"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Knowing God: Part 4

Before you continue reading this fourth part, you should have already read parts 1, 2, and 3, and you especially need to read my answers to Paul in the comments sections of part 2.  One of my great pet peeves is people who claim to be disciples of God, Yeshua, Jesus, yet ignore the directive that we are to be prepared to give to any man an answer for the hope that lies within us.  I dealt with his responses in brief, but if you need more clarification or additional information or would like to add something to the mix, jump in.  I may want to bring it up in the next segment.

To say, "You just gotta have faith." doesn't cut it.  First of all, it's not necessary, and secondly, it's contrary to what is expected by the Bible itself.  Thirdly, it reveals a complete misunderstanding of what real faith is.

All of this is important, because as I alluded to earlier, believing in any god just to believe in something would be silly.  That's right; I'm calling BS on the idea that all paths ultimately lead to God. Which is why the question of whether or not the Bible speaks the truth about every aspect of this world and it's history is vitally important.  It's why prophecy is so important.  No other "holy" book repeatedly makes the claim to put it to the test the way the Bible does. Please notice the incredible contrast between the Bible and all other religious books when it comes to authorship.

Other ancient texts do not claim any single persons as authoring them on behalf of God. For example, the Hindu Vedas are compilations of oral tradition prior to the first century CE. They don't contain prophecy and they don't claim transcendent authority.  Islam claims authority on the idea that God handed one, lone illiterate Arab an entire written text.  Same kind of story with Joseph Smith.

In contrast, the Tanakh, or Old Testament, has only the first five books penned by one man, giving great historical detail that can and has been scrutinized for thousands of years. [We will revisit this scrutiny later.] Then the rest of the collection is written by multiple authors all claiming inspiration by the one and only Creator.  We are talking about more than 30 authors, some separated by hundreds of years, contributing to an unfolding revelation. The Hebrew prophets were big on recording history just as it was, in drastic contrast to the scribes of kings of other societies. The "histories" of other societies are most often stories according to how the king wanted it told.  Hebrew scribes described their kings warts and all.  The Bible itself puts an enormous burden on the Bible to be proven as having a divine source.  Think carefully about that.  I can't count the number of people I've encountered who say they would like to see some evidence that God exists, but when I start giving them examples of clearly fulfilled prophecy, then history doesn't exist for them anymore.  History written by secular historians about Egypt or Greece or Rome is never questioned, but then those histories don't require you to think about your own mortality.  God took the hardest route, not trusting His story to just one man to deliver it to the world.  He chose many authors, separated by time and geography to record His message so that no mere human could take credit for it, or mess it up, for that matter.

If you've ever tried to write a story, let alone a novel, you would know that one of the most difficult things about writing fiction is keeping track of all the details about which you wrote and not making a mistake that will make you look stupid.  This is hard enough if you are the only one doing the writing.  Now imagine that you are being told to write things that make absolutely no sense to you about future events, or about things that you should have no reason to know about.  Then, over hundreds of years, all the writings of yourself and a dozen other men have to never conflict with each other.  Let's say that, each of you contributes, not just a few, but many predictions concerning the identity and activities of one man, along with many other predictions about future events, but let's just concentrate on that one man.

The promise of a Messiah came as soon as the fall took place. From then on out, Torah would gradually keep revealing different aspects of who that Messiah was supposed to be. Then later, more prophets would arise and give more details, furthermore, the Psalms, mostly written by King David, add details.  Most of it alluded to the details, and some of it was direct and clear, but all of it designed to be a mosaic that would become an almost impossible I.D. card for the One to come.  The Vedas don't do that.  The Quran doesn't do that.  There's no other writing in the history of the world that sets itself up to predict that the Creator Himself is going to come and set things straight and provides this huge volume of coded text that says, "Many will come and go, but the real Anointed One has to meet all these criteria in order to be real."  The reason I don't go into a long list of the examples is because it would take pages and pages, and for the purpose of making my ultimate point with this long essay, you just need to stipulate to the possibility.  If you think you can debunk any of the above, knock yourself out, the list of intellects that have tried and failed before you is long and distinguished.

Which brings me to just one good example that makes the point.  A man named Josh McDowell.  Like myself, Josh grew up hating religion and Christianity specifically.  In college, he set out to put an end to this stupid mythology about God and the Bible once and for all.  Man plans and God laughs.  What was produced from all of the thousands of hours of research was a two volume tome called Evidence That Demands A Verdict.  It was a magnum opus of exactly the opposite of what McDowell set out to do.  It systematically goes over objection after objection, evidence after evidence, laying it all out like a trial in a court of law.  It is a far more in depth and scholarly work, involving much more evidence than Lee Stroebel's, The Case For Christ.  Stroebel was also a militant atheist who wanted to put an end to the God myth.  Let this serve as a warning to atheists, agnostics, adherents to other false religions: If you like your beliefs as they are, you best not go digging for the truth lest it rock your world.

Of course, McDowell didn't stop there, because once you've been confronted with the overwhelming truth, you can't just sit there and remain neutral about it.  He went on to produce more writing and do his best to evangelize. One of his great little books is called More Than A Carpenter, and it focuses only on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua Netsri) as the Messiah.  He took just 200 of the prophecies that the promised Messiah would have to fulfill in order to be deemed the Messiah, but McDowell chose those that Yeshua would not have had direct control over; place of birth, parentage, the things others would do to him, etc.  Then McDowell let an independent actuarial firm do the math for him.  The result?  The odds of one man meeting the requirements of the 200 prophecies came to 1 in 10 to the 17th power.  If you're not a math or science geek, that's a 1 with 17 zeros behind it. 100,000,000,000,000,000.  One hundred thousand times one trillion.  McDowell understood that the average person can't really wrap their head around that figure, so he needed a visual.

Take the entire state of Texas. I remember how big it is because I moved from Florida to California and then back again in a Ryder truck on Interstate 10.  Driving about nine hours a day, it took about three days to cross.  They put governors on those trucks and that was back during the national 55 mph limit.  Texas is so big you could put the entire population of the planet in the state with each person having a little less than a square yard.  Crowded, I know, but it makes my point.  Now fill the state of Texas with enough silver dollars to cover it to a depth of two feet, but before you do that, you get to wrap one silver dollar with some red duct tape and mix it in, then they all get poured out over the state.  Now we put you on a C-130 and take you up to about 30,000 feet and you can direct the pilot to take you over any given area of the state, and when you are ready, you can do your HALO jump, then you have to open your parachute at the right altitude and land in the right spot so you can reach down and pick up that one red-taped silver dollar out of the sea of dollars.

Still not impressed by the math?  Scientists regard pretty much anything beyond the odds of one in 50 million as being impossible.  So that means Yeshua exceeded the realm of possibility by 20 billion times.  If that doesn't grab your attention, you are probably wasting your time here.  And you should be making the very most of what time you have in this life, because, to paraphrase the great mathematician Blaise Paschal; if you skeptics are right and I'm wrong, then eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and that's the end.  I will have gained nothing more than to have led a better life for morality's sake. But if the Bible is right and you're wrong - boy, does it ever suck to be you!

In my case, after all of my research, my logical mind pretty much convinced me that it doesn't really matter a lot how I "feel" about the Bible or religion.  I didn't have a Damascus road experience, but I didn't need one.  No mystical vision, no audible thundering voice.  Facts are facts, and facts are stubborn things.  Facts are assembled to come to conclusions, and a group of conclusions results in other conclusions.  Let me walk you through the main points in a logical fashion

This Jesus guy stepped into history and lived like no one else before, and no one else since. The fact that millions have chosen peaceful martyrdom* rather than recant their belief for over 2,000 years is one thing.  But the testimony of those who didn't even believe in Him is even more compelling.  Flavius Josephus is a prime example.  The testimonies of those who actually walked with the Rabbi of Nazereth constantly appealed to eyewitness accounts.

What I think is ingenious about how God worked all this out (as if I'm qualified to judge - HA!) is how he had  different people with completely different experiences testifying to what He did.  Thomas was even invited to stick his hand in the spear wound of a resurrected man, even though he should have remembered about Lazarus.  Thomas makes me feel better about all the times I still have doubts because I tend to forget what has happened in the past.  Rabbi Paul needed to be struck blind for three days to think about the events that had taken place in Jerusalem and gain a new understanding of all the stuff he'd studied under Gamaliel.

I think about all this in depth.  Here was a man who fulfilled prophecies that were hundreds or thousands of years old. He did miracles, and even though the religious leaders didn't want to accept Him as Messiah, they couldn't deny the miracles.  They couldn't explain away Lazarus.  Then the man rises from the dead and leaves the tomb, even though there was a heavy guard.  Nobody can produce a body to prove the disciples wrong, but more than that, Rabbi Paul, who used to jail the very followers of the guy, is now saying that if you don't believe him about Yeshua having risen from the dead, go ask any or all of the 500 or so people who have seen and talked to Him since then.  The silence from those who wished to see the whole matter die was deafening.  You would think that if all the events of Jesus' life was just a big hoax, the Jewish Talmud would have laid out all the evidence, explained how he was just another false prophet and been done with it.  Instead the best they could say was that he was the bastard son of a Roman soldier and that Jewish girl, Miriam.

In the "normal" world of megalomaniacs, someone who claimed essential oneness with the Creator of the universe would be expected to do all kinds of crazy stuff and demand slavish obeisance.  Instead we get the most altruistic form of a human being beyond our fallen comprehension, in the form of a humble carpenter from the Galilean hillside.  So, let me see . . .   What are my choices here?  What should I do?

Somehow it just seems like a no-brainer to take seriously the words of a man who did all of that.  When Yeshua basically said that He had come to fulfill Scripture, and that all of it was still in effect and would remain so until heaven and earth passed away and beyond, I think it wise to obey and keep studying to see if there is something I might be missing.  That doesn't just mean studying Scripture and ignoring the natural world and all of its evidence.  That's the coolest thing about real science for me.  There isn't a single established fact of science that differs with the Bible.  I love taking on the challenges because with each iteration my faith only grows stronger.  I will admit that some of the same old arguments that have been refuted can get tiresome, but I am reminded of the faces I've seen when I have shared this information and the many thanks I've gotten from people who wallowed in doubt because they didn't know and didn't know who to ask.

Don't take anything for granted.  Don't just take anybody's word; not even mine.  Search for yourself, but really search and be honest about it.  Test everything.

Next I hope to delve into problem of trying to have a Messiah apart from the Bible.  Or maybe I'll deal with Equidistant Letter Sequencing code embedded in the Torah.  We'll see.

Knowing God: Part 5 continues here.


  1. The promise of a Messiah came as soon as the fall took place. From then on Hello!

    You wrote: “the religious leaders didn't want to accept Him as Messiah, ”

    Many prophesies very fulfilled in the first century. This is a very important one:
    Yeshayahu 9:5 –translation in accordance with etymology:
    ”and he called his name ‘Wonder,’ a counselor of Eil Jibor; My Father is until [i.e. forever], a minister of peace”)

    The Creator does not change – Malakhi 3:6, Tehilim [”Psalms”] 89:35. The meaning of this passage from the year 720 b.c.e cannot have changed. For more than eight centuries after that Yeshayahu proclaimed this prophecy, the Messianic interpretations remained strictly within the restrictions of Torah [“the books of Moses”] – a vision of a deadly human king patterned after king Khizqiyah. Yehoshua was not a “man-god”, as the above statement claims; but he was a human – just like prophesied.
    More about Messiah and essential information of how to follow him can be found on my blog www.followyeshua.com

    Anders Branderud

  2. Anders, I really don't follow your point, except that it seems you are trying to say that Yeshua was not God come in the flesh. Good hermeneutics demands that all Scripture be in harmony. Therefore, if Yeshua claimed that He and the Father were one (echad - one in essence)and even the demons referred to Him as "the Holy One of Israel;" there are plenty of Scriptures that make it clear that Yeshua was "Emanuel" God with us. He was human, yes, but with the fullness of the Shekinah dwelling inside him.
    As for keeping Torah, Yeshua made it abundantly clear that He fully expected His followers to keep Torah. The Scriptural evidence for this is very clear if one is willing to examine the entirety of Scripture and not try to twist a few verses out of context. The church has been messed up on this concept ever since the fourth century CE. The encouraging news is that many are starting to wake up to the original teaching of the Master and understanding through the whole council of God from Genesis forward.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. So which version of the Bible contains the truth? While the original scribes may have been intent of preserving the history as it was, we've since had 2000 years of editing and cutting and politics interfering. Never mind translating from one language to another and carrying the correct connotations, what about things like the gnostic gospels? If the included gospels can have such differing interpretations of the same even (IIRC, of the 4 gospels, only 2 mention that the crucifixion had two other prisoners, and only 1 mentions that one was repentant, while the other say s they were both mocking) how can we be sure whichever version we have is "correct"? Or perhaps a better question is how did you decide which version to accept?

  4. Tpmoney: Any version that does not essentially change the meaning of the original manuscripts. Your charge of 2000 years of "editing" pretty much ended up on the trash heap of history when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Those scrolls proved that no editing was ever done over a thousand years because of the method of scribal transmission. I'm glad you brought it up. That is going to be my next post.


Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.