Christianity: Beliefs, So-called Truths, Justification; How is it the truth?
Debate Rounds (5)
Round 1: Con challenge and opening statement, Pro acceptance and argument
Round 2: Con rebuttal, Pro rebuttal
Round 3: Con argument, Pro rebuttal
Round 4: Con rebuttal, Pro argument
Round 5: Final statements, rebuttals, and conclusion.
Questions will be answered in the comments. Burden of proof will be shared.
I start off this debate by arguing against the Christian faith and its respective justifications, beliefs, and truthfulness, including the existence of God.
I argue that Christianity is not the truth, as goes the case for all religions. Christianity itself is a delusion, and presents many truth claims that cannot be logically or rationally defended by any evidence available. I contend that there is no foundation for the existence of God, for the truthfulness of the events in the Bible, and for the truthfulness of events asserted by the Bible.
In regards to the Bible, the events it depicts and of which Christians take as truth, there is simply no historical, archaelogical, or rational basis for such claims, especially ones undertaken by a singular, unverified book written thousands of years ago in a period of unstability and great superstition, where nobody and the faintest clue what was going on, where people turned to religion and superstition as comfort and as an attempt to satisfy the insatiable demand for knowledge. Furthermore, Christians often employ circular reasonings and arguments in asserting the truth of the Bible, as well as in attempting to explain away valid arguments presented to them. I conclude that the Bible, while still worth a read, is intelligibly just a work of fiction.
Assuming that my opponent is Christian, we would both agree that, on every page except for page 341 in the Encyclopedia of Gods, which contains over 2,500 deities, all of the deities mentioned are non-existent. However, on page 341 alone, we would not concur. My opponent, once again assuming that they are Christian, would likely vehemently disagree with me and insist emphatically the deity is real.
Here I leave you with a quote from Epicurus:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
I argue that Christianity is mostly false and partly true. That is, the Christian religion is mostly based on unjustifiable claims and assumptions. However, I do view King Jesus ("Christ" means "God's anointed king") as alive today, as he was 2000 years ago according to modern historical scholarship. For this reason, I classify as a Christian. However, most of Christianity is made up, including many interpretations of the different Scriptures in the Bible.
I demonstrate in this debate that Jesus is God's anointed King, and that this is not only factual but is also exciting. I will also argue that the collated texts of the Bible, if not altogether true, are the most amazing story ever told, and that those who (a) wrote the New Testament, and (b) collated the New Testament with the Old, must be very intelligent and sophisticated people.
Let me begin my argument with a long and arduous story. In the beginning, there was nothing. Then the LORD God created light. Then there was chaos in the universe. But God created order, and shaped all of the stellar and planetary bodies accordingly.
He raised up fish to swim in the depths of an often cold and unforgiving ocean. He made birds to fly free in the air about the ocean, free from its reach and yet swooping down to catch these fish, to get their wings wet.
He created man, and put him in a deep sleep, and from his side was birthed a woman, his sexual partner. He placed them in a garden. And he gave them to eat of all of the trees of the garden, of which one was the Tree of Life, and one was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man did not eat from the Tree of Life, but rather he made himself subject to a creeping thing (the snake) and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had said would kill him. He sought autonomy. And Adam died that day.
So God killed animals and made coats as a covering for Adam and his wife. He then placed an angel of holiness at the gate of the garden, with a flaming sword, such that the angel's holiness, its stark "otherness" prevented them from eating of the Tree of Life and partaking of the divine nature. Adam was dead, not in the sense of being in a grave, but like a branch: cut off from the tree of God's blessings.
Adam and Eve had a son, whose name was Abel. They had another son, whose name was Cain. Abel tended to flocks and herds, which Cain grew crops from the ground, which God had claimed to curse. Abel sacrificed of the flock to the LORD, and the LORD was pleased. But the LORD had no regard for Cain and his sacrifice. So Cain became angry with Abel, because Abel was righteous, and yet Cain was unrighteous. Cain murdered Abel.
Fast forward and we get to Noah. Noah was a regular fellow, but out of faith in God he made an ark to save his family from the flood which God was going to send on the earth, for God saw the violence and sin that is done on the earth, and judged humankind. And the water rose, but the ark held. When the waters receded, they were safe, and Noah sent out a dove to look for signs of life on the earth.
Fast forward to Abraham. The LORD said "Abraham, your offspring [singular] will bless all the nations on earth." Abraham was even prepared to sacrifice his one and only son. He made him carry the wood up a hill, not far from Jerusalem, and raised a knife to slaughter him, but thankfully God provided a sacrifice: a ram, caught in the thorns. There was a great exchange.
Fast forward to Joseph. Joseph was almost killed, and then sold into slavery, by his brothers. His brothers were jealous because their Father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than all of the them. Furthermore, Joseph exalted himself as if he were a king. Joseph eventually found himself in prison, where God brought him out and he eventually became the ruler of Egypt, wielding the full power of Pharaoh. He then stored lots of grain so as to "save many lives" when a time of harsh famine would come. He said to his brothers when they were reconciled, "You meant to harm me, but God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Fast forward to Moses. The Israelites didn't understand that Moses was trying to free them from Egypt, so they didn't listen and they sent him into exile. When he returned, he led them over the Dead Sea by parting the water. The Israelites passed through, but the Egyptians were crushed when they attempted.
When they were in the desert, Moses struck a rock and water poured out. When he tried to strike it a second time, God judged him.
Also when they were in the desert, the people sinned, so God sent venomous snakes (hint hint) to bite them. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Whoever looked at the snake was healed.
Major fast forward to David. Having suffered "death", as he refers to it in his famous songs, David later became God's anointed King, the "Christ" of the Old Testament.
Fast forward to the prophets, and we have God very angry at his people, and willing to inflict wrath on them: to make them drink hell. There are whispers about a "suffering saviour".
I'll cut the story short there as I'm about to go grab a beer and chill the flip out. My point is this: all of these stories taken from the Old Covenant scriptures are from the Jewish religion. However, they are all pictures of Jesus for when he would come. Adam, Abel, Noah, etc. are all pictures of a future Jesus.
When Jesus came, he worked as a blue collar worker for 30 years. He liked to party, evidenced by his judgemental religious critics calling him "a glutton and a drunk". But he began a healing ministry and claimed that, in himself, God's Kingdom was made manifest to the world.
And he drank the wrath of God. When the Romans crucified Jesus for claiming to be God's King, Jesus suffered hell for us. All of the sin that we have done: God punished him instead of us. Which means that we are forgiven and free. We don't have to do anything to gain this reward, according to the Bible. It is a free gift.
Which means, Jesus gives us eternal life and the the forgiveness of all of our sins. Which means, that judgemental religious people are all wrong. Jesus called himself "the resurrection and the life" and promised to raise everyone on earth physically from the dead. He is God's King.
Through the Kingdom of God, God's ruling presence is currently breaking out on earth, as Jesus manifests himself through every person who truly believes in him: that is, they trust in his sacrifice and resurrection to save us. For example, my best friend and I both believe in Jesus and his Kingdom, and have instantly healed people who are sick. Just last Sunday (anecdotal evidence, I know, but anecdotal is how humans live), he interrupted a rigid church service to present Jesus to the congregation. He announced that someone's left knee was injured, asked who it was, and said that he wanted Jesus to heal it through him. Turns out the guy was sitting right next to him, so when he sat down the guy said "it's me" and was healed.
Now I understand that I haven't presented any empirical evidence to support Christianity or any scientific studies, or anything of that matter, or historical manuscripts, etc. But I did summarise my main argument, which I will phrase as a question: "If all of the spiritual claims in Christianity are false, why is Jesus on every page of the Old Testament?" I presented a handful of mix and match stories, but literally every page of the OT has images of Jesus.
My opponent may argue that I believe these things because of wishful thinking. However, my studies of the Bible and different historical contexts do convince me that Jesus is the Christ.
Let me encourage you to study the Bible deeply and with historical background. At the very least, if you treat the texts as seamlessly integrated, you will consider it to be a beautiful story, and the Jesus that is portrays as himself amazing.
However, be aware that if you don't believe in Jesus, I still support you, alongside all other Christians who critically believe what the Bible says. You are infinitely valuable to us and worthy of complete respect. And I'm more than willing to pray for whatever my opponent wishes. All of my prayers have been answered in the past, and the ones that haven't been are prayers for the future.
If my opponent responds in the negative, I will critically analyse his/her arguments according to their logical merit, acknowledge good arguments, and explain why I think parts of the Christian religion are true. Or, if he/she convinces me otherwise, then I will instead turn to explain why they are right.
I thank my opponent for accepting my challenge.
In the following paragraphs, I have broken some into chunks to make it more convenient to read, instead of putting points, arguments, and evidence into an extensive, but long, paragraph.
Many of my arguments I will mention in the refutation of my opponents arguments, and some I may also briefly describe. All of my assertions will be fully addressed and elaborated in my definite argument in Round 3. However, if you wish, you may ask for more evidence or elaboration in the comments, which I will happily oblige to.
As my rebuttal, I will individually address your arguments, refuting them with the provision of counter evidence, and then providing some counterarguments of my own.
In your first point, you concur with my argument that the Bible is indeed untrue. You admit that "the Christian religion is mostly based on unjustifiable claims and assumptions" and that most of it is fiction. However, you go on to argue that Jesus is, according to your interpretation, God's anointed king, and then proceed to use the Bible as your source of proof. If I may, I would like to point out the incredibly contradictory fashion of which you are employing to state and support your argument. To begin with, you admit a source to be unreliable, fiction, and likely to be false, in your words, "most of Christianity is made up", then completely change your tack and use the very same work of literature, of which you had just said to be made-up, to support your new theses. I believe I am completely justified and correct in saying that one cannot use a reference to substantiate a claim when the material used for authentication has already been discredited, in this case, by the very same individual, no less. Thus, on this subject, I conclude that your first argument is invalid and unsound until further evidence is provided to validate your assertion.
In reference to your second thesis, which states that "the collated texts of the Bible, if not altogether true, are the most amazing story ever told, and that those who (a) wrote the New Testament, and (b) collated the New Testament with the Old, must be very intelligent and sophisticated people," I would like to draw your attention to a particular part of that quote, in which you say, "...if not altogether true, are the most amazing story ever told..." The first part of that statement, I am confident to say, is not an argument. It does not address my challenge in which I question the authenticity of the Bible, and instead, simply states that it is an amazing story. In fact, I am rather inclined to agree with you, as the Bible is indeed an amazing story, although, as with other books, opinions are, of course, subjective. Nonetheless, you make a statement that is irrelevant to the topic at hand and thus is an invalid argument in corroborating your position, which, as I feel the impulse to remind you, is to defend and support the Christian faith in the regards of the Bible, beliefs, and the existence of god, or a god. It regretfully pains me to inform that, so far, you have not done a very convincing job.
Addressing the second part of your second statement, in which you say, "...those who (a) wrote the New Testament, and (b) collated the New Testament with the Old, must be very intelligent and sophisticated people." I disagree with your statement. It makes a huge assumption that cannot be rightly justified, as neither you or anyone in your immediate circle of acquaintances, friends, and family were alive during the time in which the Bible was written, and thus cannot claim that the people at that time were intelligent and sophisticated. However, you attempt to do just that by supporting it, and correct me if I am wrong, with the content of a work of literature that you freely admit is mostly made up and false. Moreover, you are using a source from a poor medium, the past, and composed in a poor era, the ancient superstitious past, in a time of great instability, where religion and superstition were the only place to turn for comfort and, in a way, satisfying the human thirst for knowledge, by humans. Fallible, imperfect humans wrote the Bible. Fallible, imperfect human beings collated the many texts of the Bible, which is supposedly the infallible word of god. (It is not the infallible word of god, but we'll get to that later.) Of course, one may argue that these authors were guided by god, thus it is god's word and would be consistent and unchanged. However, this is not so. The Bible contains many internal inconsistencies, scientific inconsistencies, and stylistic differences among its authors. (I will discuss this more extensively in my actual argument. This is but the rebuttal.) How can that be so, if they were all guided by god? (This is all under the assumption he exists, for the sake of argument.) Does god have 40+ different writing styles? Furthermore, the Bible, which is supposedly god's word and an accurate historical account, contains many literary devices and techniques used by writers of fiction. Why would a historical account need to use literary techniques employed in fictional writing?
(paragraph above continued)
Despite this, many, if not all, Christians construct and justify their beliefs, actions, and the existence of god, among other things, on that very same book, often utilizing circular arguments to vindicate such convictions. For example, when asked the question, "How do you know the Bible is the word of god?", various Christians will reply, "Because it says so in the Bible." Does one not see the circular reasoning employed here? Christians are essentially saying, "The Bible is the word of God because it says so...in the Bible..." This can be related to, for the sake of comparison, a Nigerian prince offering a lucrative business proposition via email in exchange for a mere $50,000 investment. You are, of course, reasonably skeptical, but at the end of the message, he assures you of his authenticity by saying something along the lines of, "You can trust me, the Nigerian prince, and my message, as this email, its content, and any subsequent communications are from me, and I can wholly assure you that it is legitimate." Obviously, you are relieved and now know for sure that it is legitimate and not a scam, because it says so in the email, right? Of course not. It is ridiculous to even consider the option, yet it is exactly what numerous Christians do. They wholeheartedly believe that the the Bible is the word of god, simply because it says so in the Bible.
Additionally, I have doubts about your anecdotal evidence, as it is scientifically and physically impossible to instantaneously heal someone or something. Before I refute your narrative, I apologize in advance for some assumptions I am about to take. I assume, first of all, that the person whose knee was injured was an effect of the inflammatory response. It is impossible for his knee to have healed in an instant, as the immune system does not act that fast. Furthermore, it is impossible for the chemical mediators that caused the inflammation, such as histamine, to dissipate and disperse as quickly as you have claimed, as well as the synovial fluid in the knee joint. (I have studied anatomy and physiology of the human body extensively, especially the immune system)
In your next statement, you say, "Now I understand that I haven't presented any empirical evidence to support Christianity or any scientific studies, or anything of that matter, or historical manuscripts, etc. But I did summarise my main argument, which I will phrase as a question: "If all of the spiritual claims in Christianity are false, why is Jesus on every page of the Old Testament?" I presented a handful of mix and match stories, but literally every page of the OT has images of Jesus." Unfortunately, that was the objective to this debate, to present evidence in support of your argument. It does not matter that you have summarized your main argument if you have nothing to substantiate it. Furthermore, it is only through your interpretation of the Bible that you claim there is an image of Jesus in the Old Testament. Assuming, for a moment, that the Bible is the infallible word of god, which, as I have already mentioned, it is not, and of which I will further elaborate in a later period of time, you, a fallible, imperfect human, have attempted to interpret it. How can I, how can anyone, know that the characters in the Old Testament are indeed images of Jesus without it explicitly saying so? We cannot. We can only resort to what you have done, interpretation. However, by doing that, you have added your own meaning to the Bible, which again, for the sake of argument, is supposedly god's word, and thus, you have applied your own, fallible, imperfect understanding to the allegedly perfect, infallible word of god. Thus, your question cannot be answered as it assumes certain pieces of information and is founded on the basis of your interpretations.
If you feel as I have not adequately or addressed any points at all, don't hesitate to say so in the comments, and I will hasten to sufficiently elaborate.
A latte extra :) - The story about Noah's ark is very, very, very improbable. The Wyoming, one of the largest wooden ships ever, built by a team of skilled shipwrights, manned by 14 crewmen, twisted apart in heavy seas. However, Noah's ark, built by him and his unskilled family, large enough and long enough to contain a multitude of passengers, (longer than the Wyoming) and were able to maintain and feed all the passengers, including themselves, and not only that, but to also land it safely on top of a mountain from a supposedly worldwide flood. The chances of that are astronomical, which is to say, almost impossible.
While it is true that most of Christianity is false, that does not mean that most of the Bible is false. Most of modern Christianity contains beliefs that contradict the Scriptures. For example, in the Bible, Jesus said to his disciples, "Call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9 ESV). And yet, in the Catholic Church, worshippers frequently refer to the priests as "father". So you can see that either Christianity as a religion is partly false, or the Bible is partly false. Christianity and the Bible are sometimes at odds with each other.
As another example, the Bible teaches that God unleashed his wrath on his royal Son, the Lord Jesus, when Jesus absorbed all the sins of the world. This means that we are free from sin and get forgiveness from God. It also teaches that Jesus is physically alive today, and reigns as King in heaven, from which he will come to judge the living and the dead.
However, most of Christianity teaches that you need to do lots of good deeds to please God, and to ask "holy people" in confession boxes to forgive your sins. Christianity is teaching what the Bible goes out of it's way to "un-teach".
So when I say that Christianity is mostly false, I do NOT concede that the Bible is also false! Nor do I believe that the Bible is "the infallible Word of God", as my opponent may have assumed. I think that JESUS is the Word of God, and the Bible is just one expression of him. Other signposts include myself, other believers, miracles that we perform, etc.
On to the existence of God. Well, there is only one way that we can clearly grasp God, and that is through Jesus. Read the New Testament and you will find that Jesus claimed that "no one comes to the Father except through me."
There are certain proofs of a general god existing. For example, many physicists believe in a general god because of (a) the teleological argument, and (b) the results of the delayed-reponse quantum eraser experiment, amidst other experiments that prove that reality is not objective. About the physicists who accept these experiments as reliable, but do not accept their logical implications for the non-objectivity of existence, physicist Paul Davies says that their views are due to "metaphysical prejudice."
Michio Kaku, for example, a theoretical physicist who has debated on the side of Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists, claimed to believe in a general god, like Albert Einstein did, though this god is not personal.
But I would say that Jesus is most certainly God. Having studied the Bible in intense detail, there are thousands upon thousands of links between Old Testament and Old, New Testament and New, and NT and OT. These links can scarcely be explained by the authors working together to craft a big hoax: the geographical and chronoological distribution between the authorship of the texts is enormous.
Let me encourage anyone reading this not just to zoom through the Bible once. I did that when I first read it, and I made the mistake of interpreting it in the light of today's culture. It is an incredibly rich collection of books, with unified messages. For example, just this afternoon after self-defense practice, I was speaking with my sparring partner about how Jesus said to the Pharisees (judgemental religious hypocrites in the first-century) "I send you prophets and teachers, some of whom you will flog and kill and put out of your synagogues."
And then I went off on a tangent about a guy that Jesus healed in a DIFFERENT Bible text, who Jesus then sent to the Pharisees, and was able to teach these priestly men amazing things, even though he had no knowledge of God except: Jesus had healed him. Now this was a poor man, and a "sinner". And yet Jesus flipped things upside down: "sinners" teaching the self-righteous. So the Pharisees cast the man out of their synagogue. This particular episode happened exactly as a DIFFERENT author wrote in a DIFFERENT time in a DIFFERENT place, according to modern historical scholarship. There are thousands of links like this in the Bible.
Atheists and agnostics are smart, usually a lot smarter than Christians (IQ statistics), but the difference is that some Christians have access to far more information than atheists/agnostics do, through our painstaking studies of the Scriptures and of spiritual things. For this reason, among others, I do believe that we are right about what we claim.
So far I have argued (1) Christianity is mostly false, but (2) the Bible is a way of expressing Jesus, the Word, on paper, (3) God exists because Jesus is God, and (4) Jesus is God because of the confounding number of complex links in the Scriptures, amidst other proofs.
I will list my following rebuttals (A), (B), (C), etc.
(A) The Bible may or may not have internal inconsistencies. After all, it has been SLIGHTLY changed over thousands of years. I haven't found any inconsistencies, except perhaps in the height of Goliath of Gath. One book says one height, and I think that another book says another. That really doesn't bother me: it's not important. Especially since people in the ancient world used numbers instead of adjectives, sometimes. For example, 40 days can mean "a time of testing/proving" rather than "40 days". You have to understand their culture. They care more about the meaning and purpose rather than the raw facts.
(B) There are scientific inconsistencies in the Bible. For example, we all know that rods do not transform into snakes. However, if a god existed, I don't see why it couldn't transform a rod into a snake. Physicists who subscribe to the multiverse theory think that physical laws and/or constants are probably different in other universes to ours. If a god created those universes, as many physicists believe, that means that the god transcends physics, and thus can affect physics, maybe without constraint.
(C) There are stylistic differences in the Bible. This is because, as my opponent rightly says, men wrote the texts. Perhaps women too, we don't know. God didn't write the Scripture. He "breathed" it. When God's Spirit acts upon a person, the Spirit does not erase all of their social habits. He uses that person whom he loves: their culture, their imperfect skills and their passions. Jesus doesn't want us to lose our humanity: he kept his own. Jesus, I assure you, will eternally remain a middle-eastern male who likes to drink wine.
(D) Jesus uses literary techniques to reach our passions and understandings. Everyone's different, and he uses a variety of images to present himself to (a) his first-century audience, and (b) his universal audience. I like scientific papers, but I only like them because they uncover and analyse data and facts so that we can gain knowledge. If you really want to touch human passions (we have tribal origins, and also primative ape-like physical ancestors), tell them a story. Use literary techniques.
God uses every medium possible to make sure that everyone knows about the free, unearned gift of eternal life, which we receive automatically, rather than by doing.
(E) My opponent is right in arguing that Christians often use circular arguments to prove the Bible's validity. "The Bible is true because it says it's true." I could say, "My testimony in court was true because it said it's true." The jury won't buy that one. Yes, circular reasoning does NOT prove the Bible to be true.
In fact, even if you heal someone and a whole bunch of crazy stuff happens, that still doesn't prove the Bible. It could be "Psychogod" pulling the strings from his pearly palace in the 67th paradigm. There is no way to prove that the Bible is true, because some crazy trickster god could have done all these things. However, I BELIEVE that the Bible is true because it seems to currently be the most appropriate option.
(F) Science does not disprove miracles. The word "science" is like a concrete wall that some people yank up to shield themselves. I, for example, tend to yell "science" whenever my family disregards, say, global warming or the wonders of Soylent. However, this is how science works:
If A, then probably B.
Therefore, probably B.
This is called "inductive reasoning". The scientific method makes lavish use of induction. It does not conclude "certainly B", but "most probably B". If say, you get result "C" instead, then you cannot say "Hold on, B is what should probably have happened, therefore C cannot happen." Because the truth is, sometimes in life things happen which are very improbable. You cannot conclude that something cannot happen simply because it has never been often seen before.
If my opponent performed a miracle him/herself, I very much doubt that they would truly believe, for any significant length of time, that they were hallucinating, or that the person's massive swollen arm just "popped" back to normal in the space of five seconds, naturally. They would believe it was a work of a spiritual kingdom. I believe the same about the works of my brothers and sisters.
(G) I've never understood my opponent's last argument. Lots of people use it. Everyone has a different interpretation of the Bible. Well, everyone has a different interpretation of EVERYTHING. Just because there are different interpretations, doesn't mean that MINE is wrong, or can't be evidenced. Textual criticism is a thing. It makes up a huge part of science. The scientific community accepts that you can interpret what an author is communicating and in what context. Psychology, for example, which I am studying, depends on this.
Good debate! Please explore the Jesus story.
I apologize for not posting an argument. Events have come up over the past few days and I have been extremely busy, leaving me unable to post a sufficient and substantial rebuttal. I will be posting my argument in the comments at a later time. Again, I apologize for this inconvenience and I hope you will understand.
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