Gospel Disproof #36: Jesus and Lazarus

One mistake a lot of people make is to assume that Christians have always believed the same Gospel. If we look more closely, however, we can see evidence in the New Testament itself that suggests the resurrection story has evolved significantly, especially in the early decades of the Church. A good way to highlight this evolution is to compare the resurrection stories about Jesus with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.

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Gospel Disproof #35: Birthers

Here’s a Gospel Disproof that’s almost certain to be dated in a few years: birthers. The only reason anyone has for denying that Barack Obama is a US citizen is because they don’t want him to be president, so once he’s an ex-president, it will cease to be an issue. What will endure, however, is the way birthers illustrate the principle of “denial as a source of knowledge.”

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Gospel Disproof #34: Progressive sanctification

Today’s Gospel Disproof comes (again) from our friend Eric, who writes:

Salvation is ALL of grace and none of human merit so there is no grounds for boasting and certainly one is given no reason to think that the unsaved are “ even worse than you”.

Eric is partly correct. No matter what you may hear people say when giving their testimony, no matter what the Bible says about how the blood of Jesus “cleanses us from all sin,” and no matter how earnestly the Apostle Paul argues that believers have been freed from sin, “sinners” without God are no worse than believers with God. Or to phrase it in less negative terms, accepting Jesus doesn’t really make you a better person.

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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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