God of the Gaps

God-of-the-Gaps arguments have done a lot of harm over the years to theism. When we answer “God did it” to complex questions, which science later finds answers for, we perpetuate a perception that theism is nothing more than superstition.

Instead of dreading scientific discoveries because they make the God of the gaps get smaller, theists should celebrate scientific discoveries because they continue to magnify God’s amazingly incredible creation!

Science will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God (for that matter, neither can theology); however, for the theist, who perceives or infers the existence of an intelligent creator, scientific discoveries SHOULD act as faith builders.

When Yahweh Shared His Name

Jesus believed he was the Messiah (Yahweh’s chosen), but he did not believe he was Yahweh and neither did his Jewish followers. Jesus’ first disciples believed the Holy Spirit (Yahweh’s power) came down from the heavens and rested upon Jesus at the time of his baptism (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). This power enabled him to carry out the mission Yahweh had for him (Acts 10:38).

Yahweh raised the mortal Jesus from the dead. Paul said, “[Yahweh] raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated [Jesus] at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:20-22).

Notice Jesus wasn’t born with this power and he didn’t send it to himself. He didn’t raise himself from the dead and he didn’t exalt himself and give himself authority over all things. The bible says Yahweh “bestowed” upon Jesus “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

During Jesus’ lifetimes he was addressed as “lord,” a title used for rabbis, priests, the wealthy, rulers, etc.; however, the Bible says that he was made king of kings and lord of lords!

Jesus was never Yahweh; the idea of God made up of three persons was a Greek idea that came about long after Jesus’ death. Instead, God exalted Jesus, sharing with him his divine name, throne, and glory. Yahweh did this so that Jesus could reign over the kingdom of God and be worthy of worship alongside of himself. Furthermore, Paul says Jesus will only reign until “all things are subjected to him,” and then he will subject himself to Yahweh like everything else “so that [Yahweh] may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Question 1: Doesn’t the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin prove he was not the same as other humans?

Answer 1: https://muddlingthroughtheuniverse.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/are-jews-blind/

Question 2: The Bible says that Jesus existed prior to creation. Doesn’t that prove he was God?

Answer 2: Saying that someone or something existed prior to creation was a Jewish way of saying that it existed in Yahweh’s mind, was part of Yahweh’s plan, and was set in stone. We see this explained in 1 Peter: “[Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through [Jesus] are believers in God, who raised [Jesus] from the dead and gave [Jesus] glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21).

Question 3: If Jesus were not God, how could his death have paid the price for men’s sins?

Answer 3: The Bible says that Yahweh accepted the death of Jesus “as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). The writer of Hebrews says, “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name Jesus has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (emphasis added).
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Related Posts:
Formation of Trinitarianism
The holy spirit in the Bible

The Hopelessness of Atheism

Here’s an excerpt from “Yes, life without God can be bleak. Atheism is about facing up to that” by Julian Baggini:

Atheists have to live with the knowledge that there is no salvation, no redemption, no second chances. Lives can go terribly wrong in ways that can never be put right. Can you really tell the parents who lost their child to a suicide after years of depression that they should stop worrying and enjoy life? Doesn’t the appropriate response to 4,000 children dying everyday as a direct result of poor sanitation involve despair at the relentless misery of the world as well as some effort to improve things? Sometimes life is shit and that’s all there is to it. Not much bright about that fact.

Stressing the jolly side of atheism not only glosses over its harsher truths, it also disguises its unique selling point. The reason to be an atheist is not that it makes us feel better or gives us a more rewarding life. The reason to be an atheist is simply that there is no God and we would prefer to live in full recognition of that, accepting the consequences, even if it makes us less happy. The more brutal facts of life are harsher for us than they are for those who have a story to tell in which it all works out right in the end and even the most horrible suffering is part of a mystifying divine plan. If we don’t freely admit this, then we’ve betrayed the commitment to the naked truth that atheism has traditionally embraced.

I appreciate this atheist’s intellectual honesty.

From Jew to Gentile?

James Tabor: I think the greatest problem we have in reading Paul today is that we tend to read him through the eyes of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Paul becomes the champion of a Protestant version of Christianity. But if we go back to Paul and let him be our guide, we find a Pharisee of Pharisees who excelled in the knowledge of Judaism, who knew the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. He knew the Sabbath and would have known nothing of Christian history and tradition. If we understand him in that context, Paul is not a Protestant. He is not protesting the Catholic Church. If anything, Paul is a visionary of a kind of a Jewish future that includes the whole world. I think the two people who most misunderstood Paul would be Augustine and Luther, in the sense of not putting him into his Jewish historical context.

 

To read the whole interview, click here: From Jew to Gentile?

Shifting Jealousies

In the synoptic Gospels, we see Jesus telling his disciples not to take the gospel to any Gentiles, and when a Gentile woman asked him to heal her demon-possessed daughter, we see him initially refuse and say helping her would be like taking bread from children and giving it to dogs.

Why would Jesus and his disciples have little interest in telling Gentiles about the coming kingdom?

I can think of at least three good reasons:

  1. Jews considered Gentiles idol-worshiping pagans and, in accordance with their laws, tried to interact with them as little as possible.
  2. Jews had been oppressed by various Gentiles nations for centuries and were currently under Roman occupation.
  3. Many first-century Jews believed the prophecies of old that said Yahweh would restore the kingdom of Israel to a greatness never before seen and when that happened, Gentiles would recognize Yahweh as God almighty and abandon their own gods.

Given these three reasons, why did Paul feel it was necessary to travel around the north side of the Mediterranean sharing with Gentiles the news of Christ’s death, resurrection, exaltation, and imminent return?

In his epistles, Paul gives several reasons:

  1. He believed he was given a special mission by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.
  2. He believed God temporarily blinded Israel until “the fullness of the Gentiles” recognized Jesus as the risen and soon-returning Lord and abandoned their gods in favor of Yahweh.
  3. He believed that when his Jewish countrymen saw that uncircumcised Gentiles, who did not have the Law, were better at obeying the Law than they were, they would become jealous, repent, and be saved from God’s wrath at the return of Christ.

Some have argued (I think rightly) that the idea of sharing the gospel of Jesus with Gentiles came about as a result of what was seen as a delayed parousia. Paul’s earliest epistle was written two decades after Jesus’ death and the Gospels came even later. Some speculate that the synoptics reflect both the earliest Christian belief that Jesus would return while some of his disciples were still living as well as the apologetic that said perhaps Jesus would not return unless his disciples took on a John-the-Baptizer role and prepared the world for his return.

I think it may well have been the delayed parousia that caused the story to change from Gentiles becoming jealous of Israel and then turning to Israel’s god to Jews becoming jealous of Gentile obedience to Yahweh and then repenting.

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Note: While Paul was not the only Jewish Christian to travel as a missionary to the Gentiles, he was the most famous and successful. However, there is little evidence in biblical or non-biblical accounts suggesting this was a common practice for early Jewish Christians.

Stolen body hypothesis

Is it possible Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb?

If it was stolen, it’s doubtful any of Jesus’ disciples stole it. More likely, Jewish officials stole the body to prevent the grave from becoming a shrine. However, since grave robbing was illegal, they could not admit to the deed later to quell stories of Jesus’ resurrection. And Jewish officials likely believed the resurrection story would quickly die since the resurrected Jesus couldn’t be produced.

But there are problems with the stolen body hypothesis: namely, several Jews claimed to have proof that Jesus was resurrected, Jesus’ brother James went from being a skeptic to being the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and Saul went from being a persecutor of The Way to its most outspoken advocate and promoter.

Although the earliest manuscripts of Mark, the earliest Gospel, don’t mention Jesus appearing to his disciples after his death, they imply that he did meet up with them in Galilee.

Then, Luke tells us in the book of Acts (80–90CE) that James, the son of Zebedee was killed by King Herod who was persecuting members of the church. This shows us that James, one of the original 12 disciples, believed Jesus was resurrected.

In Acts we also read about the martyrdom of Stephen who, while not one of the original 12, claimed to see Jesus in a vision standing at the right hand of God.

Acts also tells us about the vision Paul had of the resurrected Jesus, something Paul alludes to in a few of his epistles.

Finally, we have the account of James the Just’s martyrdom by stoning in the works of Josephus (93 or 94CE). (James the Just is believed to be the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem.) And in I Clement (~96CE), we read of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

In conclusion, if Jesus’ body was stolen, it’s hard to account for the fact that at least some of Jesus’ followers were so certain he was resurrected that they dedicated their lives to Jesus’ mission even though some paid with their lives.

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Notes:
Some say Jesus’ body could not have been stolen because there were guards posted at the tomb; however, this information only appears in Matthew and was likely added to refute a rumor that Jesus’ disciples stole his body.


Some say all of Jesus’ disciples except John died as martyrs, but nearly all of these martyrdom accounts come from highly legendary Catholic stories written at least a century later.