My nonconversion story. Part 8: In accordance with the prophecies…


This is the eighth and final part of my story of how, as a non-believer, I spent years in my teens and twenties looking at all the evidence for and against Christianity as fairly as I could, eventually concluding it wasn’t true. The introduction is here, and I’ll link all the parts back there as I write them.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’d already seen that Christianity was big on the claim that the Jewish scriptures had miraculously prophecied Jesus’s life/death/resurrection. I’d read Christian claims about many of these, and found they didn’t stand up to being checked out. I’d read Jewish explanations about flaws in the Christian interpretations, and found that those did stand up to being checked out. But something kept niggling at me; other than the isolated passages that Christians picked out, I’d never read what the prophets had to say for myself. And by this stage in my life I was well aware of how people could cherry-pick facts to support the side of a debate that they wanted to support. How did I know that this wasn’t happening here?

With hindsight, I realise that people don’t usually cherry-pick poor arguments, so the very fact that Christians weren’t coming up with better scriptural prophecies to prove their arguments was an excellent indication that such prophecies didn’t exist. At the time, however, I could only see one fair way of making sure; I’d have to read the biblical prophets for myself.

I put this off for quite a while, because it was a pretty big project, but in the end I made up my mind to do it. I would read them through from Isaiah to Malachi inclusive. I’d write down anything that genuinely seemed to have been at least intended as a prophecy about someone being sent by God. And then I would read through all the ones I’d written down and see whether they really did – as Christians claimed – come up with an astonishingly close description of Jesus’s life. If they did… well, as awful as the prospect was, I supposed I’d have to become Christian. If they didn’t, on the other hand, then that would be reassuring information.

And so I did just that. This time, the parental Bible I appropriated was the RSV. I don’t remember why – probably because it was smaller and lighter than the others and I was packing it to take back to university – but I now know that it’s considered one of the better translations, so that was an unintentionally good choice. I spent hours reading through it and carefully copying any noteworthy passages into an old exercise book I had left over from middle school maths lessons. (I kept the exercise book afterwards, as a souvenir. Years later, when my husband and I were busy packing for a house move, he found it in a pile and asked me what it was. “Oh,” I said absently, preoccupied with the box I was packing, “that’s just prophecies.” The look on his face when I glanced up made me realise that some comments in life really do need context.)

I also reread quite a lot of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I don’t actually remember how that became part of the project; either I’d done this at an earlier stage and I’m conflating the two in my mind (plausible, as I know I’d read them several times before, including a reread only a few years before the time I’m thinking about), or it was something I did as a minor change of pace from ploughing through the prophets (also plausible, as I got really bogged down reading through Jeremiah, the depressing so-and-so). However it happened, I know I did it at some stage, because the information from that was one of the things I took into account when I weighed up what I’d learned.

And, as so often happens with questions related to Christianity, sitting down and properly reading large parts of the Bible really clarified things. Here – after much tedious slogging through the writings of ancient people ranting on about stuff, and meticulous note-taking – is what I learned.

1. The Jews were right.

Well, I still had no idea whether they were right about details such as the existence of God or whether this God might be responsible for the scriptures supposedly inspired by him; I was still firmly agnostic. They were, however – not surprisingly – right about what the scriptures had to say about Messianic prophecies.

I’d found several passages that fit my original criterion of ‘intended as a prophecy of someone sent by God’. The main ones were:

Isaiah 11

Jeremiah 23: 2 – 8

Jeremiah 30: 8 – 10 and 18 – 22

Jeremiah 33: 14 – 26

Ezekiel 34: 22 – 31

Ezekiel 37: 21 – 28

Reading through all of those, there was a very clear pattern: a king of David’s line would be ruling over Israel in a time of peace and plenty when the Jews were living in their own land, their enemies had been defeated, and life was good all round. Jesus, of course, clearly hadn’t done that.

Of course, there was no logical reason why a divine being couldn’t send two different people to do different jobs, so these passages didn’t exclude the hypothesis that there might exist a god who would both send someone to fulfil this prophecy and, separately, send someone whose job it was to get killed as a sin sacrifice. However, Jesus, as a Jew among Jews, would have known what his followers meant when they excitedly labelled him the Messiah; he would have known that the term referred to the prophecied king who would rule over a liberated Israel. Yet he seemed quite all right with going along with the term; while he did sometimes tell his disciples not to shout it out for everyone to hear, there’s no record of him declaring that he’s not the Messiah but is here for a different purpose entirely. And it didn’t make sense that a messenger sent by God to give humanity a new and crucial message of salvation would be so willing to muddy the waters by going along with the idea that he was someone completely different. So that excuse didn’t really hold up.

There was, of course, also the traditional Christian explanation; that Jesus just hadn’t done the ‘rule over a land of peace and plenty’ part yet, but would return to do it in the future. While that was logically possible, it was also logically unfalsifiable. If we were going to claim that Jesus was the Messiah just because he was going to fulfil the prophecies in the future, then we could just as well claim that about any would-be Messiah in Jewish history, since we were equally unable to prove or disprove that any of them might miraculously return to do those things despite not having done them the first time around. For that matter, since nothing in the prophecies specified that this person had to say they were the Messiah prior to doing all these things, we could use that basis for claiming that any random Jewish man, present or past, was the Messiah. So that particular loophole didn’t stand up to logic.

2. The sacrificial system wasn’t actually that important anyway.

In the course of my reading, I’d found some passages that weren’t what I was originally looking for – they weren’t about people sent by God – but that were, nonetheless, relevant enough to the whole discussion that I copied them out too.

Hosea 6:6

Hosea 14:2 – 4

Micah 6:6 – 8

And most of Ezekiel 18, especially verses 21 and 22.

This message, too, was clear and consistent: Sacrifices aren’t really the main thing God’s after. The important thing is that you live a good life and repent for any misdeeds. No addendum about how you also had to provide a sacrifice as a final necessary step before being forgiven; God was very clearly quoted as saying that if you lived a good life, that was good enough. It was a flat-out contradiction of what Christianity taught.

3. However, the sacrificial system was still meant to be permanent.

I found that little gem of information buried in one of the propechies listed above, in Jeremiah 33:18. The verse, supposedly a direct quote from God, is a promise that he’ll keep the Levitical sacrificial system going forever.

That, of course, also presents problems with the validity of any of this, given that the Levitical sacrificial system was destroyed with the temple almost two millennia ago and never restored, but I was focusing on checking the claims of Christianity rather than Judaism and so that escaped me at the time. The important takeaway for me was that this verse flat-out contradicted the entire claim that God went on to abolish the Levitical sacrificial system in favour of a once-and-for-all uber-sacrifice. In other words, it contradicted the key claim of Christianity.

4. And so was the entire system of Jewish law.

This was where the Deuteronomy reading came in.

The overarching theme that gets pushed throughout Deuteronomy is the importance of keeping this law (with considerable description of all the rewards the Jewish people would get from keeping it/the punishments they’d call forth if they didn’t), and, sprinkled through this, were several places where it was specifically stated that this requirement was for ever. Another verse specified that it was to be ‘to a thousand generations’, which technically wasn’t forever (although it was fairly clearly meant symbolically to indicate this) but certainly wasn’t a timeframe that allowed for discarding the law in 33 CE. By the way, the verses I’ve linked to weren’t just isolated comments, but were in the context of lengthy harangues about the rewards the Jews could expect if they followed these laws and the punishments they could expect if they didn’t. Overall, the message was extensively hammered in and absolutely clear.

Deuteronomy even specified that there weren’t any loopholes for following miracle-workers. If someone tried to persuade Jews to turn away from the Jewish law then their message was to be rejected absolutely regardless of what ‘signs and wonders’ they showed you to try to persuade you they were the real deal. No ‘but if he heals the sick, raises the dead, and rises from the dead himself then it’s OK’ exceptions there.

There was simply nothing there to support the idea that the whole shebang was meant to be cancelled a mere couple of millennia later; quite the reverse. Deuteronomy was very, very clear that the Jews were meant to keep to the Jewish law permanently.

In summary…

To answer my original question, the Jewish scriptures clearly didn’t prophecy Jesus’s life. On top of that, I’d learned that they did clearly specify that the Jewish law was a permanent obligation on Jews; that the Jewish sacrificial system was also permanent; and that divine forgiveness was available to anyone who lived a good life and repented of their sins. All of which was, of course, in absolute contradiction to Christianity’s teachings that the Jewish law and sacrificial system are now obsolete and that divine forgiveness is only available via believing in Jesus’s sacrifice.

In short, the Jewish scriptures could not have done a better job of warning Jews off Christian theology if… well, if a divine being had deliberately written them that way.

So, where did that leave me?

With a logic puzzle unexpectedly reminiscent of Raymond Smullyan.

If the Jewish scriptures actually were the instructions of a divine being to His people, then Christianity could not possibly be true.

Of course, as an agnostic I was fully aware of the possibility that they might actually be the works of mere humans trying to convince themselves there was someone out there watching over them. However, the belief that these scriptures were the instructions of a divine being to His people was fundamental to Christianity as well as Judaism. Therefore, if the Jewish scriptures weren’t the instructions of a divine being to his people, then Christianity could not possibly be true.

This was not looking good for Christianity’s validity.

I was still determined to approach this logically, and, as such, I realised there was a theoretically possible third option: The Jewish scriptures might be the instructions of a really evil divine being who wanted to absolutely screw humanity over by giving them a set of instructions that would lead to their damnation. It did not take too much thought to realise that a) this was logically unfalsifiable, b) it seemed fairly unlikely, and c) it was entirely unhelpful. The key premise of salvation religion is that God is at least trying to offer us a route to salvation and will keep up his end of the deal if we follow instructions. If we’re actually dealing with a god who’s out to trick us and mess with us, then there is nothing we can do about that situation; following orders isn’t going to help if the Being giving the orders is a psychopath who doesn’t even care about trying to save us. If that’s the case, we might just as well ignore the whole problem anyway and at least focus on making the world a better place. So, from the practical point of view, it seemed entirely reasonable to ignore this possibility. In any case, it was still hardly helpful for propping up the truth of Christianity, since another of their teachings was that God was ultimate goodness.

In summary… the clash between Christianity’s teachings and the Jewish teachings on which it depended was irreconcilable. Whether Judaism was true or false, the result was still that Christianity was false. The very Bible Christianity cited to prove its veracity did the exact opposite. And, in probably the only time I will ever use this sentence on this blog, you can’t really get more authoritative on this subject than what the Bible has to say.

And that was it. After all those years, I finally had a conclusive answer and could stop worrying. I got on with my life. I finished medical school, worked as a doctor, enjoyed life to the full, eventually got a blog on an atheist blogging platform, and maintained my interest in religion and counter-apologetics to this day. And I never worried about hellfire again.

Comments

  1. OverlappingMagisteria says

    I love this series!

    Did you ever have any resolution to your question of why the disciples would say that Jesus was resurrected? Or did that just fall away along with the rest of Christianity with what you described in this post?

  2. txpiper says

    “God was very clearly quoted as saying that if you lived a good life, that was good enough.”
    .
    Good enough for what?

  3. anat says

    txpiper, good enough for whatever accounting system Yahweh ran. Judaism doesn’t dwell much on the afterlife. It all works out somehow, though not necessarily immediately (some believe everyone suffers for some time in the afterlife, but this suffering eventually comes to an end when one completes some kind of learning/growth process). More important concepts in Judaism is that doing good in one’s lifetime can be rewarded to one’s offsprings. Which is why the daily prayer includes reminders of the Patriarchs (and in more modern denominations the Matriarchs as well).

  4. anat says

    Dr Sarah, have you looked at the history of messianic claimants in Judaism, some of whom made a much bigger impression within Judaism than Jesus?

  5. txpiper says

    anat,

    “Judaism doesn’t dwell much on the afterlife. It all works out somehow, though not necessarily immediately (some believe everyone suffers for some time in the afterlife, but this suffering eventually comes to an end when one completes some kind of learning/growth process).”
    .
    I have heard other similar admissions. I think it must be related to the blindness that the Paul the apostle refers to.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sacrifices aren’t really the main thing God’s after.

    Tell it to Jephthah’s daughter.

    If you searched the Tanakh for themes of sacrifice, rather than of prophecy, you’d probably have to revise that conclusion.

    Not that I suggest you waste your time chasing that particular wild goose.

  7. Steve Morrison says

    I didn’t know that there was a Raymond Smullyan Society (even though I have several of his books)! Thanks.

  8. txpiper says

    In his commentary on the Book of the Revelation, Isaac Newton is critical of those who abuse prophecies for their own aggrandizement. He explains that the primary reason for prophecy is to authenticate the authority of God:

    “The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretel times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt. The design of God was much otherwise. He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men’s curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world. For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence.”

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    txpiper @ # 7: The design of God was … his own Providence… be then manifested thereby to the world. For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence.

    Such a pity Newton’s god couldn’t foresee how that wouldn’t work, don’t you think?

  10. txpiper says

    Butler @ 8:

    “couldn’t foresee how that wouldn’t work”
    .
    Prophecy serves its purpose.
    .
    “…prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

  11. anat says

    txpiper @5

    I have heard other similar admissions. I think it must be related to the blindness that the Paul the apostle refers to.

    Not sure what you mean by ‘admissions’. Those are simple statements about what people at a certain time believed. (At earlier times the afterlife was a shadowy realm where everyone rested, but also was pretty gloomy/boring. Of course Christian heaven is just as boring. In Jewish heaven, at least the learned folks get to debate theology among themselves and with Yahweh.)

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    txpiper @ # 9 – To quote our mutual friend KG:

    Do you just ignore the bits that don’t fit? … – clearly you do simply ignore the bits that don’t fit.

  13. KG says

    He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men’s curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event… For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence.” – Isaac Newton, quoted by txpiper@8

    “Prophecies” that can only be interpreted in retrospect are only “a convincing argument” to the already convinced or those eager to be so. Nostradamus does just as well as the Bible in this regard, if not better. But I admit I’m somewhat surprised to see txpiper quoting a heretic with apparent respect.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    KG @ # 13: … I’m somewhat surprised to see txpiper quoting a heretic with apparent respect.

    txpiper embraces multitudes.

    I wonder if txpiper has yet noticed the contradiction between “For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument …” and “… not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

    Prob’ly not: those bits don’t fit.

  15. txpiper says

    “quoting a heretic with apparent respect”

    Heretic according to who? Newton simply had reasonable questions that some people didn’t want him to ask, so he didn’t. This still goes on. Try getting straight answers from biology professors about how random mutations resulted in things like this:
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-insect-has-the-only-mechanical-gears-ever-found-in-nature-6480908/

    ==

    “noticed the contradiction”

    It’s only a contradiction if you think that the argument is to convince unbelievers. The quote from Paul indicates that the purpose is reaffirmation for those who believe.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    txpiper @ # 15 – here’s a clue, for free:

    The quote from Newton implies (by using the word “convince”, if you need it spelled out) that the point of fulfilled prophecies is to reach those not already convinced.

    Both Paul and Ike may be self-consistent, if you don’t look too hard, but they overtly disagree with each other. And you missed that.

  17. KG says

    txpiper@15,

    Heretic according to who?

    Religious views of Isaac Newton.

    Try getting straight answers from biology professors about how random mutations resulted in things like this:
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-insect-has-the-only-mechanical-gears-ever-found-in-nature-6480908/

    “Whataboutery” is generally the mark of someone who knows they are losing the argument. But why would you expect “biology professors” to be able to provide an instant answer to how a feature discovered a few years ago might have evolved? Can you provide reasons to believe it could not have evolved by the combination of random mutations and natural selection – the italicised bit being what creationists typically leave out, pretending that a complex feature must have arisen from nothing in a single step. To answer my own question, no, you can’t. All you have, as is invariably the case when creationists pose such “gotchas”, is the argument from personal incredulity. I’m no biology professor (you do realise that “biology professors” tend to be specialists, and that to research such a question seriously one would need to be a specialist in the evolution of insect anatomy and locomotion?), but it does occur to me that related insects (cicadas) produce sound by rubbing ridged body parts (“stridulation”). I don’t mean that the gears of Issus coleoptratus evolved from stridulation structures, but once the genetic potential to produce some kind of anatomocal structure is present, it can appear in different contexts and be co-opted to serve new functions – a common occurrence in evolution*, which creationists like to ignore.

    *There are a number of good examples in Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish.

  18. txpiper says

    “Can you provide reasons to believe it could not have evolved by the combination of random mutations and natural selection”

    Yes. They are the same reasons that we know that cows can’t really jump over the moon, and humans can’t run a mile in 19 seconds. Such things are not possible.

    You’re just demonstrating willingness to believe things that you like without evidence. Actual science and the scientific method demands systematic observation, measurement, repeatable experiments, testing, etc.. There is no science to show that a long series of random DNA replication errors can produce complex, organized, functional bio-systems. Things like that do not happen.

    That is your cue to use the phrase “personal incredulity”.

  19. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Cows can’t jump over the moon and people can’t run 19 sec miles mainly due to the incredible amount of energy that would be involved, and that the forces required would likely break appendages. Those are not at all relevant to how an insect evolved a gear-like mechanism. I think these are all things that just seem impossible to you so, instead of thinking about why they are or are not, you just assume that they are impossible.

    This is just the old creationist “whack-a-mole” game. You find something that does not currently have a detailed description of its evolutionary history and declare that it could not have possibly evolved. “Scientists cant explain it today, therefor they never will!” Once an explanation is found, you move on to something new. First it was the complexity of the eye, then blood clotting, then the bacterial flagellum… Those moles have been whacked and this insect’s legs are the new mole.

    And it’s not even a particularly good one. It is not hard to come up with a plausible evolutionary pathway for this. It’s advantageous for the insects legs to by in sync to help it jump straight. At first, the two legs move alongside each other. When touching, friction does a bit to keep them in sync. Next, those surfaces of the legs get rougher, which increases that friction. That roughness becomes more pronounced into the teeth of the gears which helps keep the synchronization even better.

    I’m not saying that the above is necessarily the correct evolutionary pathway, but the fact that it is not hard to think of a plausible (as a non-biologist at that!) one makes it hard to believe that it would be impossible as you baldly assert.

  20. txpiper says

    “a plausible evolutionary pathway for this. It’s advantageous…”
    .
    Any supposed plausible evolutionary pathway that is not expressed in terms of mutations is just fairy tales. If you want to tell yourself stories, start with “Once upon a time, there were no genes devoted to synchronized gears in the legs of Issus coleoptratus. Then, a mutation occurred in a germ cell…”
    .
    Things do not just ‘evolve’. There is a theoretical process that is supposed to have designed, produced and perfected every single biological detail that has ever existed. Billions of instructions and definitions. There are reasons why you will not refer to that process. You have been trained not to, and to use your imagination instead. It makes for a fine religion, but it is not science. The mutations/selection paradigm is not something that was discovered. It is an absurd fantasy. Random failure events can’t produce complexity even once, much less countless millions of times.

  21. Dr Sarah says

    @txpiper, #15:

    Try getting straight answers from biology professors about how random mutations resulted in things like this:
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-insect-has-the-only-mechanical-gears-ever-found-in-nature-6480908/

    I’m curious as to whether you’ve actually tried asking biology professors/reading what they’ve got to say, or whether you’ve just read creationist arguments and the isolated quotes they give you?

    I have to say, practically every time I’ve looked up this sort of rhetorical question or claim from creationists I’ve found that scientists have actually answered it. http://www.talkorigins.org is a really good resource, especially their FAQs. And it doesn’t sound as though you have read anything much from that side of things for yourself. I mean, from what you’ve said so far, you don’t actually seem to know what natural selection is or how big a part it plays in evolution; instead, you’re talking as though it’s all just due to random mutations, when in fact that isn’t the case.

    I do also note that when OverlappingMagisteria did give you a straight answer, your response was to dismiss it as ‘fairy tales’ and ‘an absurd fantasy’. Is that how you normally respond when people do try to give straight answers to your questions about how such-and-such could have happened? If so, do bear in mind that that’s going to play a big part in people being unwilling to spend time giving you more straight answers; not because people don’t have those answers, but because you’re showing you aren’t actually interested in listening.

    (On that point: While you’re in my comment section, dial that sort of behaviour back. I’ve enjoyed reading and responding to your comments so far, and hope you’ll stick around for more discussion and debate. However, my rule here is that people need to keep it civil; so don’t push it.)

    I hope to get back to the other comments later today, or, if not, then tomorrow.

  22. txpiper says

    @ Dr. Sarah,

    First, thank you for this venue, and your tolerance.
    .
    “I’m curious as to whether you’ve actually tried asking biology professors/reading what they’ve got to say, or whether you’ve just read creationist arguments and the isolated quotes they give you?”
    .
    I rarely ever spend time reading creationist arguments. I have narrowed my interest and focus to just one issue, which is the mutations/selection idea. I can say with confidence that biologists do not dwell on the actual theoretical mechanism that is supposed to make evolutionary changes. Developmental scenarios typically do not mention mutations in utility. Mark Isaak (I am familiar with talkorigins.org) published a good example many years ago here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html
    It is easy to imagine 15 easy steps to build a hyper-complex system. It is not easy to weave random mutations into the narrative. I would challenge anyone to find papers published that attempt to do this.
    .
    “you don’t actually seem to know what natural selection is or how big a part it plays in evolution”
    .
    This is another problem. Natural selection is not an ethereal force. Individuals in a population not suited for their environment die. That’s it. NS cannot and does not induce fortuitous mutations.
    You seem to be bright, thoughtful and reasonable. May I ask, how many generations and/or selectable random errors do you think might have been involved in the development of the gears in the example I provided above? How would random DNA replication errors assemble the genetic instructions for this feature?

  23. Dr Sarah says

    @txpiper, #22:

    Thanks for continuing the discussion!

    I rarely ever spend time reading creationist arguments.

    I have to say that, from all I’ve seen of creationist arguments, that seems sensible!

    I can say with confidence that biologists do not dwell on the actual theoretical mechanism that is supposed to make evolutionary changes. Developmental scenarios typically do not mention mutations in utility. Mark Isaak (I am familiar with talkorigins.org) published a good example many years ago here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html
    It is easy to imagine 15 easy steps to build a hyper-complex system. It is not easy to weave random mutations into the narrative. I would challenge anyone to find papers published that attempt to do this.

    I’m not getting what your issue is here, I’m afraid. Are you saying biologists should have to specify the genetic changes in each case? I’m kind of baffled as to what you’re saying.

    NS cannot and does not induce fortuitous mutations.

    That’s right; what it does is act to propagate them, so we end up with a lot more of each species carrying the fortuitous mutation, and a lot more chances to get further mutations on top of each fortuitous mutation.

    You seem to be bright, thoughtful and reasonable.

    Thank you.

    May I ask, how many generations and/or selectable random errors do you think might have been involved in the development of the gears in the example I provided above?

    That I don’t know; I’m not a biologist.

    How would random DNA replication errors assemble the genetic instructions for this feature?

    As far as I can see, it could either be a series of mutations increasing the roughness (with each mutation then spreading via natural selection due to the benefits of increased friction and leading to an increased number of insects available for subsequent mutations), or perhaps a one-off mutation leading to projections. Again, though, you’d likely get a more informed answer from a biologist.

  24. Dr Sarah says

    @OverlappingMagisteria, #1:

    Thank you; I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And, yes, I did find some really useful thoughts on the subject years later; I’m actually writing a concluding post that goes into a little more detail on this, but the short answer is that it’s actually fairly well recognised for people who are desperate to hang onto a belief to come up with all sorts of rationalisations (including one other recorded case in which followers of a Messiah who died hung onto the belief that he was going to return alive).

  25. Dr Sarah says

    @txpiper, #2:

    “God was very clearly quoted as saying that if you lived a good life, that was good enough.”
    .
    Good enough for what?

    Good enough for God, according to the scriptures. Good enough to be considered righteous.

  26. Dr Sarah says

    @anat, #4:

    Dr Sarah, have you looked at the history of messianic claimants in Judaism, some of whom made a much bigger impression within Judaism than Jesus?

    Yes, and it’s interesting. I remember being at a talk by the rabbi at my university’s Jewish Society, where he mentioned Messianic claimants and said pretty much in passing “And the one who caused the most problems for Judaism was, of course…” Aha, thought I, obviously going to be Jesus. “Shabbatai Zvi!” everyone chorused before I could say anything. Don’t think I’d even heard of the man before that.

    And, of course, since then we have Menachem Schneerson, whose case provides modern-day proof that, yes, it is possible for followers of a suspected Messiah to believe that he’s come back after his death.

  27. Dr Sarah says

    @Pierce R. Butler, #6:

    [me] Sacrifices aren’t really the main thing God’s after.

    [PRB] Tell it to Jephthah’s daughter.

    If you searched the Tanakh for themes of sacrifice, rather than of prophecy, you’d probably have to revise that conclusion.

    Oh, it depends somewhat which bit of the Tanakh you read; since the prophets are in the later bit, I was getting the somewhat modified and retconned view of Yahweh.

    Although I’m not sure that the story of Jephthah’s daughter shows that Yahweh is actively after sacrifice, since the vow is entirely instigated by Jephthah and there’s no indication of Yahweh making any comment on it; it’s more that he’s atrociously indifferent to the appalling consequences of someone making a badly-thought-out vow.

  28. Dr Sarah says

    @Steven Morrison, #7:

    I didn’t know that there was a Raymond Smullyan Society (even though I have several of his books)! Thanks.

    I actually didn’t know either, until I searched for a link to put in. Hadn’t expected that bit of information to be the takeaway from me writing my non-conversion story! Sounds like he was a fascinating character.

  29. Dr Sarah says

    @txpiper, #10:

    “…prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

    That sounds like an unintentionally good description of confirmation bias.

  30. txpiper says

    @ Dr. Sarah, #23

    “Are you saying biologists should have to specify the genetic changes in each case?”
    .
    No. What I am saying is that biologists don’t do that, because they can’t do that. It is not possible.
    .
    “I’m kind of baffled as to what you’re saying.”
    .
    It is simple. The author of the talkorigins article says these things:

    “Small invaginations develop in the epidermis…, Cells that secrete the hydroquinones develop…, …channels become a duct…, Muscles adapt…, Cells secreting a small amount of catalases and peroxidases appear…, The walls of that part of the output passage become firmer…, The tip of the beetle’s abdomen becomes somewhat elongated and more flexible…”
    .
    Things like this do not just happen. DNA alterations have to occur. There is a reason he does not mention the precise and profuse mutations that would be necessary for these changes.
    ==
    #29
    “That sounds like an unintentionally good description of confirmation bias.”
    .
    It is definitely confirmation bias, but it is not unintentional. One of the unappreciated facets of Christian doctrine has to do with why some people believe, and others do not. The elect are chosen. Acts 13:48b mentions the dynamic involved.

    I mentioned Isaac Newton’s take on the purpose of prophecy above. He recognized that authentic prophecy should stand as an irresistible proof for rational people. The apostle Paul explains that it doesn’t. People don’t believe things for rational reasons. They tend to believe what they like.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.