XFiles Friday: Answering objectionsSeptember 11, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 13.)
Geisler and Turek have spent Chapter 13 trying to convince us that Jesus flat out claimed to be God, thus leaving us with no choice but to embrace him as Lord, or else to denounce him as a liar and/or lunatic. Their preferred response, of course, is to proclaim him as God, and today they take some time to deal with various objections to the deity of Christ.
The first objection they take up, ironically, is the question many skeptics ask: if Jesus is God, why didn’t he come right out and say so. Geisler and Turek have been trying to persuade us that Jesus did come right out and say so, but if that were the case, then the best answer to this question would be to simply quote the words of Jesus in which he directly said, “Yes, I am God the Son, second Person of the Trinity, eternal deity incarnate in the flesh of man.” But they can’t. So they give us four other answers instead, and the first one is rather a beaut.
Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? Coffee or other beverage swallowed and put to one side? Ok then. The question is, Why wasn’t Jesus more overt in declaring himself to be the eternal God come down in human flesh?
First, Jesus didn’t want interference from the Jews.
Yep, that must be it. Good old Under-The-Radar Jesus, tiptoe-ing around trying to keep from stirring up any trouble with the Jews! I’m sure the reason he called them a “viper’s brood” and denounced them as “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs” is because he wanted to be sure they didn’t interfere in his earthly ministry. I mean, that makes sense, right?
And the reason he went around allegedly working miracles and preaching and generally stirring up the crowds is because he didn’t want a bunch of fans mobbing him and getting underfoot either. He couldn’t have been trying too hard, though, because as Geisler and Turek point out, the crowds got so worked up that he almost was abducted and forcibly made king. He tried to avoid stirring up trouble, but I guess nobody’s perfect, eh? Next reason.
Second, Jesus could not be our supreme human example if he pulled rank every time he got into any earthly trouble.
This is a fairly stereotypical example of a classic apologist’s trick: try and make it sound like the skeptic is making unreasonable demands. But nobody is demanding that Jesus “pull rank” every time he gets into any earthly trouble. There were plenty of times when he and his disciples were off somewhere private, not bothering anybody, when he could have said, “Oh, by the way guys…”
Not to mention he kind of sucks in the “supreme human example” department anyway, since he was not supposed to be afflicted with the sin nature that Christians claim is our biggest handicap. Even without the alleged divine nature to draw on, he couldn’t possibly be “tempted like as we are,” because we’re allegedly tempted and enticed “when we are carried away by our own lusts“—sinful and corrupted lusts that Jesus didn’t have to deal with. And even without them, he wasn’t such a great example, popular legend and Sunday school piety notwithstanding.
Third, Jesus had to be very careful about when and where he revealed his deity so that he could accomplish his mission of sacrificial atonement. If he had been too overt with his claims and miraculous proof, they might not have killed him.
Here’s an argument with a superficial ring of plausibility, at least until you start comparing notes. For instance, just a few pages ago, Geisler and Turek were not only claiming that Jesus did “reveal his deity,” they were arguing that his crucifixion was provoked precisely because he claimed divinity. They even quote the passage where the Pharisees demand the death penalty on a charge of blasphemy. So “revealing his deity” isn’t likely to present a significant obstacle to bringing him to an untimely end.
The thing is, Geisler and Turek are trying to push to contradictory arguments: that Jesus could not openly declare himself to be God, and that Jesus did openly declare himself to be God. You might make a case for either point, but the two contradict each other, so you can’t argue both (at least not consistently).
Their final answer is to appeal to the free will excuse.
He gave them enough evidence to convince the open-minded, but not enough to overwhelm the free will of those wishing to cling to their own traditions.
You gotta love the way they use “open-minded” to mean “anyone who agrees with US.” Apparently, if you acquire too many facts, and have too accurate an understanding of the truth, it causes you to become less “open-minded.”
This is the kind of argument that really bugged me when I was a Christian. Why not just come right out and declare, “Jesus wants you ignorant, because if you ever learn the real truth and the whole truth, you’ll lose your faith in Christ!” That’s really what they’re saying here. Too much truth is a bad thing. It harms you in some way that’s related to believing in Jesus. Jesus had to suppress the truth and confuse people, because honesty just isn’t compatible with salvation. Really?
Four arguments, and not a sound one in the bunch. But that’s just the warm-up. Next week, Geisler and Turek tackle the question, “How can Jesus be God?” And their answer is to explain it all with that wonderfully clear and intellectually-appealing doctrine called The Trinity. Stay tuned.