Tuesday, 23 December 2014

For unto us a child is born

These verses from Isaiah 9 are often taken as a prophecy of Jesus' birth.
Isaiah 9:66 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
However, another possibility is that they refer to the birth of King Hezekiah, a child of King Ahaz, and a contemporary of Isaiah. Note the tenses used in this version; the child has already been born when Isaiah is speaking, but has yet to be made king. That cannot be Jesus.

But what of all those titles? How can a mere mortal be called "The mighty God"? These are not titles, but names. Most names have a meaning, and Jewish names are no exception. For example:
  • Joel: Jehovah is God
  • Joseph: God will add
  • Joshua:  Jehovah is generous
Earlier in Isaiah there were two further examples:
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
In this case, the translators chose to keep the name in Hebrew, so it still looks like a name. They could have gone with:
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name God is with us.
And in the next chapter we see a further example:
Isaiah 8:1 Then the Lord said to me, "Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it [a]in ordinary letters: [b]Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. 2 And [c]I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah." 3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the Lord said to me, "Name him [d]Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria."
Maher-shalal-hash-baz means Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.

Why not Jesus?

Jesus is not the everlasting Father. His place in the trinity is the son, not the father.These titles are not those of Jesus.

Furthermore, Prince of Peace is another choice of the translator. A better translation of the Hebrew would be Ruler of Peace - but that sounds less like Jesus.

See also


Friday, 17 October 2014

Reasoning: CS Lewis' Argument for Christianity

Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.
-C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p 32.

We can formalise Lewis' argument like this:

  • Lewis cannot imagine how we can reason unless we were designed by God
  • We can reason
  • Therefore we were designed by God

Personally, I think his reasoning is flawed. A lack of knowledge or understanding is a very poor start to an argument. This is an argument from ignorance. We do not know, therefore I get to inset my pet theory as the default.

The reality is that we trust our reasoning because it is so successful. We learn to reason from a very early age. Babies reason that a ball put in a box will still be there when he looks in the box again. he has reasoned that the ball should still be there, and experience has taught him that reasoning works.

Lewis, however, has this all backwards. In Lewis' world, he starts from God existing. As God exists, says Lewis, then I can be sure my reasoning is sound.

It could be argued that both arguments a circular. This is a fundamental problem. If you are using reasoning to prove that reasoning is sound, there is some circularity present.

However, Lewis' argument is further flawed because it makes two assumptions. He is assuming God exists and he is assuming that if there is a God he would make us capable of reasoning. Why should we believe either is true? Indeed, this quote comes from a book where Lewis is trying to show the Christian God exists, and to do that, he is obliged to assume that the Christian God exists!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Can we trust God?

A common justification for the Biblical genocides is that God, as the creator of mankind, has the right to take life if he wants.

William L Craig seems to be the most vocal proponent of this idea, for example here:
The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion. 
According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God.  Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself,  He has no moral duties to fulfill.  He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.  For example, I have no right to take an innocent life.  For me to do so would be murder.  But God has no such prohibition.  He can give and take life as He chooses.  We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as "playing God."  Human authorities  arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God.  God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second.  If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.
What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit.  How long they live and when they die is up to Him.
I have discussed problems with divine command theory before, but there is another issue: How can we trust God?

If God is free to kill us when convenient, why should we imagine he is not free to lie to us when convenient?

Think about this. I imagine very very few of the people reading this have every killed anyone, but who can honestly say they have never told a lie? Lying is much easier than killing, much less of a wrong. If you admit God can kill whoever he wants, how can you possibly deny that God can likewise lie whenever he wants?

God lied in the Bible

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."
Adam did not die when he ate the fruit (he did eventually die, but that was inevitable, only if he ate from the Tree of Life would he live forever). God lied to Adam (and the serpent told the truth!). Why should we believe God about anything?

The Bible

 How do we know about God? The Bible. But the Bible is God's message to his people. If he chose to lie in that message, how would we know?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Was Jesus Foretold?

There are plenty of sites on the internet that proudly proclaim how Jesus satisfied various numbers of prophecies. This one for example, claims 360 of them!:

"Over 360 prophecies foretold Jesus/Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah (Mashiach ben David)"

However, this web page cites ten, which is a more manageable number to look at on a forum thread:

There are a number of features a prophecy requires to be considered valid. Firstly, it must be made before the event. All these are OT prophecies of Jesus, so no problem there. Secondly they must make a specific claim. Prophesying that a man will walk through a door is not going to cut it. Thirdly,  we must have some evidence the prophecy was fulfilled.

Let us look at these ten...

1. Jesus will come from the line of Abraham. Prophecy: Genesis 12:3. Fulfilled: Matthew 1:1.
Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 "I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you."
Nothing about a messiah there. This is about Abram (Abraham) being great, it does not even mention his descendants. Sure, Matthew traces Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham, but that does not magically turn Genesis 12:3 into a prophecy about him.

2. Jesus’ mother will be a virgin. Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14. Fulfilled: Matthew 1:18-23.
Isaiah 7:12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test."
13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah - he will bring the king of Assyria."
A. The word here translated as "virgin" actually means young woman (it is virgin in the LXX, which is probably where Matthew got it from).

B. Let us suppose Isaiah really meant virgin. The prophecy is saying that a virgin will conceive. This happens. Virgins have sex, conceive and go on to have a baby. Nothing miraculous about it.

C. The "virgin" conceiving is a sign from God that the nations that the Jews were worried about would fall. This is God saying, in a couple of years the two kings you fear will be dead, so just try to bear up until then. If this was a Jesus prophecy, this would be God reassuring his people that the two kings would be dead in a few centuries! The reality is that this is a prophecy about the fall of two kings; the child merely gives a time frame.

3. Jesus will be a descendent of Isaac and Jacob. Prophecy: Genesis 17:19 and Numbers 24:17. Fulfilled: Matthew 1:2.
Genesis 17:19 Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
Like the first one, this so-called prophecy does not mention a messiah. It predicts that the leader of the Jews would have descendants!

4. Jesus will be born in the town Bethlehem. Prophecy: Micah 5:2. Fulfilled: Luke 2:1-7.
Micah 5:2 Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
    for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler
    on the cheek with a rod.
2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times."

5 And he will be our peace
    when the Assyrians invade our land
    and march through our fortresses.
We will raise against them seven shepherds,
    even eight commanders,
6 who will rule[c] the land of Assyria with the sword,
    the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.
He will deliver us from the Assyrians
    when they invade our land
    and march across our borders.
This is a prophecy about a military leader. Jesus never stood against the Assyrians (they were no longer an independent state from 605 BC, so no point). Jesus never had eight commanders, never ruled Assyrian with the sword. If this was a prophecy about Jesus, he failed.

5. Jesus will be called out of Egypt. Prophecy: Hosea 11:1. Fulfilled: Matthew 2:13-15.
Hosea 11:1 "When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
Again, not a prophecy. Read in context, this is about the people of Israel, who had been called out of Egypt centuries earlier.

6. Jesus will be a member of the tribe of Judah. Prophecy: Genesis 49:10. Fulfilled: Luke 3:33.
Genesis 49:8 "Judah, your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness - who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
    his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
    his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
    his teeth whiter than milk.
This is a prophecy about the tribe of Judah, nothing about a messiah here.

7. Jesus will enter the temple. This is important because the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and was never rebuilt. Prophecy: Malachi 3:1. Fulfilled: Luke 2:25-27.
Malachi 3:1 "I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.
5 "So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me," says the Lord Almighty.
So Jesus is just God's messenger now? But at least this is a prophecy of someone coming! It just fits better for that someone to be an angel or prophet, who would more accurately be described as a messenger.

Note that the Bible predicted someone would come, and that person would enter the temple. Impressive. I would guess every prophet in the Bible fulfilled this prophecy!

8. Jesus will be from the lineage of King David. Prophecy: Jeremiah 23:5. Fulfilled: Matthew 1:6.
Jeremiah  23:5 "The days are coming," declares the Lord,
    "when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
    and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.
7 "So then, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land."
Did Jesus rule wisely, doing right in the land? Was Judah saved? Did Israel live safely? No, no and no. Jesus failed this prophecy.

9. Jesus’ birth will be accompanied with great suffering and sorrow. Prophecy: Jeremiah 31:15. Fulfilled: Matthew 2:16.
Jeremiah 31:15 This is what the Lord says:
"A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more."
16 This is what the Lord says:
"Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,"
declares the Lord.
    "They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,"
declares the Lord.
    "Your children will return to their own land.
Again, nothing about a messiah here. It mentions children, but not specifically a birth, and if taken literally, Jesus' mother would be Rachel, not Mary (presumably it refers to Jacob's wife Rachel, and means her descendants, i.e., the Israelites as a people). This is about the Babylonian captivity, which is why it talks about people returning from the land of the enemy. It was obsolete by the time of Jesus.

10. Jesus will live a perfect life, die by crucifixion, resurrect from death, ascend into heaven, and sit at the right hand of God. Prophecies: Psalm 22:16; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10--11; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:1. Fulfilled: 1 Peter 2:21-22; Luke 23:33; Acts 2:25-32; Acts 1:9; Hebrews 1:3.

I guess they wanted ten as a nice round number, but could not decide which to skip.

10a. Psalm 22:16
Psalm 22:1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.[b]
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
Sounds like a prophecy that someone will be crucified. But who? Someone who feels forsaken by God, as verse 1 makes clear. Someone whose heart has turned to wax. That certainly cannot be Jesus then, as he is God. This is a lament of Israel, not a prophesy of Jesus. The Jewish nation was surrounded by hostile countries, who argued with each other as to who would get their treasures.

10b. Psalm 16:10
Psalm 16:9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Again, no messiah here, just one of God's faithful rejoicing that he will have an afterlife.

10c. Isaiah 53:10-11
Isaiah 52:1 52 Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him[c] -
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness -
53:4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
If this prophecy was fulfilled then Jesus was so ugly, so disfigured he did not look like a man. Strangely art has not reflected that. Also, this would mean Jesus was buried in a criminal grave, and yet any Christian will insist that that did not happen.

What this is about is clear from Isaiah 52:1. This is not a prophesied messiah, but the nation of Israel again.

10d. Psalm 68:18
Psalm 68:11 The Lord announces the word,
    and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
12 "Kings and armies flee in haste;
    the women at home divide the plunder.
13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
    the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
    its feathers with shining gold."
14 When the Almighty[f] scattered the kings in the land,
    it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.
15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
    Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
    at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
    where the Lord himself will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
    and thousands of thousands;
    the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
18 When you ascended on high,
    you took many captives;
    you received gifts from people,
even from the rebellious -
    that you, Lord God, might dwell there.
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
    from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
    the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
This is about God coming as a conqueror. Kings and armies did not flee in haste from Jesus, he crushed no heads. If this is about Jesus, Jesus has yet to fulfill it.

10e Psalm 110:1
Psalm 110:1 The Lord says to my lord:[a]
"Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet."
2 The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
    "Rule in the midst of your enemies!"
3 Your troops will be willing
    on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
    your young men will come to you
    like dew from the morning’s womb.[b]
4 The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek."
The meaning of this is unclear. Some believe it is addressed to one of the patriarchs (David or Abram). The patriarchs did rule in the midst of their enemies, and would have been addressed as "lord". If we suppose it refers to Jesus, what exactly is the prophecy? Jesus sits at the right hand of God and is a priest forever. That may be the case, but prophecies of events beyond this realm are difficult to verify, to say the least. Can God be a priest of himself?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Nochian Flood Part 5: Caused by a Comet?

Where did all the water come from to make the flood? One creationist theory is that it came from a comet.

When you pick a rock off the ground you have to expend energy to lift it, and the rock gains gravitational potential energy (GPE). Let go of the rock, and it falls; it loses GPE, but gains kinetic energy because it is moving. It will also warm up due to air resistence. The First Law of Thermodynamics tells us energy is conserved, so as the rock drops and loses GPE, all that energy must be converted to kinetic energy and heat, and when the rock lands ultimately all the kinetic energy will be converted to heat too. GPE can be calculated from:

GPE = m x g x h

... where m is the mass, g is the acceleration due to gravity and h is the height.

If the rock weighs 1 kg (m=1), and falls 1 m (h=1), and at the Earth's surface the acceleration due to gravity is approximately 10 m/s/s (g=10) then it must lose this much energy:

GPE = m x g x h = 1 x 1 x 10 = 10 kJ

Ultimately all that energy is heat in the environment.

If you drop the rock from space, the calculation is a bit more complicated, because the acceleration due to gravity various as it falls:

 g = G x M/r x r

... where G is the gravitational constant, M the mass of the Earth, and r the distance from the rock to the centre of the Earth

However, we can look up the escape velocity for Earth. This is the speed the rock would have to be traveling if it is to have enough energy to escape from Earth, or conversely the speed it would be traveling at when it crashes to Earth after falling from space (ignoring air resistance).

The escape velocity for Earth is 11 200 m/s, so a 1 kg rock falling to Earth would be traveling at 11 200 m/s when it hit the surface, and at that point it would have kinetic energy of:

E = m x v x v = 1 x 11200 x 11200 = 125440000 kJ

So when the rock was in space it had GPE of 125440000 kJ, just before impact it had a kinetic energy of 125440000 kJ, and shortly after impact there will be 125440000 kJ of heat energy.

I said we were ignoring air resistence, but in fact that makes no difference. Some energy is lost as air resistance, but that generates heat, and from the law of conservation of energy, the heat generated by air resistance plus the heat generated at impact from the slightly reduced velocity must total 125440000 k.

The important point to emphasise here is that if you have 1 kg of something going from space to the surface of Earth the laws on nature say you must also be losing 125 440 000 kJ of GPE, and you must ultimately gain 125 440 000 kJ of heat energy.

 It does not matter whether the water is coming down through a hole in the ozone layer, or falling uniformly across the planet, you still end up with all that heat energy.

If your falling water starts at absolute zero (and it is reasonable to suppose it is not far off that), it will take 3 597 kJ to heat each kg to boiling point, an insignificant fraction of the 125 440 000 kJ per kg you have available. If a large comet fell to Earth, if it reached the surface, the energy released on impact would be enough to instantly vapourise the entire thing.

It is worth noting that the asteroid that fell in Siberia in 1908 managed to completely vapourise even before it reached the surface. That was rock, not water, please note.

Water falling from space simply will not just hit the planet and form a flood; it will be far, far too hot to do that

Okay, so if we assume the water turned to vapour, could it then rain and thus cause a flood?

Let us suppose 1017 tonnes of water are required (that is a 1 with 17 zeros after it), around a tenth of water in the oceans now. I am dubious that is enough for a global flood, but it just might be.

When this hits the Earth, it will necessarily produce 1017 tonnes of superheated steam. Bear in mind that the total mass of the atmosphere is only 5x1015 tonnes, so an extra 1017 tonnes will increase the air pressure to 20 times its normal value. The atmosphere will be 95% superheated steam! You do not need a flood, the temperature and the pressure will be enough to destroy all living things

And no ark made of gopher wood is going to save you.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Nochian Flood Part 4: Distribution of Isotopes

This is something I have never seen creationists address. For science, the geological column represents a progression over deep time. Fossils found at the bottom will be older than those at the top, and evolution explains how those fossils are different.

It is worth noting that the geological column is to some degree a construct of man. It is a synthesis of numerous partial columns across the world. However, there is a consistency to them that allows them to be merged into one complete geological column.

Many creationists accept this and provide various rationales for the sorting of fossils, for example here, here and here - usually based on gross simplifications of what fossils are there, and ignoring that plant fossils are seen all through the column, for example.

However, what this page is about is how isotopes are distributed.

Scientists use radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks, one such method uses potassium-40, which decays to argon-40. When the rock is forming it is a very hot liquid, so any argon (which is an inert gas) will escape. After the rock has solidified any argon formed will be trapped. As the potassium-40 produces argon-40 at a known rate, the amount of argon-40 present can be used to determine when the rock solidified.

More on that here, for example.

It is worth noting that because both the potassium-40 and the argon-40 are trapped in the rock, and because argon cannot have been there when the rock solidified, scientists know exactly how much potassium-40 was originally there.

Like the fossils, the rocks at the bottom of the geological column will be older than those at the top, and potassium-argon dating confirms this.

That is quite a problem for the creationist. Many take the view that the laws of nature have changed (for instance here). This completely destroys the fine-tuning argument of course, but more significantly it fails to explain what we see.

Because what we see is rocks at the bottom of the layer have a high ratio of argon-40 to potassium-40, and as you go up the column that ratio gradually and continuously drops to zero.

How can that be if these rocks were deposited during the flood? The problem for creationists is to explain how during the flood rocks were consistently sorted according to the ration of potassium-40 to argon-40.

What creationists do do is rubbish radiometric dating in general (for example here). One article I want to particular address is by Andrew Snelling, who has a Ph.D. in geology:


When muscovite (a common mineral in crustal rocks) is heated to 740°-860°C under high Ar pressures for periods of 3 to 10.5 hours it absorbs significant quantities of Ar, producing K-Ar "ages" of up to 5 billion years, and the absorbed Ar is indistinguishable from radiogenic argon (40Ar*).2 In other experiments muscovite was synthesized from a colloidal gel under similar temperatures and Ar pressures, the resultant muscovite retaining up to 0.5 wt% Ar at 640°C and a vapor pressure of 4,000 atmospheres.3 This is approximately 2,500 times as much Ar as is found in natural muscovite. Thus under certain conditions Ar can be incorporated into minerals which are supposed to exclude Ar when they crystallize.
In the experiment Snelling cites, the partial pressure of argon was 4000 bar, whilst the partial pressure or argon around us is 0.009 bar. Given Henry's law, it is no surprise a significant quantity of argon is dissolved!

However, as Snelling effectively admits, it takes only a matter of hours for the rock to dissolve the argon, so it will take a similar time for the liquid rock to lose the argon as soon as it is exposed to air with 0.9% argon. Sure, a tiny amount will be dissolved, but it is not significant.

Further more, scientists have procedures in place to overcome the problem:


That said, yes, okay, it can be an issue in very specific circumstances. Snelling points out:
This crustal migration of 40Ar* is known to cause grave problems in regional geochronology studies. For example, in the Middle Proterozoic Musgrave Block (northern South Australia), a wide scatter of K-Ar mineral "ages" was found, ranging from 343Ma to 4493Ma due to inherited (excess) 40Ar*, so no meaningful interpretation could be drawn from the rocks.11
But in doing this, Snelling shoots himself in the foot! He is admitting that science is aware of the problem, and is capable to establishing when it is present and the results are to be rejected.
Of the diabase dikes which gave anomalous "ages," it was concluded that the basic magmas probably formed in or passed through zones containing a high partial pressure of 40Ar*, permitting inclusion of the gas in the crystallizing minerals.
Again, he is tacitly admitting that science knows when their is a problem, and when to reject the data.

Nevertheless, he concludes:
Because it is known that excess 40Ar* is carried from the mantle by plumes of mafic magmas up into the earth's crust, it is equally likely that much of the excess 40Ar* in crustal rocks could be primordial 40Ar. Thus, we have no way of knowing if any of the 40Ar* measured in crustal rocks has any age significance. Additional to the primordial 40Ar from the mantle is 40Ar* released from minerals and rocks during diagenesis and metamorphism, so that there is continual migration and circulation of both primordial 40Ar and 40Ar* in the crust which is reflected in their presence in CO2-rich natural gases. Therefore, when samples of crustal rocks are analyzed for K-Ar andAr-Ar "dating," one can never be sure that whatever 40Ar* is in the rocks is from in situ radioactive decay of 40K since their formation, or if some or all of it came from the mantle or from other crustal rocks and minerals. Thus all K-Ar and Ar-Ar "dates" of crustal rocks are questionable, as well as fossil "dates" calibrated by them.
What this guy fails to do is explain why we see the pattern of distribution that we do. According to his model, argon-40 concentrations are due to localised events (magma plumes), so the concentrations should be varied geographically, but consistent within the geological column at a certain location.

The reality is quite the opposite. There is a clear trend of declining concentration as you go up the column, and results across the globe for a specific layer are actually very similar. With a Ph.D. in geology, Snelling should be aware of that. I guess there really are none so blind...

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Isaiah's Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52 and 53 involve a lengthy passage about the "suffering servant". Christianity considers this a prophesy about Jesus, but could it instead refer to the nation of Israel?

It should be noted that Christians are not alone in seeing the text as a prophesy for a messiah; this was a popular belief among Jews around the time of Jesus. However, that does not prove that Isaiah considered it to be a prophesy. So let us consider two completing scenarios.

In the first scenario, Isaiah is prophesying the arrival and crucifixion of Jesus.

In the second, Isaiah is bemoaning the fate of Israel. Later, his words are re-interpreted as a prophesy of a messiah, and later still Jesus' life is remodelled to fit that text.

Isaiah 41

When Isaiah has God talking about his servant in earlier chapters, is that referring to Jesus or to the nation of Israel? Let us see:
Isaiah 41:8 ‘But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, “You are my servant”;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

Isaiah 44:1 ‘But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
    Israel, whom I have chosen.
Isaiah 44:21  ‘Remember these things, Jacob,
    for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
    Israel, I will not forget you.

Isaiah 49:3 He said to me, ‘You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.’
Isaiah 49:7 This is what the Lord says –
    the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel –
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
    to the servant of rulers:
‘Kings will see you and stand up,
    princes will see and bow down,
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’
In that last verse, when it says "him who was despised and abhorred by the nation", was that about Jesus or Israel? Who will the Princes bow down to? It is pretty clear that the servant in chapters 41 through to 49 refers to the kingdom of Israel, and not to some prophesied messiah.

Isaiah 52

Here are the first two verses of Isaiah 52.
Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendour,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
2 Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.
There is no doubt (and no dispute) that this is talking about the people of Israel, who at that time were the captives of Babylon (in fact, it was the nobles and priesthood who were captives, but they were the ones who wrote the books, so it is easy to think it was the entire nation).

Later in the chapter we get the start of the supposed prophesy of Jesus:
13 See, my servant will act wisely;[b]
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him[c] –
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness –
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,[d]
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Is this talking about Jesus or the nation of Israel? Was Jesus so badly disfigured? I do not recall that mentioned at all in the NT, and painting of Jesus do not portray him as disfigured (or Jewish, admittedly).

Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
The nation of Israel was shunned, but Jesus never was. In fact, the NT says he was very popular.
4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
The message behind Isaiah is an explanation for why the Jews were suffering so much, in particular during their captivity in Babylon. This is a response to the Problem of Evil - why does God let bad things happen to good people. The answer is that God is punishing them, as as they are God's chosen people, he is punishing them not just for their own sins, but for everyone's.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
The Jews suffered in silence; they did not open their mouths. In contrast, Jesus preached frequently, he certainly did open his mouth. And if the NT is top be believed, he was not assigned a grave with the wicked but an unused family grave.

The Jewish priests and nobles were taken away, to Babylon, from "the land of the living". And by the sound of it there was not much protest from those who remained (possibly because they suddenly gained all the property the priests and nobles had owned).
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied;[e]
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.
Here God is saying that because his servant has suffered for the sins of all he will make his servant great in the afterlife. But if the servant is part of the holy godhead, he is great already! This cannot be about Jesus.

Instead, this is again rationalising why bad things happen to good people. The Jews are suffering now, and their suffering is great because they suffer for the sins of all. But they are God's chosen people, so they can expect to be well rewarded in the afterlife.


In fact, Origen noted that this was the Jewish belief in 248:

"Now I remember that, on one occasion, at a disputation held with certain Jews, who were reckoned wise men, I quoted these prophecies; to which my Jewish opponent replied, that these predictions bore reference to the whole people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations."

Pierced by a spear

Christians will point to Jesus being pierced by a spear on the cross as being a clear fulfillment of this verse:
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
A far more likely explanation is that the author of the Gospel of John added the verse about Jesus being pierced by the spear to fullfil the prophesy. It is telling that this is absent from the earliest account in Mark.

Narrative built from prophesy?

This is, perhaps, indicative of the entire Easter narrative. The disciples had fled after Jesus' arrest (not surprisingly), and were not around to witness events. They did not see the trial, they did not see the crucifixion. So they built a story based on what they supposed happened. With some knowledge of Roman customers and based on what was expected from scripture, a passion narrative was put together.

Even some Christian scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan hold to this view, and it certainly has the ring of truth to me.

Isaiah 52 and 53 is not a prophesy of a messiah, but it was the framework from which a messiah myth was created.

See also:

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wealth and Christianity

Jesus had a lot to say about wealth, and many Christians today ignore it. I can understand that, I would not want to give up my house, my car, my phone, etc. either.
Luke 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you - you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus is telling people to stop owning stuff, to give away everything. Forget wealth in this world, you do not need it; what is important is treasure in heaven. Have faith in God, and he will provide.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus is quite clear about who will get to the Kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.
23 ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
The poor get in, the rich do not. He says the same thing in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
Luke 16:19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire."
25 ‘But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."
It is important to note here the reason Abraham gives. The rich does not get the Kingdom of God because he has already received good things. Christian will try to twist this passage to mean something else, pretending the rich went to hell because he did not give to the poor or some other wild fancy. The text is clear however.

Again here:
Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
And here:
Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
Some people will look at the camel verses and respond "With God all thing are possible". Okay, so it would be possible for God to let rich people into heaven, if he wanted to, but God has made it clear that he does not want to.

How to Follow Jesus

Jesus said:
Mark 10:20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Modern Christians pretend this instruction was only for this specific man. I can understand why, they have many possessions too. however, the next few verses make it clear this is for all his followers. Note that in verse 28, Peter makes it clear that tthis is exactly what the disciples have already done.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
 This appears in Matthew 19 too. See also:
Luke 14:33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
And also in Luke:
Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where the Heart Is?

Jesus said:
Matthew 6:19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Christians should ask themselves where their heart is. Is it in their fancy house, their big car, their electronic goods?

Christian Rationalisations

Many Christians take what Jesus said to heart, perhaps taking a vow of poverty to become a monk or nun. Others, however, pretend Jesus did not really mean it. Let us see what arguments they can engender...

A very common rationalisation is to concentrate on Matthew 6:24 ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Here is an example:

Jesus’ Teaching on Wealth
... (Matthew 6:24-33)
These words of Jesus best sum up the biblical teaching on wealth. As the Creator of the universe, Jesus knows what makes people tick. He knows where their passions and motivations are held. And he knows that people cannot both pursue wealth and pursue God’s purpose for their life.
This diluted version says you should not be a master to money, which is rather different to saying you should have no money. There you go Christians, you can keep your fancy house, your expensive car. Just convince yourself you love God rather than money, and you are safe.

You just have to ignore the rest of Jesus' words on the subject. It is interesting to read Matthew 6:24 in context.
Matthew 6:19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Do not worry

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 ‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In fact, this is very much like the text in Luke 12, where Jesus explicitly told his followers "Sell your possessions and give to the poor". Of course, Christians prefer the version in Matthew that skips that part!

The Old Testament is a great source of rationalisations.

The Christian view of wealth should be derived from the Scriptures. There are many times in the Old Testament that God gave riches to His people. Solomon was promised riches and became the richest of all the kings of the earth (1 Kings 3:11-13; 2 Chronicles 9:22); David said in 1 Chronicles 29:12: "Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things." Abraham (Genesis 17-20), Jacob (Genesis 30-31), Joseph (Genesis 41), King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:5), and many others were blessed by God with wealth. However, they were a chosen people with earthly promises and rewards. They were given a land and all the riches it held.
That is great - if you are Jewish. Christians are supposed to follow Christ, however.

This web page is written by a pastor, and is a great example of a Christian trying to rationalise his wealth.

I highly recommend money because it is a commodity that is pretty difficult to live without! And contrary to what many Christians believe, money is definitely not the root of all evil. "Pastor Ron, you have definitely flipped your cork because the Bible does say that money is the root of all evil!" I beg your pudding it does not! First Timothy 6:10 says:
"For the LOVE of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray, and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
You see, money is a necessary part of life and is certainly not intrinsically bad or good. It’s one of the many "things" in the life of a Christian that the Lord actually owns, but allows us to use as His stewards. When we properly utilize the "things" that He places at our disposal, and maintain the proper attitude toward them, He very often multiplies them. It is when we adopt the wrong attitude toward "things" that we get in trouble. If we allow ourselves to develop a love an inordinate desire for these "things", it (the love the inordinate desire) becomes sinful. Again, money and other material things are not sinful in and of themselves. Actually, they are quite nice and if we behave ourselves and practice good stewardship God just might see fit to allow us to use some of His! But let me hasten to say that there are no guarantees. The "prosperity gospel" that some have been preaching is as phony and bogus as a three dollar bill. It is a fact that God promised the Old Testament Jew financial and spiritual prosperity, but both were predicated upon their obedience to Him. Nowhere will you find anything resembling this promised to Christians this side of heaven. As a matter of fact, we are plainly told that our walk with Christ will be hard and the closer we try to walk with Him, the rougher it will get. Christianity is absolutely unique among the religions of the world in this respect.
All those verses when Jesus states his position - this guy just ignores them. Another example of the Smorgasbord Bible. You just pick out the bit you like, and quietly ignore the inconvenient parts.

Here is a great line:

I think God grants wealth to whom He chooses-it just happens to suck if that person ain’t you.
Basically, it says if you are rich, then clearly God meant you to be rich, so enjoy. Forget what the Bible say.

Think about that. What the author is saying is that all the rich people in the world, they are rich because God has chosen them especially, and granted them wealth. Whether they made their money from hard work or criminal activities or just got it from their parents, these are the people God has chosen. It is a curious  theology and its only purpose is to make wealthy Christians feel good about themselves.

Think about the flip side. All those people who are living in poverty, starving to death. It is because God has not chosen you, he has chosen not to grant you wealth. Tough. Guess he just does not love you enough.

The total opposite to what Jesus actually said and how he lived!

Of course, this is backed up with Old Testament verses. But what Jesus' own words are ignored.

This web page takes the same route:

Being a rich Christian is not wrong because God makes people rich
It too supports the claim using the Old Testament.

Old Testament Role Models

See here for example for Christians using the Old Testament to support ignoring what jesus said:

Let us think about those Old Testament people.

Moses was raised in the royal household, but chose to abbandon that life of luxury to be with his people. Just as Jesus said.

Abraham, David and Solomon were leaders of the Jewish nation. Is it reasonable to use them as role-models? If it is, then by the same reasoning polygamy is fine with God, and all these men had multiple wives/concubines.

But modern Christians do not want polygamy, society has changed, and now sees that as wrong. They pick and chose what they want from these verses. God gave them riches, so it is fine to be rich, even if Jesus said otherwise. God gave them many wives, but we'll just keep quiet about that.

New Testament Role Models

The New Testament is a far better place for Christians to look for role models - except they will not like what they find.

Letus start with Paul:
1 Cor. 4  11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 
Peter and John:
 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.
And the early church as a whole:
Acts 2: 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
These were true Christians, they were following the woerdss of Jesus, not ignoring them.

Why Do I Care?

I am not a Christian, so why do I care? I post this to show the inconsistency in the religion. How can a religion claim to have all the answers when it is so obviously willfully ignoring what its own founder said?

If Christians ignore what Christ said, why should I pay any attention to him?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Plantinga's Free Will Defence

This is about the Logical Problem of Evil, and Plantinga's "Free Will Defence". I am drawing largely from this web page, and quotes come from there:

Logical Problem of Evil

The page kind of summarises the Logical Problem of Evil in this claim:
(18) It is not morally permissible for God to allow evil and suffering to occur unless he has a morally sufficient reason for doing so.
The issue then is that either there is some such reason or God cannot exist, and Plantinga invokes free will as that reason.

Morally Significant Free Will

Plantinga holds that people have a morally significant free will - that is, they can choose good actions and they can choose bad actions (which, incidentally God cannot, so by this argument God does not have morally significant free will). I am not sure where I stand on the free will issue, but I certainly cannot show Plantinga is wrong, and all Plantinga needs is the possibility he is right, so I will assume morally significant free will exists.

But does it have value?
God’s creation of persons with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value. God could not eliminate much of the evil and suffering in this world without thereby eliminating the greater good of having created persons with free will with whom he could have relationships and who are able to love one another and do good deeds.

There are a few assumptions in there.

Assumption 1: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of having a relationship with God
Assumption 2: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of loving another such being
Assumption 3: Only a being with morally significant free will is capable of doing a good deed
Assumption 4: The capacity to do these things is more important than preventing suffering

I can see no reason to suppose any of those are true. However, I concede that they might be, so it is still possible that Plantinga's argument works.

Impossible? No!

We need to quickly consider omnipotent. Plantinga claims that an omnipotent god is still limited; he cannot do the logically impossible. This is important to note as it does then restrict the type of universe God can create. This is entirely reasonable, as far as I can see.

From there, Plantinga's argument requires that it be logically impossible for God to create a world with free will and with no evil. Okay, so I grant that God cannot do it if it is logically impossible, but I ask; What about heaven?

Obviously there is no evil in heaven, thus, if Plantinga is right, then logically there is no free will in heaven. And therefore those in heaven cannot have a relationship with God, cannot love one another, cannot do good deeds (remember the assumptions above).

A False Dichotomy

So how does morally significant free will means that there must be evil? From the web page:
If God is going to causally determine people in every situation to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong in W3, there is no way that he could allow them to be free in a morally significant sense. Peterson (1998, p. 39) writes,
if a person is free with respect to an action A, then God does not bring it about or cause it to be the case that she does A or refrains from doing A. For if God brings it about or causes it to be the case in any manner whatsoever that the person either does A or does not do A, then that person is not really free.

God can’t have it both ways. He can create a world with free creatures or he can causally determine creatures to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong every time; but he can’t do both. God can forcibly eliminate evil and suffering (as in W2) only at the cost of getting rid of free will.
The argument would seem to be that either God gives us complete free will to do as we like, or he "is going to causally determine people in every situation". And this is where, to me, it all falls down. For me there is a middle ground - God gives us free will, but he steps in occasionally. He steps in just before the rapist attacks, just before the terrorists strike, he alerts people just before the tsunami strikes.

Does that stop people having morally significant free will? I do not think it does. It stops the rapist at that moment, yes, but if God does nothing, the rapist's victim losses her free will. Warning about an impending tsunami gives people choices - enhancing their free will.

Further, the Bible specifically claims that God does just this! Throughout scripture we see examples of God intervening occasionally, and so it is especially baffling that Plantinga has ignored this possibility.

Plantinga argument would seem to be founded on a false dichotomy, and that would seem to break it.

Natural Evil

So far, this can only explain moral evil, but Plantinga claims it applies to natural evil too. Natural disasters are not in themselves evil, of course, as they have no sense of morality. Natural evil is God allowing (or causing) then to happen.

Plantinga claims natural evil could be due to demons (from here):
Plantinga extends the Free Will Defense to natural evil by holding that it is possible that all natural evil (destructive floods and earthquakes, for example) is really moral evil, because it is possible that it is evil resulting from the free actions of non-human agents, namely, Satan and his minions.
What Plantinga is doing is saying there is no natural evil, as intelligent being with morally significant free will are the root cause of all evil, and he has, he claims, already solved that.

So the claim is that God desires for Satan and his minions to have free will. Remember, the first reason cited for God giving free will to people was that he "created persons with free will with whom he could have relationships and who are able to love one another and do good deeds". Are we to suppose that God does not stop Satan because he wants a relationship with Satan? Or so Satan can love us? Or so Satan can perform good deeds?

I find that somewhat implausible, to say the least.

But it gets worse. Plantinga's argument might be fine for early Christians, but nowadays we have this thing called science. We know earthquakes are due to plate tectonics, we know diseases are due to viruses, etc.

We know that natural evil is due to how the universe is. If it was created by God, then natural evil is here because of how he chose to create the universe.

Significantly, Plantinga is not claiming that natural evil is due to demons, he is only claiming that it is a possibility. Technically, that is all he needs. But when his argument rests on a claim that he does not believe is true himself, I am going to reject it as wholy implausible, even if possible.

I guess we can summarise then:

It is possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good God to exist and to allow evil in the world, but only if we assume that all natural disasters are caused by demons that God allows to gave free will so that they can relationships with him, to love one another and to do good deeds.

Once the false dichotomy is explained, anyway.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Smorgasbord morality

Christians on internet fora will often make a big deal about Christian morality, which is odd, when Christian morality is such a vague thing. Christian morality is a Smörgåsbord morality (apologies to any Swedish-speakers; this blog software does not seem to allow accented characters in titles) , it picks what it wants from the Bible, and ignores what is inconvenient.

Taken from the Bible

Okay, Christian morality says murder and stealing are wrong, but cultures have been saying that for thousands of years; there is nothing unique to Christianity there, and it is no surprise that Christians want these laws in place.

Taken despite the Bible

Christian morality says that child rape and slavery is wrong, but these are not prohibited in the Bible. Our society has decided that things things are wrong (in the case of slavery, despite what it says in the Bible), and Christianity has adopted them.

Ignored despite the Bible

There are a lot of rules in the Bible that Christians just ignore. The eating of shellfish is abominable to God, but that does not stop Christians eating prawns and lobsters. Wearing garments made of two different types of threads is prohibited, but how many Christians even know that?

Many Christians claim these do not apply, because Jesus fulfilled the law, but that is just a corruption of what Jesus meant. Others claim that those laws were only given to the Jews. But they are throwing the baby out with the bath water! If rules about eating shellfish apply only to Jews, so do the Ten Commandments - clearly also God's instructions to his chosen people.

It is interesting at this point to read Matthew 19. This can certainly be understood to be Jesus giving commands to everyone, not just Jews, as he is taking about how a person can get to heaven (though an argument can still be made he was only considering Jews).

17 And He said unto him, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into Life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said unto Him, “Which?” Jesus said, “‘Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness;
19 honor thy father and thy mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
All well and good, and a great basis for Christian morality. Jesus, however, goes on:
20 The young man said unto Him, “All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?”
21 Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow Me.”
Christians are strangely unwilling to adhere to this part.

So Christian morality is a Smörgåsbord morality. They take what they want from the Bible, and ignore the parts that are inconvenient, and in the end they have a capitalism morality, not a religious morality at all.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Jesus Fulfilled The Law?

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
What does this mean? Jesus is going to fulfil the law? Most Christians claim that this means that they are free to break the numerous commands on the Old Testament, such as eating shellfish. But Jesus is quite clear that he is not abolishing the law.

The Law and the Prophets

He also says he has not come to abolish the prophets. But the prophets were all dead by this time, what did he mean? Jesus is refering to part of the Hebrew Bible, the Nevi'im, consisting of the writings of the nineteen prophets. The "Prophets" is the second part of the Hebrew Bible. The first part, the Five Books of Moses, contains Gods commands to his people, his laws. This is what Jesus means when he says the Law. He is not talking about abolishing the rules, he is talking about get rid of the books of the Old Testament.

This, then, is what Jesus was saying:
Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to replace the books of the Old Testament; I have not come to replace them but to fulfill them.
18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the books of the Old Testament until all is accomplished.
Here is how Luke has it, for reference:
Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Again, the Law and the Prophets are linked together - because the phrase refers to the Hebrew Bible. In fact, what Jesus was saying was not that the rules would never change, but that the sentiments and importance of the Old Testament would never change (though that does include the rules).

Here is more:
Matthew 22:36 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said unto him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
How could the prophets themselves hang from two laws? What Jesus is saying is that the books of the Old Testament are founded on these two principles.

And here:
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

See also:

Jesus and the Pharisees

Jesus' argument with the Pharisees was that they bent the laws of the Old Testament for their own purposes. Jesus was not arguing against the law, but about the Pharisees' interpretation of it.

Read Matthew 5. After saying how he has not come to change the wisdom of the Old Testament, Jesus goes on to explain what people should understand the commandments to mean.

For example:
Matthew 5:27 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Jesus is not saying the commandment against adultery has been nullified by his coming. Far from it! Instead, he is explaining what the law really means.

What did the apostles think?

A lot of Acts is about the argument as to whether gentiles should be circumcised. Why would the disciples think circumcision was necessary if they had heard Jesus state that his coming had nullified the requirement for circumcision? The simple truth is that Jesus never said that!

Of course, you may counter - why then did Paul claim the gentiles should not be circumcised? The stark reason is that he knew his mission to the gentiles would fail if that requirement was laid upon them. He had a political reason for saying the law did not apply (there is also evidence, such as
Acts 21:26 that Paul still observed the law, but again this could be political expediency).

Christianity and God's Laws

The situation today is that most Christians do not follow many of the laws of the Bible, using the excuse that they do not apply because Jesus "fulfilled" the law. This is nonsense! It is based on a corrupted reading of what Jesus actually said.

Addendum (October 2016)  -Meaning of "fulfilled" in Matthew

The Greek word used is πληρῶσαι:

Matthew uses it several times, and mostly in reference to a prophet, or to prophets in scriptures:

Matthew 1:22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

Matthew 2:15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

Matthew 2:17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

Matthew 2:23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Matthew 4:14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES."

Matthew 12:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Matthew 13:35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."

Matthew 21:4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

Matthew 26:54 "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"

Matthew 26:56 "But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets." Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

Matthew 27:9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel;

Matthew 27:35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

Note: generally I have used the NASB, but for the last one I used the KJV, as the NASB skips the bit about something being fulfilled.

So there are fourteen example of Matthew using the word in relation to a prophet or prophets or scripture. Pretty clearly he uses the word "fulfilled" to indicate a prophecy has come to pass. Are there other examples? There are three:

Matthew 3:15 But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him.

I understand this as fulfilling an expectation, just as before. The prophets had expectations, or prophecies, which Matthew said were fulfilled. Here the expectation is not a prophet as such but is a specific event that is expected to occur, and Jesus is telling John the Baptist that they should fulfill that expectation.

Matthew 23:32 "Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

Again NASB seems to let us down here; there is no direct mention of guilt in the Greek. Other translations go with "complete what your ancestors started" or "fulfill the standard of your forefathers".

Matthew 13:48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

In this verse the word indicates the nets were full of fish. The word is used in Luke to mean filling a valley and John to say a house was full of fragrance, so it probably just means full here too.

So it seems the Greeks used the same word for filling a jug as they did for fulfilling a prophecy, and in fact this was true in English; fulfill originally meant to make full.

So now let us go back to this one, which is the verse I was discussing before:

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

What does "fulfill" mean here? Given how Matthew uses the word elsewhere, either to fill up, as with a jug, or to "to carry out, or bring to realization, as a prophecy or promise" (here). From the context, I think we can reject the former - there is no container present. Are there prophecies present? Yes, there are. The Law and the Prophets refers to sections of the Hebrew Bible (see here), and of course Matthew believed the Hebrew Bible was full of prophecies of Jesus.

Consider this verse in Luke:

Luke 24:44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Here Jesus is being very specific that it is the prophecies written in the Law and in the Prophets that are being fulfuilled. Also here:

Luke 16:16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[d] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

Again, "the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets" refers to scripture, and as in the verse in Matthew, Jesus again makes it clear that what is written in that scripture is just as important.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lunatic, Liar, or Lord

I do occasionally go to church, and Easter was one such time. The sermon had a couple of mentions of the old Lunatic, Liar, or Lord idea.

This is an idea that was popularised by CS Lewis, who said:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."


The preacher at the service I attended said Jesus was not a lunatic because he was not ranting. This struck me as a very narrow definition of lunatic - just as Lewis' considers someone a lunatic only at the level of thinking himself a poached egg.

In reality, there are any number of mental illnesses that leave the sufferer delusional, but not ranting, and I would suggest that delusional to the extent that a person believes himself a poached egg is way beyond the delusion that you are the son of God.

That said, apparently Jesus family did think he was a lunatic...
Mark 3:21 When his family[b] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

A Fourth Option

The option that Lewis never considers is that Jesus' words and actions were made up. He starts from the assumption that the Bible is true, and then concludes that his faith in the Bible is justified. About as circular as you can get!

For example, Lewis seems to hold that Jesus claimed he always existed, based on John 8:58: "Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’" May be Jesus never said that; it was made up subsequent to Jesus death to enhance the legend of Jesus as God.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Design - the best explanation?

I came across an article by the "Centre for Intelligent Design' claiming they are not creationists. Yeah, right. I wonder how many of them believe God created mankind as is... (see this web site)

Anyway, the article cites evidence for intelligent design, so I thought it would be fun to see what these guys count as evidence.
But it’s when we look into the mind-boggling complexity of the living cell that the evidence of design becomes most apparent.  And it’s not just the chemical complexity which is breathtaking.  It’s the vast information content of DNA which poses the enduring problem of modern biology. What is the source of this functional, specified information?  ...

All human experience suggests that such information arises only from intelligent mind.  To  propose that the information in DNA is a reflection of intelligence is to make an inference to the best explanation.  In the absence of any other coherent explanation, the ID position, at the very least, is worthy of debate.  The core of the issue remains the scientific evidence and raising these other and irrelevant religious points really does nothing to address the evidence.
So "design" is the best explanation? Really?

I mean, even for something hat really was designed, that is a pretty poor explanation. How were the pyramids built? Design. How are computers made? Design. And this is not just the best the ID proponents can manage, it is all they hope for. They live in a world where to declare something designed actually counts as an explanation!

This is not science, it is the antithesis of science.

I am not saying the ID position is not intrinsically worthy of debate, but when the position is labelling something as "designed", and pretending that that explains how it came to be, then it certainly is unworthy of debate.