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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Gospel Disproof #25: God the Loser

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” It’s a fairly common theme. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). “Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return” (Isaiah 10:22). “What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened” (Rom. 11:7).

Flattering, isn’t it? If you’re a believer, you’re part of a small select group of saints, the spiritual elite, the insiders, the chosen ones. Most people, sadly, reject their own salvation. They’re spiritually blind, rebellious, wicked, and unrepentant. But not you. You’re special. You’re different. And there aren’t many like you. You’re the spiritual 1%.

This is one aspect of the Gospel that, in my opinion, goes a bit overboard. It’s just too obvious that we’re dealing with a myth designed specifically to appeal to people’s pride and narcissism. Think about it: flattering people may be great marketing, but what it’s really saying is that, in the struggle for men’s souls, God loses most of the time.

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Gospel Disproof #24: PID

Back when I was a Christian, the big controversy was over something called “scientific creationism,” the view that you ought to be allowed to teach Genesis in public schools as long as you did so under the guise of presenting it as a scientific theory of origins. But it flopped. It was too easy to see through, and too blatantly anti-scientific. Then some lawyer decided to write Darwin On Trial and show all those biologists where they were wrong. Thus, the modern Intelligent Design movement was born.

The problem with ID is that it’s really just superstition in a lab coat. You find some natural phenomenon whose origins you do not understand, and you jump to the conclusion that no one will ever understand it, because some magical power or being created it supernaturally. It’s a “scientific” approach with at least a couple problems, even for Christians.

First, because it depends on not understanding the origins of natural phenomena, it’s intrinsically hostile to any branch of science (e.g. evolution) that successfully does explain the natural origin of things. It is therefore inescapably anti-science, rather than part of a proper scientific domain. But the bigger problem for Christians is that ID, as “scientific” evidence for God, supports polytheism a lot better than monotheism.

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Gospel Disproof #23: The Star of Bethlehem

John Loftus has an interesting post up about the various inconsistencies in Gospel stories about Jesus’ alleged birth at Bethlehem. I’m going to piggyback on just one part of that story: the bit about the “wise men” from the East who followed a star to the place where Jesus was born. According to Matthew, their first stop was Jerusalem, where they asked King Herod where the next king was going to be coming from. Herod sent them to Bethlehem, based on a prophecy in Micah, so they went back to following the star.

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.

Let’s do just a quick reality check here: the next time there’s a clear night, go outside, pick any star you can see, and tell me which house it’s over. Kind of hard, right? Now wait 10 or 15 minutes. Which house is it over now?

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