Chapter 18 - Was Jesus the son of God?
The centerpiece of the Christian faith is Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated by Christians all around the world. Jesus' miracles prove to Christians that Jesus is the son of God. As discussed in chapter 14, Jesus' death is the human sacrifice that finally appeased God.
Jesus claims in many places in the Bible, and in many different ways, that he is God. For example, in John chapter 4, verse 25 we find this:
- The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."
- So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me."
- Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father."
According to Jesus, his miracles prove that he is God. For example, in Matthew chapter 11 we find this:
- Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them."
Chapter 19 - Why didn't Jesus move a mountain?
Let's say you are walking down a New York City street one day, and you notice a man walking toward you from the other direction. There are two reasons why you notice him. First, he is wearing a long white robe and leather sandals. Second, he is obviously planning to talk to you. He has made direct eye contact and is motioning for you to stop so that he can say something to you.
You try to look at the ground and walk past him, but he actually steps right into your path and you stop short. He focuses his eyes on you and says, " I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. I am the prince of peace. I am God. Believe in me and you shall have Eternal life...."
You are thinking that this person is a total nut case. You are fingering the cell phone in your pocket, making sure that you will be able to dial 911 if you need to. Fortunately there are a number of other people walking by, so you feel fairly safe. And there is something about the intensity of his gaze... Instead of running away, you say, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let me make sure I heard you right. You are God?"
- Man: "Yes. I am God. I am the son of the highest. I am the lord of our righteousness. I am the horn of salvation. I..."You: "Whoa. Slow down. You are God?"
Man: "Yes. I am God."
You: "Can you show me an ID?"
Man: "No. I am God. I don't need an ID."
You: "Of course. OK. Can you tell me your name?
Man: "My name is Jesus2."
You: "Can you prove to me that you are God? That's a pretty stupendous claim."
Man: "Yes, certainly. Walk with me."
- Homeless man: Yes.Jesus2: Have we ever met before?
Homeless man: No, I've never seen you before in my life.
Jesus2: Now good sir, how long have you been confined to this wheel chair.
Homeless man: Going on 20 years I'd say. Seems like my whole life.
Jesus2: Arise and walk. You are healed!
Now, what do you think about this? You need to make a decision here. Either this man is God and has just healed a person who has not walked for 20 years. That's option #1. Or... this man is not God, and there is some other explanation for what you just saw. For example, it might, possibly, be the case that Jesus2 is a homeless man too, and that these two homeless men might -- just might -- be working together on some sort of scam. That is option #2.
Chances are that you suspect that option #2 is the more likely of the two scenarios at work here. So you might say to Jesus2, "Wow. That was impressive. You just healed a guy who had been in a wheelchair for 20 years. But look -- I need something a little more convincing. See that skyscraper across the street? Can you pick it up and move it to the middle of Central Park?"
- Jesus2: Which part of Central Park?You: It really doesn't matter to me.
Jesus2: Well, there is a slight problem.
You: Really? What is the problem?
Jesus2: It is not my will to move the skyscraper.
You: Really? I thought you were God. Aren't you all-powerful?
Jesus2: I am God, yes. I am the bread of life. I am the blessed and only potentate. However, it is not my will to move that skyscraper.
You: Why not?
Jesus2: It simply is not. I like Central Park the way it is.
You: OK. Move it somewhere else. Move it to a vacant lot in Jersey.
Jesus2: It is not my will to do that.
You: I see. Well, have a nice day!
Think about it. If someone were to come to you and say, "I am God!", wouldn't you want proof? Yes, you would. Of course you would. And you would not want goofy proof. You would not accept something that looks like a faith healer's show at a tent revival, and you would not accept something that looks like a magic trick. You want real, solid proof. You want any person who claims to be God to do something that is clearly impossible, like picking up a skyscraper, levitating it through the air and settling it into the middle of Central Park.
Something like that, quite obviously, would have to be the work of an all-powerful God. Levitating a skyscraper and moving it from here to there is clearly something that no human being can do, so it would be convincing. There is no way to fake it. And millions of other people would be able to verify that, yes, the skyscraper did move from its original location to a new location. If the building were hooked into water, sewer, power and phone at its new resting place, that would be perfect.
No normal person, and I mean no one, would accept anything less than rock solid proof from a person who claims to be God.
Why should it be any different with Jesus? Jesus was a man who claims to be God. If he is God, then he ought to be able to prove it in a real, inimitable way. If he cannot prove it then, quite clearly, he is not God.
A Christian would say, "But Jesus HAS proven it! Just look at all of the miracles he did in the Bible! He healed the sick! He changed water into wine! That PROVES that Jesus is the Lord!"
Does that make sense to you? Imagine that someone, today, were to come up to you and say, "I am God, and I will prove that I am God by healing the sick and turning water into wine!" What would you say? Be honest. You would not believe this person because:
- Everyone has seen all sorts of "faith healers" who can "heal" the sick. And we all know that this sort of "healing" is quackery. If it were true, then we would not need doctors, hospitals or prescription medicines. (see alsoChapter 6)
- Turning water into wine... Doesn't that sound like something that a B-grade David-Copperfield-wannabe magician would do in a nightclub act? There are a dozen ways that you could stage things to make it look like water is turning into wine. There is no reason why a normal person would accept a magic trick as proof that someone is God.
Let's imagine that Jesus truly is God. What might he have done to prove it? He could have started by taking one of his most famous quotes from the Bible and acting on it. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says quite clearly:
- For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
- My name is Jesus, and I am God. I know there are a lot of people out there who will doubt that I am God, so let me start off by proving it to you. Take a look at Mount Sinai. Everyone knows that, until today, Mount Sinai stood near here. It is the mountain where God, my father, gave Moses the Ten Commandments.Mount Sinai vanished this morning, and what was left in its place was a perfectly smooth, polished stone base measuring four miles square. Hundreds of years from now, people will find that Mount Sinai landed near a place that will be called Newark, New Jersey. When scientists dig into the mountain, they will find that the bottom of the mountain is also completely smooth and polished, and that the bottom of the mountain in New Jersey perfectly matches the polished plain nearby. Scientists will be able to align the mountain and the plain, looking at it rock crystal by rock crystal at a microscopic level. I have said many times that, if you have faith, you can move mountains. I moved Mount Sinai to show how easy it is, and to prove that I am God.
I know that that may not be enough, so let me offer a second proof. If you draw a circle, you know that there is distance across the circle. Let us call it the diameter of the circle. There is also a distance around the outside of the circle. Let us call it the circumference. If you divide the circumference by the diameter, you get another number. Let us call it Pi, and its first 6 digits are 3.14159. Pi is an irrational number. It is a number that is made up of an infinite number of non-repeating digits.
There will come a day when machines called computers will calculate billions of digits of Pi. If you calculate Pi out to the millionth trillionth digit, here is what you will find:
Now, having proven that I am God to any rational being, through my documentable movement of a mountain and through my foreknowledge of Pi at the millionth trillionth position, here is what I want to say to the human race as your creator, and as the creator of the universe...
Unfortunately, Jesus did not provide concrete proof of his divinity. For any normal person, that makes things simple -- Jesus is not God. We would not believe that anyone today is God without concrete proof. Jesus doesn't get a pass because he lived 2,000 years ago.
Key PointJesus did not provide any concrete proof of his divinity. For any normal person, that makes things simple -- Jesus is not God. To believe that anyone today is God, we would need concrete proof. Jesus does not get a pass because he lived 2,000 years ago.
- Norm: If Jesus is God, why didn't Jesus ever prove that he is God?Chris: He did! He performed many miracles, and he was resurrected. That proves that he is God!
Norm: Why did he not prove that he is God in a way that is definitive and scientifically provable -- for example, by moving a mountain?
Chris: He could not do that! That would take away man's free will to believe in him. People must come to God through faith.
Norm: Why, then, did Jesus perform the miracles described in the Gospels?
Chris: To prove that he is God. If he had not done the miracles, culminating in his final most miraculous resurrection, we would not know that he is God.
Norm: I thought that if Jesus performed miracles to prove that he was God, then it took away our free will.
Norm: Isn't that what you just said?
Chris: No. What I just said is that Jesus' miracles prove that he was God.
Norm: So why didn't Jesus perform real, concrete miracles like moving a mountain?
Chris: Because that would take away our free will.
- Jesus had to perform miracles to prove his divinity, and that doesn't take away free will...
- ...But if Jesus performed miracles that we could see and scientifically verify, it would take away free will.
A hidden God?
Here is a line of reasoning that Christians will frequently use to try to rationalize Jesus' behavior. In the book "The Case for Faith," the author Lee Stroble interviews Peter Kreeft, Ph.D. Dr. Kreeft says the following:
- "Scripture describes God as a hidden God. You have to make the effort of faith to find him. There are clues you can follow. And if that weren't so, if there was something more or less than clues, it's difficult for me to understand how we could really be free to make a choice about him."
There are examples of God's desire for publicity throughout the Bible. The best known is God's parting of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus, chapter 14:
- Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
It is pretty hard to hide something that you do in front of thousands of people and then describe and publish in billions of books. Clearly God is not a hidden God.
But there is an even more impressive sign that we often forget. If God exists and God wrote the Bible, then rainbows are actually proof that God exists. God is not hiding at all. If you read Genesis 9:12-13 you will find this:
- And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth..."
There are also plenty of cases in the New Testament. For example, Matthew, Chapter 17:
- After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
Or take this passage from the book of Matthew, Chapter 3:
- As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Or this passage from the book of Luke, Chapter 2:
- And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul says,
- Then he [Jesus, after the resurrection] appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time.
- Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
Jesus claims to be God, and Jesus is a physical being running around Israel for all to see. He apparently performed millions of miracles in front of millions of people. The God of the Bible is not hiding -- God is so hungry for publicity and exposure that he actually incarnates himself and then starts performing miracles for everyone on the planet. Then he creates a God-breathed book to describe everything and publishes billions of copies all over the world.
Yet, for some reason, God wants none of us today to see any of those miracles because he "needs to remain hidden" so that he will not "taint our free wills." Does that seem likely? Or is it more likely that Jesus never performed a real miracle? When you combine this evidence with the fact that Jesus answers no prayers (seesection 1), it is clear to us what is actually happening.
Drawing a conclusion
Key PointIf Jesus needed miracles to prove to people that he is God, and if it did not hurt their "free wills" to see these miracles, and if all these miracles were written down and attested to by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John so that we could all experience them vicariously today, then why is it wrong for us to see areal miracle and have actual proof today? Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles have a physical permanence that would transcend time and prove his story to everyone? Because Jesus was a normal human being just like you and me.
To better understand the question, try this: Imagine that you are watching a magician like David Copperfield on television. He "heals" a few people -- makes a blind person see, makes a lame person walk, etc. He demonstrates that he can "turn water into wine." Then he goes one step further and says, "I am God! I have just proven it to you by my miracles!"
Would any of us believe him? Of course not. To believe that someone is God, we would need incontrovertible proof. We would not accept magic tricks. We know that they are meaningless.
God is not trying to remain "hidden" -- all we have to do is open the Bible to see it. And it is obvious that, if a person were to claim to be God today, we would demand real proof. Therefore, the fact that Jesus did not perform a single miracle that is visible and testable today proves to all of us that Jesus was a normal human being, just like you and me.
Chapter 20 - Why doesn't Jesus appear to each of us?
In the last chapter, we discussed Jesus' miracles. There is one miracle, however, that deserves special discussion. Jesus' resurrection after his death is the ultimate and defining proof of Jesus' divinity.
Just about everyone knows the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. 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. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people. 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
- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
When we look at these Bible passages, there is a question that comes to mind -- why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn't Jesus appearing today?
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.
So... 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?
Key PointIf 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 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.
Key PointThe reason why Jesus has appeared to no one for 2,000 years is because Jesus never appeared to anyone.
What if we pray to Jesus like this: "Dear Jesus, please appear to us, as you did to Paul and the 500 brethren, so that we can see the evidence of your resurrection. In your name we pray, amen." Here is what Jesus has promised us in the Bible:
Matthew 7:7 Jesus says:
- Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
- Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
- Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
What you will find, if you think about it, is that the situation we see here is exactly like the situation in Chapter 5. We have created a situation where coincidence cannot "answer" the prayer. The only way for this prayer to be answered is for Jesus to actually, unambiguously, materialize. In this situation, we also know that it is trivial for Jesus to materialize, that there would be many benefits if Jesus did materialize, that Jesus has supposedly materialized to other human beings, and that Jesus has promised to answer our prayer that he materialize.
How do we explain the fact that this prayer goes unanswered, no matter who prays, despite Jesus' promise that he will answer our prayers?
As you think about this, you will realize that Paul's story in the Bible must be false. Simply look at Paul's story like any judge in a courtroom would. What Paul's story in 1 Cor 15 is suggesting is entirely unprecedented - a man dead three days with mortal wounds came back to life. Yet there is no evidence that it is true, and there are many alternative explanations for what Paul is saying. Paul could be fabricating the story, Paul could have hallucinated or dreamed the meeting, Paul could have seen an imposter, etc. In addition, no one is seeing Jesus today, even though it would be trivial and obvious for Jesus to appear to people today just like he did with Paul.
Given this evidence, if this were any normal situation instead of a religious one, people would conclude that what Paul is saying is untrue. There is zero evidence to support Paul's story, zero reason to believe it, a motive to lie and plenty of alternative explanations. There is also the fact that much of the rest of the Bible contains provably false stories. Plus the fact that it would be trivial for Jesus to provide the evidence that Paul needs to confirm his story by reappearing on earth. Add to that the fact that Jesus has promised to answer our prayers but refuses to materialize when we pray to him. The only thing to do is to reject Paul's story. Every bit of evidence points to the fact that the resurrection story is a myth, nothing more.
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. Let's say you are Jesus, you are a normal human being, you realize that you are going to die and you want to cover for this fact. Here is what you would say: "Happy are those who have not seen yet still believe." What you are saying is, "I exist, and the way I am going to show you that I exist is by not showing that I exist." For every other object in the universe, the way that we know it exists is because the object provides evidence of its existence. If there is no evidence for an object's existence, we call it imaginary (e.g. Leprechauns). But with Jesus, the lack of evidence is turned into evidence. Quite clever, but obviously a scam.
If the resurrection were true, then Jesus would be answering prayers as he promises in the Bible. He would also appear when people pray to see him. The fact is, as we saw in Section 1, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus answers prayers.
If you are looking for an easy way to prove to yourself that Jesus is not God, try this simple experiment. Take a small child, perhaps age 4 or 5, to church on Sunday and let the child watch communion. You may experience something like this:
- Child: Daddy, what are they doing?Daddy: Well dear, this part of the service is called communion.
Child: What's communion?
Daddy: Well, it's where... Well, it's... you know, what we do is we eat Jesus' body to... Well, it's complicated. Let me see...
Child: We eat Jesus' BODY???
Daddy: Yes. Well, no, but...
Child: Why do we need to eat Jesus??? I don't want to eat Jesus!!!
Daddy: No, no, no. It's OK honey. It's OK. Be quiet now, don't cry in church. Shhhh. Shush. Now it's OK.
Child: But Daddy, I don't want to eat Jesus!
Daddy: Mom, help me out here.
Mom: Honey, it is a holy sacrament. You see, we eat Jesus' body and we drink his blood because...
Child: I have to drink his blood too??? Mommy, I don't want to drink blood!!!
Mom: Honey, calm down! You don't actually drink his blood.
Child: But that man up there is holding up a cup and he is saying that it is Jesus' blood! Mommy! I want to leave! I am leaving!
Mom, Dad: No honey! Wait! We can't leave now!
Have you ever wondered where this ritual came from, or why billions of people would participate in a ritual that is this bizarre? First, let's look at the part of the Bible that prescribes the ritual. You find it in Mark, Chapter 14:
- And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
- So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
However, the assumption is accurate. The dictionary describes cannibalism in the following way:
- The usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being
Now we learn that the human sacrifice is not enough, and we need to ritualistically cannibalize Jesus' body, and satanically drink his blood, to have "eternal life."
What does your common sense tell you about all of this? Look at it through the eyes of a child. What we are talking about here is cannibalism, and what Christians are doing looks exactly like a pagan/satanic ritual. If you are a Christian, the two questions you may be asking yourself right now are:
- Why in the world am I, as a sane individual, participating in ritualistic cannibalism? How in the world did I stoop to this point?
- Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God demand that I do this? What sort of God am I worshipping?
The source of the ritual
If you are curious, here is why Christianity contains this bizarre ritual. It is not the case that an all-powerful God in heaven demands this behavior. All of the rituals in Christianity are completely man-made. Christianity is a snow ball that rolled over a dozen pagan religions. As the snowball grew, it freely attached pagan rituals in order to be more palatable to converts. The process is described succinctly and accurately in the book "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. The book offers these two accounts of the acretion process:
- "The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus. And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual - the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of "God-eating" - were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions."
- "Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras - called the Son of God and the Light of the World - was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday or Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity's weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans."
If, on any Sunday morning in America, you were to visit a Sunday school class full of small children, there are two things that are nearly guaranteed. On the wall there will be a picture or poster of Jesus with a group of children around him. And the class will end up singing the song "Jesus loves the little children." Christians are quite fond of both the imagery and the music.
The question that we should ask is a simple one. If Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, and if Jesus loves the little children, then why do so many children live in abject poverty? A paper entitled "Chronic poverty in India" describes the poverty faced by the world's children in this way:
- Poverty has been described as a situation of "pronounced deprivation in well being" and being poor as "to be hungry, to lack shelter and clothing, to be sick and not cared for, to be illiterate and not schooled; Poor people are particularly vulnerable to adverse events outside their control. They are often treated badly by institutions of the state and society and excluded from voice and power in those institutions." Using income as a measure of poverty, the World Development Report refers to the "deep poverty amid plenty" in the world and states that a fifth of the world's people live on less than $1 a day, and 44% of them are in South Asia. [ref]
Now consider the fact that, if you raise the bar to $3 a day -- still an extremely meager amount -- half of the people on the planet are living at that level of poverty. More than three billion people. As discussed in Chapter 5, 10 million children die every year as a result of abject poverty.
Where in the world is Jesus?
Here is what Jesus has to say about poverty in the Bible. If you look in Matthew chapter 6:25, you will find this amazing quote:
- "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
What any normal person realizes, when looking at the facts that are plainly visible in our world, is that what Jesus said in the Bible is completely wrong. Jesus' statements about poverty in Matthew 6:25-32 are clearly false. God is not looking out for these people. God is not feeding them, nor is he clothing them like lilies. Jesus hates quite a few of the little children of the world, and he demonstrates his hatred by imprisoning them in abject poverty.
Jesus is completely wrong
This is not the first example that we have seen in the Bible where Jesus is completely wrong. In section 1 of this book, we saw that Jesus is clearly wrong when he talks about the power of prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 21:21:
- I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
- Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
- And [Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
- Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand: The reason why Jesus was incorrect in so many places is easy to understand. Jesus was not God. Jesus was a normal human being who was way, way out on a limb.
|Chapter 23 - Was Jesus' coming Prophesized?|
In the eyes of Christians, one of the things that irrefutably proves that Jesus is God is the fact that Jesus fulfilled many prophesies from the Old Testament. For example, if you look at the Web site for the Campus Crusade for Christ, you find this paragraph:
Here is a complete chapter from the book of Isaiah so that you have plenty of context:
Isaiah chapter 7:
3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field. 4 Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood-because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it." 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
" 'It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.' "
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."
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 men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.16 But 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."
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River-the king of Assyria-to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also. 21 In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. 23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Men will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.
Here is another example. In the book of Hosea, chapter 11, there is an important prophecy about Jesus. This is the entire chapter so you have plenty of context:
In Zechariah Chapter 9, there is a prophesy that Jesus will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here is the context and the verse:
In Micah Chapter 5 verse 2 there is a "prophesy" that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem:
This "rod and cheek" phenomenon is where the "prophecies" of Jesus are coming from. The Old Testament contains thousands and thousands of words, most of them total nonsense. Out of those thousands of words, you are going to get some that happen to match up with the New Testament accounts of Jesus in some obscure way. However, you are going to get thousands more, like the rod and the cheek, the curds and the honey, the razor from across the river, the Nimrods and all the rest, that do not. If you look for the ones that do happen to randomly match up and completely ignore the thousands and thousands that do not, you can claim that the Old Testament "prophesizes" the coming of Jesus. Any normal person, on the other hand, sees it all as gibberish. Any correspondence is complete coincidence.
In chapter 17 of this book we discussed the amount of nonsense in the Bible. In all of the quotes that you have seen around these prophecies, do you find that you are left in amazement at the word of the Lord? Or have you found it all to be completely meaningless to you? Why, if the Bible and these "prophecies" are the word of the Lord, is book filled to the brim with such meaningless, useless, ridiculous nonsense?
Here is one last thing to consider. No one would care about these "prophecies" in the Old Testament if Jesus had actually proven that he is God. Since Jesus did not prove that he is God (see chapter 19), Christians have to fall back on the "prophecies" because this is all they've got. Since any normal person can see that the prophecies are completely meaningless, this is a very sad place for a Christian to be.
Reaching a conclusion
If you are a Christian, you have heard the following statement over and over again: "Jesus' coming was prophesized hundreds of times in the Old Testament, centuries before Jesus' birth! The ONLY way that could have happened is if God wrote the Bible and if Jesus were sent by God! The chances of one man fulfilling all of these prophecies together are infinitesimally small -- Jesus MUST be God!" You've heard it so many times you've simply taken it on faith.
But have you ever actually taken the time to read the Bible and check out these "prophesies"? Have you ever looked at the context around them as we have here? Have you ever noticed that the "prophecies" are scattered far and wide throughout the Old Testament without a single thing tying them together and absolutely nothing indicating that they point to Jesus? Have you ever noticed that there are thousands of other prophesies -- like the rod and the cheek, the bees and the curd, the seven shepherds, the eight princes, the Nimrods, the doves of Assyria, the razors from across the river, etc., etc., etc. -- that never came to pass?
If you read all of the examples in this chapter, and especially if you read the material in the Bible surrounding the "prophecies", I believe that you will understand two things. First, the "prophecies" that "prove" that Jesus is God are irrelevant and meaningless. Any unbiased observer can see that. Jesus' coming was never "prophesized" in the Bible. These prophesies are as random and arbitrary as your horoscope in the newspaper -- so vague and diffused among so much irrelevant material that they are completely meaningless.
The second thing you will see is a reiteration of chapter 17 -- much of the Bible is irrelevant to us today. Since God is all-knowing and timeless, it is difficult to understand why that would be unless we assume that God had nothing to do with the Bible.
Imagine hearing this advertisement on the radio one day:
And I will answer your prayers. Pray to me for anything and I will hear and answer your prayers. I say it in dozens of places in the Bible, but I like the way I say it in Mark 11:24 the best: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Anything you need -- money, love, happiness, you name it -- I am here to provide it for you.
Now, there is just one thing I need in return. I need your money. I need lots of your money. The Bible specifies that you send me ten percent of your gross income, but think of that as a starting point. Feel free to give more! When they pass the offering plate at church, be sure to give generously!
Because even though I created the universe and everything in it, and even though I will give you everything you ask for in prayer, I can't give a cent to any church, ever.
So, please give generously at your place of worship today! I thank you for your support!"
The reason why Jesus needs lots of your money every Sunday morning should be obvious to you at this point.
If we were to talk to a Christian about Jesus, the conversation might go something like this:
Chris: I know it in my heart. I talk to Jesus every day. I have a loving, living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ!
Norm: How do you know that Jesus is resurrected?
Chris: It says so right in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were real people. So was Paul. They have no reason to lie. They saw the resurrected Jesus.
Norm: I understand what you are saying. The thing I would like to help you understand is that the Bible is full of problems. There is no reason why we should believe the Bible when it talks about the resurrection.
Chris: The Bible is not full of problems!
Norm: That is what we saw in Section 2. The Bible thinks that slavery is great, that women are to be hated, that people should be sacrificing animals and that God loved killing children. We can open the Bible to nearly any page and find nonsense. We know that the story of Noah is nothing but a story. And so on. There are problems with the Bible everywhere we look. Given all of these problems, there is no reason to trust anything the Bible says.
Chris: Jesus is resurrected! Jesus is Lord!
Norm: Let's pray to Jesus and ask that he appear to us right now to settle this.
Chris: He can't do that! Jesus can't appear to us!
Norm: Why not?
Chris: He cannot!
Norm: But why?
Chris: He's so busy doing everything God needs him to do! Plus, if he just appeared right here out of thin air, it would take away our free will. We would both KNOW that he exists. He can't do that!
Norm: Then how was Jesus able to appear to Paul? How was Jesus able to appear to the 500 brethren? Why was it OK for them to KNOW that Jesus exists?
Chris: That was different.
Chris: Jesus had only been dead a couple of days.
Norm: Why does that matter to a timeless, omnipotent being?
Chris: You are so wrong about this!
Norm: OK, then let's pray to Jesus about anything. Let's ask Jesus to do anything for us right now. What we saw in Section 1 is that Jesus does not answer any prayers. Why don't we ask him to move a mountain for us?
Chris: You are so wrong.
Norm: Why can't we pray to him right now? In Mark 11:24 Jesus' message is crystal clear: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." He says, "Ask, and you shall receive." In Luke 1:37: "For with God nothing will be impossible." Nothing is impossible through prayer. Why won't he respond to us if we pray to him right now?
Chris: You are completely wrong. That is not how prayer works!
Norm: Here's another way to look at it. Why don't we take a vote? We take all six billion people on the planet and we ask them to vote on whether Jesus is God or not. Only two billion people on the planet are Christian, so the other four billion are going to vote against Jesus. For every Christian, there are two non-Christians who think you are delusional.
Chris: They are all wrong! If only they knew the Lord Jesus like I do!
Norm: You are telling me that all one billion Muslims are wrong? They believe that Jesus was a man, not God. It says so right in the Koran [Koran 5:75].
Chris: The Muslims are delusional!
Norm: Those are fightin' words.
Chris: They are delusional! Everyone knows it! Jesus is Lord!
Norm: So there are a billion Muslims who think that all the Christians are delusional. And there are two billion Christians who think all the Muslims are delusional. Would you consider, at least for a moment, the possibility that all three billion of you are delusional?
Chris: I am not delusional! Jesus Christ is our resurrected Lord! I talk to him every single day and he talks to me! And he answers my prayers!
Norm: OK, then give me anything -- give me any evidence at all that shows me that Jesus exists.
Chris: The Bible talks all about Jesus!
Norm: So you think we should reinstate the slave trade? You think that Christians should hate women?
Norm: Give me anything.
Chris: I cannot. Jesus must remain hidden! If he were not hidden, we would all know that he exists. It would destroy faith.
Norm: If Jesus must remain hidden, then how do you know that he exists?
In this section of the book we have looked at Jesus from a number of different angles. What we have found is that Jesus was a human being just like you and me. We simply ask the questions that any normal person would ask of someone who claims to be God. For example:
The biggest problem with Jesus
The biggest problem with Jesus is his incredible myopia. We can see that now looking back at him 2,000 years later. Why didn't Jesus use his omnipotence to actually do something magnificent and beautiful on earth rather than squandering his "power" as he does in the Bible?
At the very least, Jesus could have transcribed passages into the Bible that would have ended sexism, racism and slavery forever. As the simplest example, think of all of the suffering that slavery has caused. As described in chapter 13, millions upon millions of people have suffered through the bondage and the remarkable brutality of slavery because Jesus and his Bible fully endorse slavery. If Jesus had simply made a clear statement -- "Slavery is forbidden, free all the slaves" -- he could have prevented much of that suffering. Yet he did nothing of the sort. In the same way, Jesus could have chosen women to be six of his apostles and made several speeches on the topic of women's equality and he would have put a huge dent in sexism (see chapter 15). Still today we see the effects of Jesus' shortsightedness in this area.
At a larger level, if Jesus were God, he could have performed so many real miracles. He could have, for example, eliminated smallpox and a host of other diseases that science is busy eliminating today. Jesus could have given the people of Israel the knowledge that they would need to start a technological society and raise themselves above the primitive living conditions of the day. As mentioned in Chapter 17, Jesus could have taught the Israelites about metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physics, manufacturing, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc., etc., etc. He could have also taught them how to responsibly use these technologies to solve the problems of pollution and habitat destruction that so often accompany them today. He could have made clear statements to deter nuclear proliferation. He could have taught mankind to share wealth so that the immense problem of global poverty that we see today would have been solved long ago. He could have laid down a template for governance that would have ended monarchies, dictatorial regimes and warlords forever. He could have made his message so clear, and the proof of his godliness so obvious, that all six billion people on the planet would have aligned with him rather than fragmenting into dozens of bizarre and often warring factions.
Jesus, if he actually were God, could have done so much. He could have prevented massive amounts of human suffering with his words and deeds. Instead, he did none of this. To any rational person, these problems make it painfully obvious that Jesus was a normal human being.
Jesus, the eternal torturer
Simply take a moment to think about the following statement:
Imagine a human being who acted this way. Imagine that a human being for some reason "falls in love with you." This person sets up hidden cameras and begins tracking you everywhere you go every minute of every day. This person leaves a book on your doorstep that professes how much he loves you. But this person gives you a deadline and says, "If you do not begin to love me by my deadline, I will capture you and physically torture you in the most hideous ways." How would you describe such a person? We would call such a person a lunatic, and we would put such a person in prison for life.
Asking Jesus to appear
Here is another way to prove it to yourself. Simply get down on your knees and pray to Jesus. Ask him to appear to you, in the flesh, just like he did to Paul (seechapter 20). Ask Jesus to demonstrate to you, personally, that he is resurrected. When he appears, take your family camcorder and record the event for posterity.
Of course, Jesus will not appear.
What Jesus says in John 14:12 is so clear:
Now I would ask you to examine it at a deeper level. Look at what is happening inside your mind right now. You have read the Bible and seen Jesus' clear statement: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." He does not say, "I might do it." You have prayed for Jesus to appear and Jesus has ignored you.
Even though Jesus did not appear, and even though Jesus says to you quite clearly in the Bible that he will, look at how you deal with this setback. Do you draw the obvious conclusion from the evidence? If you are a Christian, then probably not. Instead, in your mind, you are coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not appear:
It is easy to imagine how a Christian would respond to this experiment:
Chris: Yes, that is correct. That is why the resurrected Jesus does not appear today.
Norm: Then how did Jesus prove that he was resurrected?
Chris: By appearing to people, of course. How else would we know that Jesus was resurrected?
The evidence of Jesus
Another way to prove to yourself that Jesus does not exist is to ask yourself this simple question:
But this same Bible also tells us that slavery is great, that women should be hated, that animal and human sacrifice is necessary, and that massacring babies and small children is one of God's favorite pastimes (see Section 2 for details). We don't believe the Bible when it talks about slavery, misogyny, etc. Why would we believe the Bible when it talks about Jesus?
Understanding the evidence
There are two options with Jesus. Either Jesus is God, or Jesus was a regular human being. When you look at all of the evidence, which of these two options seems more likely to you?
If you are a Christian, and if you have believed all your life that Jesus is resurrected and Jesus is God, all that I would ask you to do is take a few moments to look at all of this evidence. See also chapter 27 to understand where your beliefs about Jesus may be coming from.