God’s Chosen Ones

chosen The God of the Bible is not the God of Reason that Answers in Genesis, William Lane Craig, Tim Keller, Silence of Mind and others tell us he is. None of the evidence, some of which we’ve reviewed, supports the supposition. That’s because the God of Reason, like all gods, is a construct of the human mind. In much the same way as Yahweh was a reflection of irrationality, this God is a reflection of our rationality. He could not – and did not – exist before the Enlightenment, before Rationalism itself and the new understanding of mathematics, science and philosophy.

As appealing as his apologists try to make him, the God of Reason is demonstrably not the God of the Bible, who is defined by impulsive, destructive passions. No, he’s not the tempestuous Yahweh, nor is he the daddy-god Jesus imagined (who is just Yahweh with a few rough edges knocked off), nor the God of blood-sacrifice and atonement beloved of Paul. He is, like all those inventions, a fabrication of our own making. For Christians who are drawn to him, he is a false god. But then, aren’t they all?

Whichever version of the Christian God Christians choose to worship, however, they’ve got it wrong. They don’t choose to believe in him or to follow Jesus or whatever. Not at all; he chooses them (or not as the case may be.) Now known as Calvinism, the idea that God earmarked a select few to be his best mates right back at the dawn of time – while disregarding others who might want to be but aren’t on the guest list – is right there in the Bible. Paul first:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:29-30; see also 1 Thessalonians 1.4)

The idea is picked up by one of Paul’s imitators in the forged letter to the Ephesians:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1.4-6)

The same sort of time-loop paradox also finds its way into the gospels. In Matthew 22.1-14, Jesus tells a parable involving a man who has been asked to a Royal Banquet (i.e. the Kingdom of God) only for the King (Jesus) to take offence at the way he’s dressed. For this heinous crime he is bound hand and foot and unceremoniously thrown out. Jesus concludes his cheery tale with the aphorism, ‘Many are called but few are chosen.’

So much for ‘free will’, a notion that’s alien to the Bible in any case. If I were a Christian, which thank God I’m not, I’d really want some answers to the questions this bizarre idea throws up. We’ll take a look at what these are next time.

Picture shows Tim Keller, John Sentamu (Archbishop of York), ‘Pastor’ Rick Warren and ‘Pastor’ Steve Furtick. Chosen by God, every one. And some kids he couldn’t care less about.

 

Smash! Kill! Destroy!

handsofgod

So how has the great God of Reason done so far?

We’re still not out of Genesis and he’s –

Trashed his entire creation just because a couple who didn’t know how touchy he is managed to upset him;

Destroyed two towns and almost everyone in them because he found the locals offensive;

Drowned everyone in existence (except for an old piss-head and his family) because – you guessed it – they offended him;

Engineered a spot of child-abuse;

Decided the best way for people to show him they’re his bestest buddies is to have them disfigure their genitals.

Now, honestly, Christians, how can you say any of this is rational or logical, reasonable or considered? Your God’s response to everything is Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! – never as a last resort, always as his first reaction. He’s the Hulk, Godzilla and ISIS all rolled into one. Not once does he apply reason or logic. Smash! Kill! Mutilate! Destroy! And not only in Genesis but throughout the Old Testament:

His chums want the land occupied by other tribes? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They don’t show him enough love? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They break one or other of his mostly petty rules? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

They offend him in some remarkably trivial way (collecting sticks, teasing a bald bloke, doing sex wrong)? Smash! Kill! Destroy!

Over and over again.

Until, at last, he has another big idea! Another Master Plan! The Master Plan to end all Master Plans! (His fourth at least.) And guess what? It’s all Smash! Kill! Destroy! Especially Kill! This is a dude who really can’t think outside the box.

Here’s how it goes: the Lord gives up on his previous Master Plan, which he’d told some selected desert marauders was forever and ever, and decides its time to have another go at sorting out mankind that he helped screw-up in the first place. His idea this time is to come to Earth himself as a sort of clone, which he creates by raping a young woman, just like all the other gods of old. When he grows up this clone/avatar tells everyone how God wants them to behave so they don’t upset the version still in Heaven quite so much. The clone then gets himself murdered at the hands of the very people he’s come to visit – the same ones the Lord promised to take care of forever and ever in his previous Master Plan – which magically allows anyone who repeats a special incantation to join an exclusive club. Everyone else he plans to torture and murder for all eternity, because that’s what he likes doing best. Of course, the version of himself he sends to Earth won’t actually make any of this clear – that’ll be left to someone else to make up afterwards – but, in the best illusion yet, he’ll come back to life before beaming up to Heaven to cosy up to his other self, the one preoccupied with death, destruction and mutilation.

This time it’s foolproof: a well-thought through, logical, rational and reasonable plan.

Except… not really. It’s bullshit. There’s no reasoning here, just a lot of stuff made up as people went along. None of it makes sense. The copy seems to have no idea what’s going on and certainly no inkling that his death has cosmic significance. On top of that, no-one really knows how the magic works – everyone who mentions it has a different idea – and the record of it all is scrappily cobbled together donkeys’ years after it all was supposed to have happened. Still, the main thing is it all involves a lot of killing – the clone first; then the poor sap manipulated into ‘betraying’ him; a couple who don’t want to give away all their belongings; some of the dudes who believe the magic is for real then, after they’ve really pissed off the Romans, lots more of them and finally, once the nutjobs get the upper hand, loads and loads of other people – which must really have pleased the God of Death Reason.

If this is the best he can do, then we’re in trouble deep. If our ability to reason comes from him, as Christians claim, it’s no wonder we can be irrational, illogical, unreasonable and unreasoning. Which of course is why he is, because he’s a reflection of the beings  that created him – us. Human emotions and cognitive capabilities came first and were projected onto the gods we created, including, eventually, the monotheistic monster, Yahweh. It was he primitive tribesmen decided must be responsible for natural disasters and the brevity and brutality of life. Such things had to be punishments, hadn’t they? And if punishments, then there had to be One doing the punishing. One who must be appeased if he was ever to stop. Hence sacrifices, behaving in ways that might please him, killing those who don’t, worship. All futile, like pleading with one’s own reflection in a mirror.

The God created by this kind of thinking only reflected back at his makers the worst of themselves; jealousy, anger, intolerance, beligerence, petulance, vengefulness and violence. Hardly ever Reason. 

And so does he still.

 

The God of Reason strikes again!

planWe’ve been looking at how well The God of Reason™ fares in the reasoning stakes. Is he as logical, rational and reasoned as his self-appointed representatives on Earth say he is? Is he logical, rational and reasoned at all? He didn’t do so well in the set-up, those wacky creation stories at the start of Genesis. There’s nothing reasoned or rational about his behaviour there. So how does he do further down the line? Does his intelligence evolve or does he make like Donald Trump for the rest of eternity? (Spoiler alert…)

Having willfully allowed everything to deteriorate into chaos, God is upset again when his abandoned human creation doesn’t behave as he wants them to. Evidently he couldn’t see this coming, so he decides the most rational thing to is to drown everyone and everything, with the exception of a family left over from an earlier myth by the Babylonians and a floating zoo. Everyone else, every baby, every child, every pregnant woman, every living thing – from the smallest insect on four legs to brachiosaurs and the cutest lickle kittens – he murders in cold water.

After he’s annihilated them all, Yahweh is dismayed when Noah gets pissed and romps around naked in front of his son, who is called Ken Ham (can’t blame him for not seeing that coming) and he realises this plan hasn’t worked out either. Now where, in all of these larks, is rationality? More nul points for the great God of Reason and his ability to think things through.

Yahweh’s next cunning plan involves persuading a bloke who’s a few brain cells short of a pastry case himself to murder his own son and burn his body. Yahweh tells him this will be such fun. But then, at the last minute, just when the kid is trussed up on a pyre with his old man ready to plunge the knife into him, God sends a messenger to call the whole thing off. Turns it was no more than a test. Never mind the trauma to the kid and the damage to his relationship with his father, this was the only logical way for Yahweh to see if ol’ Abe was one of the good guys.

He follows it up with another great plan; he promises he’ll look after Abe and his descendants till the end of time, so long as – wait for it – they all slice off the end of their penises. Now, come on – that’s a well thought through scheme if ever there was one.

Isn’t it?  

The God of Reason

god4

The next three posts will look at the claim Christians make for their God being the God of Reason. The fact that he is, they say, demonstrates how inconsistent those who see no evidence for a deity are when we use his very attributes – reason, logic and rationality – to make a case against him. Here’s Dr Jason Lisle on Answers In Genesis:

…there is an absolute standard for reasoning; we are to pattern our thoughts after God’s. The laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks… Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical… The atheist’s view cannot be rational because he uses things (laws of logic) that cannot exist according to his (Godless viewpoint).

Similarly, Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God argues that the fact humans can reason is evidence both of God’s existence (because reason has to come from somewhere) and of our being made in his image.

According to Christians then, God is the only reason we can think rationally at all.

But then where did God’s rationality come from? Is he pure reason or is reason an attribute he acquired or evolved over time as we did? As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, the only reasoning intelligence we know of is our own, and it is the product of evolution. If God’s ability to reason also evolved – and we know of no other way it could have developed – then he must intially have been incomplete. He could not have been the supreme intelligence Christians claim he is now. If, on the other hand, God is and always has been pure reason, there should be plenty of evidence for it. Let’s take look:

We first encounter God in the opening chapters of Genesis, where he puts two naked humans in a garden and tells them not to eat the fruit of a tree labelled ‘The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’.* He sets this tree right where they can see it and then he leaves. The two people, who have no concept of right and wrong (that’s the point of the tree) each take a bite of its fruit. While taking his evening stroll in the garden, God discovers what they’ve done and is not best pleased. (I hope you’re getting just how logical all of this is.**)

This deity, who, according to Dr Lisle and Tim Keller is the epitome of logical reasoning, doesn’t then take the trouble to explain to his creations, ‘Look, I’m sorry I made you without a sense of right and wrong; I’ll put that right. But you’ve got to promise me you’ll do as I say from now on because you won’t like me when I’m angry.’ No, he doesn’t do this; instead he throws a hissy fit. He punishes the couple, who until they’d tried the fruit had no idea disobeying him was wrong, and, just for good measure, he trashes the rest of Creation too – forever. Because of a single act committed by two naive individuals who didn’t know any better, he ruins everything and then, irrationally, blames the humans for the mess he’s made. That’s his reasoned, reasonable and rational response to their upsetting him – which, if he was the omniscient being Christians tell us he is, he’d have known was going to happen anyway.

Of course the whole set up and God’s reactions are not rational, reasonable or logical at all. They’re not considered, proportionate or insightful either. The God of Reason, the God who is Reason according to Answers in Genesis and Tim Keller, scores on this, his first outing, zero points on the scale of reasoned, reasoning reasonableness.

Maybe though God was just having an off day and he improves later on, once his intelligence has evolved a bit more. We’ll find out next time.

 

* All my examples of God’s great thinking skills and ‘reasonableness’ are drawn from the Bible; there are, however, simply too many to reference throughout this series of posts. I would be happy to supply them to any who feel the need to see them.

** Yes, I’m aware it’s a myth but a) many Christians don’t and b) even as a myth the story seeks to address how humans became alienated from God, ironically by developing the capacity to think for themselves. 

 

God wants you to beg

beggar2 What do God and the Queen have in common?

Neither of them do money. Famously, Queen Elizabeth II never carries cash. It’s not like she’s ever going to find herself out of milk so that she has to dash to shop for some. Even if she did, she wouldn’t be expected to pay for it. So she doesn’t need to bother with money.

Same with God. He’s less likely to run out of milk, it’s true, but he does lots of important work in the world and a bit like the Queen, who is funded in large part by the British tax payer, he expects everyone else to cough up what’s needed.

Though he’s a God of abundance who supplies whatever is asked of him, he just can’t bring himself to do money. We know this because those humans who work for him here on earth constantly have to beg other people for it. When they’re busy getting his Word™ out to those who don’t have a Bible of their own, the Lord refuses to pay a penny. Likewise, he declines to assist the brave souls who work tirelessly protecting one-man-one-woman marriage, which, as they tell us, was all his idea in the first place. Nor does he support building Noah’s Arks theme parks ($18 million in tax perks helped with that one), church maintenance (tithes anyone?), helping the persecuted or feeding the hungry. He’ll do all he can to help, naturally, just so long as he doesn’t have to put his hands in his pockets and get them grubby handling cash.

No, what all these noble causes need they have to raise themselves, which is why every single Christian enterprise begs for money, not from God who they know won’t help, but from fellow human beings. ‘Search your heart,’ they tell the gullible, ‘and ask the Lord what he would have you give us.’ Could this the same God of whom Paul says, “He is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work” (2 Corinthians 9.8)? It surely could. And this being so, why, when he specifically directs his people to create projects that will make his Kingdom a reality, does the money not come pouring in to the point where it ‘overflows’? God being God could make it happen supernaturally or, if that’s a little too ostentatious, by more mundane means. But he doesn’t, hence all the begging.

Like his love, God’s provision is met only through other human beings, be it money, food, love or, most importantly of all, spreading the Word™. You have to wonder, when he finds himself incapable of supporting even his own causes – and they are his own causes because those who operate them on his behalf tell us so – whether he has the remotest interest in any of them.

Which might just be because it’s all a delusion.

The Lord really wants you to support the efforts of this site. Send cash only in a plain brown envelope and he will surely bless you.

 

 

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said

JC&ManJust what did Jesus say? The Jesus Seminar and other scholars* conclude that only about 18% of the words attributed to him in the gospels are authentically his. They reach this conclusion because so much of what Jesus ‘said’ – 82% of his utterances – is demonstrably derived from elsewhere.

There were four major sources for his words, which I’ll discuss briefly here, providing an example of each. Bear in mind also that whatever the derivation of Jesus’ words, those we have today have been subject to, in their earliest days, an unreliable oral tradition, repeated copying and deliberate and accidental alteration. The earliest surviving ‘words of Jesus’ (a few fragments of the fourth gospel) date to a century after he lived.

1. The early church created a good deal of the Jesus narrative, making him say what was important to them. For example, ‘take, eat, this is my body,’ and ‘take, drink, this is my blood that is shed for you,’ is clearly a post-crucifixion perspective. While it appears in arguably the most Jewish of the gospels (Matthew’s) the idea of drinking blood, even symbolically, would have been, and remains, anathema to Jews, whose scriptures forbid it (Leviticus 17.10 -16). Jesus was an orthodox Jew; it was the Hellenised Paul who transplanted the pagan ritual into nascent Christianity. He relates in 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, written about 15 years before the first gospel, how his wholly imaginary ‘Christ’ told him of this bizarre activity. Once established in the early church, Jesus then had to be made to endorse it and it was written back into the gospels.

2. The gospel writers (or others) invented dialogue for him. His entire conversation with Pilate, for example, is invented not once but four times, the encounter being rendered differently in all four gospels. It is probable that the entire scenario is fiction, given the likelihood the excessively cruel Roman governor would even entertain the idea of questioning a seditious nobody himself. And then there’s the ‘I am’ statements of John’s Jesus that I considered here.

3. The gospel writers altered difficult sayings into something more palatable. For example, in Matthew 15.24 Jesus says he was ‘sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’ (my italics). By the end of the same gospel, as well as in Luke and John, this has become a commandment to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28.19). So which was it? Was the message exclusively for Jews or was it for all? It suited early churches, filled with non-Jews, that the gospel was for everyone, just as Paul had argued. Jesus’ words to the contrary – even if they were sufficiently widely known to have had to be included in Matthew’s original account – needed to be amended. Who amended them and when we shall never know, but it was certainly after the idea of the Trinity had taken hold.

4. Statements Jesus actually made. The Jesus Seminar regards as authentic sayings such as:

If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also (Matthew 5.39)

If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well (Matthew 5.40)

Love your enemies (Luke 6.27)

Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the Kingdom of God (Luke 6.20) [changed in Matthew’s gospel to the less radical ‘poor in spirit’!]

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile (Matthew 5.41)

As inspiring as these might initially appear, they actually mean very little; they’re either prophecies that didn’t come to pass, impractical moral expectations or pseudo-spiritual homilies. And how much of this advice, these admonitions, do today’s Christians follow? You’d be hard pushed to find many that do. After all, following Jesus doesn’t entail doing what he says.

* I have used Robert W. Funk et al‘s The Five Gospels (HarperOne, 1997), Simon Loveday’s The Bible For Grown-Ups (Iconbooks, 2016) and Mark Allan Powell’s rather less impartial The Jesus Debate (Lion, 1998) for this post