As I close my response to Marshall Brain’s website “God is imaginary” by looking at proof 49 and proof 50 together, I have to say that the whole experience which began in the fall of last year is bittersweet and has been very educational for myself, as to just how bad the arguments that he offers truly are, and these are really prime examples.
In proof 49, which is titled, “Look at who speaks for God”, stumbles right out of the gate and commits a full-on faceplant. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself,
In Christian mythology, God is supposed to the the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe. God is supposed to have incarnated himself as Jesus and he is supposed to have written the Bible. (Links removed)
Christians do not have a “mythology” we have a theology
, a study of religious faith, practice, and experience. He commits has to misrepresent the entire Christian understanding of the nature of God, who we confess is “all-powerful and all-knowing”. Next, he commits a category error because he fails to differentiate the Persons of God that Christians believe in, namely God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that God the Son condescended to become a human being, to become the Incarnate God, in fact one of the earliest hymns of the ancient church, recorded by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians captures this reality:
6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!
9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth –
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2 NET)
Which brings us to the biggest misrepresentation: who wrote the Bible? Men wrote it, or as Peter, in his second epistle puts it,
…men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:21b NET)
But Marshall continues,
And yet today God is completely and absolutely silent. Therefore, the only thing we hear from God comes from people who are speaking on his behalf.
Wow! That can be rejected on its face. Allow me to quote Jesus on this,
…have you not read what was spoken to you by God,…(Matthew 22:31b NET)
Jesus’ argument is a pretty straight forward refutation of what Marshall said, if one wants to hear God speak, then all that they have to do is open his inspired word, that has been carefully preserved for us, and read. But that’s too easy right?
He then points out that there are some people, most of the have popular TV shows, that make, or have made some pretty crazy claims. Hey, I agree with him, if they’re speaking for God, I want none of what they’re selling. But I have an objective revelation to compare their claims to as well as a measure of training in exegesis and hermeneutics. (I’ve written about how desperately we need to be trained in this here
So that “proof” is put to bed, but what about proof 50, “Ask Jesus to appear”? He begins,
Just about everyone knows the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
We’ll see; he continues,
The story is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he arose again from the dead.
That’s the important part, the rest of it can be read here, and it includes some background as well. But he continues,
There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people.
Yes, absolutely, I’m with him so far.
Therefore, several different places in the Bible describe Jesus’ appearances after his death:
- Matthew chapter 28
- Mark chapter 16
- Luke chapter 24
- John Chapter 20 and 21
Very true. Each of those passages contains details of post-resurrection appearances of Jesus over a period of 40 days until his ascension. But then he asks a question, after presenting the early creedal statement of Christians that is recorded by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6,
When we look at 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, there is a question that comes to mind — why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn’t Jesus appearing today?
Well, what does he mean by “appearances”? I’m guessing that he means bodily appearances like he made following his resurrection. I would argue that Jesus is still making appearances, in visions and dreams. In fact, in the Muslim world, many former Muslims who have turned to Christ have talked about seeing Jesus in a vision, as I’ve discussed here, and here’s a link to such a testimony. The Christian belief though is that we will not see the risen Lord until either we die or he makes his final appearance in judgment.
It really is odd. Obviously Paul benefitted from a personal meeting with the resurrected Christ. Because of the personal visit, Paul could see for himself the truth of the resurrection, and he could ask Jesus questions.
Paul was also an apostle, albeit that he was late to the party as it were, and we only know of one interaction directly between the risen Christ and Paul: at his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. But, which is the reason that I wanted to tie these two responses into one, is that Christians can speak to their Lord their Lord and Savior through prayer, and can hear from him in his revealed Word. But what we have here is a non sequitur: Marshall is essentially arguing that unless every Christian’s experience is like that of Paul, that Christianity is not true. Sorry, that does not compute, and clear thinkers will see the fallacy. Again I will quote Jesus, who is quoting Abraham’s response to this matter:
‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31 ESV)
I’ve got to put just a little more out there,
Why doesn’t Jesus appear to everyone and prove that he is resurrected, just like he appeared to Paul? There is nothing to stop Jesus from materializing in your kitchen tonight to have a personal chat with you. And if you think about it, Jesus really does need to appear to each of us. If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn’t you?
It is an important question for the following reasons:
- We are told by the Bible that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people.
- We therefore know that it is OK for Jesus to appear to people — it does not take away their free will, for example — because it was OK for Jesus to appear to hundreds of other people.
- We know that it would be easy for Jesus to appear to everyone all through history, since Jesus is all-powerful and timeless.
- We know that, if Jesus did reappear to everyone, it would be incredibly helpful. We could all know, personally, that Jesus is resurrected and that Jesus is God. If Paul (and all the other people in the Bible) needed a personal visit to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why not you and me?
- Yet, we all know that Jesus has not appeared to anyone in 2,000 years.
Alright, let’s examine this.
Yes, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people following his resurrection, but does that logically mean that Jesus should appear to everyone. Let’s think back just a few hundred years in the history of our our own nation (the United States). Today, we take for granted that the president of this nation can effectively speak to the entire nation in a matter of a few minutes through the use of modern technology. 100 years ago, the president could address the nation via radio. 50 years before that, the telegram. But what about before the telegram? Presidential addresses were transcribed and couriered around the nation and read by criers or printed in newspapers. Did that mean that the nation didn’t have a president? No, of course not. But back to the present: even though the president has the technological ability to address the nation at any and every given moment through the advent of the internet, does he have to (well, he seems to think he does)? Just because you have the power to do something, does it logically mean that you have to, an in the way that certain people would like you to? No, of course not. Further, it does not logically follow that his appearing to every person would be helpful, because some people because some people may simply shrug it off. If I needed a personal visit from the president to conclude that the President of the United States is real, then I would be sadly disappointed because there is no reason that requires a person visitation for me to conclude that 1) he exists, 2) he is Barak Hussein Obama, and 3) his is the two-term president, because I have a copy of the US Constitution that objectively establishes the office of the president, the method by which he is to be elected, the qualifications by which he can obtain said office, as well as news reports of the election of a person to that office. Funny thing, I have similar things for the person of Jesus Christ: an document that objectively establishes the parameters under which God states that he acts in time revealed through his prophets, who spoke of a day when God would step down from his eternal throne and enter his creation, and I have eyewitness testimony to the events. What more do I need?
Not to be outdone, Marshall has this to say,
What about Jesus’ famous statement in the Bible, “Happy are those who have not seen yet still believe”? What you realize is that this statement creates the perfect cover for a scam.
Yes, but a “scam” for what? What’s the “scam”? I’ve yet to have a satisfying answer, but let’s place the quote in context: it comes after the resurrection, when Jesus is having his encounter with Thomas in John 20:29. Now, most translations of the Bible (those with red letters) will place those words in the mouth of Jesus. I don’t think that they belong there, but I have my reasons for that assumption, something I’ll have to explain later, but suffice it to say since I do not think that those words belong in the mouth of Jesus, I’ll dismiss his assertion of “scam” because he doesn’t define it.
So, is God imaginary? The one that Marshall has demonstrated is: a God who has no personality, no thoughts, and has no plans for his creation. The biggest issue that we have had to deal with in this series is, just simply, straw men, category errors, and empty assertions. While Marshall has demonstrated that he has the ability to copy and past scripture, he has shown no grasp of the culture into which they emerged from or any reflective review if them in their context. Anyway, onto the next project, maybe I’ll pick up and do some more of my series on “Answers in Exegesis”, such as here, here and here.