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2. Entries are presented in a dialogue format -- i.e., a series of related entries by a single writer are grouped together, along with Davis D. Danizier's replies to specific comments.
3. The entries included in this webpage are those responding to the web pages about the Christian theology that could not be assigned to the specific discussions of any single topic, either because they are too general in nature or widely address the topics of more than one web page. Other dialogue pages responding to other religious commentaries by Davis D. Danizier may be found as follows:
Forum on General Christianity or combining multiple topics:
Forum: this page
Commentary: Paul vs. Jesus -
Forum: Discussion about Paul vs. Jesus - http://www.wordwiz72.com/3dpforum.html
Commentary: Bloody Human Sacrifice
Mythology of Christian Atonement - http://www.wordwiz72.com/atone.html
Forum: Discussion about Atonement mythology - http://www.wordwiz72.com/3daforum.html
Commentary: Bible Contradictions,
Flaws and Failed Prophecies - http://www.wordwiz72.com/bible.html
Forum: Discussion about Bible - http://www.wordwiz72.com/3dbforum.html
Dialogue with Adrian
Shelomo writes on 10-22-02:
I was wondering if you could give me your take on the Holy Trinity. I have enjoyed reading your thread and look forward to a response.
DDD reply: The trinity is a convoluted attempt to make sense out of the various scriptures that identify God as having a body, of being a spirit, and otherwise have conflicting attributes. This notwithstanding, the complicated manner in which these conflicting attributes are reconciled makes it difficult to point to specific or direct absolute contradictions, where one statement is not only different from another, but mutually exclusive, as I have done with the other contradictions and flaws. Ironically, when I was a Christian I didn't really have trouble with the concept of the trinity, though of course in rejecting Christian theology I no longer had the need to deal with these contorted explanations to make sense of the different Bible writers' views about the nature of God. My understanding of the concept is that there is one god, in three persons. A god is not the same as a person. In my mind I saw god as sort of a team, and the three persons the three players working together on the team as one single unit. These days I don't give it much thought.
Dialogue with Bob
Bob writes on 7-3-02:
When I came across your web site I thought maybe a prayer was answered. I won't give you the status of an angel, but any help would be greatly appreciated.
DDD reply: Well, it would certainly be the first time anyone has accused me of being an angel!
B: I have had discussions whereas I am told that salvation can only be obtained by admitting that I am a sinner because I was born into sin. I'm told I am to pray only to Jesus and admit I'm a sinner and then I can obtain salvation. I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, however original sin I have problems with. When I look at a baby and say this baby is born into sin, no way. We are capable of sin, but born into sin, I can't buy it. This is where I come to my questions and why your web site is of great interest and hopefully answers. My understanding is that it is Paul's concept about being born into sin and the way to salvation is to pray to Jesus and ask forgiveness through Jesus for your sin. Does he have any bases under God for his stand?
DDD reply: My position is that Paul has no scriptural or rational basis for this absurd teaching. On the contrary, the teachings of the Old Testament and of Jesus clearly stand in stark opposition to it.
B: I see Paul as a zealot who has a lot of repenting to do and he is putting his quilt on society for his own benefit.
DDD reply: I'm not sure which website(s) of mine you saw, but the ones on Atonement and Paul vs. Jesus both touch on this. Clearly it is my view that Paul, who started out as a persecutor of Christians, never really reformed, and found a more effective strategy for undermining Christianity. He infiltrated from within and simply taught a doctrine completely opposite of Jesus'.
B: If this could be the case, why then do so many churches adopt Paul's letters for their teaching? By reading your essays, there seems to be a big conflict in what Jesus said compared to what Paul wrote. How do I deflate an argument that it is Paul's idea to salvation and not Gods?
DDD reply: Paul convinced Peter and other apostles and they fell for his trickery. Only James, the brother of Jesus, who argued with his position (and became somewhat of an outcast) makes a strong case against Paul. But this became the tradition and Christians abandoned Jesus for Paul.
B: Then if Paul is wrong, what is God's path to salvation?
DDD reply: According to Jesus, it is very clear: Love God. Love your enemies. Love your neighbor as yourself. Demonstrate your love for your neighbor in your treatment of "the least of these." Be filled with love and universal compassion, and manifest the reality of it in ACTIONS and DEEDS. Jesus is very clear on this point, which he emphasizes repeatedly. This is the OPPOSITE of what Paul teaches. If you call yourself Christian, then follow the teaching of JESUS, NOT PAUL.
Bob continues on 7-4-02:
Thank you for your response to my inquiry about Paul vs. Jesus. I did read your other essays and as I was reading I was saying yes it makes sense. I'm going to do more study on this subject. I'll keep an open mind. Are we taking Paul's word for the conversion of Peter and the other apostles? I'm thinking we are just taking Paul's word.
DDD reply: Well, some of us don't take Paul's word for it, especially when it opposes the very simple teachings of Jesus. If one person were to read just the four gospels, and another just the letters of Paul, they would each have a completely different understanding of "Christianity." Those that recognize this difference are left to either try to reconcile the contradictions or to say that either Paul or Jesus (take your pick) is wrong. But if you choose Paul over Jesus, as most conservative "evangelical" Protestant denominations do, then they shouldn't call themselves "Christians."
B: His conflicts with others in the church were never named as to who he was having conflicts with.
DDD reply: In many cases those who had conflicts with Paul are not named. In other cases they are. Paul admits in his letter to Galatians (Gal 2:11-12) that he had disputes with Peter and James, though it seems that ultimately Peter was taken in by him as Paul's position was the one that eventually won out.
B: Would you tell me who you are. Are you a member of a particular church denomination? What is your background in the study of the bible? I know this may not be my business, your writing should be enough, just curiosity. I'm a retired police officer with a background in investigations. You know, cut the bull, I want facts. I find the study of the bible is one of faith, but blind faith? I don't think so. I do know one thing, at least you understood my humor about you being an angel. Then again, who knows.
DDD reply: You are correct that what I say should be judged on its merits, not on who I am, but I don't mind sharing some personal background. I grew up as a devoted and active member of a conservative Christian denomination. I was active in Bible study and "witnessing" to attract others to Jesus. As I studied the Bible I began to find some contradictions and some of the issues I have raised. I assumed I was simply confused about things and that there were simple explanations to reconcile them. When I raised questions I was given simple but unsatisfying responses that didn't address the real points I was concerned with, so when I tried to dig deeper I was surprised and shocked to encounter hostility and defensiveness. Ultimately I came to realize that the contradictions cannot be resolved -- that Jesus and Paul are hopelessly and diametrically opposed, and that the Bible is the best efforts by thoughtful but ancient primitives to explain a universe they did not understand. This does not make it a fraud such as the Koran or Book of Mormon, where someone claimed to get a divine revelation that didn't really occur; the Bible is of legitimate antiquity and, while not divine or perfect, offers the best wisdom of its era and a glimpse into the history, sociology and mythology of those ancient peoples. Despite the lack of modern science, there were still people who were intelligent and wise and we have their thoughts. Today I am not a member of any particular denomination, but I have high regards for the teachings of Jesus. I find the teachings of universal love and compassion expressed in active deeds to be the most perfect philosophy of any other I have encountered. I am not prepared to claim that he is the literally begotten son of God, but the wisdom attributed to him is great, and moreso than any others, so I give it a lot of credit and credibility. It is just sad that Paul changed the course of Christianity in ways more painful to Jesus than being nailed to a cross.
Bob continues later on 7-4-02:
Again, thank you. I'm relatively new in the study of the bible. Here is how I started my studies. I have always believed in God and the ten commandments. The first four being a bit UN-understandable. I have since found the first four very enlightening on my march. In fact I truly feel that I have been touched by God in more ways than one (long explanations), however I have had problems in how Jesus fit in. I have also seen how people are afraid to question what is right in front of their face. I then saw the movie Stigmata. Then I saw it again and the closing credits about the Gospel of Thomas and how the Catholic Church found Thomas to be blasphemy. I had to research Thomas. The web is wonderful. You can do years of research in just days (months). It was interesting reading about the arguments about Thomas as the author of saying of Jesus. My favorite being, Jesus said, he who knows all, but does not know himself is utterly lacking. I also learned a great deal about the time period when Jesus was ministering. I learned that much of Thomas was included in the bible. I then started to study the bible and learn of Jesus. My conclusion of Jesus is close to what you had written. Was Jesus divine, I think so. However, very little about God being within (holy spirit) as Thomas' writings indicated. Then again we could look at the sermon's given by Jesus and the people were filled with the Holy Spirit. If the Gospel of Thomas as an accurate account of sayings of Jesus can be debated, however when I started looking at Paul and Jesus, I wondered how they could be related. When a friend started talking to me about sin and salvation through Jesus Christ as the only way I started to look at where did this come from. It was Paul and not Jesus. If Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus, my questions start out as to how did Paul get such influence. Your essays came at a great time.
DDD reply: You're welcome and also thank you to you for the kind words. Much of what I get is rather negative, often obscenity-filled (swearing for God!), perceived as an attack on Christianity rather than support for the original teachings of Jesus.
Do you have a copy of the Gospel of Thomas? The best source I know of is "The Five Gospels" by the Jesus Seminar, an assemblage of PhD's in theology and divinity who have re-translated the original four gospels with extensive commentary and also provided a translation of the Gospel of Thomas. These are all doctorates with mainstream seminary educations and extensive formal knowledge. It is widely available, in most bookstores and libraries. I have a copy and, if you don't already have it, I recommend it highly.
Bob continues on 7-5-02:
I have read much of Thomas. I did order the five Gospels.
DDD reply: Glad to hear it. To me the "Five Gospels" is the perfect truly Christian scripture: probably the best composite translation and analysis of the original gospels plus the inclusion of Thomas. All the gospels and ONLY the gospels: what Jesus taught, not what was taught by his supposed followers after his death.
B: What gives a church more power? The teachings of Jesus or the letters of Paul? Then you throw Thomas into the mix where would the church be?
DDD reply: I'm not sure I would use the word "power" to represent the aspirations of a true Jesus-based church, although modern churches do seem to be concerned with power. The key to me of what an ideal church would be to help people come together in their search for Jesus' true teachings and, much more importantly, to be a "self-help" group to help each other put those teachings into practice -- in the reality of actual daily behavior -- which is what Jesus emphasized (and, as his brother James emphasized: "faith without WORKS is DEAD").
B: I feel that I am at one with God when I take my walks and how I treat other people (is that boasting?).
DDD reply: I too feel my closest to god or the higher powers of Nature and the Universe in my private, personal rituals and observances and my quiet meditations and in the moments when I feel I have succeeded in practicing unconditional compassion, such as to someone who doesn't know what I did or who could not possibly reciprocate or cause me any direct benefit. Just pure compassion. And it is not "boasting" when it is in a context of sharing and serious discussion. If you went around bragging to everyone what you've done, that would be boasting. The context here just is not the same thing and it isn't taken that way at all.
B: I'm searching and you give me an educated avenue, but I want to continue searching. If I was asked to come to a conclusions right today, I would say the bible is ambiguous just for the purpose it keeps people talking/thinking about God.
DDD reply: Well to me it is obvious that the Bible is fallible, ambiguous and at times outright contradictory. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have great value. It is our repository of the greatest wisdom of its time, and wisdom which remains valuable in our time as well. Those that curse me for raising salient questions are on opposite sides of the same myopia as those who write to praise me for "attacking" Christianity. Neither of those extremes understands me. Only a very few, such as yourself, have been able to see in what I wrote the middle ground: my profound love of both Jesus and the Bible (but not of Paul) but that I can accept the Bible as being valuable, perhaps even sacred, and still fallible. I do not believe Shakespeare was a prophet nor was he infallible, yet I treasure his writings as well. There are many writers I admire without claiming them to be prophets or infallible. So I appreciate your willingness to see that perspective.
B: People who curse you for your thoughts must feel faith is enough.
DDD reply: It has happened a number of times and it is always striking in an ironic way when someone with an incredible foul mouth (or keyboard) somehow thinks they are representing Christian values! In fairness, though, it is a small percentage of those who write. I have also enjoyed some very thoughtful and intelligent exchanges with those who disagreed in a rational and respectful manner. I'm tempted to compile all these exchanges and make a book or something. Those who curse actually have no faith. They have nothing of substance to call on, so all they can do is rant and call names like junior high school bullies. I feel sorry for them, especially if they think this is going to persuade me to change my views. Whether I am right or wrong, I have thought through these issues carefully, and not likely to change because someone hurt my feelings :-)
Dialogue with Monica
Monica writes on 3-26-02:
I don't know when I've read a more sensible thesis about the Bible. Keep up the good work!
DDD reply: Thank you for taking the time to write with your kind words. I appreciate it.
Dialogue with Bryan
Bryan writes on 2-5-02
(Bryan begins with discussion of Paul vs. James, then moves on to multiple subjects)
I find it curious that you call into question the authority of and motives of Paul and his teachings. Paul is definitely no stranger to the apostles. On several occasions, Paul meets with Peter and James in Jerusalem. Specifically, we have record of this in Acts 9:26-28 and Acts 15:1-27.
On some occasions, Luke was with Paul during his ministries, and we know at least from Acts 15 that in one situation Judas Barabas and Silas were commissioned to go back with Paul to Antioch to make sure that circumcision and obedience to the Law was not preached as requirement. The commission to go with them is in verse 27 and the message of contradiction occurs in verses 23-24.
I realize that in Galations 2:11-17 Paul and Peter face-off in the presence of James. However, it seems to me that issue here is hypocricy with Peter. Barnabas is even said to have caved under pressured into treating the Gentiles as second class believers. In fact Peter's actions here do contradict is message in Acts 15 regarding the Law.
Considering that most scholars place the writing of Galatians around AD 57-58 because of the similarites with the Roman epistle, it would seem strange that 2 Peter 3:15-16 doesn't condemn the preaching of Paul, if infact, Peter and Paul were at odds. This powerful verse shows several things. 1) After the dispulte with Paul, Peter is still addressing him as "beloved brother". 2) Peter is aware of all of Paul's epistles. This would likely include the Roman and Galatian epislte even if the earliest conservative dating of 2 Peter is assumed which is AD 60. Nevertheless, most all of Pauls epistles are heavy on justification by faith, not works. 3) Finally, Peter's only comment on Pauls epistles are that the uneducate might have a hard time understanding them. He does not deny "the wisdom given unto him" either.
DDD reply: Clearly Paul is known to and respected by the apostles. He is clearly smarter and more sophisticated than most of them (with the notable exception of James whose incisive rebuttal clearly demolishes Paul's position as he defends the contradictory teaching of his brother, Jesus). Peter is devoted and loyal, but not particularly bright. He writes very little and adds nothing of real originality in his theology. Despite occasional differences of opinion, Peter is clearly taken in by Paul and, as the titular successor in apostolic leadership, his acceptance confers legitimacy on Paul. This acceptance does nothing to resolve the fundamental contradiction between Paul and James/Jesus that I addressed in depth.
B: Even if all of the Pauline epistles were ripped out of the canon, the gospel of John and the 1,2 and 3 epistles of John satisfy my foundation for Free Grace. I would like to continue to study with you on these points if you thought I made sense in this letter.
DDD reply: While I agree that the gospel and epistles of John echo Paul's emphasis on faith, off the top of my head I am not familiar with any verse in them that states that salvation can occur solely through faith alone, APART FROM WORKS, as Paul explicitly states in a number of verses that I cited. Expressing the importance of faith may differ from Jesus' primacy and emphasis on WORKS (that I cited exensively), but does not contradict it; Jesus also talks about the importance of faith in the synoptic gospels. Please cite specifically which verses from John (gospel/epistles) you believe talk about salvation by grace/faith APART FROM WORKS. And if you can cite such verses, please tell me why they do not join Paul in simply contradicting the numerous statements of Jesus saying that salvation is dependent on specific behavioral actions rooted in love for others.
Bryan continues on 2-14-02:
I tried sending this to you as a word doc but apparently your email rejects attachments.
DDD reply: Yes. It is part of "safe computing." Most information should be included in a simple e-mail. If I need an attached file I can make arrangements for its transmission, but these exchanges of e-mail ideas are better handled within e-mails.
B: I don't want to belabor John 3:16, since I know you've read it a dozen times, but I would like to share a personal anecdote with you about this passage. Before I do though, I'd like to examine what the definition of the Greek word "pisteuo", which we translate believe. According to Strongs lexicon, the word means to "have confidence in". Also, the Hebrew writer gives a God inspired definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [RSV]"
DDD reply: The problems of synchronizing John (the last of the gospels to be written) with the synoptic gospels is a different matter, but one that brings its own problematic issues for Bible literalists. Clearly John reflects some influence by Paul, whose viewpoint was dominant by the time John was written. For the purpose of THIS conversation (and as I noted in my commentary), I absolutely concede that John 3:16 does not contradict Jesus or James. Both Jesus and James teach the merits of faith and belief, they just don't make salvation dependent on it. Here John does say that those who believe are saved, but he does NOT include Paul's statement "APART FROM WORKS." Therefore, since James suggests that true belief will engender righteous acts of salvation, the two passages can clearly be reconciled, especially since right in the same passage (in the same paragraph division) Jesus (according to John) goes on to command good works (John 3:19-21). Thus, even in John 3:16 there is a linkage between belief and action not seen in Paul. Other problems with John can be deferred for another conversation.
B: I remember once a conversation I had with my father about the subject of "qualifying faith". My father tried to illustrate that true faith manifests obedience-- and of course he turned to James 2:14-26. His illustration stated that "if I truly believed him [my father] when he told me the stove was hot, then I wouldn't touch it". Its really quite logical sounding, but the fact remains that I could still touch it just to find out how hot it is. Were my actions stupid? Yes. However, people do lots of stupid things. Disobeying God definitely falls into the stupid category.
DDD reply: But the contradiction between Paul and James is not about stupidity. It is about salvation. Paul says it is by FAITH AND NOT WORKS; James says it is by WORKS AND NOT FAITH ONLY. Both of them write of the importance of faith and of works, but they disagree on which is the mechanism of salvation. This is a direct contradiction.
B: I'd like you to consider John 3:16 from a hopefully unique perspective. If salvation was so important...
DDD reply: Another completely absurd concept wholly invented by Paul, which distracts people from the core teaching that Jesus actually brought. I address this extensively on the web page devoted specifically to this point (http://www.wordwiz72.com/atone.html), which is ultimately the central doctrine of evangelical Christianity.
B: ...that God sent his only Son to die for our debt, and Christ was omnipotent, then why does John 3:16 not say "...whosoever believeth in him and obeys his commands...."? That would seem like a huge oversight to me. If he was ridiculed, tortured, and ultimately crucified because of our debt, why would he not be clear about how to take advantage of his sacrafice?
DDD reply: As I noted above, read the entire passage. It essentially does say just that. ...aside from the ridiculous concept of salvation by atonement in the first place, and aside from the fact that, absent the exclusion of actions as per Paul, belief can always be reconciled with action per James' observation that true belief leads to action (as long as it is not excluded as Paul does).
B: Finally, a few quick points about James 2:14-26 specifically:
First lets examine verse 14. What does the audience need to be saved from? The word saved has a very spiritual connotation for most bible readers. In reality the word is an exact synonym for the word rescue. However, rescue does not have the spiritual connotation. In fact, Philippians 2:12 which says to "...work out your salvation with fear and trembling..." is best interpreted "...work out your rescue with fear and trembling..." In the first chapter you can read how Paul's audience has run into adverse opposition and he is encouraging them to stand fast in their obedience and to flee if necessary even though Paul is in prison. I only mentioned this illustration to show how infrequently readers ask the question, "saved from what?". Perhaps, in being consistent with his opening and closing remarks, James means saved from the wrath of God, not eternal punishment.
DDD reply: You are adding a restrictive "clarification" that is not actually there. You are right that the word "saved" has very clear meaning to Christians. James clearly uses it in that context within this passage. Since the term has generally-understood meaning, then in the absence of a differing definition, it must be assumed that James knew his audience would understand it in terms of that generally-understood meaning. To argue any other view would require a specific supporting statement, which does not exist. And I would not agree at all that this generally-understood meaning is in any way inconsistent with his opening and closing remarks. James and Paul use exactly the same term in exactly the same context, even including exactly the same example (Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son) and the same scriptural reference. The distinction or "clarification" you allege in what they mean by salvation (or justification, the English term many versions prefer for both passages) is wholly of your own invention in your attempt to reconcile what cannot be reconciled from what is actually present in the text.
B: Secondly, I think the point to verse 18 and 19 is simply this: It is impossible to tell what someone believes simply by obedience. To paraphrase, he says, you believe in God and obey, the demons believe and do not obey, they just tremble. In other words, only God knows whether you have faith in him or not. I know plenty of atheists who will help feed the poor. That doesn't mean their saved. With this verse in mind, I would also comment that the demons do not have a plan of salvation by faith; their fate is already sealed.
DDD reply: If you do believe the Bible to be literally true, then if you believe JESUS (not Paul or James) when HE set the criteria for who would be saved and who would be rejected, in the last public teaching (according to Matthew's chronology) and the only specific discourse on the final judgment, then atheists who feed the poor, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, visit the prisoners and welcome the strangers will in fact be saved (Matt 25:31-46). Any other view of "salvation" directly contradicts this discourse from JESUS. When you argue against this point, think who you are arguing against: you are taking sides AGAINST JESUS in favor of someone who was an admitted persecutor of Christians. Think what you are doing.
B: Next, let's consider verses 21 through 23. I want to work this one backwards for the sake of clarity. Let me preface these verses with a quick look at the Greek word "dikaioo" which we translate "justify". The word means to "declare righteous" and was often a legal term.
DDD reply: You are weaseling here with your definition. James never heard of O.J. or our legal system. But you are quibbling here ... whatever it means, both Paul and James used exactly the same word in exactly the same semantic context and the same context in terms of examples. Whatever they are talking about, they came to opposite and contradictory conclusions. Professional translators consistently translate this in a way that suggests it is referring to salvation, and your amateur word-by-word use of a dictionary apart from this context is not impressive. But again, it doesn't matter. Whatever it is, Paul and James are talking about the same thing, but come to mutually-exclusive conclusions.
B: An analogy would be to say that O.J Simpson was justified by the jury. It doesn't mean he didn't commit a crime, it just refers to his legal standing before the law. If you'll look at Genesis 15:6, you will see that Abraham was already considered righteous, through faith, by God long before he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. What then is justification all about in verse 21? I think Paul knew the answer. Consider Romans 4:2: "For IF Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God."
DDD reply: My point exactly. Paul comes to the opposite conclusion from James, using the same example, that of Abraham. How is this inclusion intended to support your point?
B: Paul knew could conceive of another type of justification. Justification before the world. Simply put, the imputed righteousness of Christ saves us and our good deeds perfects [James 2:22] us because we glorify God before the world. The world declared him to be righteous. He was called the "friend of God" by the Lord but also by others.
DDD reply: Please cite the specific verse in which Paul makes this clarifying reference. I find no such distinction in the text itself. Again, this has been fabricated for the purposes of fudging a reconciliation.
B: Verse 24 is a truly enlightening verse to examine. Before I re-committed my life to Christ I must have read this passage the same way a dozen times. I'd like to share with you what a friend of mine shared with me. My good friend is a part-time preacher and teaches from a purely Greek bible. He is a master of constructing sentences and conjugating verbs in the native Greek language. Fortunately, for this exercise you don't have that kind of expertise.
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
What is an adjective? It's a word that describes a noun. What is an adverb? An adverb is a word that describes a verb. "Only" is an adverb. What is the verb in this passage? Justified. By simply substituting different nouns and verbs, we can see exactly what James meant.
Ye see then how that by [bus] a man [can travel], and not by [airplane] only.
Notice that I did not change the sentence structure at all. "Only" does not modify faith because it is an adverb and faith is a noun. Just in case your curious, the Greek word here for only is "monon" and it is an adverb as well.
DDD reply: I did not say that the adverb "only" was modifying the noun "faith." You are making an argument against a position I did not take and ignoring the real substance of the contradiction. This analysis does not address the contradiction I have cited at all. Use of multiple means of transportation are not mutually exclusive because they refer to multiple events; either different trips or differing legs of the same trip. Because there are multiple events, they are not mutually exclusive. Now, are you saying that salvation occurs multiple times? That we get "saved" many times? I don't think there is much scriptural support for such a position, and I think that belief flies in the face of what most evangelical Christians believe. Salvation is not by faith one time and works the next. Because there is only one occurrence, it is exclusive of multiple methods. Differing methods of travel would be multiple or plural and would take plural word forms. The references to salvation are in the singular. Using an example of multiple options for a singular process is intellectually inconsistent. If you were referring to singular travel events, such as a single leg of a trip, your example would be more accurate: you can not travel by bus and airplane at the same time. The reason James can use the modifier "only" is because he accepts faith as part of that singular process, linked to actions and expressed in actions. But it is the actions which James cites as the mechanism of justification, and this is what contradicts Paul.
B: Finally, I want to address verse 25 and the text concerning Rahab. Read what Joshua 2:12-13 says. [Rahab speaking] "Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token: 13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. " Rahab was justified, by her works, before the Israelites, and her life was spared.
DDD reply: Certainly this Old Testament passage is referring to Rahab's mortal life on earth, not salvation. But I agree that it is metaphorically consistent with the idea of salvation used throughout the Bible. And, again, the Bible agrees with Jesus and James. It seems that, as YOU once again point out, Paul is the odd man out in terms of Biblical authority. What a tragedy that his view is what has dominated evangelical Christian theology. I repeat my statement that so-called Christians should call themselves Paulians, since they certainly follow him in his contradiction and subjugation of Jesus' teachings.
Bryan continues on 2-19-02:
I have just now read you article on atonement. You spend a lot of time explaining for what purpose Christ death did not serve. I would like to hear your explaination of what purpose his death did serve?
DDD reply: The "purpose" was
for the established religious conservatives of the day (the Pharisees
and the Sanhedrin) to get rid of a pesky liberal.
In terms of any kind of "purpose" from God, I don't see any kind of "purpose" for killing an innocent man, any more than any other senseless act in which an innocent person is killed. But since the killing occurred, as in the case of any other assassination, the tragedy can be used to call attention to the teachings and message of the reformer. This might have happened in Jesus' case if Paul hadn't so completely reversed Jesus' teachings of salvation through universal compassionate love EXPRESSED IN ACTIONS and replaced them with his own in which he dismissed the role of actions as the agent of salvation (though he did acknowledge that good deeds are a good thing, just not the mechanism of salvation).
B: I submit to you my SPECULATION: I view the trinity as three seperate beings yet all God [divinity]. Personally, I believe that God [the Father] no longer wants man (Genesis 6:3). Christ, however, did want man. Instead of wiping us out [again], the Son offered to purchase us from the Father (2 Peter 2:1). The Father willed that Christ become man and live among us to see if he still really wanted us after being among us. He had a choice (Matt 26:53): to let us suffer the wrath of the Father, or, if he still wanted us, he had to demonstrate his love for us to the Father even unto death (Romans 5:7-9). Upon his return, those who acknoledged Christ [by faith], Christ will keep (Matt 10:32). The rest will suffer the wrath of God which was kindled long ago.
DDD reply: Thanks, but I rarely dabble in speculation about supernatural issues. I think you have cited a number of verses showing conflicting, not unifying natures of god as reported in the Bible. I do not believe that a heavenly "team" could be in such disharmony, especially if it is composed of beings that together are omniscient and omnipotent.
B: Also, a few comments on your article: No where did you mentioned that Christ lived a perfect life.
DDD reply: I have no reason to believe that any human ever lived a perfect life and, despite my great respect and admiration for the human named Jesus who came from Nazareth, I have no reason to believe that he was either perfect or in any other way supernatural.
B: A guilty man deserves to die, but a blameless man does not.
DDD reply: So any smallest sin or imperfection deserves the death penalty? What justice would there be in the death penalty for the slightest minor offense? And why not provide the imperfect mortal with the means of rehabilitation and learning from his/her errors instead of just wiping them out. I raised this question in my commentary -- that the idea that a perfect deity cannot abide the presence of the sinner makes him a weak, impotent and rather silly excuse for a god (again, Paul's concept). I notice you didn't address it.
B: I would suggest you look at the unmistakeable assimilation the Passover feast by Christ prior to his crucifixtion. Whereas, the blood and flesh of and animal once protected the Israelites from the wrath of God, so now does Christ's sacrafice for his people.
DDD reply: I am very familiar with this subject. How the HECK does "blood and flesh of and animal" protect humans from the wrath of God? This is an absurd superstition, growing out of the legends of primitive nomads wandering the desert. And please understand that the ancient Hebrews practiced these sacrificial rituals as symbolic metaphors, with the exception of their belief in the literal passing over of the Passover Angel of Death on that original Passover in Egypt, if the blood of the lamb was splattered in the doorways.
B: You assert that we should not be held accountable for our sin. I agree.
DDD reply: When I respond to your comments, I always quote them exactly to ensure that I don't misrepresent what you have said. Please cite exactly which statements you believe lead to the conclusion that we should not be held accountable for our sin. That is not my position at all. I said our sin does not merit the death penalty, any more than running a red light necessitates the death penalty. I didn't say we shouldn't be held accountable or responsible. On the contrary, I believe we should be. But true accountability or responsibility includes reformation and rehabilitation of the flawed character, not merely receiving punishment (unless that punishment in some way is instructive in the rehabilitation or serves as a deterrent to future recidivism). The idea of killing an innocent man so we CAN AVOID our responsibility is the absurd core of selfish Christianity (or Paulianity), which is the antithesis of everything Jesus actually taught.
B: Instead I suggest that partaking of the Tree of Knowledge led to a physical and/or metaphysical change in man. The fact that God protected the Tree of Life which could have restored man's immortality sustains the assumption. Prior to The Fall, man, either in body or spirit, did not have a tendency towards sin.
DDD reply: This portrays a very unjust portrait of your deity, one I could never accept. If the eating of a certain fruit caused some kind of physical or genetic change that introduced the capacity for physical death, then perhaps Adam and Eve as voluntary sinners deserved their death penalty for that (though the death penalty seems a little harsh for eating a piece of fruit). But THEY might have deserved it, NOT THEIR CHILDREN. It is unjust to hold the child accountable or responsible for what someone else did. If it is simply a matter that the fruit had properties that changed Adam and Eve's DNA so they passed on the capacity for mortal death to their innocent offspring, and God had a simple known cure that would fix the physical problem and didn't share it with the innocent victims, then what kind of just god is he? And the physical change that allegedly occurs ONLY AFFECTS THE BODY. I addressed at great length the issue of the logical fallacy of treating sin as a physical object. Sin is a flaw or imperfection of character, NOT BODY. A physical change in Adam and Eve could not cause their offspring to be born in sin.
B: I call to your attention to the fact that Satan had to manifest himself PHYSICALLY and tempt Eve into disobeying God just as Satan had to PHYSICALLY manifest himself to tempt Christ (who did not have a "genitic sin nature"). Selfish enticement was not enough. Hence, the prohibition of the tree in the middle of the garden was not overwhelming. In practical terms it can be said that they were not tempted to do that which was prohibited. Can the same be said today? I think not. Self-serving, sin nature is now part of our "genetic make-up" so to speak. Therefore, we all stand already condemened because eventually we will sin (John 3:18).
DDD reply: So not only is god NOT going to provide a simple cure for this physical change (at least to the innocent offspring) he is going to hold them morally responsible for conditions linked to their genetic makeup. He is going to impair their capacity for free will by introducing a genetically-induced physical compulsion toward sinful behavior, and then hold them responsible ... not just hold them responsible, but the death penalty! And instead of just providing this simple, known cure, he is going to contrive this convoluted system of vicarious, substitutional sacrifice in which he has to kill an innocent man and even then he is just going to end up absolving all the sins (of those who "accept" him) instead of actually addressing the condition of the moral flaw.
Now, you tell me why I shouldn't have a hard time swallowing that.
Bryan continues on 2-21-02:
Clearly I should have asked you from the beginning if you even believe there is a God?
DDD reply: I am beginning to get the feeling that every time you run into points you can't respond to, you change the subject. You ran into a brick wall on Paul vs. Jesus and James so you dropped that discussion altogether. You ran into a brick wall on the atonement issue so you are shifting the dialogue away from my critique of Christian viewpoints to questioning what my beliefs are while leaving many points unanswered in the previous discussions.
Why is a question about MY beliefs the least bit relevant to my questions about what Christians believe? Whether I am a devout nature-worshipper or Moslem or Buddhist or complete atheist does not in any way alter the serious questions I have raised about the flaws in the Bible, the flaws in the cornerstone of Christian theology (the atonement) and the conflict on core doctrines and teachings between the two founders of Christianity: Paul and Jesus (defended after his death by his brother James).
Although it is not relevant to this discussion, I will give you the courtesy of responding to your question.
The question of whether or not there is a "god" can not be objectively or conclusively proven. IF there is a god, he/she/it has for his/her/its own reasons chosen not to reveal him/her/itself to mortal humans in any broad, general way. Every established religion offers some truth and goodness and insight, yet each one also includes objectively verifiable and provable flaws. So, is there a god?
There are many phenomena which we cannot explain, not the least of which is the existence of the physical universe and also the existence of consciousness or spirit which is different from the physical universe. My gut feeling is to believe that this was created by a divine power or universal force greater than that which is observable to mere human mortals. I cannot be certain of this, however, because there are other possible explanations for these phenomena, which also cannot be observably or objectively proven. To me, the existence of a creator is the most satisfying so I tend to believe that, but I have an open mind on the subject. And while this "creator", IF he/she/it is real, does not seem to have manifest him/her/itself to humans in a general way, it does seem he/she/it can be accessed in this mortal sphere by those who approach him/her/it in a personal, individual way -- who seek to align themselves with its nature and essence. At such times, perhaps some people can be and have been "inspired." Perhaps Jesus was. Perhaps Buddha was. Perhaps Shakespeare was. Perhaps many brilliant insights have truly been "inspired" and their authors "inspired" at least part of the time, though clearly not all the time -- no one has ever been perfect. So I do not conclusively answer your question, but give the perspective in which I consider it. And I repeat that it is not relevant to the discussion of Christian or Biblical fallacies. Those, my friend, are clearly and objectively provable, as I have pointed out to those who seek out my meager contributions.
Bryan continues on 2-22-02:
I'm sorry that it appears to you that I keep changing the subject, but I mistakenly made some assumptions upfront about engaging you in conversation. I accidentally overlooked some of the URLs on your website and therefore did not read all of your material. That is why it appears that I regressed. You see like many other Christians, I take certain foundational things by faith.
DDD reply: I understand this. But Moslems (and even Christians of different denominations, such as Catholics, evangelical Protestants, liberal Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) also take certain foundational things by faith. You don't accept the "foundational things" they accept by faith, so since this faith seems to be such an unreliable indicator of truth, I do feel it needs to be supported by some kind of more objective confirmation.
B: I do believe that Christ was the Son of The Only God despite how unimaginable that is to you.
DDD reply: Please remember that this was not at all "unimaginable" to me. I was a conservative Christian. It was only after finding the contradictions, flaws, failed prophecies and the lack of logic and moral consistency in core principles of Christian theology that, with much traumatic soul-searching, I abandoned that which could not withstand rational scrutiny.
B: You write, "Paul is specifically rebutted by the later writing of James (brother of Jesus) who offers one of the most striking and dramatic direct contradictions in James 2:24. Here he chooses language and syntactical structures which specifically contradicts Paul's wording in Romans 3:28 in both content and construction:" Where did you get this from? Most biblical scholars agree that James was probably one of the earliest writings in the New Testament canon. Additionally, they conclude that it was most likely written between 40-47 A.D. Romans, however, was written, at the earliest, in 58 A.D-- probably closer to A.D. 61 by most accounts. In fact, the Catholics would have LOVED for James to have been written after Paul because they could then claim that James was simply clarifying Paul thus lending them an upper hand for their "faith plus works" theology. However, even the Catholic Encyclopedia confirms these dates!
DDD reply: I don't agree. The excellent and well-documented reference "Who Wrote the New Testament?" by Burton L. Mack (professor of early Christianity at the School of Theology at Claremont) places Paul as the earliest of Christian writings and James as one of the latest. Another excellent and scholarly source, also heavily documented with extensive referential support, is "James the brother of Jesus" by Robert Eisenman, professor of Middle East Religions and Archaeology and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins at California State University, Long Beach , who was a leading figure in the successful effort to open up access to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both of these books are widely available in bookstores and libraries. Could you be specific as to who your "most biblical scholars" might be, including the titles of their references you are using and their qualifications?
However, the point of who wrote first is not really critical. I don't believe that James wrote first but if he did, so what? Then Paul is rebutting James. There is still exactly the same word choice, in exactly the same semantic structure and the same overall context including their choice of examples. The contradiction is still stark and compelling, no matter who wrote first and is being answered by the other.
B: As for my reconciliation of James and Paul, I am confident that Paul's Roman epistle is addressing the mechanics of justification before God, and that James sermon is addressing both the external manifestation of faith before others (justification before others) and the physical consequences of ineffectual faith-- faith without works. Justification before God is the ONLY thing that matters in respect to salvation.
DDD reply: This restrictive clarification is not in the texts or the context within which the texts are written. In the space leading up to these passages, both writers are talking about eternal salvation. Since the common usage of "justification" includes this meaning, and it is consistent with both of their contexts, in the absence of some specific indication of another context (which isn't there) it is obvious that they are referring to the same thing.
B: Why then has James constructed an imaginary objector demanding that faith be proved by works? The ONLY answer is that James is simply not talking about justification before God. He already knows that Abraham was justified before God by faith (verse 23).
DDD reply: You are misrepresenting "verse 23" of James. How can you POSSIBLY say that James asserts Abraham's justification "by faith" before God or in any other meaning? Verse 21 which sets up the context clearly states: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" You are saying that James said exactly the opposite of what he actually said. It was Paul who said in Romans 4:1-3 that Abraham was justified by his belief, clearly in direct contradiction to James.
B: Instead James is saying that our faith is perfect if we act on it which is glorifying to God. Show me where it says in the scriptures that glorifying God or having perfected faith is a REQUIREMENT for salvation.
DDD reply: James is saying that faith alone cannot bring salvation until it is breathed into relevant efficacy by works, which is thus the mechanism of salvation. James clearly states that faith is important, but it has to work in tandem with works in order to generate salvation or justification. Note that James says in verse 20 that faith without works is DEAD. So faith without works (which Paul says is sufficient for salvation) can do NOTHING, being DEAD. This is pretty clear language, and a very strong argument against Paul's position. This does not say that faith is impotent; only when it operates in a vacuum without works. In verse 22 about Abraham, James notes that Abraham's "faith wrought with his works" (KJV) or "faith was active along with his works" (RSV) or "his faith and his actions were working together" (NIV) or "his faith and his actions worked together" (Today's English). While Paul says faith saves WITHOUT WORKS, James says that Abraham was saved by his WORKS, when his faith worked with his works to engender his justification.
B: On your website, you cited Matthew 7:21-27 as a proof text for salvation by works. However, you have not considered it's full context. Start reading in verse 15 were the topic begins. Christ is warning against false prophets. These are people that only PRETEND or CLAIM to believe. They "cast out demons" in his name. My mind is immediately drawn to a Benny Hinn type or some other televangelist who might not truly believe but is instead using the gospel for their personal gain. I have already shown you where the gospel of John records the will of the Father as the one work-- to believe. Since you believe that John's gospel was tainted by Paul, I cannot reconcile the contradiction this presents for you.
DDD reply: I'm sure you know that the Bible passages, in addition to division into verses, are also divided into paragraphs. In the KJV each verse is shown as a separate paragraph, but the actual paragraph groupings are indicated with a paragraph symbol. Other versions show the actual paragraph divisions with the verses numbered within the paragraphs. Chapter 7 of Matthew, part of the Sermon on the Mount, addresses various subjects, as do all the chapters in the Sermon. In Chap 7 there are various warnings. Verses 15-20 are one paragraph, and that is about false prophets. Verses 21-23 are about those who profess faith but don't back it up with works, and who are cast out in utter rejection; it does not mention anything about false prophets, whose doom of being cut down and thrown into the fire concluded the passage of verses 15-20. Verses 24-27 are likewise about those who hear the words then put off translating them into action and they, too, shall be like the house built on sand that fell. I stand by what I wrote in my commentaries 100%.
B: Another proof text you cited on your website was Matthew 25:31-46. Why do you assume that the sheep and the goats are the sinners and the saints (so-to-speak)? Why can't they be the believers and the unbelievers?
DDD reply: Because that is not what is in the text. To make this interpretation, you would have to make some additional assumptions, while I am not "assuming" anything. I am going by what Jesus actually said. He does not talk about what people believed or even knew. He cites the basis of their salvation as what they did: fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the prisoners. All of these are ACTIONS. He cites explicit examples of ACTIONS, not faith or belief.
B: In fact, if you'll notice, the righteous weren't even aware that they had done good deeds (verse 37-39)!
DDD reply: Exactly! Here, Jesus is going way beyond James. James acknowledges the importance of faith, but says it is dead until breathed into life by ACTIONS as an agent or mechanism of salvation. Jesus is saying these people didn't even realize what they had done and yet were saved by their actions ... not because they had demonstrated obeisance to a heavenly king, but because of the goodness in their heart manifest in ACTIONS toward the least ones who could seemingly do nothing to reciprocate their kindness.
B: I propose that this group simply had faith that led them to help the ministers of Christ because they had faith in Christ (Mark 9:41)-- not because they were trying to do good works. Therefore, they were counted as believers.
DDD reply: Certainly I cannot find any example where Jesus actually denigrates faith. Certainly there is no reason to deny the possibility that the justifying ACTIONS were motivated by faith. It's possible, but that conclusion is yours, not in anything Jesus says in this passage on the final judgment. If your theory is correct, then at best it leads to his brother James' conclusion that faith can motivate the ACTIONS on which the actual mechanism of salvation or justification is predicated.
B: IF you believe in God, creator of all we know, then you need to answer why would he NOT reveal himself to us. I believe he did, but I cannot convince you of that. You will have to answer that compelling question on your own.
DDD reply: Not really. I don't know why he/she/it doesn't reveal him/her/itself to us. That's my answer. I don't know. I can conjecture and hypothesize as to possible reasons, such as that he/she/it wants us as one phase of our spiritual development to be apart from him/her/it and learn a few things on our own, but will entertain OUR self-initiated approaches to him/her/it, but obviously it would be a contradiction to say that he/she/it has not revealed him/her/itself to us and then give the reason for that decision which would imply that somehow that reason got ... revealed.
Bryan continues on 2-25-02:
I have read a lengthy book entitled "Don't Know Much About The Bible" by Kennith C. Davis which has a very similar theme. I am also very familiar with the HYPOTHETICAL book of "Q" and the Gospel of Thomas [followed by lengthy discussion of these, which has been omitted].
DDD reply: Since I never once mentioned the hypothetical book of "Q" nor the Gospel of Thomas I am puzzled by your rather lengthy digression into these areas. I find the subject interesting, but quite off the subject and not willing to stray in that direction at this time unless you can show me why it is relevant to the discussion of Paul's contradiction with Jesus and James.
B: I propose that Darwin's theory of evolution seemed highly likely 60 years ago as well, however, science has since completely knocked the wind out of it and I'm sure that science will stifle this myth as well in due time.
DDD reply: Again, this is also an interesting topic but digresses from our conversation. I'll just say, however, that your assertion that "science has since completely knocked the wind out of [evolution]" is absurd to the point of silly. You are using silly sources. I have seen the "scientific" efforts to debunk evolution and they are absurd. Evolution today is the foundational ROCK on which all biochemistry, biology and anthropology are based. As with all disciplines of science, there are some discussions as to some specific details still in the process of being uncovered, but the basic process is fully understood and universally accepted by scientists in these fields [although that does not rule out the HYPOTHETICAL role of a possible deity as a prime cause or even a guiding cause]. The "theory" of evolution is as rock solid as any other proven theorem, such as the "theory" of gravity or the "theory" of relativity. By the way, the uneducated often confuse the term "theory" with the term "hypothesis." In the scientific method it has a specific meaning. But again, that is also off the subject. You seemed to have trouble staying focused this time around.
B: In respect to the dates of James and supporting references I already offered the Catholic Encyclopedia as a supporting reference. However, similar dates can be found in the Anchor Bible Dictionary as well which. Likewise, Dr. Zane Hodges supports these dates in his book "The Epistle of James".
DDD reply: I gave the qualifications of my sources, not tied to any particular denomination, but with strong academic certification. I stand by them. But again whether James is rebutting Paul or Paul is rebutting James, no matter who wrote first the contradiction still stands. This is the main point which you fail to address.
B: The restrictive context of James dialog is PHYSICAL death. James 1 opens with this topic and closes with it in chapter 5. Why then would he change context and start talking about salvation? The restrictive context is clearly justification that saves (rescues) us from the wrath of God.
DDD reply: The subjects of death and salvation are quite closely related -- the condition of the former begets the need for the later. Salvation is supposedly (per Christian theology) determined after death. If you are correct that James 1 and 5 are about physical death, then the reason why James changes to the topic of salvation is not important. The fact remains that in Chapter two he is talking about salvation.
However, I review James 1 and fail to see that the topic is "physical death." He begins with a greeting and then promptly speaks of PERFECT WORK in verse four. In verses 1:5-6 he talks about wisdom, acquired through faith. In verse 1:12 he talks about enduring to the end and receiving the "crown of life" (boy does that ever sound like salvation to me). In verse 1:15 he talks about how sin brings forth death. Sounds to me a lot like "spiritual" death more than "physical" death, which of course necessitates ... salvation. Verse 1:17 talks about the "perfect gifts" of the father, the foremost among them being, of course, salvation (not specifically mentioned in that verse). Verses 1:22-23 speak of being DOERS of the word, not hearers only, in this context of SALVATION so nicely laid, and which sets up the context for chapter two, of course. Chapter 1 concludes nicely with verse 1:27 -- "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Sounds suspiciously similar in tone to Matthew 25. He is clearly defending the message of his brother.
Turning to chapter 5, he talks of the coming of the Lord. Please specify what verses you believe indicate that the central topic of this passage is physical death. The coming of the Lord suggests much more strongly to me a final judgment, or issues of spiritual death, not the physical death you refer to. I'm afraid you have badly mischaracterized James.
B: I agree that James is arguing faith without works is dead. To what end? Don't you find it coincidental that in the context of his sermon, which is devoted to the physical consequences of sin, he uses the word "dead" [nekros] instead of useless, ineffectual, or powerless?
DDD reply: Unlike you, I have shown that the central theme of James is consistently about how ACTION is what brings faith to life. He uses the term DEAD because it is more starkly absolute than "impotent." Without ACTION he is saying that faith, however valuable it might be in motivating that action, is NOTHING. Not a little, but NOTHING.
B: Once again, I submit that either James did not know scripture well (Genesis 15:6) or he was talking about something else.
DDD reply: I have no idea the extent of James' knowledge of scripture. I have never said he was perfect or infallible. But what he is talking about could not be more clear. He is citing the exact same scripture as Paul, which puts them in exactly the same scriptural context, whether James is rebutting Paul or Paul is rebutting James or it is just an incredible coincidence. James means what he says, no matter how much you want to twist and distort it to try to make it say the opposite. He is talking about salvation. He is saying that faith motivates action, but it is action that saves ... JUST LIKE JESUS said.
B: There is no conflict. James and Paul are talking about two completely different subjects.
DDD reply: You are utterly desperate to try and make this passage say the opposite of what it says. It says that faith motivates actions, but unless those actions ensue, faith is DEAD. NOTHING. Not even a little. NOTHING. And he specifically says that it is action that saves, which is the mechanism of justification. This is exactly opposite of Paul who says that salvation or justification is by faith AND NOT BY WORKS.
B: In regards to Matthew 7, you referenced some logical sections marked by paragraph indicators in someway. Actually, the most reliable Greek manuscripts which include the text from the Sermon on the Mount begin in the section of Matthew our English bibles label as Matthew 5. However, the original texts were nothing more than continuous dialog written on parchment. Paragraph indicator and certain forms of punctuation (such as quotation marks) are not part of the syntax of any Greek reference manuscripts. Only for the purpose of clarity our English translation were these types of markings added. Generally speaking, these are useful and beneficial for quick refrence and passage identification. In this case, though, the text of 21-23 is contained within the entire context of 7:13-23. A logical transition does occur at verse 24.
DDD reply: It is the job of PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATORS to translate in full context from the source language to the target language. They use a full range of knowledge and resources far beyond a handy dictionary. Every single version of the Bible in English uses exactly the same paragraph divisions. I am not a Bible scholar. I don't know why they divided them that way. However, since every single version I have is in complete agreement, I am not going to challenge them. And I suspect that the reason you are standing alone in disputing these divisions is because they don't show it the way you want it to come out. You are not willing to go with the objective information universally agreed by all experts. Guess what, I am not impressed with YOUR credentials as a translator standing apart from everyone else.
B: I hesitate to bring an additional facet into the scope of Matthew 25 and I was hoping that the prior explanation was sufficient. Let's consider the picture: This is an experience on Earth. All of the nations of the Earth shall be gathered. On the right shall be the saved and on the left shall be the damned. The dead that are damned are not present because they will not be raised until after the thousand year reign (Revelation 20:5, 20:13). Somewhere among them is a third group-- His brethren. I believe that this group is the group that refused the mark of the beast (Revelation 20:4) and therefore could not buy, trade, or sell (Revelation 13:17). As a result they needed food, drink, shelter, and clothing.
DDD reply: Your explanation is bizarre and convoluted. I do not track the teachings of Jesus recorded in the synoptic gospels with the rantings of a lunatic on Patmos Island who wrote Revelations. Jesus speaks in plain and simple parables, understood by all. John the Revelator speaks in riddles and symbols. I do not accord him any serious credibility. I certainly don't grant him the power to endorse restrictive clauses on the teachings of Jesus in the flesh. Jesus' example is clear and plan: he is talking about the final judgment. Those whose ACTIONS were compassionate toward the least ones will be saved. Those whose were not are not saved. Period. If you believe JESUS (not Paul) to be the messiah, then read it and consider it at your peril. Jesus does not even say they need belief or faith: those who ACTED compassionately toward the least ones who could do them no good will be saved, those who did not, will not.
B: You are correct to say that I cannot prove that the active, justifying, ingredient was faith and their works were merely a byproduct.
DDD reply: READ THE PASSAGE. JESUS does not even mention faith in this passage (though elsewhere, in other passages, like James, he does show the value of faith and belief, though not in this one about the final judgment), much less make it the "active, justifying ingredient." It couldn't be more clear. You are so desperate to find a way to make it say what you want it to, that you will go to any lengths.
B: However, I do find that this harmonizes quite well with all and is satisfying enough for me.
DDD reply: I'm glad that your convoluted, tortured semantic gymnastics are so satisfying for you. I hope you will understand why my silly obsession with having the purported word of god be simple and plain enough for his children to pick up, read, and understand, leads it to NOT be satisfying to me.
Bryan continues on 2-26-02:
Having not read Burton L. Mack's book, I decided to read some comments and few synopsizes of the book.
DDD reply: Your comments about Q and Thomas were relevant to Mack's book as a whole. But I was not discussing his book as a whole. I was citing his very scholarly work as one of the sources for my chronology of James in relation to Paul -- a very narrow and specific point. While a discussion of Q and Thomas might be interesting, and is certainly a part of Mack's discussion of the New Testament, it was not relevant to the discussion of James and Paul.
B: I agree that for the purpose explaining what you perceive to be a contradiction, the issue of who wrote first is a minor point. However, I would like to add, for your consideration, that Josephus records James death in 62 in Book 20 chapter 9 of "Antiquities". Supposing James intent was to refute Paul, this time frame leaves only a very small window of opportunity to respond to Paul's Roman epistle which is widely accepted as being written in 61. Personally, I stand with the scholars that place the writing of James in close proximity to the Jerusalem council in 46.
DDD reply: Mack uses the same date, and even cites Josephus. He seems to have taken this chronology into consideration. But he places the letters to Paul even earlier, among the earliest of all New Testament writings. And again I note that his scholarship and credentials, as well as those of the author of "James the brother of Jesus" are impeccable and not linked to the limited dogmatic constraints of a specific denomination. Who wrote first is not important, but I stand by my position that James is rebutting Paul. But if it is Paul rebutting James, the same contradictions remains. and this is the point you keep evading when you go off on your irrelevant tangents about who wrote first.
B: As for Darwin's theory of evolution, I have a good collection of articles and snippets from non-creationist scientist that seriously attack this theory. Their scientific disciplines include physics, cosmology, biology, genetics, and geology.
DDD reply: I'm quite sure you do. As I mentioned, I have seen quite a bit of that kind of material myself. The attacks are not scientific. Scientists in the fields of anthropology, biology and biochemistry are essentially unanimous in their complete reliance on the certainty of evolution, especially since the advent of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing which confirms genetic links. This now goes way beyond hypothesis to well-established theorem. While I am not great scientist myself, my work in communications (in preparing both written documents and live media presentations) has led me to have close interaction with scientists in this field and in helping them communicate their work, and I know how universal the acceptance and application of evolution is and how central it is to modern biochemistry. I also know the extent of their contempt for the amateurish attempts to "debunk" evolution, and how they ridicule such views.
B: Returning to the topic at hand, which is the "apparent" contradiction of Paul and James, that to paraphrase your words, I have yet to address. I believe I HAVE addressed this issue. James 1:15, which you cited is talking about physical death, of UN-REPENTED sin.
DDD reply: It is talking metaphorically about the life-cycle of sin -- how sin is conceived in lust, and how that sin causes death. The context here is the relationship between sin and death -- again, echoing the context of Paul who notes that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 -- part of his same epistle). Both agree that sin causes death. So much of their context continues to show that they are talking about exactly the same thing! And what frees us from this sin? Justification, or salvation. They are talking about exactly the same thing. Only the disagree on the mechanism -- Paul in Romans says the mechanism is FAITH WITHOUT WORKS; James scoffs at the idea, notes that FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD, and says it is WORKS, and not faith only, though faith is an important motivator of works.
B: James is simply elaborating on a principle that Jesus taught in Luke 13:1-5. Here James is describing un-repented sin as mature sin (full grown). Make no mistake, the Greek words translated as "death" and "perish", respectively, describe the physical body. James 5:20 ends with a relevant passage. He encourage concerned brethren to help save the life of a fellow believer who needs to be turned away from their evil ways. I don't profess any highly academic linguistic skills here, I simply looked these words up in Strongs Lexicon to find their meanings. Having clarified that, I copied straight out of Strongs, the 3 definitions of justification [dikaioo]: 1. to render righteous or such he ought to be 2. to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered 3. to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be. James KNEW Abraham already had imputed righteousness (which is what Paul talks about and is Strongs' definition number 3). This made very plain in verse 23. Why in the world then would he contradict himself? He's not!
DDD reply: James is not contradicting himself. He says that Abraham is justified, and it is because of his actions. He is not contradicting himself; HE IS CONTRADICTING PAUL. Your citation of varying definitions of justification are not relevant. It is clear that James and Paul are talking about exactly the same thing. The context is the same. The subject is the same. The examples are the same. Their choice of words are the same and even their syntactical construction is the same. If you want to take this massive plethora of sameness and try to show why they really are talking about something different, then you are the one who needs to support what otherwise seems to be an absurd contention. All you are doing is using tortured semantic gymnastics to explain away why something doesn't really mean what it says, because taking the words at face value means that your belief system is flawed and fallible. And that is a truth you don't have the moral courage to confront, as I did.
B: Definition number 2 is what James is talking about. Abraham, has imputed righteousness by God for believing, and he has exhibited righteousness by his actions. That is why his faith was "made perfect" (verse 22). Just because something is dead, doesn't meant it wasn't ever alive. Possession of faith at one point in time, regardless of it's present state, completes a transaction of imputed righteousness which I have just show both Paul and James had conceptual understanding of.
DDD reply: That Abraham has imputed righteousness by God for believing is PAUL's interpretation (Romans 4:1-4). That is NOT what "James is talking about." In fact, James says exactly the opposite: that the imputation of righteousness to Abraham was because of his WORKS (James 2:21-24). James is very specific about this. He says in verse 21 that Abraham was justified by his WORKS, which he then amplifies in the next three verses. He says nothing of what you said, about righteousness imputed for believing. You just made that up. That is scripturally dishonest.
B: Regarding Matthew 7, I in no way disagree with the any translator's TOPICAL decisions. If I wanted to know what the fate of a false prophet was I would turn to verses 21-23. If I wanted to know how to identify a false prophet, I would turn to verse 15-20. If I want to understand the CONTEXT of a given verse, I would read the preceding passages--especially in the case of a linear discourse. Have you even considered what a false prophet is? Can't you see the connection between the false prophets in verse 15 and their plea that they "prophesied in his name" in verse 22? If works was the issue, not faith, and they did many wonderful works (verse 22), then why is Christ not going to claim them? (verse 23).
DDD reply: The Sermon on the Mount runs through chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew. Throughout Jesus moves from one subject to the next. In Matt 7 he moves from false prophets to false professions of belief. Apparently all translators agree with this distinction.
But let us turn to another passage that is even more stark and clear. It is on my website, but I note that you conveniently did not include it in your response. Quoting from my website: "When asked by a lawyer what the most important commandment in the LAW was, Jesus answered (as reported in Matt 22:36-40 and Luke 10:25-37) with references from the Old Testament, that the GREATEST law was to love god (see Deut 6:5) and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself (see Lev 18:19). In the Luke text, the lawyer specifically asks what is necessary for eternal life (verse 25) and after Jesus references the two GREAT commandments, he says "This DO and you will live" (verse 28) -- showing clearly that salvation is related to works/deeds/actions, however important faith might be to motivating such behavior."
Note that in Luke's account the lawyer is specifically asking about what is necessary for eternal life. The context is not at all ambiguous or uncertain. He is talking about SALVATION. After describing the great commandments, Jesus answers, this DO and you shall live (specifically, eternal life context). When talking about SALVATION, Jesus does not say to believe or have faith, but to DO.
B: I also COMPLETELY DISAGREE with your statement that "Jesus speaks in plain and simple parables, understood by all". In fact, Matthew 13:10-16 Jesus says just the opposite about his own method of teaching! The teachings of Jesus ARE difficult to understand but we can come to understand them if we ask (Matthew 7:7-8).
DDD reply: Why am I not surprised. Reading the words at face value undermines your position. You depend on a "gospel" of hidden meanings and obscure complexity. Hope you'll understand why I can't believe in a deity who can only exist through trickery and concealment. Not my kind of loving father.
B: As I mentioned in the previous email, I hesitated to even mentioned my view of Matthew 25 as it pertains to eschatology.
DDD reply: Of course. Even you could see how far you were pushing the envelope of desperation, and you knew I wouldn't let it pass.
B: In response, you stated, that I am desperate to make the text say whatever I want it to say. I disagree, but then again I understand that Jesus teachings were intentionally difficult. I also put stock in John's teachings as divine revelation by God--not, as some would say, a sunstroke experience that he had on the Patmos Island. Conversely, you do not. I really don't even know where to begin with you on this passage because I, quite candidly, don't believe you even consider that there will be a second advent.
DDD reply: I don't believe in a second advent. That is completely irrelevant. My point is the contradiction between Paul and Jesus. Jesus here is talking about SALVATION -- who will be saved and who will not -- whether or not it is in conjunction with a second advent. Jesus is blisteringly clear and unambiguous when, as he does throughout all of his teachings, he states that those who are saved are those who helped the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the prisoner -- "the least of these." He could not be more clear. Paul says salvation is by faith, and Jesus (like James) makes it exceedingly clear here, yet again, that it is based on our actions. It doesn't matter whether I believe Jesus, James, Paul or "none of the above" to be able to see that Paul is in stark contradiction against James and Jesus.
Bryan continues on 3-15-02:
I believe James and Paul [and specifically with regards to Romans] are harmonious. [several examples are cited of compatible passages]. I could show you more examples where Paul and James echo each other but I'm sure you see the point I am trying to make.
DDD reply: The fact that James and Paul have many (perhaps most) areas of agreement does not erase the fact that on the point about how salvation works they disagree.
B: Your entire argument that James is intentionally contradicting Paul rests solely on your ability to restrict the context of "saved" to eternal salvation in James in 2:14-26.
DDD reply: I did not say James is intentionally trying to contradict Paul. He is trying to correct Paul, but he is clearly expressing his disagreement on this point, notwithstanding their many other points of agreement. A single point of contradiction is sufficient to establish the validity of the contradiction.
B: I find this restrictive context, based on a presupposition of James 1:26, to be unsubstantiated. Religion has nothing to do with eternal salvation. The Pharisees, which Jesus rebuked time and time again, were very religious, but certainly not saved.
DDD reply: If this simplistic dismissal of my point makes you feel better then hooray for you. I did not in any way "restrict" the context of James. I did not specify the context in any way -- James and Paul already did that and their context was identical. I showed several verses from the surrounding text to show they were BOTH talking about salvation. I showed that they BOTH used exactly the same words in exactly the same syntactical construction. I showed that they BOTH cited the exact same example, of Abraham, to make their point. (And here's something else: note that in James 2:23 James refers to the fulfillment of a scripture about Abraham believing in God and being found righteous; note that in Romans 4:3 Paul also cites a scripture about Abraham believing in God and being found righteous. Check out Genesis 15:6, which happens to be the verse about Abraham that they are both citing. They not only cite the same example, but the same verse about the same example. And then, with all the exact and precise totality of SAMENESS OF CONTEXT, they come to exactly the opposite conclusion. OK, if you want to "agree to disagree" that's fine with me, but I think deep down you know I'm right.
B: Regarding Luke 10 and Matthew 22, I am not disagreeing that to love the Lord is not the greatest commandment. In John 14:15, Christ expands upon this concept saying, "if you love me, keep my commandments". Without a doubt, love is the greatest commandment because it should propagate all other obedience.
DDD reply: Good. You're not going to disagree with what JESUS reportedly said.
B: To the point, however, Christ was asked this question several times in varying ways. If you look closely at both the question and the answer in each gospel, you will conclude that these are actually different lawyers.
DDD reply: I don't agree. The fact that the accounts are not consistent are just minor discrepancies (or "contradiction LITE"). But the only way you can force your predetermined conclusion is to assume they are different lawyers.
So, OK, let's assume you are right and they are different lawyers: let's just look at the one in Luke 10. Note that in Luke 10:25 the specific CONTEXT of the lawyer's question is to ask what is required to obtain eternal salvation. After the citation of the Old Testament verses about loving god and your neighbor, Jesus says in 10:28: "This DO and you will live." Not this "believe" but this "DO." The criterion for salvation in this passage is DEEDS, like what James says. Any other example you can cite to the contrary is a contradiction of this statement.
B: In fact, Christ answered a similar question for a scribe in Mark 12. In Matthew 22, Christ gave that lawyer a straight forward answer. In Luke 10, Christ let the lawyer, who asked about eternal life, answer his own question. The only conclusion that you can make, based the Christ's approval of the lawyer's answer, was that He found something within his response that was worthy of eternal life.
DDD reply: And the common denominator in every one of these exchanges is that Jesus concludes a behavioral need for compassionate actions as the primary requirement for salvation. He is very consistent on this throughout his ministry, from the beginnning (Sermon on the Mount), to all these various exchanges, to the end (with Matt 25:31-46, just before the Last Supper).
B: I believe that Mark 10:17-25 shows that only those who place their faith in Christ, [not themselves v24] will enter the kingdom of God.
DDD reply: This passage is replete with specific references to behavioral obedience. The fact that faith is a component to motivating that behavioral obedience is consistent with James and Jesus' other teachings, but the mechanism of salvation still remains rooted in ACTIONS -- i.e., WORKS.
B: I suppose you will always see Christ's teachings as a combination of faith and works...
DDD reply: That is what James says. Faith motivates works, but the mechanism of justification is WORKS.
B: ...whereas I will always see faith as the mechanism of eternal salvation which should be [but not mandatory] perfected by works.
DDD reply: Clear enough. When Paul disagrees with Jesus and James, you come down on the side of Paul, NOT JESUS. You should not call yourself a "Christian" but rather a "Paulian."
B: It is a shame that you do not give credit to the Gospel of John which substantiates this concept.
DDD reply: We have already covered that. To quickly recap: the passage with John's famous "3:16" profession of salvation based on belief concludes with the simultaneous requirement of works, right there at the end of the same paragraph division, unlike Paul who distinctly separates faith from works as the mechanism of justification. But even if it wasn't there, it would just be another contradiction. It would just mean that John joins Paul in contradicting James and Jesus. But since John does combine both faith and works, it puts him closer to James.
B: Finally, I leave you with my modified version of Pascal's Wager. Is it not better to believe in the Christ of the Bible than to suffer in Hell eternally if the Bible be true?
DDD reply: This is a silly little threat. The Moslems tell me (AND YOU) the same thing about their Koran and the Mormons the same thing about their Book of Mormon. Do their threats about your eternal damnation cause you to fearfully run to Islam or Mormonism? Well, that's how much terror your empty little threat inspires in me.
Dialogue with Lawrence
Lawrence writes on 1-25-02:
I recall reading (many years ago) a Biblical criticism which showed how some texts in the Old Testament were duplicated in various books. These texts were not exact duplicates, but nearly so differing (as I recall) by the reference to Jehovah in one case and Lord in the other. This peculiarity was attributed to the fact that the scriptures were collected from two (or more) different sects of Judaism. Some insisted that the Lord's Name never be uttered in any form while other denominations within Judaism maintained that the letters used to depict God's name could not be uttered as the letters were secret known only to the priests.
DDD reply: I'll try my best to offer a succinct reply, though there is a lot of research on this and it could easily develop into an extensive discussion. The issue of duplicated texts is that almost all the tales in the Old Testament prior to being conquered and taken into captivity circa Jeremiah are told twice because the pre-diaspora texts arose independently in the two nations (Israel's 10 tribes, and Judah's 2 tribes). The OT as we know it reconstituted a new text by sloppily combining very inconsistent texts telling the same story with incompatible differences. Specific duplications of stories can be found by word searches using Bible programs or a concordance. Comparing the two versions always yields a hilarious conflict.
As to Jehovah and Lord, that usually is a matter of which translated version of the Bible is being read. The Greek and Hebrew words are translated as either Jehovah or Lord depending on the perspective of the translator, and a partiular version is usually pretty consistent as to the translation of the underlying original language root word.
Lawrence continues on 1-27-02:
I have just finished reading your essay: "Putting the Bible in Perspective", and feel that it was well done (as it reflects much of my personal view of the Bible). However, regarding the death of Jesus on the cross, I have a slightly different view. I agree that his death can in no way atone for my mistakes (sins). Yet there is an "advertising" value to the outrageous method of putting an innocent person to death. It probably brought attention to the Message he had given his followers, and thus helped "spread the word".
DDD reply: Certainly a group can gain attention by having a martyr, but I don't think a god trying to get out a message of compassion would get much favorable publicity from complicity in the act of killing an innocent man. Certainly if the guy was to be assassinated, taking this tragedy and trying to make any good out of it would help to at least make the best of a bad situation. But to say that it is part of some great theological plan, as the fundamentalists do, and claim that it does, in fact, atone for our sins, is the fallacy against which I was arguing. And since Paul ended up subverting Jesus' message anyway and turning it around almost a full 180 degrees (as I note in my commentary on Paul vs. Jesus), the publicity value of the martyr didn't end up being worth much anyway, since it was the wrong word that got spread.
L: As you see, I don't like the word sin. My contention is that all sins are mistakes (but not the converse). As to mistakes of the fathers falling on the sons to the seventh generation (or what ever), I believe that there is an error in the general thinking of this matter. If I make a mistake, say in the upbringing of my daughter (that is I fail to teach her those things that she must know), she may very well bear the burden of my mistake, and this process can be progressive.
DDD reply: I mostly agree with the point you are making here. But that was not the point I was arguing against in my commentary on the atonement. There is a difference between held morally responsibility, or sinful, arising out of someone else's actions (say, Adam, or our forefathers) and suffering the consequences of what someone else does. If someone is walking down the sidewalk and gets murdered by muggers, no one would claim they are morally responsible for the muggers' "sins" (I share your distaste for the word, since the connotation seems to include the aspect of it as some kind of physical/tangible element rather than moral property), yet the victim clearly suffers the consequences of the other person's actions.
L: Just as background information about myself: I am an engineer and view the matters of good and bad (evil, if that is a valid word), in engineering/scientific terms such as hot and cold which are relative terms. Temperature, however, is an absolute term. So to speak of good and bad, we must have a reference so as to obtain some form of absolute. The problem is that no one considers themselves bad (evil); others may be, but I am not. Hitler, I feel sure, did not believe that his views and actions were wrong. Yet, we see today that the consequences of his actions and philosophy were flawed (a soft word so as not to be vicious). Thus, we have need for a common reference. The unfortunate thing is that Jesus, having lived so long ago, and the corruption which his followers have been subjected throughout the ages (the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts etc.), have watered down that message so that today there are doubts that Jesus ever existed.
DDD reply: But there are good reasons to question the existence of Jesus. In a time when most people's lives were not documented extensively as they are today, it would be difficult to prove the existence of most ancient people other than those in the highest political and social echelons. There is virtually no direct objective evidence of Jesus' life. However, due to the volume of indirect and unobjective evidence (writings by alleged followers written decades later), my own view is that this wide disparity of differing (and often conflicting) accounts would not exist if there were not some core basis for them. Also, despite the extent to which Paul undermined him, some of the moral teachings attributed to Jesus are so brilliant and insightful, that I do think they had to be spawned by a real and specific individual, and since there is no evidence to support a rival claim of being that source, I believe that the most likely candidate is that there was a person named Jesus who at least did (and taught) something rather dramatic. That doesn't change the fact that there are valid reasons for skepticism regarding claims about Jesus' life.
Lawrence continues on 1-28-02:
When I was a child I believed as a child. I took the words of my grandfather in explicitly, so when he told me that Christ would return "in the clouds", my cousin and I would watch the clouds roll by and wonder if Christ would show up behind one of these (after all He said He would come as a "thief in the night when the householder would not know". Later, as a youth, I would listen on the radio to "The Shadow", Michael Cranston, the invisible man who could cloud men's minds so they could not see him. The story my grandfather gave me got a whole new meaning. I have since often wondered what word (clouds) was used in the original text. Even later I became an Atheist, so to speak, arguing that is God "came from" nothing, why couldn't the universe and all else come from nothing. Again I had a child's view of God which was unreasonable and unbelievable. It is no wonder I rebelled against the idea of God.
Since then, however, I have come to believe that, as in physics, there is a prime mover. All forces acting on a body can be reduced to a single force. That the universe exists, implies that there is a Cause. I like to use the word God to reference this. Just as in physics, there are innumerable things and concepts that I do not understand. One of these is Quantum theory. It just happens. Our whole semiconductor industry has come into being by use of this theory. I am not sure if anyone really understands the theory, but there is, nevertheless, a school of mathematics which describes it.
DDD reply: My tendency is also to believe in a "prime mover" or deity of some kind. Also, there are so many reports of spiritual experiences that I believe at least some of them likely are credible. However, this is belief, not fact; their are other rational explanations to cover these conditions. Observed phenomena require a causative agent. However, as to the beginnings of the universe, this is not an observed (or observable) phenomenon. We do not know what the first known causative agent is/was. If there must be a prime mover as the cause of all phenomena, then who/what was the causative agent for that prime mover?
L: There is a saying: "Power corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely". I would not agree. My contention is that "Exercise of Power corrupts and Exercise of Absolute Power corrupts absolutely". Since God (if you except that there is a God) created the Universe and all the laws that operate within it, He would certainly be corrupt if He intervened upsetting the laws that He Himself established. So the idea that God should intervene by responding to an individuals prayer would be tantamount to setting aside his own laws (that is, of course, if that prayer requested some supernatural event). Briefly, I believe in God, but I don't believe in Magic.
On the other hand, God operates in the "spiritual" sphere or realm and here there is a degree of contention as to what "spirit" really means. This I believe is a matter that has to be experienced, and each person's experience is his/her own, thus we can only define this word within one's own experience and that is difficult to share meaningfully.
Prayer, as I regard the exercise, is not so much a person speaking to God as it is a means by which God can communicate with the person praying. In prayer we ask forgiveness (implying the we should be forgiving), we thank God for His gifts (that is we make an effort to look on the brighter side of things even if they are mostly black), we request that His will be done (thereby recognizing that what we want is not necessarily that which God wants). Etc., etc.
DDD reply: But of course if we were to go back in time with computers, televisions, lights and other appliances, all of which follow natural laws of the universe, we would be perceived as having "magic" because the manner in which natural laws are complied with are beyond the understanding of people in earlier times as to those natural laws. Similarly, when a parent is teaching a very young child, the parent may well know what is best for the child (far more than the child does). Yet, in helping the child to develop and understand its own needs on its path to autonomy, we want the child to learn to articulate those needs. The parent may well know that the child wants (or needs) water, but may want the child to learn to articulate that need by asking for it. Prayer could have a similar function to an all knowing deity, not to petition his/her/its suspension of natural law, but to articulate our willingness to fall into conformance with those laws. Further, prayer could have a meditative function of helping us to simply be in tune with the universe and to be appreciative of the fruits of our compliance with its natural order (i.e., blessings). Or, of course, it might also be nothing more than our getting in tune with a dimension of our own selves that resides in our subconscious. I tend to subscribe to the former view, and find both comfort and power in prayer, however this is (again) a belief, not a verifiable fact.
L: Speaking of magic, it has been explained to me that when a priest performs communion or some sacrament, he utters some Latin passage referring to the turning of water into wine. This passage is said to sound like "Hokus Spokus". Do you know what this might be?
DDD reply: I think you are referring to the concept/doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the water literally turns into the blood of Christ ("This is my blood....") and the wafer literally turns into the body of Christ ("This is my body"). I have never heard anything that relates to your comments about "hokus spokus" but then my strong point is not in the specifics of Catholic theology.
L: I am unsure of your view of the Deity as when you write of God, as you do so in lower case letters. But then again, it is of no consequence to me as I am clearly in tune with the position you take in your essays. I only wish that I could share them with some of my "born again Christian" relatives.
DDD reply: If there is a god, he/she/it has chosen to remain hidden as to its identity and nature. While it seems possible for us to in some ways come into harmonious experience with the power greater than ourselves (or something we think to be that), there is no evidence that the person or nature of this universal "prime cause" has been made known to humans, certainly not in any personal form.
The existence of god is a believable
belief, but not a fact.
What is a FACT, however, which CAN be proven, is that the teachings of religious fundamentalists are not true in any literal sense. Contradictions, factual errors and failed prophecies can clearly be found in the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon, so none of these works can be the inerrant or infallible word of a deity, as all of them (or at least their adherents) claim. This still leaves wide open, however, many other possible dimensions in which a deity or universal prime cause could exist, though any such conclusions, so far, are not within the grasp of observable verification.
Lawrence continues on 2-1-02:
Do you consider the words Faith and Religion as interchangeable? If not or if so, please explain your view.
DDD reply: No. My view is that faith is part of the process of believing and religion is the content of the belief and, in some contexts, the word is used to mean the denomination of one's affiliation, though I don't think that is really a very good usage.
L: What do you consider is the purpose of religion? Is it a natural animal instinct like cows forming a heard?
DDD reply: Some species of birds travel in flocks and some species of mammals move in herds and some kinds of fish swim in schools. Others do not. Humans certainly seem to be mostly a social animal, though we certainly have our moments when we need solitude, too. Perhaps religion plays a role in that, but I'm not sure. I think the main point of religion is twofold: to explain the mysteries of an incomprehensible universe, and to provide an authority for a moral framework.
L: How do politics (parties) differ from religion, or are they also of a religious character?
DDD reply: Certainly political movements sometimes act like religious ones, but for the most part not, and in an ideal world they never would. Religion explains mysteries and provides a framework for personal morality. Politics is the mechanism for maintaining civil order, which may sometimes incorporate considerations regarding social morality, but should never intrude into the privacy of personal moral choices, though some try to make it do that.
L: What are your views on the Gnostic texts found in Egypt 1945? I rather expect that this may be too large a question.
DDD reply: The Gnostic texts are very dangerous to conservative Christians, because like the Bible they are of legitimate and unquestioned authenticity, but the ways in which some of these very old source texts differ from the Bible tend to show that while both are honestly ancient (not fraudulent), both are also the creations of fallible humans doing their best to explain a universe they could not understand, not the pronouncements of an inerrant, infallible deity.
Larry continues later on 2-1-02:
I agree that these words ["faith" and "religion"] are not in good usage; I would say bad and extremely confused usage.
Faith is one of belief and there are just as many of them as there are people. (No two people have identical understanding of what they hear or what they read, and it is their understanding of these things that allow them to have a belief). Therein also lies one of the pitfalls of Gnosticism in that one looks inward for guidance. Hitler, Napoleon, or Alexander the Great may well have done this also (looked to themselves for Guidance and found only guidance).
Religion, on the other hand stems from a Latin word to unite, or in this case to re-unite. To me the word religion in a unity of people who have similar (but not necessarily the same) views on a topic. This topic may be faith, but it also can be of persuasion hat is a common dislike of something or perhaps a common like of a thing. To my way of thinking Hitler was the prophet of a destructive religion that had dire consequences. There are other examples that need not be discussed here.
I am suspect of trying to explain mysteries that are incomprehensible. My view is that science and Religion (upper-case to distinguish this word from religion which could be nazism) must go hand in hand. They cannot be in disagreement. If so, one or the other is wrong. For example in the 1800's scientists were convinced that the earth's crust was a solid immovable mass (within some bounds) because the crust rang like a bell when an earthquake occurred. They could not conceive how Africa and south America could possibly have been joined. This was not a Religious question, but just to point out how science can be wrong in their conclusions of observed phenomenon. The case of Galileo vs. the seven planets which the Church sponsored is an other example of errors of this type.
DDD reply: Science and religion are entirely different approaches to the discernment of truth. Science is based on specific protocols of OBSERVATION, experimentation and empirical evidence testable with the senses. Religion is based on faith and spiritual discernment. Certainly valid discernment derived from both science and religion that is inconsistent in its conclusions means that one of them was in error (as you noted). Science cannot know all things, and cannot discern anything that is beyond the power of human senses and observation. Science can make mistakes, in errors of calculation of observed phenomena or in misperceptions of what one thinks one observed. Religion also can make mistakes. And both are also subject to simple fraud by their practitioners. But the point remains that science and religion are very different disciplines.
L: I take it then that you do not believe that the Prime Cause, deity, has ever made known to his creation those actions and behavioral patterns that lead to unity and harmony among peoples.
DDD reply: Again, I cannot confirm with certainty the existence of a prime cause or "deity" but I tend to favor that as the most plausible explanation for observable conditons. I do not believe that there is any general occurrence in which this prime mover / deity revealed himself/herself/itself to humans in a general way on behalf of the human species as a whole. However there are many reports, some credible, in which individuals have received personal spiritual inspiration that may have come from a deity, but it seems that these are at the personal level, not the general level. And I do not particularly believe that the claims of general divine revelation, as promulgated in organized religions, has necessarily led to unity and harmony among peoples. In fact, to a large extent, the opposite is true. Look at the world and consider the amount of strife that exists, and how much of it originates from religious competition.
L: But that clever and wise, but fallible men/women, made up stories that the gullible masses accepted as "God's Will". If I am putting words in your mouth (so to speak), my apologies, But that is what I understand from this last comment.
DDD reply: Certainly some of that has occurred. I also believe that many times people were sincere in their beliefs that they had discovered the answers to the questions of the universe and, in many cases, that those answers were put in their minds by God. I don't believe that all religious origins are fraudulent. "Fraud" implies intentional deceit, which is quite different from innocent error.
L: I agree that the texts are authentic and old and that they are transcriptions and translations of older works. This kind of activity is always difficult if not impossible to du without introducing errors and contradictions. An other factor is the we (people) do not set the same value on words or word combinations. These factors, to me, do not in any way, mean that some the original text (probably spoken words) did not emanate from a God-head through an intermediary such as Moses, Jesus or Mohammed, Buddha, Zoroaster, or Krishna.
DDD reply: Certainly the introduction of errors you refer to does not rule out the possibility of divine origins. It also does not make it so. I would consider it possible that some of these people (especially Jesus and Gautama Siddharthe, the Buddha) may have enjoyed personal divine inspiration that their followers tried to generalize. I would also consider it possible that they were simply wise humans trying to explain their beliefs, with some valid points and some errors, which have to be evaluated on their respective merits. I would further consider that the truth might include some combination of the two.
Lawrence continues on 2-15-02:
You comment on the fact that Science and Religion are two separate disciplines and to this I agree entirely. My point was that both are needed and if they come to contradictory or conflicting views on a matter, one or both are in error, and both should re-examine their conclusions. (As Honeywell used to say in their advertisments: it sounds easy if you say it fast!) An other aspect on the same subject is the fact that if we look to Science alone, not thinking of the spiritual (perhaps a better word is needed) aspects of a given action, the consequences can be horrendous. Likewise, Religion, when reason is ignored we end up with superstition and witch-hunts.
Today we have the matter of cloning to consider. Religionists contend that the "soul" comes in to being at the moment of conception. However, what the soul is, no one will say! Politicians may pass laws to placate those who are morally outraged by just the thought of someone being cloned (thus playing God, in their opinion), but I am convinced that laws prohibiting cloning will be just as effective as the laws which created "prohibition" or laws which outlaw "gambling". So then, what will happen to the concept of soul and it's advent at conception? If cloning is "wrong" it must be wrong on the basis of both spiritual (avoiding the word religion) as well as scientific (reasoning) grounds.
DDD reply: I believe the idea of a soul
coming into existence at the moment of feritlization is absurd.
The best discussions, elsewhere on this web site, are in the commentary
on pro-choice rights by T.F. Barans (see comments regarding ensoulment
and the religious arguments). That website is at:
The best commentary on the morality of cloning on this web site is by the host of the site, Doug Dunn, and is at:
L: You say that you cannot "confirm" the existence of a Deity. Well, of course not. That is a matter of Faith. One either believes or one disbelieves. Of course one can always say "I don't know, and I don't care". Well none of us "know", but caring is an other matter. If we don't care we are inclined be become brutal, looking out only for one's own personal condition.
DDD reply: Not sure I agree with this conclusion. There are many "born again christians" who are quite brutal, and only looking out for the "personal condition" of their own "personal salvation" and plenty of atheists who are warm, compassionate and convinced that they have to live a good life in this mortal condition because it's the only chance they have and living in kindness and compassion ultimately leads to the greatest quality of life. Note, as I mentioned before, it is my conclusions that the explanation of a deity is the most plausible way to explain that which is here, but it is by no means conclusive.
L: It is my contention that all Religions are divinely initiated by a Buddha, Christ, or a Mohammed etc. Also it is my belief that these individuals were akin to a spiritual radio receiver (I like analogies) that are attuned to the Creative Power. There can be no doubt that the revelation of Mohammed lead to the unifying (Re Ligara or re binding) influence on the waring tribes of Arabic peninsula. [Islam had an outstanding civilization at the time of the Crusades with libraries, universities, hospitals etc. the like of which Christian Europe had never seen. That was the only redeeming feature of the Christian assult on the holy land. That is, this experience brought about the renascence of western Europe.] That this unity has disintegrated in the last 1500 years is also quit evident in that political considerations have more and more become paramount. The unfortunate thing is that the mullas do not realise that they are acting in a political role. The message of Christ some 600 years earlier had a similar unifing effect, but the message was some what distorted by the convention of bishops at Nicaea in 325. Making Jesus into a part of God had the effect of making the inroads of Islam that much easier as Islam preached that God was One, not three as proposed by the Christians. There again, the congregations were influenced by the political ambitions of the bishops.
It would appear that one of these "Receivers" makes His appearance from time to time throughout history. The striking thing is that each of Them have essentially the same message (slanted, perhaps, to the history and nature of the society into which He is born to). The real differences between them is that which the political powers within the organization manage to emphasize supposedly to make it appear the just "this" Faith is superior to all others.
DDD reply: I believe that many inspiried writiers in fields of philosophy, literature, art, science and religion at times were touched by divine inspriation. That does not mean the entire body of work by one who enjoyed occasional inspiration is therefore from god. I have read the Koran (or Qu'ran) and much of the Buddhist writings. I find the Buddhist writings particularly inspiring, but also find points of disagreement and mortal failing. I find some merit and value in some of the Koran, but I do not find it to be among the better works in human history. It is historically important for its effect in unifying the Arabian peninsula (and beyond) and leading them out of the seventh century so that, by the twelfth century, they were the most civilized people on earth. Unfortunately, it also has done much to keep them where they were in the twelfth century while the rest of the world has moved on.
L: There is, in my opinion a general need for (organised) Religion. That is to say a need for unity of purpose and a unity of goals. This is what leads to civilization. We can hardly consider ourselves civilized today with race hatred, ethnic cleansing, kidnapping, an war in general.
DDD reply: As the world has moved away from organized religion as the authority in civil matters, we have also seen LESS race hatred, ethnic cleansing and pervasiveness of war (not to mention slavery) than in the past. And most of the places where race hatred, ethnic cleansing, war and slavery remain are those where civil authority is in relgious hands.
Dialogue with Eric
Eric writes on 1-22-02:
I enjoy your essays and want to thank you for the considerable effort you obviously put into them. I am like-minded and spend time on line once in awhile debating fundamentalist Xtians regarding errors and contradictions in the bible, Paul versus Jesus, etc. One thing I would appreciate from you is a bit more information about who you are and any credentials that you might have. Whenever I quote from something I read on the web, I always prefer to know a bit about who authored the piece.
DDD reply: Thank you for taking the time to write with your supportive comments and inquiry.
I am a fifty-something husband, father and grandfather living in San Diego County, California. I am not registered with any political party, but tend to support candidates and issues that are progressive. My primary interest in writing is in debunking religious mythologies while also respectfully expressing appreciation for the important historical, ethical and cultural contributions of the great literature that originated out of religious traditions and which has shaped our civilization in both positive and negative ways.
My commentaries are not written with any claim to expertise or credentials. I do not consider myself a Bible expert. I merely point out what is written in the Bible and other sources, and let the evidence speak for itself. Those who think me a great satanic evil would not be impressed with any expertise or credentials I might claim, and the only thing I find successful is for them to see for themselves, in their own Bibles, verses and juxtapositions of verses that they might not have noticed before.
Eric continues on 1-24-02:
We sound quite similar. I'll be 55 in May. I am a husband and uncle but we have no children of our own. I'm registered as a democrat, however I try to vote the issues and candidates...not the party. I share your interest in debunking religious mythologies.
DDD reply: Most of the political candidates I have supported are Democrats.
E: This sounds exactly like my background. I was raised in the very conservative church of Christ and I am certain that my Mom, at 86, who refuses to view the church of Christ is just another christian denomination, still believes that only good church of Christ christians have a chance to go to heaven.
DDD reply: My parents (both in their late 70's) are also still active in their conservative Christian church and, while they respect that my choices have been sincerely thought out (as opposed to just going "off the deep end" in pursuit of sinful pleasures) they feel very sad and believe I have given up my chance at salvation. My sole regret is the pain my parents have experienced, but that doesn't change the fact that I sincerely believe I am correct in my conclusions.
E: I first started to question things as a teen when I discovered on my own that there were two distinctly different and contradictory accounts of the creation in Genesis.
DDD reply: I'm sure you noticed that the Genesis contradiction is the first of the three examples I selected for my main article (out of the HUNDREDS in the accompanying link). I chose those three because they show that right on the very first pages of both Old and New Testaments there are major contradictions (creation and the genealogies of Jesus, respectively) and then the major contradiction about salvation by faith or works (Paul vs. James and Jesus) which is on the core doctrine of Christian theology.
E: When I asked for an explanation of this, all I got was what I considered double speak. I learned many years later that this is what is evidently known as "christian apologetics".
DDD reply: I had been very active in teen and youth ministries, and always trying to "convert" non-Christian friends (with some success). I would often "discuss" my views, and I would not accept "weasel" arguments that evaded the substance of my points. Then when I began to stumble across contradictions, flaws and failed prophecies, my first reaction is that there must be simple explanations to reconcile them. What I encountered, like you, was "double speak" and "weasel" explanations of the kind that I would never accept from others. Eventually I came to realize that I held my religious beliefs because that was what had been taught to me growing up, not because it was objectively true. If I had grown up in a family of Islamic fundamentalists, I would have been pounding my head, chanting anti-American slogans and preparing for terrorist jihads. It was difficult and traumatic, but I had no choice to accept the facts that objective truth pointed toward.
E: (I'm still trying to get somebody to explain the Trinity doctrine to me. I flat out cannot understand how one God, who is supposedly spiritual, can exist in three "persons" and be of the male gender and be his own father, his own son, etc. etc.)
DDD reply: Ironically, this is one concept I didn't have trouble with, though of course in rejecting Christian theology that had to go out too, because there was no reason or objective evidence on which to base it. My understanding of the concept is that there is one god, in three persons. A god is not the same as a person. In my mind I saw god as sort of a team, and the three persons the three players working together on the team as one single unit.
E: The common answer I get is "If you would just believe it, you would know it is all true." Baloney, in my opinion.
DDD reply: This is the same answer I always got in regard to the issues I raised. Yet I would never accept this from those of differing views if they could not respond to problems with their beliefs that I raised. The bottom line is that this reasoning is actually perversely accurate: if you accept as a pre-determined axiomatic truth that certain positions are true and unquestionable, then of course, based on those assumptions, there will be no other conclusion than to know they are true. The problem, of course, is when the "given" axioms can be shown to have errors.
E: Are you familiar with Dennis McKinsey's work....or with Farrell Till? I've communicated with McKinsey via email for several years and have both of his books on Biblical Errancy. He is pretty much self-taught, just as you and I are, I think, but has done an amazing amount of study and research, most of which I consider to be fairly scholarly. Farrell Till, on the other hand, is now an outspoken atheist, after many years as a church of Christ minister. He has undergraduate and Master's degrees from church of Christ colleges, too, so he has some credibility, I think. He has published the Skeptical Review newsletter for many years and you can read a lot of his writings at the internet infidels website.
DDD reply: I am not familiar with either of these. Sorry.
Eric continues on 2-2-02:
Living back here in my original home area, the Republican party has such a stronghold, especially now that the issue of terrorism has gifted George W with such a huge popularity rating, that vocal liberals like me are attempting to stay out of the spotlight for the moment and keep our opinions to ourselves somewhat.
DDD reply: Oh I hope vocal liberals won't try to "stay out of the spotlight" right when we most need alternative voices :-)
Dialogue with Bob
Bob writes on 1-3-02:
I'm not sure why you try to disprove the Christian Bible and the philosophy of Christian beliefs. Is it out of fear or maybe conscience that pings in your heart? Or are you trying to convert Christians to what?
DDD reply: I am not trying to prove anything. The issue is clear in my mind and I am no longer in a "searching" mode. However, I wrestled with these issues when I was a Christian, and carefully compiled the reasons why I embarked on a rather traumatic (at the time) change. At first I could not imagine that the things I had learned and studied might not be true, so my compilation of my concerns was very deliberative, and more extensive than the small offerings shared here. Since I have already compiled the work, I am merely offering to share it with those who might have similar questions, to simplify their search for the truth. I do not "promote" this material. I do not "proselytize" Christians, though they often proselytize me. I do not seek to impose my beliefs and values on others, though Christians often seek to pass public laws rooted in their religion but which would apply to those who do not share their beliefs. People only find my material if they go looking for it, or sometimes if I get drawn into some kind of discussion not initiated by me. I live a very quiet and private life. I do not try to undo Christians' faith if they are satisfied with what they have. Such Christians who do not go looking for my material will never stumble across it accidentally (unless someone else passes it to them).
B: In regard to you web site, I would like to know where human sacrifice is talked about in the Bible, except the blood of Jesus was shed so that the our sins would be forgiven and that animals would no longer have to be sacrificed.
DDD reply: The exception you cite is
exactly and specifically the one I was referring to, and for further
discussion of my points in that regard I direct you (if you have
any such interest) to my web page addressing the specific questions
about that matter, which can be found at:
B: Prophecies in the Bible have been accurate, both in the new and old testament. A few have not been fulfilled YET.
DDD reply: Every two-bit fortune-teller can point to a few successes, especially when the language of the "prophecy" is so vague that any number of subsequent outcomes could be construed to fulfill the original "prophecy." The real problem is with FAILED prophecies. Fortune-tellers do not claim to be all-knowing, inerrant or perfect, so they can excuse the occasional failure. Those Christians who believe the Bible to be inerrant and/or infallible have a problem when a FAILED prophecy proves the fallibility and errancy of the Bible. And I cited several examples of prophecies where a specific time limit was included and the time passed and the prophecy either was not fulfilled or was substantially inconsistent with the event that supposedly fulfilled it. Please refer back to the main "Bible Contradictions" web page because these examples are too numerous to repeat in their entirety here.
B: Consider the birth of Jesus. He will be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2.
DDD reply: This verse cannot possibly be considered a prediction of the birth of Jesus. It says that "a ruler of Israel" will be born in Bethlehem. It does not say ruler of the whole world or of the universe. It does not say a "messiah." It does not include any specific details about the birth of Jesus that one would expect if someone had a vision (or other knowledge) of this event. It is exactly the kind of very vague prediction that could be "fulfilled" by any number of outcomes.
B: He will be referred to in many ways, including Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace-Isaiah 7:14, Is 9:6 Psalm 22 predicts the death of Christ Jesus. There are many more that I could reference. These prophecies were predicted between 1450 and 400 BC.
DDD reply: And you left out "Immanuel" (alt: "Emmanuel") Is 7:14. Yet there is no record whatsoever, certainly not in the recorded "inerrant/infallible" scripture, that Jesus was ever referred to even ONCE by any of these names in his own lifetime. And 7:14 doesn't just say that he would be "called" Immanuel (or Emmanuel), but it says his NAME will be Immanuel. But the one and only reference to Immanuel is when Matthew claims in Matt 1:23 that Jesus fulfills this prophecy, notwithstanding that neither Matthew nor anyone else ever uses that title again, and two verses later in Matt 1:25 Matthew himself provides the evidence of either a contradiction or a failed prophecy when he says: "he called his name JESUS." (not Immanuel/Emmanuel.)
B: I cannot find any way that Paul contradicts the message of Jesus. Paul was changed on his way to Damascus by Jesus. And how does James try to protect the integrity of his half brother's message? Maybe when he talks about works? Works are not necessary to guarantee entrance to Heaven. All that is needed is to know Jesus and believe in Him. Works automatically are the result of knowing God.
DDD reply: You and Paul say works are
not necessary. I cited a number of places where JESUS said that
those who DID certain actions (works) WOULD BE SAVED, and there
is NO PLACE that Jesus says that faith/belief etc will save a
person APART FROM WORKS, as Paul does. And the contradiction with
James is extremely explicit. They use the exact same words, in
exactly the same order, in exactly the same context and citing
exactly the same example (Abraham) and come to exactly opposite
and contradictory conclusions both about whether the agent or
mechanism of justification is by works (James) or faith (Paul)
and what Abraham's example in this regard means. I address this
contradiction in much more extensive detail in my web page at:
B: Without Christianity, we would still have slavery in this country.
DDD reply: That is debatable, though certainly some good Christian people were in the forefront of the abolition movement and used the teachings of Jesus (not Paul) when Jesus talked about love of the poor, the oppressed, the "least of these." Paul, in contrast, was quoted by the CHRISTIAN SLAVEHOLDERS in the southern U.S. States (as well as in South Africa), when he wrote that slaves should be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5-7; see also Titus 2:9-10). It seems Peter followed Paul rather than Jesus, when he wrote in IPeter 2:18 for slaves to be submissive both to masters who are overbearing as well as gentle!
B: Women would still be treated as second hand citizens.
DDD reply: This is clearly not true. Christianity, like other fundamental sects such as the Islamic Taliban, has offered the strongest resistance to women's rights and has caused women to remain as second hand citizens. Paul, especially, was very anti-woman. He ordered that they not be allowed to speak in the churches (I Cor 14:34-45) and that they stay home and take care of the kids (1Timothy 5:14), and that wives should be submissive to the mastery of their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24 and Colossians 3:18-19).
B: This country would not have been founded as a Republic and we would be living under a king. The Bible gives us absolute rules for right and wrong, not relative values like the Humanism that is creeping into our society.
DDD reply: Nothing at all in the Bible supports a democracy, a republic or anything resembling self-governance. On the contrary, kings and tyrants are repeatedly supported and even cited as being established by god. Have you not heard of the "Divine Right of Kings" in the medieval ages, rooting their claims in Bible authority? In contrast, while many of the founding fathers of this country (Washington, Adams) were devout Christians (as most people were in that time and place), the leading intellectual architects of our representative democracy were Franklin, Jefferson and Madison, who had been born and raised as Christians but became "deists" (believers in a generalized god but not that of Christianity). And the original concept of a democratic republic, back in ancient Greece, certainly owed nothing to the Christians.
B: Mr. Danizer, I suggest that you read the Bible from cover to cover instead of pulling verses out of context.
DDD reply: You are jumping to an inaccurate conclusion here. I HAVE read the entire Bible. I have also read the Koran, the Tao Teh Ching and the Book of Mormon and substantial portions of the Bhagavad-Gita and Buddhist Tripitaka. And I did read it IN CONTEXT, in fact, as a Christian myself at the time I read it. I have not pulled out select verses out of context. Please show me where you think I have done that. But I have cited a few of the verses that Christian pastors today don't seem to want to call much attention to.
B: Read it with an open mind.
DDD reply: I read it when I was a Christian. And I guess my mind was too open, because I was open-minded enough to admit I was in error and accept that which was truth, even if it was painful.
B: Understand that we were created by a superior, supernatural being - GOD. If you cannot see intelligent design in life, you are not looking closely enough. I know God is real. He has talked to me through the Holy Spirit and has answered my many prayers.
DDD reply: I do not doubt the reality or the sincerity of your experience. But I do not believe it is exactly what you believe it to be. And belief in a God or "higher power" is very different than specific belief in the Bible and Paul's version of Christian theology.
B: I pray that you will change you mind about Christianity. You are missing out on a Joy that surpasses all understanding. You only get one chance to get it right on this earth.
DDD reply: I have very close friends and associates that are Mormon and Moslem and I have read their holy books, too. They tell me exactly the same thing. So since none of you can show me why YOUR claim to inerrancy is more valid, I will respectfully thank you for sharing that which I know you find special and sacred and, if you ask, I will explain where I encountered reasons why I was unable to accept it.
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The entries included in this webpage are those responding to the web pages about the Christian theology that could not be assigned to the specific discussions of any single topic, either because they are too general in nature or widely address the topics of more than one web page. Other dialogue pages responding to other religious commentaries by Davis D. Danizier may be found as follows:
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Commentary: Paul vs. Jesus -
Forum: Discussion about Paul vs. Jesus - http://www.wordwiz72.com/3dpforum.html
Commentary: Bloody Human Sacrifice
Mythology of Christian Atonement - http://www.wordwiz72.com/atone.html
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