Archive for the ‘god’ tag
This is in response to a comment I received from Rich Flowers a couple days ago regarding a post about young earth creationists. Flowers writes:
It’s so easy to demagogue and ridicule the young earthers. Why don’t you come after us mainstream Christians who believe that much of the Bible is reconcileable (sic) with science? That God created evolution?
In the first place, I think it’s a stretch to suggest that belief in God-inspired evolution is kosher among mainstream Christians. For support of this, see my post on an official Darwin Day and the general pushback in the United States against giving Charles Darwin the recognition he deserves, particularly given the number anti-science, young earth lawmakers sitting on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and indeed, in Washington generally. For instance, here is the anti-science Georgia Rep. Paul Broun:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
It’s a sham that this guy is in anyway remotely associated with the word science, much less is a member of a committee to that end.
And then, there is this data from Gallup in 2010, suggesting that four in every 10 Americans, not just Christians, believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. Consider the following table:
This shows that among believers who attend church frequently, 60 percent believe in the young earth proposition, while only 31 percent of people in the same group think evolution was guided by God. Not surprisingly, 31 percent of people who rarely or never go to church believe in an evolutionary process independent of any god. So, the link between “mainstream Christians” and a theory about God-guided evolution is far from concrete.
That said, let’s assume for the sake of argument that the following are true: the Bible, Christianity and evolution. What are the implications? The argument from Christianity on how these are compatible may go something like this: the Bible claims that for God, a day is like 1,000 years, so an indeterminate amount of time could have passed between the six individual days of creation, allowing the millions of years necessary for human evolution to take place. Further, in Genesis 1:24, God doesn’t appear to just speak the animals and plants into existence, but says “let the earth bring forth” the animals, which seems to partly suggest that some other process may have been at play in the creation of biological life. Of course, that theory is shot down when we consider man’s creation, since the Bible is clear that God breathed life into man “out of dust.”
But we can go further. Evolution holds that man and every other modern species developed by slow degrees through the process of natural selection from simpler forms. The Bible, on the other hand, tells the narrative that man, although he fell in the garden, is the exalted species above other animals and can achieve redemption and eternal life if he believes in Jesus. Man is also the only species with a soul. Notwithstanding the fact that the concept of a “soul” has no basis in science, since everything that makes us who we are, along with all of our memories, are products of the brain and genetics. Christianity also maintains that man is eternal, with some people spending eternity in hell and some in heaven. There is also no basis in science to believe this is true either. When we die, we lose consciousness and our brains simply shut off. There have, of course, been reports of near death experiences, but there is strong reason to believe that these are hallucinatory in nature((1)), largely a result of lack of oxygen to the brain.
Let’s ignore these details and still maintain that man evolved by God’s plan. At what point in the human evolutionary process did God arbitrarily decide to confer a soul on the species? Five million years ago? Two million? One hundred thousand? Three thousand?
Finally, Flowers said in the above quote that he thinks that “much of the Bible” rights with science, but of course, how can one dismiss certain parts of the Bible that may not right with science (i.e. the existence of sorcerers) and accept other parts. Either the Bible is infallible and inspired by God or there are certain parts of it we can’t trust. And if there are certain parts we can’t trust, how can we trust any of it? It is here that Christians will roll out the Holy Spirit for what believers call “divine discernment.” Well, if we’re talking about Christianity reconciling with science, we might want to reconsider a spirit who has the unique capacity to transmit information to the brains of millions of humans at once.
In any case, here are some more details we can’t trust from the Bible:
- In Genesis 1:11, plants are ludicrously made on the third day before there was any light.
- In Exodus 9:24, a bunch of Egyptians are killed by fire raining down from the sky. Some versions soften the language to say “lightning,” but the KJV lists it as hail and fire.
- Leviticus 11:13: Bats are not birds.
- Human don’t live, and never have, to be 100s of years old. Some suggest that this was a translation miscue. If so, chalk that up to another way in which this all-powerful God allowed his one and only written communication with humans to get garbled.
- There is no evidence that there was ever any firmament encompassing the earth, as written in the KJV. Even the ancient Greeks knew that. Again, later versions of the Bible have softened this language to make it sound less fraudulent.
I could go on and and on (Here’s more), but believers must ask how they work out which parts of the Bible to believe as authentically coming from God and which parts may have been errors made by man. Yet, if the Bible is supposed to be inspired directly by God, why does it contain these errors in the first place? Certainly an all-powerful God would have been capable of making a book perfectly reconcilable to science, even if his ancient scribes didn’t understand what they were writing. Surely, they didn’t understand the logistics of a burning bush or fire raining down from the sky. Why would it have been a stretch to preempt Darwin and mention evolution or even germ theory or string theory?
I can, of course, present a full argument against Pascal’s wager — and have in previous posts that I haven’t time to look up right now — but it will suffice to reference Richard Dawkins’ answer to this question:
P.Z. Myers whiffed on that Atheism Plus foolishness, but nonbelief should be about celebrating our similarities, right? That said, I couldn’t agree more with what P.Z. Myers wrote about Minnesota’s recent vote to OK gay marriage.
Gov. Mark Dayton wrote:
In my heart, I grieve on both sides. Because I know what it’s like to be alone and I know what it is like to have somebody close to you and love you. But I grieve inside because I feel we are opening the doors to Sodom and Gomorra. And in the end, God is going to be the judge,” said Nelson, of Blaine, tears running down her cheeks.
Aww, he grieves on both sides. How compassionate. He apparently doesn’t shed too many tears, however, since priestly exhortations against sodomy by fiat trump any loneliness folks might feel from the lack of a mate, straight or otherwise. In the end an all-loving, peaceful, war-loving God — depending on which part of the Bible you read — with his fire and brimstone, will be the judge.
Myers concludes his remarks about Dayton:
I would bottle your tears and perhaps dot a little on my wrists every morning — Eau de Schadenfreude. Or perhaps I would drink them like a rich bitter wine, and laugh. Those aren’t tears of sorrow, but of nasty cruel bigotry — you didn’t get your way, you weren’t allowed to demean other citizens of this state in the way you wanted, and now you get to weep in frustration, while I have no sympathy.
And to compare the happy men and women who can now aspire to share equally in love and marriage with evil, wicked horrible people from your book of lies, to tell yourself they are damned and will be destroyed…well, I’ll dance an especially happy spiteful dance on your broken dreams of oppression, lady.
Conservatives and religious types just need to swallow this conclusion hook, line and sinker because it’s reality: in regard to equal rights – particularly gay and civil rights – as San Francisco goes, so goes the nation. Resist this trend all you want but believe you me, whatever is now acceptable in California, the Pacific Northwest and New England, will one day be acceptable in the entire nation, the South included, and no matter how long it takes, resistance to this fact is futile.
This post stems from a conversation over at Bunch about biblical contradictions, particularly related to the creation story and man’s fall from grace in Genesis.
For simplicity’s sake, I am mostly going to be speaking here of the Judeo-Christian conception of God, known as Yahweh in the Old Testament and God the Father in the New Testament, but a good portion of this will apply to the God of Islam or any other deity that man has created with certain transcendent, otherworldy characteristics, such as omniscience.
The following is the first definition of “god” from the Merriam Webster:
capitalized: the supreme or ultimate reality: as
the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.
I would wager that because of our general acceptance of religion in society, “goodness” continues to be part of our working definition of what we mean when we say God. But does this necessarily have to be the case? The ancient Greeks completely understood that although humans might label a being as a god does not mean that this being is actually good just because he commands powers that might appear mystical to us. Indeed, the Greek gods were in some cases capricious, childish and downright vile in some of their dealings with humans and each other. Take the rape of Europa, for instance (see illustration).
Yahweh, likewise, is certainly capricious, jealous — by his own admission — and overbearing, and thus, not much different than his Greek counterparts in being wholly a human creation.
In any case, let’s briefly take the Bible’s word for it and assume for argument’s sake that the Judeo-Christian god is basically good. The Bible directly tells us in many places that God is good, not the least of which are Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” and Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His loving kindness is everlasting” and Matthew 19:17, “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? (there is) none good but one, (that is), God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
But it seems these passages belie God’s actual actions if we look at the Jewish and Christian narratives in totality, which in turn, make the strong case, once again, that the Bible is wrought with inconsistencies. First, let’s take the Jewish tradition from the Old Testament. Since there doesn’t seem to be a coherent consensus in Judaism about the afterlife, and particularly, heaven and hell, we can just look at the behavior of Yahweh toward his “chosen” people. Although the argument that God is good may be up for debate, as I argue here, the notion that he is omniscient and all-powerful are not, otherwise, we must change what we mean when we utter this three-letter construction.
If God is omniscient, he would have known there in the black chaos before speaking anything into existence that man would be seduced by the serpent and ultimately fall from grace. He would also know, in his omniscience, the precise time and place that Satan would tempt Eve to eat the fruit. He knew there in the black chaos that man would be exiled from the Garden as a result of the fall (and his seeming lack of concern that Satan infiltrated Eden) and would be relegated to a life of toil and birth pains. He knew there in the black chaos that man would soon after the fall become wicked in his sight. He knew he would have to flood the entire earth, kill untold numbers and preserve only one pious man and his family. He knew there in the black chaos that his “chosen” people, Israel, would betray him time and time again by falling into idol worship. He knew his beloved Israel would become slaves in Egypt. He knew of the wandering, the despair and the bloodlust on display against rival tribes in his name. He knew there in the black chaos that someone claiming proprietary knowledge would advocate the burning of random women believed to be witches and of stoning gay people. He knew of the impending Inquisitions; he knew there in the black chaos that Hitler, wanting to purge the world of his own “chosen” people, would maim, starve and slaughter 6 million Jews.
Moving beyond the Old Testament into Christianity, God knew that he would one day send his son for the atonement of man. He knew of the intense suffering that Jesus would endure. He knew of the intense suffering and persecution that early Christians would endure. He knew that one day, he would have to watch as millions, exercising their “god-given” reasoning capabilities, would not be able to believe in the historicity of Jesus or accept his gift of salvation and thus be cast down to perdition to burn forever and ever.
Regardless of whether any of this is true in reality and if we take these stories at face value, God saw the misery, the suffering, the despair, the waste of life and loss that would ensue once he spoke creation into being. He saw it all in the beginning. His mind’s eye envisioned this vale of woe in the chaos, and with a poker player’s blank stare, he went about the business of creation anyway. This alone, notwithstanding any arguments we might make about unnecessary suffering and an all-loving deity, renders God evil at best and sadistic at worst.
Believers often make the assertion, as I briefly alluded to in a recent post, that God exists in some realm outside of time and space, and because of this, he is not bound by the laws of physics that may, under different circumstances, preclude him from performing some of the miracles in this world or raising people from the dead (i.e. Lazarus, Jesus). They also trot out this eye-rubbing piece of faux logic to rule out the possibility that we small-minded creatures could ever conclusively prove or disprove his existence since, they say, he exists outside of our observable view.
Notwithstanding the fact that this train of thought could be used to believe or imagine any possibility whatsoever, from sugar plumb fairies dancing on the ether to Apollo playing soccer with Zeus in the shadows of Mount Olympus, simply separating God from space and time doesn’t make him more believable. So, let’s work through the implications of both scenarios and see if God comes out looking any better either way.
First, let’s say that God exists inside space and time. The argument from belief is that, as I briefly mentioned, if he is part of our universe, he might be bound by the hindered by the laws of nature and as such, may not able to perform the powers attributed to him. But why would this necessarily be the case for an omnipotent being? Mountains don’t move, at least not in any sense that we can observe with the naked eye in real time, but the Bible claims that faith can move mountains. And who but God is behind the power that could make a feat happen in the physical world? Thus, here is a theoretical example — since it has never been observed in practice — of God’s ability to act against what science tells us is impossible (moving large objects out of sheer will of mind in the absence of energy).
While this would not necessarily prohibit his ability to perform miracles, since an all-powerful god, by definition, does not cease being God just because is part of the universe, rather than outside it. It does mean, however, that if he is operating inside space and time then he too must have been formed by some force or process that predates himself, which ultimately means that, while he may be indeed supernatural and powerful beyond our comprehension or be endowed with some characteristics that, to us, approach the divine, he is not the source of own existence, and thus, not the supreme progenitor of everything.
Michael Shermer equates a being that develops in this way to an extraterrestrial:
God is typically described by Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent. Because we are far from possessing these traits, how can we possibly distinguish a God who has them absolutely from an ETI who merely has them copiously relative to us? We can’t. But if God were only relatively more knowing and powerful than we are, then by definition the deity would be an ETI!
This is not quite what I had in mind, but it’s close. Jerry Coyne, a professor at the University of Chicago, more accurately describes the view that if God developed via evolution like every other being inside space and time, he would remain unseen, perhaps, but still be able to impact natural elements in a scientifically observable way:
The being might not be demonstrable, but the actions of that being might well be. In that sense there can be natural evidence for a supernatural god. We can’t see electrons, either, but we can see their actions, and hence infer that they exist.
This is the position Richard Dawkins takes in his book, “The God Delusion.” But here’s the problem for believers in this scenario. While he can still be all-powerful, or what we may define as such, omnipotence does not make him eternal and immune from incremental development since he resides inside space and time and is subject to time itself. The implication here is that, whatever form or process might have created God, God as we know him, like every being that exists inside the universe must have evolved from a simpler, not more complex form, which runs directly counter to the accepted notion of God from the Bible and the other two major monotheistic religions.
Thus, the “theory,” and I mean that in the nonscientific sense, that apologists float, and indeed must adopt, is that God exists outside of spacetime where the laws of the universe do not apply, and that he exists in the “spiritual,” not the physical realm. Sophisticated apologists like William Lane Craig support this using the Kalam cosmological argument to suggest that because the universe began to exist (since here we are), it thus requires a prime mover, on whom Craig, presumably out of thin air, bestows the following traits. This creator is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent. Less sophisticated believers, on the other hand, simply cite biblical passages like 2 Peter 3:9 and Revelation 1:8.
I don’t think it’s necessarily to contemplate multiverses or whether Craig’s eternal God could possibly exist in another physical realm different than our own, since even if God exists in another universe and even if science one day discovers that we live in a multiverse, believers, I think, would still need to argue for a God outside of spacetime for their position to remain even remotely intelligible.
Here are the negative implications that believers must face when contemplating God outside space and time:
- If God resides in a spiritual realm or is somehow removed from space and time, how can they possibly claim to know anything about him? Their unsatisfying answer, of course, is that God has an inexplicable ability to communicate to believers through the Holy Spirit. But this means that he must necessarily enter our physical world millions of times per day speaking with believers across the world. Pew reports that the globe contained about 2.18 billion Christians in 2011. Let’s say God communicates with each believer just once per day for a year. That would mean that the Holy Spirit has been issuing a whopping 7,957,700,000,000 statements to Christians every single year for 2,000 years. That’s 1.59154e+16 revelations! Now, with that much information coming from heaven, three implications follow. First, the record from the Bible suggests that God was once intimately interested in human events. Why would God living in some spiritual region give two farthings about mortals in the first place? Second, one would think that with that much information coming from God himself, we humans would have a better understanding of the universe itself, our purpose within it and more intelligible information about the authenticity of the Bible. Further, would it too much to ask, since he is all-loving, after all, that God might pass along a definitive cure for cancer or HIV/AIDs to someone somewhere? Or, perhaps, he could tell Catholic officials that it is, indeed, evil to deny people contraception in poverty stricken regions in Africa or that feeding people and improving the lives of conscious creatures might be a shade more important than the construction of sprawling Taj Mahal-esque multimillion dollar church compounds? Third, the existence of all those revelations might mean that God is indeed spending more time here on Earth than in this supposed other realm, and as a consequence, he theoretically exists in both worlds simultaneously. This is exactly the message of Psalms 139: 7-12. So, wherever else he might spend his time, he and his descendants would at least be, in part, subject to change inherent in the notion of evolution from simple to complex forms. Since the Bible argues that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, the argument supporting God’s ability to communicate with man seems self-defeating.
- Related to this, Craig describes God as “changeless” and “timeless” to support the idea that God was the prime mover and stands outside of spacetime, but as John Loftus and others have argued, it’s just plain bizarre to suggest that God never changes. In his book, “Why I Became an Atheist,” Loftus quotes William Hasker, who noted that “… when God began to create the universe, he changed, beginning to do something that previously he had not done.” Or, as Loftus himself put it in, “The whole notion that God doesn’t change seems to imply that God never has a new thought, or idea, since everything is an eternal NOW, and there is nothing he can learn. This is woodenly static. God would not be a person, but a block of ice, a thing.”
I have tried to show that either way we view God’s existence, here in our universe or outside of it, the idea of an all-powerful, unchanging deity who created everything, yet somehow stands outside of everything, falls in on itself once specific implications are considered, and the argument for this deity carries no more validity than the alternative.
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.
Some folks within the nonbelieving community have suggested that the History Channel’s series, “The Bible,” may produce an adverse effect than what its creators may have anticipated, as “casual” believers or fence-sitters see depictions of the mass murders and other atrocities that Yahweh in the Old Testament either caused directly or ordered through his followers. It just occurred to me that today we call the deaths of thousands of people, like on Sept. 11, 2001, a tragedy. Yet, God orders the mass slaughter of nonbelievers in the OT, and no one raises an eyebrow. Some of the people murdered on Sept. 11 were believers; some were not. Their deaths were, by all accounts that I have heard the last 10 years, tragic. Yet, a deity can order the slaughter of thousands of nonbelievers and somehow that’s OK. Today, we would call that terrorism. I’m amazed at religion’s power to desensitize so-called “morally upright believers” to violence, rape, incest and genocide.
But in any case, a question over at Bunch has been raised whether “The Bible” will turn off believers because of the many deaths the series depicts that are directly attributable to Yahweh. Matt O. wrote:
I suspect, and I might be wrong, that History’s The Bible mini-series might be one of the best things for atheism to happen in a long time. As the Bible is actively read by some 16% of Christians this is giving millions an opportunity to see parts of the cannon that are morally objectionable attributed to their god.
And he then listed numerous scenes in “The Bible” in which Yahweh wipes out mass amounts of people from Earth in the OT, to which I replied:
It may turn off some “casual” believers, but it won’t make much difference to the “church every Sunday” crowd. They know full well what Yahweh did and commanded that his followers do in the OT, and they believe anyway because any amount of wickedness or depravity can be justified in their eyes since we supposedly live in a fallen world and God’s law is supreme no matter how morally bankrupt it appears to us.
So, I listened to a little bit of Dave Ramsey today on talk radio because, well, conservative talk is about the only option in East Tennessee, and I usually prefer talk with which I disagree compared with bad pop and worse rock. If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, he’s basically a right wing pro-investment guy who, while mostly giving callers advice on money matters, periodically ventures into politics and religion. As you might imagine, Ramsey fits right in with a local radio station that gets most of its content from FOX News Radio.
Ramsey veered a bit off topic today during a segment in which he took some online comments from listeners. One person said that they did not see anything in the Bible about investing, saving money and amassing wealth, as Ramsey is well known to support. Ramsey then pointed to one of at least three passages in Proverbs that mentions storing up wealth. Some of the verses that at least implicitly reference this are Proverbs 13:11, 16:8 and 28:20.
Ramsey’s basic argument was that God actually wants believers to prosper financially and that all the arguments about the Bible contradicting itself (For instance, Jesus telling the disciples to sell everything they own and follow him) are bogus because of people take the passages out of context. Ramsey said God supports people investing and accumulating wealth because by doing so, believers are then better equipped to help others, and further, believers would be ill-equipped to serve and give back to the community if they were broke.
At least his spiel is consistent. Here’s what he had to say as quoted in an article from 2007:
Ramsey gets irritated when he gets emails and letters directing him to the scripture, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Ramsey believes in the inerrancy of the Bible but says such calls for poverty are “doctrinal nitpicking.” Ramsey contends that the Bible says the love of money (as opposed to money itself) is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and that God asked rich men (Moses, Solomon) to work on his behalf. “The Bible does not say that you’re supposed to be poor,” he says. “Most of the patriarchs in the Bible were wealthy. You’re managing money for God.”
Yes, Ramsey read a Tweet from a listener that again mentioned the “eye of the needle” passage in the New Testament. I’m not sure where Ramsey gets the logic that people are taking Jesus’ words out of context. Jesus tells his followers to take no thought for tomorrow (i.e. don’t plan or the future) at least twice, once in Matthew 6 and again in Luke 12. Jesus tells people to sell all of their possession and explicitly says not to store up treasures on earth. He tells them without compunction to give up everything they have and follow him (Matthew 19:21).
Here is Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Here is Luke 12:27-34
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alivetoday and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For [n]all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Here is the entire “rich young ruler” passage from 19:16-30:
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Ramsey in his rant mentioned this passage directly and told people they should read all the way through rather than stopping at the “sell what you possess” part and read until the end. Well, OK, there it is. Jesus tells them that after they have given up everything, only then will they receive a “hundredfold” and will get to live forever. Ramsey is being intellectually dishonest, and as nearly all believers do, cherry picking parts of the Bible to assert his claim, while ignoring the totality of the book.
Also during this particular show (I don’t know how much of it was original and how much was just a piped in rant from years ago), but Ramsey also made this bizarre claim that since the Old Testament was supposedly written by Yahweh, that is, God the Father, and since the Old Testament predominantly mentions saving money and storing up treasure, then we should follow the OT on this particular issue and not what Jesus had to say. This is peculiar indeed because Jesus, of course, was claiming to be God himself and even said I and my father are one. So, presumably on this logic, anything that Jesus says in the New Testament gets the stamp of approval from the father.
But here is the crux of it and where it gets weirder: Jesus also said that he did not come to the destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. And this is why when people like myself say that the Bible contradicts itself, we mean that it is a serious and irreparable fallacy that simply cannot be reconciled. Yahweh presumably said one thing in the Old Testament, Jesus said something quite different in the New Testament, and Jesus, by claiming that he is fulfilling the law, leads us to believe that he is suffering from some kind of personality crisis because he, also as God, was present when the father said those things in Proverbs, and as God, he knew that he was going to utter something that directly contradicts it thousands of years later when he gets incarnated on earth. Such are problems that surface when one adds a dose of logic to a paradoxical and fallacious concoction like the Trinity.
According to this report from FOX News, a new bill would allow school districts in North Carolina to offer elective courses in biblical studies. The courses would not be a requirement but would count as credit toward graduation.
Classes that teach the Bible have to be conducted in a way that does not promote or disparage religion, or alienate students with different beliefs. But because religious belief is such a personal issue, we believe it’s a topic best left to the student’s parents, and not government bureaucrats or school officials.
While I agree with her and think that nonbiased instruction in biblical studies is more of a possibility in state-funded colleges than in high schools, where in the latter case, there is potentially more religious sentiment among school administrators, especially in the South, I say go for it. The more kids know about what is actually in the Bible, the better.
The problem with teaching kids and teenagers about the Bible in churches is that Sunday school leaders and pastors tend to focus on the more “press-friendly” stories in the Bible like Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den and Jesus walking on water, etc., while either barely mentioning the mass murder and slavery or altogether ignoring all the incest, bloodletting, fornication, the stoning of innocent people, flagrant pillaging of villages, witches and the like. Or, if these things are mentioned, they are framed thusly: The Jews lived in a different time period with a different set of moral parameters; the Bible is a story about man’s fall from grace, his many mistakes along the way and his ultimate redemption. That argument fails because many of man’s “mistakes” were either overseen or mandated by an all-watching God. Yahweh escapes this charge with the frail piece of logic that since, as believers claim, God is the progenitor of all morality, he can essentially command whatever he wishes, and we are in no place to judge God’s decrees. Carried to its logical end, this argument is dangerous because a person, even today, can justify any action however depraved because he has God on his side. For instance, Pastor Dave, citing Exodus 22:18, could go on a selective killing spree, offing any woman he believes is practicing witchcraft.
So yes, perhaps an unbiased study of the Bible is in order in our public schools, but this should be framed as religious studies and be accompanied by an equal treatment of the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Gnostic writings that didn’t make it into the biblical canon and other ancient mythological texts.
[Photo credit: Time, "The Case for Teaching the Bible."]