I read and enjoy WND every day, but I’d like to respond with a critical view to Jonathan Falwell’s “Was Jesus a liar?” commentary.
Mr. Falwell criticizes Barack Obama because Mr. Obama said something that implies he believes non-Christians can be “children of God.”
But, Mr. Falwell opines, the problem is that “such sentiment is not what the Bible teaches. According to God’s Word …,” etc., etc., etc.
News media recently reported that Mr. Obama mentioned in a speech that he is not impressed with certain “obscure” passages from Paul’s epistles. Therefore, Mr. Obama cherry-picks verses from Scripture. That is, he believes some Bible passages that seem reasonable to him; he decides not to believe verses that don’t seem reasonable to him.
Combine these two stories – 1) Mr. Obama’s sentiments about parts of the New Testament that St. Paul wrote and 2) his remarks that Jews and Muslims can be children of God – and we see Obama marching to a different drum.
That is, he is apparently not marching in step with fundamentalist Christians.
Further, not surprisingly, Mr. Falwell exhibits fundamentalist tendencies in his editorial.
- He declares that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Why? Because the Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
- He says the counsel of the Lord stands forever. Why? Because a verse in the book of Psalms says the counsel of the Lord stands forever.
- He notes that “if we follow Christ, we cannot then mold the Bible to fit our needs; treat Jesus as simply a ‘good man’” or “embellish the Gospel with man’s ideas.”
My bottom-line question for Mr. Falwell: Why not? Of course we can do those things. I do at least two out of three of them every day.
There is life beyond fundamentalism. God exists beyond (and in spite of) fundamentalist Christianity.
The Achilles’ heel of fundamentalist Christianity is the Bible itself and the long and convoluted history of its coming to be considered (by Bible literalists) the infallible writing of God himself.
The fundamentalist assumes something that is in no way a proven fact: that the Bible is the error-free Word of God.
A study of the origins of Scripture reveals that – contrary to fundamentalists’ hope against hope – it is little more than a house of cards.
Indeed, the Bible contains writings that are inspirational and uplifting. But it as well includes accounts of murder, mayhem and immortality by supposedly righteous and godly folks and even God himself. In other words, it paints a picture of God (and followers of God) that makes him out to be a petty, jealous, irascible tyrant.
I do not doubt God’s existence. But, when I began to wake up to the precarious state of the “proofs” of the veracity of the Bible, a startling thought slapped my consciousness upside the head:
Does the real God, the one who stands quite apart from the nonsense of the Old and New Testaments (and the nonsense of the tenets of any religion), care if we think he is the self-contradictory, ill-tempered Yahweh? Does it make any difference if we hold onto a distorted, perverted view of the One Infinite Creator?
Yahweh’s counterpart in the New Testament is sometimes better behaved, but not always. Yes, Jesus commendably advises loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek. But, especially in the book of Revelation, the Savior will blast you with supernatural nuclear force after the pre-millennial Second Coming if you dare to cross him, if you fail to believe and follow the precise formula that conservative Christians hold to in the name of the Christ of the Apocalypse, Gospels and Epistles.
Here’s an interesting exercise for people who are not afraid to travel where the quest for eternal truth leads them:
Investigate the mess that is the biblical canon and listen in on the many interesting debates (readily accessible via the Internet) of conservative Christians with Bible skeptics.
Yes, you can read Josh McDowell or N.T. Wright and their reasonable-sounding standalone arguments apart from any reasonable context. But read their debates with Bible critics instead. The conservative Christians have an abysmal success rate during such professionally moderated discussions.
Mr. Falwell’s method of arriving at conclusions is properly to be called circular reasoning.
If you want to prove the veracity of the Bible, you simply cannot credibly do it by citing only the Bible in your arguments. You must do it by relying on your God-given powers of reason, the existence of the universe itself and logical philosophical arguments based on premises that originate outside the Bible. Otherwise your arguments do nothing but run around in circles. Otherwise we can prove that any book is the one and only Word of God that happens to make that outrageous claim on one of its pages.
I want to close by saying that I have not written this letter with the purpose of criticizing Mr. Falwell. I’m sure he is a genuinely compassionate man who has an obvious desire to do what God wants him to do.
But what if God is less than happy with the way Falwell and many others have blindly followed, and then enshrined and worshipped, a collection of writings that – if we can back up from them a moment – can easily be seen to be myth, legend, mistakes and, in many cases, outright hoaxes.
A good place to start: Bart Ehrman’s excellent books, such as “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture,” and Albert Schweitzer’s series on the quest for the historic Jesus.
My reply to Mr. Falwell’s question “Was Jesus a liar?”:
Probably not. But we can’t know for sure because we have no reliable record of what he did and said or even credible proof that he was an actual historic figure. (Maybe he was; maybe he wasn’t.)
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