During this evening's Internet wanderings, I came across the following comments by Cathy Cooper, proprietress of an atheist blog, on a post titled "The Abundant Evidence for Christian Theism" at The Lord God Exists blog:

Jesus DID sin. He picked corn on the Sabbath (a sin) He told the crowd not to stone the woman for adultery, when stoning was the law (he told the crowd to break one of Yahweh’s laws–which is a sin)

If the Romans did not think him a sinner, they would not have hung him on the cross. Please give a reference to your claim that the Romans were in agreement with Jesus not being a sinner. You won’t have one, because there isn’t one, as the Romans kept no records of him. The claims you make are ad hoc nonsense.

Let's take a moment to analyze these comments.

First, we should notice how the two claims made in her first paragraph are factually incorrect. She states that Jesus "picked corn on the Sabbath." This is false; the relevant texts (Matthew 12:1, Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1) specify that it was the disciples who picked and ate the grains, not Jesus. Next, in regards to the stoning of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) again a factually incorrect statement is made. Notwithstanding that for several hundred years it's been common knowledge among scholars that those verses are likely a later addition to the text (and are noted as such in any modern translation) nowhere does Jesus tell "the crowd not to stone the woman for adultery." So unlike what is claimed, he never tells them to "break one of Yahweh's laws."

Second, in regards to the Romans being in agreement that Jesus was sinless, in addition to the reference given by The Lord God Exists website author (to Pilate's declaration in John 18:38 that "I find no basis for a charge against him") we also could consider the centurion's declaration recorded in Luke 23:47 after Jesus' death when he said "Surely this was a righteous man" (or "Certainly this man was innocent" in ESV). But is what is being requested here actual "Roman records" stating that Jesus was sinless? Does it sound at all plausible that the Romans would keep records of crucifying an innocent man?

Finally, the greater problem I see with this general approach is the following: It's totally arbitrary. The accusation above that Jesus committed sins is argued for from the biblical texts. But if a person considers those biblical text accurate -and they must, because why would a person use texts that they think are inaccurate as the sole basis to build a rational case for anything- then why ignore the many references to Jesus' sinlessness in the Bible? (Ex, 2 Corinthians 5:211 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22, et al.)

This cherry-picking approach, that grasps hold of certain verses while arbitrarily ignoring others, is misguided at best. Why treat certain passages as authentic and others as inauthentic? It doesn't seem to be for any reason stemming from textual criticism; it's a capricious method to conveniently ignore whatever doesn't fit into the person's paradigm. This method is in entirely "ad hoc" … the exact thing the commenter claims about the original post!

I just added a new page: Both Scientists & Christians. It's a list of doctorate-holding scientists who are Christians. It's very incomplete … I started the list while I was doing some research for my article Science & Religion: Competitors or Companions? and figured I should post it online in case anyone finds it helpful.

Although much is made about the "rise of atheism" I generally find that people I talk with are not atheists, they are either agnostic or vaguely deistic/theistic pluralists. Those who are not atheists generally would affirm the following (note that I say "generally" so this may not apply to you personally):

1) God [at least probably] exists.

2) God is good.

3) You can't know anything about God.

I realize that 2) and 3) seem to contradict eachother, but I've heard several people say one and then the other. Generally what the person means is something like: "You could know something general about God (like God is good, or God is love) but nothing specific." ie, you might know some very general things about God but you can't really KNOW God in the detail or personal way that the Bible suggests.

We could explore the rationale behind the idea that God is unknowable (which, IMHO, ends up being faulty upon closer examination) but I wanted to try a different tack today. I imagined this conversation, which was inspired by starting to read John Piper's Desiring God (available for free online as an ebook):

Me: So, you think God probably exists and is good?

Agnostic: Yeah.

Me: But it's also your belief that we can't really know God in any substantial way?

Agnostic: That's right.

Me: I think that belief is faulty and based on false presuppositions, but would you say that a God who is good would want to give us what is good?

Agnostic: That seems to make sense.

Me: And would you agree that if God is good, then God by definition would not be merely kinda good, but God would be maximally or perfectly good?

Agnostic: Yes.

Me: Would you say it would be good for God to withhold from us what would be most good for us?

Agnostic: No, I wouldn't think so.

Me: So then, for God to be good, he would have to give us what is most good for us. What would you say would be most good for us?

Agnostic: I'm not sure.

Me: Well, if God is maximally or perfectly good, wouldn't what is most good for us to be God Himself? If he is maximally or perfectly good, He would want to share Himself with us.

Agnostic: I'm hesitant to say yes, but it's hard to imagine what would be more good.

Me: So then: For God to be maximally or perfectly good, He must necessarily share Himself with us. For if God did not do so, He could not be maximally or perfectly good, and wouldn't be God at all! Therefore, He must share of Himself with us, and we have the opportunity and ability to know Him.

Now, someone might then wonder: If God desires to give us what is maximally or perfectly good, whence comes evil? That takes us into the whole other issue of theodicy (study of the problem of evil) but keep in mind that asking "What about evil?" doesn't invalidate the argument above, it merely raises an unanswered question regarding its ramifications.

3) God is good.

I was responding to a comment on Power to Change's website just now and had this thought … not sure if this argument is valid, sound, cogent, etc, but I think it's at least interesting. I'm quite certain I must've read it or heard something like it before but I'm not sure where.

An attempt to argue that naturalistic systems of morality are innately inferior to theistic systems:

Any naturalistic morality system is ultimately unjust, and therefore immoral. Here's why: Human beings rightly crave justice, and any system of morality that is unjust would be by definition immoral. But if there is no afterlife (and therefore no final accountability for a person's actions), then life itself is ultimately unfair since good deeds will often go unrewarded and bad behavior will often go unpunished. Therefore, only a moral system that includes an afterlife (and by implication, God) where justice regarding a person's actions can be appropriately meted out can be just. Any moral system that does not is immoral and therefore deficient.

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