XFiles Friday: Could Jesus be wrong?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

I have mentioned before that books on apologetics are written to persuade believers, and not skeptics, that their beliefs are really true. As we get deeper and deeper into Chapter 14, it becomes painfully obvious that Geisler and Turek are writing under the assumption that no skeptic in his right mind would have stuck with them this far, and that it is therefore safe to trot out some old and moldy chestnuts that would be downright embarrassing to have displayed in public. Right mind or not, though, we’ve stuck with them this far, and we’ll see it through to the bitter end!

They start off promisingly enough, raising the question of whether or not Jesus could possibly have been wrong in his beliefs about the “ultimate supremacy” of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Perhaps he wasn’t saying that those events in the Old Testament really happened, but just that the Jews believed that they did. In other words, maybe he was just accommodating to the beliefs of the Jews, in effect saying, “just as you believe in Jonah, you ought to believe in my resurrection.”

The good news is that Geisler and Turek can see the flaws in this sort of wishy-washy “he-didn’t-really-mean-it” approach.

This accommodation theory doesn’t work. As we have seen, Jesus did not tolerate error. He wasn’t accommodating to the beliefs of the Jews, as some skeptics have suggested. He rebuked and corrected them repeatedly, from scathing public tongue-lashings (like Matthew 23) to correcting their false interpretations of the Old Testament (Matthew 21; Mark 11; John 2). Jesus didn’t back down on anything, and he certainly didn’t back down on the truth of the Old Testament.

That’s certainly a very valid and well-documented point. Call Jesus what you will, the Gospels most certainly do not portray him as the sort of person who would give in to the popular errors, misconceptions, and false doctrines of his culture, contrary to his own firmly-held beliefs, just to beg for some kind of false popularity.

We can be sure, therefore, that when Jesus speaks of the heart as being the part of the body where lustful thoughts and fantasies occur, and where the words we speak have their source, and where various other sinful thoughts and mental processes take place, it is because he himself believed, along with other primitive people, that thoughts and feelings and desires and so on are functions of the heart. It’s an understandable conclusion, since we can feel our pulse beat faster when we’re thinking of certain things. But it means Jesus did not know what the brain does, or what the actual function of the heart is.

Jesus, in short, can be wrong about things. But Geisler and Turek don’t believe it, and because they don’t believe it, they make an argument that, seriously, you wouldn’t ever share with anyone you thought might take a hard, critical look at it.

The skeptic may say, “But couldn’t Jesus have erred because of his human limitations? After all, if he didn’t know when he was coming back, maybe he didn’t know about errors in the Old Testament.”

That’s actually a very good point: men are not infallible, and therefore in order to make their “dual nature” theory work, Geisler and Turek ought to be saying that Jesus, while infallible in his so-called “god nature”, would also have to be fallible in his “man nature.” Trouble is, if you say Jesus could possibly be wrong, then that means you have to think about what Jesus says, and that you have both the right and the duty to question practices (like persecuting gays) that Christians advocate based on Jesus’ ideas. That’s not going to give believers like Geisler and Turek the desired absolute and unquestioned authority over other people’s morality that they’re after, so obviously that argument has to go.

No, this limitation theory doesn’t work either. Limits on understanding are different from misunderstanding. As a man, there were some things Jesus didn’t know. But that doesn’t mean he was wrong on what he did know. What Jesus did know was true because he only taught what the Father told him to teach (John 8:28; 17:8, 14). So to charge Jesus with an error is to charge God the Father with an error.

In other words, we know Jesus was never wrong, because he specifically told us that his source was infallible. He only taught what the Father told him to teach. And we know that he was not wrong about that because, well, he was Jesus and Jesus was never wrong. Right?

Furthermore, Jesus affirmed the truth of his teaching when he declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Yes, Geisler and Turek did just argue that we can know Jesus was never wrong because he told us so himself.

So where does that leave us? We need to ask only one question: Who knew more about the Old Testament, Christ or the critics? If Jesus is God, then whatever he teaches is true. If he teaches that the old Testament is divinely authoritative, imperishable, infallible, inerrant, historically reliable, scientifically accurate, and has ultimate supremacy, then those things are true. His credentials trump those of any fallible critic (especially those whose criticisms are not grounded in evidence but in an illegitimate anti-supernatural bias).

In a book entitled I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, immediately after telling us we should believe that Jesus was infallible just because he told us he was, Geisler and Turek are chastising those awful, horrible, reality-based critics for daring to match their years of consistent, scholarly, and well-documented research against the “credentials” Jesus presumably has if we assume that he’s God (despite his mistakes).


And the icing on the cake? Those critics, they’ve got an illegitimate anti-supernatural bias, doncha know. As opposed to a legitimate anti-supernatural bias, I guess. So they’re doubly wrong.

Sigh. What’s really sad about this embarrassingly bad argument is that Geisler and Turek expect Christians fall for it. I’d consider my intelligence mortally insulted if someone thought so little of my reasoning ability that they would seriously propose this kind of gullible rationalization as though it were legitimate evidence for the Bible. But I’m not G&T’s intended audience. Christians are. Ouch, talk about friendly fire!

You know what would be even worse though? If this were the best argument Geisler and Turek could think of for the infallibility of Jesus’ teachings. I’d gladly go on and look at their other arguments, only they don’t offer any. I realize that it’s getting towards the end of the book, and paper costs money. I can understand if they’d only want to publish one or two arguments here. But this was the argument they picked for publication?

I used to read books of apologetics when I was a Christian. I remember being rather disappointed, underneath my requisite feeling of edification. I thought to myself, “They must be keeping the good arguments in some other book.” I think now I know why I never could find that other book.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “XFiles Friday: Could Jesus be wrong?”

  1. pboyfloyd Says:

    Excellent, as usual.

    Merry Christmas, you holiday stealer you! (LOL)

  2. Bacopa Says:

    I was once given a book called _Why Believe Anything at All_ by a dude named Sire. It starts off with a set of very good arguments against a kind of pop-retalitivism expressed by many people. It ends with the claim that Jesus is the divine redeemer to whom we must pray for salvation. The book started with some good arguments and became progressively less easy to follow. Where were the good arguments?

  3. mikespeir Says:

    ‘I thought to myself, “They must be keeping the good arguments in some other book.” I think now I know why I never could find that other book.’

    Man, does that ring a bell!

  4. WEssel Says:


    I don’t want to argue for the inerrancy or infallibility of scriptures. I myself believe that they are only as good as their human authors.

    I did, though, want to take issue with your concept that Jesus believed that the physical heart organ was responsible for thought and speech.

    My reading of the passages you quote appear to me to be metaphorical or idiomatic. We often speak of the heart as simply a reference to our emotional side. And when we screw up, it is often an ego-related emotional driver that is the culprit. This appears to me to be that to which Jesus alludes when he speaks in these passages.

    From this perspective, I believe what Jesus is saying has great value and insight.

  5. Deacon Duncan Says:

    In our day phrases like “from the heart” are idiomatic because we have become accustomed to the idea, which has been around longer than our modern, more accurate understanding of anatomical function. The roots of this idiom, however, date back to the times when people really did believe that thinking took place in the heart itself. It is an idiom today in part because Jesus did not (or could not) correct the anatomical misconception of his day.

    I understand what you’re saying, and I don’t really disagree, but in the context of Geisler and Turek’s argument about how anti-accommodationist Jesus was supposed to be, it’s interesting to note that it’s difficult to reconcile accurate biological fact with Jesus’ remarks about the true source of sin without proposing the very same sort of accommodationism that G&T reject.

    It does seem to me that if I were a clever and omnsicient God, and I knew my Gospel were someday going to be criticized based on accurate biological fact, I might forestall such criticisms by correcting the cultural misconceptions, instead of building my doctrine of sin on a foundation that was not going to stand the test of time. After all, all truth is My truth, and the truth about My design for My greatest creature is worth at least as much as the truth about where his flaws come from, eh?

  6. Jer Says:

    men are not infallible, and therefore in order to make their “dual nature” theory work, Geisler and Turek ought to be saying that Jesus, while infallible in his so-called “god nature”, would also have to be fallible in his “man nature.”

    And this would, in fact, be a heresy. Because it would suggest that his god nature and his man nature are separate from one another. That’s an old Gnostic heresy. The “orthodox” position is that Jesus was both fully human and fully God at the same time because God-can-do-things-like-that-you-can’t-possibly-understand-the-power-of-God-shut-up-it-just-works-that-way-that’s-why. So if Jesus’s “God nature” was infallible then Jesus had to be infallible because you can’t separate his God nature from his human nature – he’s both simultaneously.

    Just about every explanation for the Trinity (and by extension then, the incarnation) beyond “just accept it and don’t think about it” ends up with the person trying to come up with an explanation wandering off into heresy. It turns out I was taught three different heretical views of the Trinity in my Catholic Religious Education classes as a child. Why? Because the Trinity is inherently non-understandable. You aren’t supposed to understand it, you’re just supposed to believe in it. It’s a dogma, not an explanation.

  7. David D.G. Says:

    Excellent as always, Deacon! I have a query for you, however (no pun intended):

    Trouble is, if you say Jesus could possibly be wrong, then that means you have to think about what Jesus says, and that you have both the right and the duty to question practices (like persecuting gays) that Christians advocate based on Jesus’ ideas.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that Jesus said nothing whatsoever advocating the persecution of gays. As I recall, the only applicable verses of this type appear in Leviticus (and, perhaps, in the epistles of Paul). Is there some verse in which Jesus allegedly condemns homosexuals?

    ~David D.G.

  8. Deacon Duncan Says:

    It’s not that Jesus can be quoted directly urging persecution of gays in the Gospels, but Christians today do advocate that sort of thing based on Jesus’ teachings about the Law of Moses (which does promote persecution of gays) as being God’s perfect moral law. Though indirect, it does promote an anti-homosexual agenda when one volunteers such an authoritative endorsement of a law that calls for capital punishment of gays.

  9. David D.G. Says:

    I see. Thanks for the clarification.

    ~David D.G.