He begins with this statement,
Have you ever noticed that when you read the Bible, it often makes no sense? For example, you can read Matthew 17:20 and Jesus clearly says, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” And yet, you know for a fact that that statement is wrong. Lots of things are impossible for you.
Yes, often it makes no sense because we approach it like a book of proverbs, short, pithy sayings that are packed with wisdom, rather than a narrative that is trying to relay something important. The problem with the proverb assumption is that, sometimes, the author is relating an idea that needs the event that the statement occurs in so that it can be understood.
For example, the very context of the passage from Matthew, 17:20, is relating why the disciples could not heal a specific individual. The statement was given in a specific circumstance for a specific purpose, namely the disciples’ unbelief. In other words, they were making a mountain out of the moment, something that was standing in their path to their kingdom service. This is why issues such as hermeneutics and exegesis are so vitally important, now more than ever. The thing that seemed “impossible”, the “mountain” that stood in their way, was their unbelief.
Look at this and see if you get Mr. Brain’s hidden assumption:
Isn’t it odd that the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, perfect creator of the universe has written a book, but he was unable to write clearly, so we need human theologians to interpret it for us? Why would a perfect god say “Nothing will be impossible for you” unless he meant “Nothing will be impossible for you?” Surely God knows how humans interpret sentences. So why didn’t he speak the truth?
Did you get it? “Surely God knows how humans interpret sentences.” And therein lies the problem: how humans interpret sentences rather than the entirety of the context. I have recently run into this problem with several brothers in Christ who tear verses out of their contexts in order to attempt to prove their point simply because they define the words according to their desires rather than the manner in which the writer is using them in the context. Here’s a great video where the issue of eisegesis and how it abuses the truth contained in Scripture to prove a point, rather than allowing Scripture to do what it is meant to do, which is,
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET)
Marshall goes on by bringing his trusty straw men, Chris and Norm, back to illustrate a point he attempts to make in this statement:
The reason why God speaks so unclearly, and why God fails to speak the truth so often in the Bible, and the reason why we need theologians, is because God is imaginary.
Marshall’s own theology is what is tripping him up: he’s presupposing that God hasn’t spoken clearly and truthfully in order to assume his conclusion is correct in order that he can make the assertion that “God is imaginary.” The question is whether or not the assertion is accurate in its representation of not only the text, but the context of the text in question. It’s funny that the very text that Marshall, in his conversation that he illustrates between Chris and Norm, from Mark 11:24, is similar to the passage from Matthew 17:20: unbelief, just in a different context (there’s that word again).
Most people can see the problem that is apparent in this conversation.
Yes, that it is a blatant straw man because neither individual in it show any understanding of the issue.
There is no reason why an all-knowing, perfect God would write down, “you can move mountains” or, “nothing will be impossible for you” or, “Ask, and you shall receive” unless he meant that.
No Christian would make such a blatantly false statement to begin with, unless they were intentionally eisegeting those passages, like Marshall is doing.
So let’s deal with the obligatory bullet points (my response in bold):
- Why would Jesus, who is supposedly the son of God, say, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven,” in Matthew 5:44-45, but then say “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be damned [to hell]” in Mark 16:16? Why doesn’t Jesus love his enemies? A theologian can explain it, even though the explanation makes absolutely no sense.–Jesus, who is not only the Son of God, but God of very God, said “Love your enemies…”, he is under no obligation to show any “love” to those who are engaged in active rebellion. But, in His self-giving, he has offered a means of peace to everyone he intends to save.
- Why does the Bible tell us that we need to murder half of the citizens of the United States? A theologian can explain it, even though the explanation makes absolutely no sense.–I’ve answered this here.
- Why is God a complete sexist in the Bible, and a champion of slavery? A theologian can explain it, even though the explanation makes absolutely no sense.–An accusation that I’ve answered here.
- Why would an omniscient God write a creation story in the Bible that is acknowleged to be complete nonsense by tens of thousands of clergy members? A theologian can explain it, even though the explanation makes absolutely no sense. –I’ve answered this nonsensical misrepresentation here, as well.
Let’s deal with this last paragraph as we close:
The reason why you can’t read the Bible yourself, and the reason why only “trained theologians” can “interpret” a book written by God, and the reason why the Bible is actually, concretely incorrect in so many places (despite any interpretation) is because God is imaginary. If God were real, and if God had actually written a book, the book would be brilliant The book would say things that are actually true. Prayer would work as it is actually described by the Bible. People would be left in awe by what they The book would say things that are actually true. Prayer would work as it is actually described by the Bible. People would be left in awe by what they read the Bible. That’s what being “perfect” is about.
First of all, there is no one who is not a “theologian”, even Mr. Brain is one. If you have any thoughts about God, regardless of what you claim to believe (or not), you are one, because you have a “word about God”, which is what theology means, etymologically. Bad theology leads to distortion, inconsistency, and bad arguments, such as the ones in this “proof”. Mr. Brain, in no way, has, or can, demonstrate his assertion about the claims contained in the Bible, which by strict definition is not a book, that it is “concretely incorrect”; he has to make broad assertions that have no basis in reality. Prayer does work, when it is offered in prescription to what is outlined in the Scriptures: praise, petition, and thanksgiving, but I’ve dealt with his misrepresentations here and here as well. The Apostle Paul directly contradicts his final statement by defining what Scripture is for in the quotation from 2 Timothy above.
This “proof” is just a further example of Mr. Brain’s presuppositions getting in the way of clear thinking.