, here’s the thing. Tim Tebow is obviously a big fan of Jesus. He talks about Jesus a lot, he has a history of putting Bible verses on his face, and he shows up in church every Sunday. Jesus, meanwhile, is supposed to love Tebow even more than Tebow loves God, yet Jesus hasn’t once shown up to watch his favorite quarterback play, or to root for the Broncos.

Now, I’m an imperfect dad. I love my kids enough to die for them if need be, just like God is supposed to love us. But I even love my kids enough to show up for the important events in their lives. When one of them is performing in a concert or a theatre production, I’m in the audience. I watch and listen and applaud and go up to congratulate them when it’s over. And I’m an imperfect dad. God’s supposed to be perfect, but He doesn’t show up for His kids’ big events. Not even for Tim Tebow.

You can make excuses for God; kids and spouses of absentee dads are good at that sort of thing I guess. But isn’t it more likely that God consistently fails to show up because He does not, in fact, exist outside of the imaginations of believers?

Gospel Disproof #29: Negotiable guilt

One sure sign of the Gospel’s human and imperfect origins is its morality, and specifically its notion of negotiable guilt. By negotiable I don’t mean “we can work out a deal,” I mean negotiable in the financial sense of a deferred payment that exists independently of the bearer and that can be transferred from one bearer to another. Normally, guilt belongs to the person who is guilty. If you murder someone, the fact that you committed the murder is part of your history, and you can’t change that or make someone else the murderer. Christian morality, however, not only allows you to do that, but makes this sort of transfer the whole point of the Gospel.

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Gospel Disproof #28: Conditional salvation

The Christian Gospel has many flaws that betray its origins as a man-made scheme for manipulating people, and one of the more obvious examples is the idea of conditional salvation. People will work harder for something they might achieve than they will for something that’s either guaranteed or impossible, so psychologically it’s a clever tactic to preach a salvation that’s not an automatic given.

Conditional salvation also appeals to a certain selfish vanity that wants to be able to say, “I’ve got it and you don’t, ha ha ha.” People like to feel that they’re part of some elite, exclusive inner circle with awesome special privileges. Granted, in the case of the Gospel, these special privileges don’t really kick in until after you die, but with typically perverse human psychology, that’s actually an advantage—there’s no risk of you finding out those “special privileges” aren’t all they’re hyped up to be.

What’s good as a gimmick for manipulating people, though, is really bad as a divine plan for Eternity, especially on the part of an actual, almighty, loving Father God. Making salvation conditional means making sure that You are going to fail to save at least some percentage of those You’re supposed to love. What would be the point of that? Offering some kind of universal salvation might make people a bit less motivated to try and earn their salvation, but (a) who cares as long as everyone gets saved? and (b) we’re not supposed to be earning our salvation anyway.

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Gospel Disproof #27: The disturbed (and disturbing) lover

I want to talk to the moms and dads out there for a moment, especially those parents who have an unmarried daughter in her late teens. Suppose she comes home one day and says, “Mom, Dad, I need to talk about my boyfriend problems.” There are two guys competing for her affections. One is just an ordinary Joe, not exceptionally bright or strong or handsome, but easy to get along with and genuinely caring—whenever she needs a hand with something, or someone to talk to, or just to hang out with, she knows she can count on him to show up and spend time with her.

The other guy is more, shall we say, attention-getting. He claims to love her with a love that no one else can match, but he has an odd way of showing it. He never shows up to hang out with her, or to help her when she needs it. Instead, he has given her his email address, and he expects her to send him all her requests, which he promises to “take care of” (even though she has no direct evidence that he’s doing so). He claims to be rich, though he frequently asks her for money, and he claims to have huge political influence, though he leaves it up to her to write to various government officials and tell them what he wants, in a way that will win their vote.

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Gospel Disproof #26: No excuses

Here’s an interesting thought experiment, especially for Christians. Imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if Christianity were a myth. How would it be different?

People would not suddenly become omniscient, would they? Of course not. Why would God’s failure to exist suddenly improve our mental abilities? A world in which God was a myth would still be a world where people don’t fully understand the world around them. That means believers would still have plenty of opportunities to superstitiously ascribe things to God, and to defend their faith by pointing to things and saying, “You can’t explain that!” Even if God never existed, we could still have creationists and philosophers building detailed apologetics out of what we don’t know.

Coincidences would not stop happening, would they? Of course not. The world is a complex place, with complex and subtle interactions. We can’t trace back every chain of cause and effect, even for relatively simple processes. To follow all the complex social, economic, and physical factors that influence our lives would be humanly impossible. We can’t predict our own futures with 100% accuracy, and consequently we will not uncommonly encounter things we didn’t expect. There would still be plenty of room for superstitious people to take those unexpected outcomes and call them “miracles.”

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