Archive for the ‘christ’ tag
Obviously, the historical evidence for Jesus passing down parables and performing the many miracles attributed to him is slim to nil, so much less is the possibility that Jesus suffered a physical death and then on the third day ascended to the heavens to take his place (again) at the right hand of the father, thus becoming one of numerous figures in the Bible to break the laws of nature. This is, nonetheless, what believers claim, and they rationalize that Jesus’ ascension is theoretically possible, as Bowen points out, because God, after all, is all-powerful and can break the laws of physics if he chooses since he, believers so confidently argue, stands outside of time and space.
Bowen essentially argues that if we make two generous concessions, that an all-loving and omnipotent God exists and that Jesus was an unethical figure who did not eschew slavery, taught prayer healing, advocated sexism, supported faith-based decision making over reason and logic, among other questionable moral stances, that God, being perfectly good, would be opposed to Jesus’ resurrection and thus, Jesus did not ascend on the third day.
This is his main argument, which was preceded by some other points about Jesus as an unethical character:
Jesus was a false prophet because he taught his followers to pray to and worship a false god (i.e. Jehovah).
This one reason, it seems to me, is sufficient to show that the existence of God would be a strong reason for believing that Jesus did NOT rise from the dead.
And he concludes:
… an omniscient and perfectly good being would be opposed to the resurrection of Jesus, because the resurrection of Jesus would provide a divine stamp of approval upon: the worship of a false god, mass murder, slavery, sexism, cruelty, injustice, irrationality, superstition, sociocenrism (sic), pacifism (i.e. tolerance of oppression) and other evils.
Christian believers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there is no God, then the resurrection of Jesus would be unlikely because true resurrections are contrary to the laws of nature and thus require a supernatural intervention by God or a god-like being. If there is a God, then the resurrection of Jesus would be unlikely because God, an omniscient and perfectly good person, would be opposed to the resurrection of Jesus. Either way, the case for the resurrection fails.
This a peculiar argument, and one that is actually a novel one for me. Let me see if I can explain it more thoroughly and then supply some additional thoughts. First, Bowen seems to have made a correlation, implicitly or otherwise, between the hypothetical God to which he refers throughout the post and Jehovah, the Old Testament god and the father of Jesus. Yet, he uses Jehovah, or Yahweh, as an example of why his hypothetical God would not support Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus obviously teaches that believers should pray to Yahweh, this hypothetical God would conclude that Jesus was practicing idol worship.
But here’s the hang of it, and why this argument as a consequence seems to double back on itself. If this hypothetical God is not Yahweh but some other god, let’s call him Wutu the Almighty, it seems obvious that Wutu wouldn’t care two farthings about another supposed god named Jesus, just like Yahweh so readily dismissed Baal in the Old Testament. Gods tend to not like competition, after all. So, sure, Wutu would be opposed to the resurrected Christ on the grounds of worshiping a false god, Jehovah. But the entire notion of a resurrected Jesus relies on maintaining a link between Jesus and Jehovah, for without Jehovah’s story, we would have no resurrection story. This is why I said that Bowen must be referring to Jehovah when he mentions God. Otherwise, where is the point of reference?
Now, if Bowen actually is referring to the God of the Old Testament, the argument is dead on arrival since Jehovah would obviously not condemn Jesus as a false prophet for telling people to pray to himself, Jehovah. Having said all that, this does not take address the claims — for another day — that Jesus was a bad person or that God must necessarily fit into our idea of “good,” since Yahweh had no problem with slavery, stoning gay people and burning random women who might have been witches. For all the reasons not to believe in the resurrection — and there are many — this particular argument seems to suffer severely.
Critics of the above video might say something like this: Well, Ehrman, a former believer, is asking us to take his word for it on the credibility of the gospels, just as the gospel writers ask us, implicitly, to make a decision about whether they are telling the truth or not. The difference is that Ehrman’s statements are based on mounds of research (“Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” and “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,” whereas the gospel writers were relying on memory and oral tradition. As John Dominic Crossan shows, much of the content of the gospels were later additions or embellishments to all-but-lost earlier works like the Q Gospel.
But even if, as Ehrman points out, some of the gospel content is indeed genuinely from eyewitness testimony, it still suffers from the human problem. That is, modern day testimony about events can’t always be trusted. How much less are we to trust testimony from someone living 2,000 years ago in a backward part of the Middle East? This problem is compounded by the fact that the gospels were written in Greek, not Aramaic. If we had stories about Jesus in Aramaic, they would be more believable, but only scantly so. And why couldn’t the Son of Man simply write the things he wanted us to know himself, rather than leaving that duty in the hands of fallen man?
I mean, the logical incongruities are so immense that each day that I contemplate Christianity (or any other religion for that matter), the more stunning it is to me that adults, who use logic in every other area of their lives, essentially shut off their brains once they open the Bible or enter the church.
In any case, here is a lengthier and more detailed lecture from Ehrman on the subject:
I’m currently reading, “Cleopatra: A Life” by Mary Schiff, and in Chapter V, she mentions a trip Florence Nightingale took to Egypt. Since she remained part of the Church of England, Nightingale apparently did not make the leap from merely observing similarities between the Jesus Christ stories in the New Testament and Osiris and many other gods of antiquity that predate Christ and most likely form the basis for our conception of him.
Here is what she has to say on a Sunday morning in an Isis temple:
I cannot describe to you the feeling at Philae. The myths of Osiris are so typical of our Saviour that it seemed to me as if I were coming to a place where He had lived — like going to Jerusalem; and when I saw a shadow in the moonlight in the temple court, I thought, “Perhaps I shall see him: now he is there.”
Of course, she was also apparently not astute enough to realize that all of them derive from sun god worship, which not surprisingly, has been recorded in most all times and locations in history, from ancient South American myths to Africa, the Middle East and even China.
The Christ myth is basically a hodgepodge of the various common themes.
Also see my previous post.
Continuing on, I concur with Myers on at least one point: his admiration for the writings of Susan Jacoby. Her book, “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,” is a brilliant contribution to skeptic thought in this nation. In his post, he quotes the following two passages from a New York Times piece from Jacoby titled, “The Blessings of Atheism:
The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next. Atheists do not want to deny religious believers the comfort of their faith. We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.
Today’s atheists would do well to emulate some of the great 19th-century American freethinkers, who insisted that reason and emotion were not opposed but complementary.
to which Myers responded:
There’s the step the Dictionary Atheists don’t want to take — that once you’ve thrown off your shackles you’re now obligated to do something worthwhile with your life, because now all of our lives shine as something greater and more valuable and more important. That with freedom comes responsibility.
And other passage from Jacoby:
We must speak up as atheists in order to take responsibility for whatever it is humans are responsible for — including violence in our streets and schools. We need to demonstrate that atheism is rooted in empathy as well as intellect. And although atheism is not a religion, we need community-based outreach programs so that our activists will be as recognizable to their neighbors as the clergy.
To which Myers concluded:
But not as clergy, as privileged people set apart from others by a special paternalistic relationship. How about as a community of equals? What if every atheist, rather than some particular special subset of atheists, were to acknowledge their part in building a better society?
Maybe then this movement could change the world.
OK, that’s a lot to dig through, but first, I fully realize and acknowledge the deep history of freethought, not just in America, but in Europe and even the Middle East, and I recognize that many freethinkers, like Robert Ingersoll, have found it worthwhile to devote their lives to important social causes. But that is the key. They found it worthwhile on an individual basis. There is no corporate mandate to do anything, and this seems to be what Myers is supporting: A mandate or a strong exhortation to turn atheism into a social justice movement would could equal a slavish loss of freedom for some people. People have the freedom to be self-absorbed assholes just as much as they have the freedom to move to Africa and do the hard work of feeding children and giving shelter to the homeless. In every case, I prefer the latter and sincerely hope that more people would work toward equality and making the world a better place, but that’s not my choice to make for other people. The best we can do is discuss our thoughts on creating a better society and how we get there and hope the enthusiasm spreads.
Myers, of course, attempts to adopt Jacoby to his cause, but in doing so conveniently leaves out a key distinction that she makes and understands:
Today’s secularists must do more than mount defensive campaigns proclaiming that we can be “good without God.” Atheists must stand up instead of calling themselves freethinkers, agnostics, secular humanists or “spiritual, but not religious.” The last phrase, translated from the psychobabble, can mean just about anything — that the speaker is an atheist who fears social disapproval or a fence-sitter who wants the theoretical benefits of faith, including hope of eternal life, without the obligations of actually practicing a religion. Atheists may also be secular humanists and freethinkers — I answer to all three — but avoidance of identification with atheism confines us to a closet that encourages us to fade or be pushed into the background when tragedy strikes.
Did you catch it? She said atheists “may also be” secular humanists and freethinkers. There is a good reason why Myers, in his endless nods to Atheism Plus, didn’t mention this paragraph. Because it clearly shows that Jacoby realizes that atheism alone does not come freshly and neatly packaged with social justice and by itself it is not a movement at all. However much Myers might want to cater to to his Atheism Plus friends, he is simply wrong on this one, good intentions aside.
I also want to add a few more thoughts to another of Myers’ passages about newly minted atheists that I touched on briefly yesterday:
You lack belief in the existence of gods? That’s nice, you’ve taken your first tiny baby step. Now what does that mean for human affairs? What will you do next? When will you stride forward and do something that matters with your new freedom?
This was stunning to me because it sounds exactly — I mean exactly like — things I was told as a believer. I remember hearing sermons about how people who were infants in their faith needed time to progress to maturity in Christ (a la 1 Corinthians 3:2) and that when someone came to believe in Christ, they gained “true” freedom. Of course, once someone becomes firm in their faith, they can then go out into the world, “stride forward” and perform the Great Commission, which in the analogy I’m making would be akin to Myer’s final sentence in the above paragraph. The point I’m making is that both propositions — what I heard in church and what Myers is saying here — are both doctrinal in nature, one just happens to be about the belief in Christ, while the other is, although built on a core nonbelief in God, is still purporting as a matter of policy that atheists “do something that matters.” I see little difference in these two: the content may be different but the preachy exhortations remain. Dogma is dogma whether it comes from the pulpit, a dusty old book or an overlord of the blogosphere.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has determined in a recent report that nonbelievers can be killed for their nonbelief in seven states. If you think religion is bollocks, you may want to avoid these: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Of course, as this article from Slate points out, the hostility toward nonbelievers does not just persist in radical Muslim theocracies. Right here at home, seven states — what is it with religious people and their fascination with the number seven? Yahweh‘s favorite number, no doubt! — ban atheists from holding public office. These bastions of reason and logic include Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Many of these, as you will notice, were, unsurprisingly, in the old Confederacy, including my home state, which can pride itself on being the first to leave the Union and the last to rejoin.
Just out of curiosity, I did a little fact checking on Tennessee, and as plain as day, here is the statute right there in the current state Constitution (ARTICLE IX. DISQUALIFICATIONS):
§ 2. Atheists holding office
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
I think it’s also curious that not only does a person have to be a believer to hold public office, belief in a future state is also required. Why would the latter part be included? Perhaps so that if and when this public servant inevitably fails his constituents in some way or another, he and they can take comfort in the thought that they will one day walk on sunshine with Jesus, free from the trappings of this world and its tough decision-making. No, the state wouldn’t want any nonbelievers in office approaching life on the notion that they had better get it right the first time and that there are no cop out solutions like prayer if, by chance, they happened to make life for millions of blacks a living hell for generations after they were supposedly emancipated, or if they allowed hordes of KKK members and other racists to run rampant in the South, scarring innocent women and children for decades. No, they might say: “It’s all permissible as long as we teach those people about the good news of the gospel; my mistakes as a racist, oppressive public servant in the South and their misery and the misery of their children can all be scrapped because one day we will be reconciled under the warm glow of heaven.”
Warren seems to be attempting to make a resurgence by taking advantage of the 10-year anniversary of the work’s publication, which outlines the five “purposes” that people, specifically Christians, have in life. He is releasing a new edition of the book with a couple new chapters and well as some accompanying links to extra audio and video content, no doubt hoping to add more millions of dollars to the surge of book sales (and related instructional material) that he got from the first publication.
I was still a believer when “The Purpose Drive Life” first came out, and I can still rattle off the five main “purposes” off the top of my head: worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism and ministry. Indeed, my particular church had purchased long-wise banners that were hung around the sanctuary walls, almost like — cough — a graven images.
In any case, at the time, I was really struck by this purposefully vague and simple first sentence of the book and continue to be, if only for a different reason and in a different context:
It’s not about you.
Now, obviously from a Christian perspective, the sentence takes on a spiritual nature, reminding believers that they should not adopt the faith exclusively for their own gain but that they should approach Christianity looking outward to find ways to reach out to their community by way of discipleship, evangelism, ministry, etc. But from a secular perspective, the idea behind this opening can’t completely be scrapped. While I realize putting a secular spin on it would lift it completely out of the context I just mentioned, perhaps we can rework the sentence to read something like:
“Live selflessly” or perhaps “Leave the world a better place than you found it.”
This is, in my view, the more noble cause than the one purported by Warren because living with other’s people’s interests at heart does not need to be muddied by the auxiliary goals of trying to coerce people to believe in the Christian god or wasting time in worship and squandering resources that could be used to feed hungry mouths. The marriage of secular goals like helping the poor, feeding the sick and bolstering communities with spiritual ones is really an unholy union of counter-playing ideals because there’s no secret which goals take absolute precedent from the Christian worldview: if people are bound for hell, what difference does it make whether they have their carnal needs met?
I realize there are plenty of faith-based organizations feeding hungry people regardless of their “spiritual condition,” but reaching people for Christ is the mandated purpose of Christians based on the Great Commission. If their primary goal is anything else, they are simply not living up to the commands in the New Testament. Thus, while Warren’s PEACE Plan (Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, care for the sick, Educate the next generation) and others like it may have some laudable goals, the work that will make concrete differences in people’s lives must necessarily take a back seat, and that is the danger of any Christian-based ministry, no matter how benevolent it may seem.
Next we move to the substantive “tests” to which Strobel subjects the gospel accounts. The first he calls the “intention” test to try to surmise whether the gospel writers actually intended to present an accurate account of the events. Blomberg mentions the passage in Luke in which the writer says his purpose was to “write an orderly account” of what he had heard from people who were eyewitnesses to the events portrayed in the book. Luke claims he has “carefully” investigated the stories.
Strobel then questions why Matthew and Mark don’t contain similar declarations. Blomberg makes this rather large assumption based on no evidence whatsoever:
They are close to Luke in terms if genre, and it seems reasonable that Luke’s historical intent would closely mirror theirs.
Blomberg has no idea what Matthew and Mark’s “historical intent” was; he just takes it, as it were, on faith that Matthew and Mark are not propagandists pushing a certain agenda about the claims of Christ. Strobel also asks about the gospel of John, to which Blomberg points out verse 20:31. The passage states that John was writing “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So, here is a clear declaration that John is writing with the purpose of advocating the authenticity of Christ as divine, or in other words, he has a clear motive and is far from unbiased. Strobel responded: “That sounds more like a theological statement than a historical one.” Blomberg concedes that point but notes that if a person is going to believe in Christ, the “theology has to flow from accurate history:”
… Consider the way the gospels are written — in a sober and responsible fashion, with accurate incidental details, with obvious care and exactitude. You don’t find the outlandish flourishes and blatant mythologies that you see in a lot of other ancient writings.”
If by “sober” he means drab, I’ll concede that point. Again, Blomberg would help his case by presenting some of the “incidental details” that apologists like to claim give the Bible validity. Of course, just the mere presence of incidental details in a text does not prove anything about the historicity of the stories themselves. Thomas Hardy’s novels include many “incidental” and real elements of what pastoral English life was like in the 19th century, but the characters and the plots were not real. Hell, even comic books and many video games often contain lots of authentic details about places like New York, Los Angeles or the Middle East. Just because a novel or other work has incidental details does not make its basic story true as far as history is considered.
As for his claim that readers don’t find “outlandish flourishes and blatant mythologies” in the gospels, I have to ask: are we reading the same books? Here I’ll argue not only with Blomberg’s claim but with this writer, who states outright that
… there are no “mythological elements.” Those who talk about mythological elements are clearly ignorant not only of the gospels themselves, but of what mythology actually consists of. What they usually mean by ‘mythological elements’ is the supernatural.
Well, no. That is not what is meant, and the writer seems to be putting words in the mouths of critics. What is meant by mythological is just that: elements in the New Testament accounts (not to mention the Old Testament) that appear eerily similar to other myths that were circulated throughout antiquity, namely and most prominently, redemption mythology, which forms the entire foundation of the biblical narrative.
Rudolf Bultmann in “The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation Part I” outlines this framework:
The mythology of the New Testament is in essence that of Jewish apocalyptic and the Gnostic redemption myths. A common feature of them both is their basic dualism, according to which the present world and its human inhabitants are under the control of demonic, satanic powers, and stand in need of redemption. Man cannot achieve this redemption by his own efforts; it must come as a gift through a divine intervention. Both types of mythology speak of such an intervention: Jewish apocalyptic of an imminent world crisis in which this present aeon will be brought to an end and the new aeon ushered in by the coming of the Messiah, and Gnosticism of a Son of God sent down from the realm of light, entering into this world in the guise of a man, and by his fate and teaching delivering the elect and opening up the way for their return to their heavenly home.
Indeed, elements of Gnosticism itself pre-date Christianity, and one could make the case that the basic premise of Gnosticism, attaining individual salvation of the soul from the carnal world through knowledge — replacing esoteric or intuitive knowledge with the knowledge of Christ — was borrowed by Christianity and adopted with its own twist centered on the divinity and saving power of Christ.
Of course, one needs only take a short trek through the “Dying god” entry on Wikipedia to research and identify the numerous life-death-rebirth myths that have inundated antiquity, Osiris in Egypt being one of the earliest and clearest examples to draw parallels. So much for the absence of “blatant mythologies.” As for the “outlandish flourishes” in the gospels, I won’t even get into the possessed pig, Christ’s temptation in the desert or the earthquake that supposed happened, depending on which account you read, when Christ died (with dead people springing up from the ground to boot) and again when an angel appeared at Christ’s tomb, which are “incidental details” that no historian outside of the Bible thought worthy to mention.
I am attempting to make this series more digestible by breaking it up into smaller parts. Since this section only covered one page of the book (p. 40), this may shape up to be a long series indeed (only 230 pages to go!). I’m sure there will be opportunities to move more quickly at the expense of repeating myself, and I will attempt to do so when it’s warranted. But given that the opening section of this book is so steeped in vague and unsupported claims, I feel it’s important to slow down and highlight as many of them as possible. I didn’t even know there would be a Part 3c, but that seems to be the case. Stay tuned as I plod through the rest of Chapter 2.
In Chapter 2, Strobel continues his interview with Craig Blomberg on the biblical evidence from eyewitness testimony. Strobel begins by identifying eight tests in which people can subject the gospels to get closer to understanding of whether they are trustworthy and credible. I won’t go through every single one because at least three of them, “character,” “bias” and “corroboration” are only given a few paragraphs each, which basically amount to Blomberg’s opinions on whether the gospel writers were of good character, recorded the events with integrity and used other sources to verify various places and events that they reference. I’ll only mention the five paragraphs Strobel calls “The Corroboration Test.”
When the gospels mention people, places, and events, do they check out to be correct in cases in which they can be independently verified? Often such corroboration is invaluable in assessing whether a writer has a commitment to accuracy.
Yes, they do, and the longer people explore this, the more the details get confirmed. Within the last hundred years archaeology has repeatedly unearthed discoveries that have confirmed specific references to the gospels, particularly the gospel of John — ironically, the one that supposedly so suspect!
Now, yes, there are still some unresolved issues, and there have been times when archaeology has created new problems, but those are a tiny minority compared with the number of examples of corroboration.
In addition, we can learn through non-Christian sources a lot of facts about Jesus that corroborate key teachings and events in his life.
Here, Strobel offers no notes that back up Blomberg’s claim about archaeological evidence, and Blomberg mentions no examples to support his claim either. Here’s a list of some of the Christian archaeological finds, none of which lends any credibility to Jesus or his miracles, just that select elements of the gospels, for instance, the pool of Bethesda and the historicity of Caiaphas, may have reflected actual people and places.
Further, Blomberg contends that non-Christian sources lend credibility to the gospels, but let me make this very clear: there is no contemporary source or bit of evidence that confirms the existence of Jesus. Not one. Here is a list, and here is former pastor Dan Barker on the subject:
There is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime. This does not disprove his existence, but it certainly casts great doubt on the historicity of a man who was supposedly widely known to have made a great impact on the world. Someone should have noticed.
Christians sometimes like to claim that Josephus 37-100 A.D. was a believable non-Christian who wrote about Jesus, although he was not contemporary. This is the relevant passage:
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law …
While this passage may be authentic, two problems exist. First, it’s hard to believe that an historian would mention the Messiah almost as an after thought and buried in a long section of text. Second, why would Josephus, an observant Jew or possibly a priest at one time, would admit that Jesus was the Christ? I wrote more about this here: Josephus and the historical Jesus. Here’s another explanation of Josephus.
Strobel, ever the “unbiased” journalist said Blomberg answer was “concise and helpful.” While it may have been concise, it was lacking on detail. Of course, I can’t blame Blomberg since he knows full well that there are no credible details that he could have presented to support the authenticity of the gospels, much less of the life and miracles of Jesus. Ever the go-getter, Strobel tells us at the end of this short section on corroboration that he is jotting down a note to himself:
Get expert opinions from archaeologist and historian.
I guess we’ll get to that in Chapter 5 when Strobel speaks with John McRay, one of his “experts” who also happens to be an apologist.
So these don’t run too long, I’ll address the rest of this chapter in the next post.
Most of the following video you can skip if you like because the interviewer, Howard Conder, quizzes Richard Dawkins on some rather absurd questions about evolution, irreducible complexity, etc., that he would already known the answer to if he had bothered to read any of Dawkin’s books.
Conder seems to not be able to comprehend the point that Dawkins makes, that is, if Yahweh is all powerful and essentially sets the rules on how mankind will be redeemed after the fall of Adam and Eve, why does God require a “perfect” sacrifice, or even a sacrifice at all.
Here is Dawkins:
The idea that God could only forgive our sins by having his son tortured to death as a scapegoat, is surely from an objective point of view, a deeply unpleasant idea. If God wanted to forgive us our sins, why didn’t he just forgive them? Why did he have to have his son tortured?
That’s a very good question.
Well, what’s your answer?
Conder then recounts the Genesis narrative in which Adam “lost that perfection for us all” when he sinned in the Garden. He then explains why Christ was necessary:
Another perfect being of the same degree of perfection could only be the proper ransom for our redemption.
Conder in response:
Being the god that he is, allowing for us to have freewill, it wasn’t just scrumping an apple. There was more to it than that. Adam was plainly disobedient, and I think he even admits it himself in the fact that he hid from God that particular evening because there was a fellowship between man and God every day.
So Adam was disobedient and that sin reverberated down the ages, is inherited by all humans. What kind of a doctrine is that? Inherited by all humans and had to be redeemed by the son of God being tortured to death. What kind of morality are you propagating there.
That’s a very good question (Are you noticing a theme? Dawkins raises very good questions to which there are no answers).
Conder then reiterated the point that Christ’s life had to be perfect. In apparent frustration with this exchange, Dawkins agreed that they should move on. Before going to a question and answer part of the interview, Conder said:
Please Richard, see my heart, not my intellect because my heart is for mankind as well.
And with a tinge of sarcasm, Dawkins replies:
Oh I can see that.
OK, so if you didn’t view the whole video, that’s enough to get a general feel for how it went in the last few minutes. As I said, Conder seems unable to wrap his mind around the question that Dawkins posed time and again, that is, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why the need for a sacrifice at all, much less a perfect sacrifice. At one point, Dawkins hints at the problem when he asks: “Why did God have to have his son tortured.”
Conder didn’t pick up on the subtly, but implicit in the question is if God “had” to do anything, if he is operating under a set of rules outside of himself or if he is constrained in his actions in any way, then he is not God. Essentially, he makes the rules, and the sacrifice that would redeem mankind had to be perfect, then some being or entity other than God is in control. Christ didn’t have to be killed to redeem mankind. Indeed, mankind didn’t have to redeemed by any physical action whatsoever. God could have just done it. He could have said:
OK, the gig is up. It’s been thousands of years now. I think you have toiled and suffered birth pains long enough now. You guys are off the hook. Eat, drink and be merry and enjoy your lives.
But no, believers would continue to have us believe that their God is so obsessed with the notion of vicarious redemption that nothing but a perfect sacrifice for redemption would do. Well, if that’s the case, God’s might, whatever it may be, is not omnipotent, and his love, whatever it might be, is not all-encompassing.