Rebuttal- Gary Shadle

I was approached by Gary Shadle, who has agreed to take my offer to construct a rebuttal to my arguments. The following is what I have received from him to date:

Recently, I recieved a post from Michael Runyan simply leaving a web address to his blog. On the blog, Mr. Runyan graciously says, “If anyone would like to present a rebuttal to this post, please address each of the points, and if it is well-written and coherent, I will post it.”

I will be posting rebuttals to these points. I would like to thank Mr. Runyan for compiling all of the most common arguments against christianity, as well as some of his own, and for allowing rebuttals from the opposition. True critical thinking requires facts from both sides of the discussion in order to make an informed decision.

Mr. Runyan starts his article by stating, “Most Christians fail to comprehend the implications of the belief system they embrace. Much of what they ‘know’ about their religion is a highly sanitized version that is promoted by their priests and pastors. Few bother to read and understand what is written in the Bible or think critically about what Christian doctrine implies.”

I cannot argue with this. Too many pastors do highly sanitize their own version of christianity. Pastors such as Joel Osteen are notorious for telling people what they want to hear. Thousands flock into arenas to hear their next feel-good sermon. Some of these pastors are also known to use their church merely as an infomercial to sell their books. As a christian, I have as much of a problem with this as any athiest or sceptic would.

However, much the same can be said about athiests and sceptics. Most of them fail to comprehend the implications of the worldview they embrace.  Much of what they ‘know’ about christianity is what someone else told them, or what they read on the internet. Few bother to read and understand what is written in the Bible or think critically about what Christian doctrine implies. Those that do read the Bible remove the context and cherry-pick verses that support their presuppositions and biases.

Mr.Runyan says that his points “lay out a convincing case that Christianity is untrue…based on the premise that a true, factual religion guided by a supernatural god would be precise, flawless, authentic, transcendent, unmatched, prescient, prophetic, revelatory, internally consistent, and scientifically accurate. In Christianity, we see none of these elements.”

I will show that true christianity is the only worldview where all of those elements are present. So let’s get started.

1. The Jesus Seminar

I find it interesting that Mr. Runyan starts with the Jesus Seminar, a self-promoting,  self-proclaimed group of scholars. I welcome this first point for two reasons. First, if one were to form an argument against christianity, supporting scholars are the first place to start. Second, this is the first time that I am taking a deeper, critical look at the Jesus Seminar.

In order to look at their work critically, we must investigate a few things. First, we need to investigate the supposed group of scholars themselves. Second, we need to investigate their methods. Third, we need to put into context what they are saying.

The Jesus Seminar became popular through mainstream media on shows such as the ABC News program, “The Search for Jesus” hosted by news anchor Peter Jennings. The late Dr. Robert W. Funk founded the Jesus Seminar in 1985. He chose 30 scholars to start. They currently boast of more than 200 critical scholars.

The Jesus Seminar speaks as if it is part of the mainstream in scholarship. However, when one compares their membership to the more-than-5000 full-time scholars of The Society of Biblical Literature (1) or to the American Academy of Religion (2), an organization of 9000 scholars, the Jesus Seminar is but a speck of dust in the scholarly world.

The Jesus Seminar represents less than 1% of Bible scholars. When one looks more closely at their supposed 200 members, a few interesting things show up.

First, in their best selling book, “The Five Gospels”, only 74 scholars took part in this project. This book records all the conclusions of the research done by the Jesus Seminar. The other 126 supposed scholars either just teach the conclusions at public seminars, or are simply on their mailing list.

Second, when one looks critically at the meager 74 scholars that took part in the research, he or she would discover that only 14 would be leading figures in the field of New Testament studies. Another 20 have published a few articles and are names recognizable to most New Testament scholars. The remaining 40 are unknowns. They include recent graduates or students of an original charter member, a movie producer, and teachers.

As Mr. Runyan noted, membership is open to scholars with advanced academic degrees (Ph.D. or equivalent) in religious studies or related disciplines from accredited universities worldwide or published authors who are recognized authorities in the field of religion (by special invitation only). However, of the 200 supposed scholars, only 34 meet these requirements. The following are just a few examples:

Paul Verhoeven is a film director who made such classics as Robocop, Basic Instinct and Showgirls. He has no degree in biblical studies. He graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden. He has no published work related to the Bible before 2010. He is clearly no scholar and meets none of the requirements.

James Breech is a financial advisor, not a scholar. He had no published work prior to the Jesus Seminar.

William E. Arnal joined the Jesus Seminar fresh out of college. He carried out his doctoral work at the University of Toronto, under the direction of John Kloppenborg, one of the original charter members. Without any true experiece, he is merely a follower, not a leader.

Martin L. Appelt is a complete unknown. A google search only shows, “Juvenile Court Officer 4 for the Judicial Department in Iowa.” Not sure if this is the same person. Either way, his credentials cannot be confirmed. He is clearly not a leading critical scholar.

Karen Armstrong has no degree in religious studies. She was a nun who left the convent. She had no published work until 1993, the same year as the best selling book of the Jesus Seminar was produced.

Mainstream scholars (real, professionally trained critical scholars) have criticized her work since her beginnings. Even athiests such as Sam Harris and Bill Mahr have criricized her. One article (3) states the following:

[The word “scholar” is best applied to people who devote themselves to study of focused material, and achieve certification from others who have studied and gained expertise in that same material.  Scholars perform original research.  Scholars produce original, peer-reviewed publications.  Scholars are circumspect about the public statements they make on which they claim authority.  A scholar might say, “My research has been on medieval knighthood; therefore, I am not qualified to speak about soldiers in the Roman Empire.” Armstrong does not meet any of these criteria of scholarship.  Armstrong was, first, a nun.  She left the convent and attempted to embark on an academic career.  She tried to write a dissertation about the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  Her dissertation was rejected.  She did not receive her desired degree.  She left the university.

Armstrong does not perform original research in original languages.  She does not publish with university presses.  Armstrong is a popularizer, that is, she reads original research by real scholars, digests it, and presents her digested version to the public.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a popularizer…The problem with Armstrong is her obvious bias.  Armstrong has been widely criticized for cherry picking facts…None of these statements stand up to serious scrutiny.]

It soon becomes clear why the Jesus Seminar is, “by special invitation only.” This is not a group of professionally trained critical scholars. This is one scholar, Dr. Robert W. Funk, with an agenda. He found less than 15 other scholars who would agree, by large, with his thinking. Then they recruited some unknowns who would also agree and called them scholars.

Mr. Runyan states that the Jesus Seminar was, “tasked with the goal to cut through the myth and expose the historical Jesus.” However, Robert Funk’s agenda, and true mission statement, becomes clear long before any research took place.

On March 21-24, 1985, the Jesus Seminar held its first meeting in Berkeley, California. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the mission of the Jesus Seminar, and how their reserch would work. Funk made his mission obvious. During the opening remarks he said, “What we need is a new fiction that takes as its starting point the central event in the Judeo-Christian drama and reconciles that middle with a new story that reaches beyond old beginnings and endings. In sum, we need a new narrative of Jesus, a new gospel, if you will, that places Jesus differently in the grand scheme, the epic story.” (4)

The mission was clearly not, “to cut through the myth and expose the historical Jesus” as Mr. Runyan stated. Instead, the Jesus Seminar was tasked with creating a new Jesus and re-writing the gospels. They wanted a Jesus that fit in better with the current culture.

The Jesus Seminar completely misses it:

“You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News.” – Galatians 1:7-8

“You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” – 2 Corinthians 11:4

Funk continues, “The fiction of Revelation keeps many common folk in bondage to ignorance and fear. We require a new, liberating fiction, one that squares with the best knowledge we can now accumulate and one that transcends self-serving ideologies. And we need a fiction that we recognize to be fictive.”

It is obvious that the conclusions about Jesus would be radically different than the Bible long before research took place. Dr. Funk already knew the conclusions he wanted, recruited people to give it authority, and used the media to drive it down the throats of anyone who would believe his nonsense.

The Jesus Seminar quickly loses credibility when examined, yet when one investigates their methods, it gets even worse. One thing that stands out in their book,”The Five Gospels” is the, “rules of evidence.”

Scholars should have rules which guide them to evaluate evidence carefully and objectively. However, the rules the Jesus Seminar came up with are quite peculiar. Here are four examples taken from pages 22-23, 32:

“Words borrowed from the fund of common lore or the Greek scriptures are often put on the lips of Jesus.”

“The evangelists frequently attribute their own statements to Jesus.”

“Jesus rarely makes pronouncements or speaks about himself in the first person.”

“Jesus makes no claim to be the Anointed, the messiah.”

It is quite clear that these are not rules. These are conclusions. The “rules of evidence” tell us what Jesus said, or did not say, before the research even started. This is the extreme bias that repeatedly shows up in the work of the Jesus Seminar. Yet, the Jesus Seminar’s own definition of a critical scholar states:

“critical scholarship in the biblical field does not permit special pleading on the basis of theological doctrine or other bias.” (5)

The Bible says Jesus claimed to be the messiah. One of the Jesus Seminar’s “rules of evidence” is that he did not. This is extreme theological bias. The Fellows of the Jesus Seminar do not even qualify as critical scholars based on their own definition of a critical scholar!

Another thing that stands out is their voting method. The Jesus Seminar used colored beads to determine what Jesus said:

Red: Jesus said it
Pink: He might have said something similar
Grey: He didn’t say it, but it may include His ideas
Black: Definately didn’t say it.

The real problem was not with the bead voting system. The problem was how the beads were weighted. Black beads held the most weight, followed by grey, then pink, and finally red. This allowed the results to be predetermined because a few black beads could show that Jesus did not say it even though the majority of scholars agreed that He did say it.

For example, on page 232 of “The Five Gospels”, 58% voted red or pink for the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31. Yet, it is colored grey. While the majority agreed that Jesus either said it, or something like it, the final conclusion is that He did not say it.
Furthermore, in the opening remarks of the first meeting, Dr. Funk stated, “we are committed to public accountability.” However, the Jesus Seminar never holds up to this. The voting beads were dropped secretly into boxes. No one could be held accountable for his or her vote. And if the voting system was not bad enough, the documents they use are highly unreliable.

The Jesus Seminar focuses a lot of attention on the “Q” document. There is not even one copy of this document in existence. No one knows if it even existed. It is a hypothetical document based on the same passages in Matthew & Luke.

The “M” and “L” documents are also hypothetical documents based on information exclusive to Matthew and Luke. Once again, no one knows if they even existed.

The “Gospel of Thomas” is the main source for the Jesus Seminar. It is a late document written between 150-200 A.D. It adds no new information about Jesus that is not already included in at least one of the four gospels. It is not a historical document and features no narrative. It is simply a document showing that Jesus lived and that His sayings were still being talked about 120-170 years after His death.

Some atheists buy right into the findings of the Jesus Seminar without any research or critical thinking, assuming that they have found another argument against christianity. But when one is searching for the truth, he or she will discover a group of unqualified self-proclaimed scholars with an agenda to rewrite the gospel.

Finally, we must understand what the Jesus Seminar is saying with their results. Dr. John Dominic Crossan was co-chair of the Jesus Seminar for its first decade. In a debate against Dr. James White in 2005 (6), Dr. Crossan clearly explains his position. He accepts the Bible as authentic.

Where Dr. Crossan differs, is that he does not believe the apostles wrote what Jesus said word-for-word. He believes the apostles used parables to explain the teachings of Jesus much the same as Jesus used parables to teach His followers. He stated that just because the words written are not the exact words of Jesus does not mean the teachings are not authentic. He argues that the teachings are in fact authentic.

In conclusion, the Jesus Seminar is a group of mostly unqualified self-proclaimed scholars with an agenda to rewrite the gospel. They use a flawed voting system and unreliable documents to produce their desired results even when the majority vote in favor. They popularize their conclusions through the use of news and media, passing them off as if they are the consensus of most scholars.

While the Jesus Seminar does still hold some seminars, they have mostly vanished from public view. The Jesus Seminar was such a failure that some of its members formed a new group called the Jesus Project. Although the Jesus Project never took off, it proves the failure of the Jesus Seminar.

Of the 95 Fellows listed on the Westar website, I have found only five that list the Jesus Seminar in their credentials. The others recognize that the horrible scholarship is an embarrisment to their careers. (7, 8, 11) Those that have passed on do not even list it in their obituaries. (9, 10, 11)

The Jesus Seminar is not a very good argument to show that christianity is false. In fact, it shows the opposite. The evidence for the christian scriptures is so strong that the only way they could make it work is to hide behind the media, passing their results off as mainstream scholarship.

When one has to go the lengths that the Jesus Seminar took just to show another Jesus, it adds to the credibility of the scriptures. The Jesus Seminar proves the reliability of the christian scriptures.







7. Harold W. Attridge, one of the 14 scholars that is recognized. Has an impressive list of credentials, but leaves out the Jesus Seminar. –

8. Richard A. Edwards –

9. William A. Beardslee obituary – One of the 14 recognized scholars and an original charter member. –

10. Richard L. Arthur obituary –

11. R.G. Hammerton-Kelly has quite an impressive list of credentials. The Jesus Seminar is not listed in his bio or in his obituary.

2. The Christian world versus the real world

This is a very common argument against christianity. It is most often used by those who completely misunderstand either christianity, the real world, or both as you will see.

Over half of Mr. Runyan’s argument is based on a quote taken from John W. Loftus, at his website “Why I Am Not a Christian”. When the first sentence of a quote is shown to be completely false, the whole quote is then useless and unreliable. The first sentence states:

“The Bible is filled with superstitious beliefs that modern people rightly reject.”

This is shown to be completely false on a very simple point that is easy to research. It quickly becomes obvious that John W. Loftus has either not done research, or is just spewing false statements knowingly. Either way, the whole quote becomes useless and unreliable when one cannot even get a simple fact correct in his or her first sentence. Here is just a small list of highly intelligent people who accept the Bible through the ages, including modern people:

Michael Faraday (1791–1867) was a contributor to electromagnetic theory and also in chemistry, such as establishing electrolysis.

James Prescott Joule (1818–1889) established that the various forms of energy such as mechanical, electrical, and heat were all basically the same and can be converted to one another. He also helped develop the first law of thermodynamics and correspondingly the law of conservation of energy. The unit of energy, Joule, was named after him.

Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894) was a German physicist known for electromagnetic radiation and photoelectric effect. The scientific unit of frequency, hertz, is named after him.

Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) was a French chemist and microbiologist who invented pasteurization. He also solved the mysteries of rabies, anthrax, chicken cholera, and silkworm diseases, and contributed to the development of the first vaccines.

Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937), a physicist known as the father of nuclear physics, is considered by Encyclopaedia Britannica to be the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday.

J. J. Thomson (1856–1940), a British physicist who discovered electrons and isotopes, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 and was President of the Royal Society from 1915 to 1920.

George Washington Carver (1864–1943) was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor.

Arthur Eddington (1882–1944), a British astrophysicist and a philosopher of science was famous for his work regarding the theory of relativity.

Max Planck (1858–1947) won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics and is considered the founder of Quantum mechanics.

Gerhard Ertl (1936-Present) is a German physicist and a Professor emeritus at the Department of Physical Chemistry, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Berlin, Germany. According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, his research laid the foundation of modern surface chemistry, which has helped explain how fuel cells produce energy without pollution, how catalytic converters clean up car exhausts and even why iron rusts. He was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces.

William D Phillips (1948-Present) is a Nobel Prize award winning, American physicist known for for his contributions to laser cooling and for his invention of the Zeeman slower.

Hugh Ross (1945-Present) is a Canadian-American astrophysicist. He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Toronto and an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of British Columbia. He rejects evolution and abiogenesis as explanations for the history and origin of life.

Frances Collins (1950-Present) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health(NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.

It’s very easy to see that John Loftus makes claims such as “modern people rightly reject” the Bible, which are flat-out lies. His whole quote is useless. In fact, there are more intelligent people who accept the Bible than reject it, especially in the scientific world.

On page 57 of his book, “100 Years of Nobel Prizes,” Baruch Shalev notes that 65.4% of all Nobel awards given between 1901 and 2000 identified as Christian. Another 20% identified as Jewish. All together, 85.4% of all Nobel prize winners accept the Bible, leaving a mere 14.6% for all other worldviews.

Dr. Ian H. Hutchinson is Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He states that he, “observed over the years in my interactions with Christians in academia, that far from scientists being weakly represented in the ranks of the faithful, as one would expect if science and faith are incompatible, they are strongly overrepresented.” (1)

Robert Wuthnow, Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, has studied the sociological evidence in depth. His findings were that scientists were proportionally more likely to be Christians than those in the non-science disciplines (2). These are strange conclusions considering the atheist claim that science and the real world contradict Christianity.

Furthermore, the evidence is indisputable that science is and always has been moving forward in areas dominated by a christian worldview much faster than any other worldview. This is due to the fact that the Bible explains the real world with exact precision.

Dr. Loren Eiseley, a Professor of anthropology, a well qualified science history writer, and an evolutionist, found that the birth of modern science was mainly due to the creationist convictions of its founders. He states, “It is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulated fashion to the experimental method of science itself … It began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor inference with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond man’s wildest dreams but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption.” (3)

The claim that, “the Bible is filled with superstitious beliefs that modern people rightly reject,” is a completely false presupposition. When one starts with a false presupposition, he or she is bound to land on a false conclusion.

It’s now time to look at a few worldviews in light of the real world. Most non-believers tend to look at creation from a naturalist approach. The naturalist approach allows for two options. Either the universe is eternal or it created itself from nothing.

Christianity uses a supernatural approach. It states that something outside of, and superior to the natural world created the universe. We call this supernatural being God.

Most people who accept the naturalist approach do not believe that the universe has order. Those that do accept order in the universe believe that by chance, things just fell into an orderly pattern without the need for a creator.

The Bible tells us that the “real world” has order and is governed by laws:

Jeremiah 33:25 – “This is what the Lord says: Suppose I hadn’t made an arrangement with day and night or made laws for heaven and earth.”

It also tells us that the “real world” can be be clearly observed and that these observations point to God.

Romans 1:20 – From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.

Thomas Jefferson said something very similar in a letter he wrote to John Adams on April 11, 1823. He wrote:

“I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it’s parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to percieve and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it’s composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, with it’s distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organised as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regenerator into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it’s course and order.” (4)

One of the most obvious displays of order in the universe is found in the Law of Cause and Effect. This law states that every material effect requires a cause. The cause must come before the effect and it must be an adequate cause to create the effect. This law is the most foundational law and allows science to be possible. Without order and without the Law of Cause and Effect, science would not exist because there would be nothing to study. Nothing would be predictable or repeatable. That requires order.

Interestingly, the most foundational law is found in the very first, and most foundational, verse of the Bible:

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created heaven and earth.

Here we see that the material universe has a Cause. The Cause comes before the effect. The Cause is certainly adequate to create the effect. The Bible says God is non-material:

John 4:24…Luke 24:39 – God is a Spirit…a spirit does not have flesh and bones.

God is non-material, outside of nature, and He created the laws that govern the universe. He is not bound by these laws that govern material things, so there is nothing contradictory about God being eternal. He is not required to have a cause.

God is All-Powerful:

Jeremiah 32:17 – Almighty Lord , you made heaven and earth by your great strength and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

He even knows each star by name:

Psalms 147:4-5 – He determines the number of stars. He gives each one a name. Our Lord is great, and his power is great. There is no limit to his understanding.

The God of the Bible certainly matches the description for an adequate cause. The Bible is in complete harmony with the observable “real world.”

This same God was in charge of all the miracles listed in Mr. Runyan’s article. If this God exists, and evidence shows that He does, then those miracles are easier for God to perform than it is for human beings to breath. These miracles are not mere superstitious beliefs, they are beliefs based on evidence of a supernatural being that is an adequate cause to perform these effects.

Contrast that with the naturalistic view. A universe created from nothing is in complete violation with the observable “real world.” It suggests a huge effect with no cause. It also violates the First Law of Thermodynamics which states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed in nature. Those who hold to this worldview indeed hold a superstitious belief. They seek to discredit miracles in the Bible while affirming this far greater miracle of something coming from nothing. When evolution is added to this theory, it becomes an even greater miracle.

Evolution has life starting very simple and becoming more complex, eventually leading to intelligent minds. Here again, we see a string of insufficient causes creating effects. The causes are not powerful enough to create intelligent effects. Maybe human beings should not have created computers since given enough time, they would have come about through evolutionary processes anyway. These beliefs are extremely superstitious because the cause-effect relationships required for them to occur have never been observed.

Mr. Runyan seems to like comparing God to Santa Claus. While humorous, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. The God of the Bible fits the description for an adequate cause of the universe. He created the laws and is not bound by them, but instead can display His power over them as proof that He is the Creator. He would have no problem with the smaller miracles listed in Mr. Runyan’s article. Christianity harmonizes with the “real world.”

On the other hand, Santa Claus is clearly a man-made fairytale. There is no sufficient cause for why his reindeer fly. There is no sufficient cause for why he can get into houses through a chimney that doesn’t even have a fireplace. In fact, Santa Claus is a perfect analogy for a universe that created itself and for evolution. All three violate the basic fundamental laws of science. At this point, we may want to thank Santa for showing us the truth behind these theories since it’s the only true gift he has given us.

Looking at an eternal universe, one will discover much the same thing, consistent violation of fundamental laws. The mathematical laws of infinity would not even allow it. At this point we should define “infinity”.

Any dictionary will give at least two definitions for “infinity.” The first definition is, “limitless, without beginning or end, boundless.” The second definition is, “a large number too great to count.”

The context determines the usage. It is just like the word “can.” Have a “can” of soda is not the same as, you “can” have some candy.

According to the first definition, if the universe were infinite, today would not have gotten hear. It has no beginning and no end, so it does not travel along a linear line like time does. A day would not begin and end if time were infinite using the first definition.

The Bible seems to have this “real world” concept correct when it describes God and time. It correctly uses both definitions as they are still described in our modern day dictionaries. It describes God as outside of time. He is able to see past, present, and future as if it were one and the same. This is because eternity is infinite according to the first definition and is not linear.

Time, however, is infinite according to the second definition. An infinite number of days has passed. By this definition, it is just a number of days too large to count. However, it still had a beginning and will come to an end. Time travels in a linear fashion and the only way to get there is to start on one end of the line and stop on the other.

Futhermore, atheist Stephen Hawking writes, “In fact, the theory that the universe has existed forever is in serious difficulty with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law, states that disorder always increases with time…it indicates that there must have been a beginning. Otherwise, the universe would be in a state of complete disorder by now, and everything would be at the same temperature. In an infinite and everlasting universe, every line of sight would end on the surface of a star. This would mean that the night sky would have been as bright as the surface of the Sun. The only way of avoiding this problem would be if, for some reason, the stars did not shine before a certain time.” (5)

It seems that Christopher Hitchens jumped the gun when he said, “Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge.”

The writers of the Bible knew exactly what was going on. They correctly describe the “real world.” Modern secular scientists also know what is going on. They know where the evidence points and they do not like it. They form radical theories that contradict observable evidence in a desparate attempt to avoid the ultimate conclusion.

Even Hawking recognizes this fact, “many people were unhappy with the idea that the universe had a beginning, because it seemed to imply the existence of a supernatural being who created the universe. They preferred to believe that the universe, and the human race, had existed forever.” (5)

I did not get into the moral issues raised by Mr. Runyan in this point because I am sure he has a point dedicated to that. However, the evidence is clear that the “real world” and christianity are in complete harmony. I will leave you with some quotes from modern people who specialize in observing the “real world.”

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” – Fred Hoyle (6)

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” – Alan Sandage (7)

“The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.” – Vera Kistiakowsky (8)

“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” – Frank Tipler (9)

“From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.” – Frank Tipler (10)

Robert Jastrow of NASA sums up these quotes perfectly, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” (11)

1 .

2. Robert Wuthnow, The Struggle for America’s Soul, Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids, (1989), p146.

3. Loren Eiseley, Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men who Discovered it, Doubleday: New York, 1961 p:62



6. Hoyle, F. 1982. The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics: 20:16.

7. Willford, J.N. March 12, 1991. Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest. New York Times, p. B9.

8. Margenau, H and R.A. Varghese, ed. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, and Theos. La Salle, IL, Open Court, p. 52.

9. Tipler, F.J. 1994. The Physics Of Immortality. New York, Doubleday, Preface.

10. Tipler, F.J. 2007. The Physics Of Christianity. New York, Doubleday.

11. Jastrow, R. 1978. God and the Astronomers. New York, W.W. Norton, p. 116.

3. Hell

Hell is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted doctrines in the Christian faith. One will rarely hear a sermon preached on Hell, and Christians generally do not research anything on it. The only time it usually comes up is during an atheist attack against the Christian faith, or when judgemental self-proclaimed Christians are throwing Hellish insults at various people and groups.

Most people cherry-pick Bible verses about Hell leaving Biblical context behind. This creates a view of Hell radically different than the view of Hell in the Bible. The view of Hell created by cherry-picking verses out of context allows non-believers, such as Mr. Runyan, to make statements like, “Christianity’s invention of Hell is a gift to anyone seeking truth because it decisively reveals the man-made nature of the faith.” Since the verses are out of context, the view of Hell created is man-made. Because of this man-made view of Hell, many people conclude that the whole faith is man-made.

However, when studied in context, the view of Hell that is presented in the Bible is so much different than the human way of thinking that it seems more reasonable to conclude that it is not man-made. In order to study this doctrine, we need a correct understanding of man-made good versus evil contrasted with Biblical good versus evil, as well as a correct understanding of the nature of God.

First, the man-made concept of good and evil is extremely arbitrary. This is because there is no standard to measure against. The man-made idea of good is anything that the majority of people like. For example, not long ago, homosexuality was considered evil because most people did not agree with it. Now, since most people are fine with it, it is considered good. Those who still disagree with it are considered evil.

Majority opinion rules in the man-made view of good and evil. The problem with the view is that everyone has an opinion, and opinions are always changing. Standards do not change.

This leads to the man-made view of God. Most people see God as this old man with a long white beard hanging out in the clouds shouting commands to all the minions He created. When those minions do something He does not like, He punishes them by torturing them in an eternal fire. He even tortures good, well-meaning people for making small mistakes. He needs people to worship Him, so He also demands this and tortures those who choose not to.

This is a pretty close description of how Mr. Runyan and many other atheists understand God. Once again, you can notice that this view of God creates an arbitrary concept of good and evil. However, this time the opinion is God’s opinion. It certainly doesn’t take much thought to come to the conclusion that the Christian faith is false when one relies on the man-made views of God, Hell, and good and evil.

While the man-made view starts with good and evil then brings God in to the picture, the Bible starts with the nature of God, then brings good and evil into the picture.

The Bible says this about God:

Psalms 119:68 – “You are good, and you do good things. Teach me your laws.”

Notice that the verse starts with the nature of God, then speaks of His deeds. This is a consistent theme throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The nature of God is good. He is everything that God should be. He is the ideal person, the sum total of all perfection. There are no defects or contradictions in Him.

1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him.”

Nothing can be added to His nature to make Him any better. He is excellence to an infinite degree, possessing every desirable quality, and therefore of infinite value.

Psalms 97:2 – “Righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.”

Because God is Himself the highest and greatest good, He is also the source and fountain of all other good. He does good things. He extends His goodness to others. It is His nature to be kind, generous, and benevolent, to demonstrate good will toward people, and to take great pleasure in making them happy. Because God is good, He wants us to have what we need for our happiness and He sees that it is available to us. Every good thing we now enjoy or ever hope to enjoy flows from Him, and no good thing has ever existed or ever will exist that does not come from Him.

Psalms 145:9 – “The Lord is good to everyone and has compassion for everything that he has made.”

James 1:17 – “Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. The Father doesn’t change like the shifting shadows produced by the sun and the moon.”

With a correct understanding of the nature of God, the Biblical concept of good and evil begins to emerge. Two great examples will help explain what the Bible is saying.

First, let’s look at the difference between light and darkness. Light is measured in lumens. We use this standard to measure the amount of light present in an area. We can block out light, minimize the amount of light, or add light. We cannot do this with darkness because darkness does not exist. It is merely a word used to descibe the physical reality of the absence of light.

Interestingly, Genesis 1:2-3 says, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep water…Then God said, ‘Let there be light!’ So there was light.” Notice that light was created, but darkness was already present. Moses clearly understood that darkness was the absence of light.

Christopher Hitchens said, “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on.” Since Moses did not have “the smallest idea what was going on”, Mr. Hitchens proves that Moses must have been inspired by God.

Second, let’s compare hot and cold. Just like light, we use a standard to measure the amount of heat present in an area. We can block out heat, minimize the amount of heat, or add heat. We cannot do this with cold because cold does not exist. It is merely a word used to descibe the physical reality of the absence of heat.

When we turn to good and evil, we can clearly see the same thing. Since God is good and He is the standard of good, evil is merely a word used to describe the physical reality of the absence of God.

This is made very clear in the Bible as there was no evil before the fall. There was a complete relationship between humans and God. Adam and Eve got to experience a physical reality that was very good. When Adam and Eve decided to separate from God, they began to experience the physical reality of the absence of God, or evil.

Thankfully, God was not willing to let us spend an eternity without Him. So he pursued us and continues to pursue each one of us with His outrageous love of another kind through Jesus. God does not want to see anyone experience complete separation from Himself.

2 Peter 3:9 – God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

Sadly, some people will never respond to His pursuit. It’s as if they are sitting in the darkness. Someone turns on a bright light. Their eyes cannot tolerate the brightness. Instead of allowing their eyes to adjust, they turn the light back off and continue sitting in the darkness.

God will continue to pursue us until our time is up. After that, God will send us to the place we choose. Those who choose to live in the presence of God will have their relationship with Him fully restored. This is a literal place called heaven. Heaven is a reward culture with a party atmosphere, where God pours out His love and goodness on those present. There is no evil because there is no absence of God.

Since God will not force anyone to choose a relationship with Him, those who wish to live separate from Him will be granted their choice as well. Hell is a literal place of separation from God. It is pure evil; complete absence of God. Where God is not present, no good can or will be present.

Understanding the context of the Bible as a whole will allow us to interpret those verses about Hell correctly. Consider the following:

Matthew 8:12 – The citizens of that kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People will cry and be in extreme pain there.

Matthew 25:41 – “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels!

Both of these are descriptions of Hell. They are simply using imagery to describe a place of infinite evil and suffering. We know that it is imagery for the simple fact that fire provides light which cannot be darkness. However, everyone would understand the negative imagery associated with darkness and fire.

Here are a few more verses:

Matthew 5:29-30 – “So if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have all of it thrown into hell. And if your right hand leads you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have all of it go into hell.”

Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47-48 – “These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be thrown into the sea with a large stone hung around his neck. “So if your hand causes you to lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life disabled than to have two hands and go to hell, to the fire that cannot be put out. If your foot causes you to lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to lose your faith, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. In hell worms that eat the body never die, and the fire is never put out.

Once again, Jesus uses imagery to describe Hell. Words cannot fully explain the amount of pain and suffering one will experience when he or she is completely separated from God. With this in mind, Jesus and the apostles were consistently describing Hell using imagery that people in all generations could relate to. The imagery was used to create a sense of urgency.

It is urgent for those who have not turned to Jesus to do so now because we do not know when our last chance will be. James 4:14 says, “You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.”

More importantly, it is urgent for those who are in Christ to go help point the lost back to Him now. If you notice a neighbor’s house on fire while you are busy with your work, you would stop your work to help get the neighbor to safety. The neighbor becomes your priority. This is the message being spoken in the imagery about Hell.

It is the religious people who are being addressed in all of these descriptions of Hell. These are not threats against unbelievers. The religious people of the day showed no urgency. They assumed that because they were God’s chosen people, they were automatically in the family. Jesus attacked this position:

Luke 10:25-37 – Then an expert in Moses’ Teachings stood up to test Jesus. He asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “What is written in Moses’ Teachings? What do you read there?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” Jesus told him, “You’re right! Do this, and life will be yours.” But the man wanted to justify his question. So he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man went from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way robbers stripped him, beat him, and left him for dead. “By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he went around him and continued on his way. Then a Levite came to that place. When he saw the man, he, too, went around him and continued on his way. “But a Samaritan, as he was traveling along, came across the man. When the Samaritan saw him, he felt sorry for the man, went to him, and cleaned and bandaged his wounds. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day the Samaritan took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than that, I’ll pay you on my return trip.’ “Of these three men, who do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?” The expert said, “The one who was kind enough to help him.” Jesus told him, “Go and imitate his example!”

Notice that it was an “expert in Moses’ Teachings” who was testing Jesus. By pointing out that the priest and the Levite walked around the beaten man, Jesus was calling out the lack of urgency from this expert Teacher. It was a Samaritan, which the Israelites hated, that stopped to help the man.

Jesus attacks this position again through three parables in Luke 15. It is long, so I will leave it to you to read. However, to understand the context, the first two verses say, “All the tax collectors and sinners came to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the experts in Moses’ Teachings complained, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'”

Here again, Jesus is dealing with the religious leaders who were experts in Moses’ Teachings. Recognizing their lack of urgency once again, Jesus tells them three stories.

In the first story, a man has 100 sheep and loses one. So he leaves the 99 and searches for the missing one. The urgency is so great that he throws a party when he finds it.

In the second story, a woman has ten coins and loses one. She tears the house apart to find that missing coin. The urgency is so great that she throws a party when she finds it.

In the third story, a man has two sons, the younger son demands his share and leaves the family. The older son remains home and works for his father. While he is out in the fields working, his little brother comes back home. When the older brother returns home to find the family celebrating his return, he flips out.

The older brother in the story represents the expert Teacher who shows no urgency. The younger brother represents the lost sinner. The point of the story is obvious. In the first two stories, the person urgently searches for the lost item. Yet, no one searches for the younger brother.

The expert Teachers would have immediately thought back to when Cain killed Abel. Genesis 4:9 records, “Afterward the Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother? Where is Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ Cain responded. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?'” The implication here is an urgent “yes”.

Enter the descriptive imagery of Hell. Now there is an urgency to seek and save the lost. The only problem with the imagery is that the descriptions are finite descriptions that we can understand. Hell is going to be infinitely worse than any of the descriptions presented.

Of the Old Testament, Mr. Runyan states, “hell is not discussed.” What is interesting is that he calls attention to forty-five gospel scriptures, yet doesn’t notice a single one of the thirty-one Old Testament verses about Hell. Here are just a few:

Psalms 49:14-15 – Like sheep, they are driven to hell with death as their shepherd. (Decent people will rule them in the morning.) Their forms will decay in the grave, far away from their comfortable homes. But God will buy me back from the power of hell because he will take me.

Psalms 116:3 – The ropes of death became tangled around me. The horrors of the grave took hold of me. I experienced pain and agony.

Proverbs 7:27 – Her home is the way to hell and leads to the darkest vaults of death.

Not only is Hell discussed in the Old Testament, but the same descriptive imagery is also given. Death, decay, pain, agony, and darkness are just a sampling of the descriptions one will find.

To sum it up, Hell is not a place where God sends good people so He can torture them. Hell is a literal place where people who choose to live separate from God will go. Those who are there will experience a conscious physical reality of complete separation from God. Since every good thing comes from God, no good thing will be experienced in Hell. All of one’s desires will remain. In Hell, he or she will experience some following plus more:

Hunger and Thirst – since food and drink are good things, they will not be found in Hell. The hunger and thirst pains will be so severe, they will feel like an eternal fire consuming the person. This point is made obvious in the popular story of Lazarus and the rich man. While the rich man is in Hell, he was in so much pain , “He yelled, ‘Father Abraham! Have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool off my tongue. I am suffering in this fire.’” – Luke 16:24. The fire he was referring to was the severe thirst pains. The pain was so bad that he would settle for a small drop of water off the tip of Lazarus’ finger.

Desire for relationship – everyone in Hell will be so self consumed that there will be no relationship. It will feel like outer darkness, a moment when a person really needs someone, yet no one is there.

Sexual desire – God created sex and it was very good. The first command given to humans was, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” – Genesis 1:28. This is one of the strongest human desires, yet sex will not be a part of the experience in Hell. Most people would not be able to imagine not being able to fill this desire.

Desire for air – Air is obviously good. In Hell, one will gasp for air, but it simply will not be there. It will be extreme torture for those who are in an eternal state of suffocation.

If we just stop there, the torture is far more than anyone can handle. Yet, when those people choose to separate from God, they choose to separate from every good thing. This is what the Bible refers to as the “wrath of God.” You either receive His blessing of full relationship or His wrath of separation. There is no other way. Good, well-meaning people cannot be forced into a relationship with God.

The presentation of Hell in the Bible is clearly unique and stands apart from all man-made versions of Hell. The unique presentation of Hell in the Bible adds credibility to the truthfullness of the scriptures.

This brings us to the final point. Hell is going to be far worse than any description given in the Bible. God does not want anyone to go there, so He became human and walked among us. He took all of the things we do that separate us from Him upon Himself.

While carrying those separations, what we call sin, Jesus was separated from the Father for the first time in all of eternity. He was not separated by nature, essence, or substance, but in relationship. He did not have the intimate relationship with the Father at this time.

Jesus went to pray to the Father three times before He was captured. All three times, He got no response. His disciples were with Him and He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)

The pain of that separation was so severe that, “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) It was so severe that, “He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44) This is a real medical condition called hematidrosis. It is a very rare condition caused by severe stress. The addition of this medical accuracy by Luke, who was a physician, adds more credability to the account.

This separation is made very clear on the cross when Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). The pain and agony of being separated from God was worse than the scourging and nails on the cross. This is why Jesus said things like: it would be better if you cut off a foot or hand, gouge out an eye, or be thrown into the sea with a stone hung around your neck.

Hell is not something anyone will want to experience. However, it will be the eternal physical reality for those who choose to separate from God. He will not force anyone into His presence. However, He provides a way into His presence. That way is made very clear:

John 14:6 – “Jesus answered him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.'”

Through Jesus Christ, God shows infinite love and infinite justice. This is not found in any other worldview. It is another unique aspect of the christian faith that makes it unreasonable to assume that it is man-made. Man-made religions show justice without love or love without justice. None of them satisfy both.

The unique biblical description of Hell adds superior credibility to the scriptures. These descriptions give us an urgent message: We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). He wishes that none of us separate from Him (2 Peter 3:9). We currently stand in a broken relationship with Him. However, He continues to pursue each and every one of us through Jesus Christ until our time is up. It is up to YOU to accept or reject His offer of a fully restored relationship.

So the question for you is: Will you be an eternal blessing, or an eternal horror? It is YOUR choice, but YOU cannot blame God for YOUR choice.

4. Hitler/Murdered Jews and Ted Bundy/Bill Gates

Many atheists seem to think that one can be saved by merely confessing his or her sins to Jesus. There is no place in the Bible that supports this. It is a common argument used by atheists who have not read the Bible. Most of them will find something like this on the internet and paste it right into their argument without any research or critical thinking.

First of all, confessing sins has nothing to do with being saved, nor does being born into a christian or catholic family. There is no such thing as a christian/catholic by birth. One will never find this in the Bible. It is one of the many things that make christianity unique.

Christianity is about one’s own personal walk with God. Everyone has a walk with God from birth because He created each one of us. He personally pursues each one of us for relationship. You either accept that and walk with Him or you reject it and run from Him. God will not force anyone into a relationship with Himself, nor can one be born into a restored relationship with Him. That would be equivalent to saying that a husband and wife were already in love since the day they were born.

The Bible is very clear about what happens when one decides to walk in relationship with God:

Ezekiel 36:26-27- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stubborn hearts and give you obedient hearts.

Since God changes the heart of one who is saved, he or she is required to repent of sins. In other words, stop walking away from God:

Luke 13:5 – No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.

Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God

It is contradictory to claim that you are walking with someone when you are clearly walking in the opposite direction. This is exactly what the Bible teaches. In fact, it also goes as far as saying that even the demons believe and they tremble in fear:

James 2:14-20 – My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn’t do any good things? Can this kind of faith save him? Suppose a believer, whether a man or a woman, needs clothes or food and one of you tells that person, “God be with you! Stay warm, and make sure you eat enough.” If you don’t provide for that person’s physical needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn’t cause you to do any good things. Another person might say, “You have faith, but I do good things.” Show me your faith apart from the good things you do. I will show you my faith by the good things I do. You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! The demons also believe that, and they tremble with fear. You fool! Do you have to be shown that faith which does nothing is useless?

According to the Bible, the claim that, “Hitler, a Catholic by birth, understood the gravity of his sins and confessed them to Jesus before committing suicide.  According to Christian doctrine, he was awarded entry into heaven with this simple act” is completely false. The act of Hitler committing suicide is proof that he did not have a restored relationship with God. He was running in the opposite direction.

The fact that Bill Gates donated more than $27 billion to global health, development, and education has absolutely nothing to do with his relationship with God. Although a restored relationship with God will move Bill Gates to donate money, the act of donating does not restore his relationship with God. If Bill Gates chooses to live separate from God, that is his decision, regardless of what he does with his money.

It is completely unjust and immoral to force someone into a relationship against his or her own will. If a man is pursuing a woman and she says “no”, he may try again and keep sending flowers and cards till she says “yes”. But if he forces her into the relationship against her will, that is immoral and unjust.

God is love and he will pursue you and keep sending you flowers and cards until your time is up. If you do not respond to Him, that is your fault, not God’s.

As far as the 6,000,000 Jews, many of them were followers of Christ. Still, others were secular non-religious Jews. Not all were sent to Hell. Only those who chose to walk separate from God. It was their decision. It is rather judgemental to assume knowledge of the relationship between all 6,000,000 Jews and God.

Finally, on Ted Bundy confessing his sins before his execution. Again, confession of sins is not proof of being saved. However, if he did come to a saving relationship with Christ before his execution, then the Ted Bundy that was executed was not the same Ted Bundy that murdered those women. The Bible says that God changes our heart and:

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.

If Ted Bundy gave his life to Christ, he is a new creation with a changed heart. What I have noticed among atheists is that they cannot stand the fact that those who need a savior the most can be saved, yet, they themselves don’t think they need a savior.

While atheists fight against human opponents, judging people by their arbitrary standards, the true christian realizes:

Ephesians 6:12 – For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

The fact still remains that whether you are Bill Gates donating more than $27 billion or Ted Bundy murdering young women, we all still need our relationship with God restored if we do not want to live in separation from Him.

Most people who read this will seek that restored relationship. However, some never will. You know who they are. They are the ones who do not like to be held accountable for their own actions. They choose to separate from God, then blame Him for giving them the freedom to choose. Yet, if He were to force them into a relationship, they would cry about that as well.

5. The Evil Nature of God

This is one of the most common arguments among atheists, and due to the nature of the argument will require a longer response. The claim is that the God of the Old Testament is evil because the killings were evil. Mr. Runyan states, “Christians must concede that God performed the evil deeds that are documented in the Bible. Otherwise Jesus would have corrected the scriptures and explained that God the Father (or he himself?) did not commit those atrocities.”

There are two major problems with this argument: 1) The problem of morality and 2) Cherry-picking verses out of context.

Up first is the problem of morality. In the 3rd point, Hell, we investigated the nature of God from the Bible. We revealed that God is the standard of good. That which is separated from what is good is evil. Two passages stand out when dealing with our relationship with God:

Genesis 1:27 – So God created humans in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.

Leviticus 20:26 – You must be holy because I, the Lord , am holy.

We are created in God’s image to be holy like He is. God is the moral standard. He is the only true standard of good and the only true standard of justice.

Without God, one cannot justify an absolute moral judgement. Without God, there is no standard for morality or justice. Without a standard for morality and justice, one cannot know good from evil.

To clarify the point, I am not saying that non-believers do not know good and evil. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that the opposite is true:

Romans 2:14-15 – Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

What I am saying is that for atheists to say that God is evil, they must either admit that God exists, or admit that it is simply just their opinion that He is evil. Without God, they cannot justify their reason for something being good or evil. We cannot rely on the arbitrary opinions of human beings for this matter because standards do not change, and human opinion is constantly changing.

Furthermore, as we have previously seen, the Bible describes God as being perfectly moral, and perfectly just. Since the Bible describes God as the standard of perfect morality, anything that deviates from that standard must be judged accordingly. If this were not the case, God would cease to be perfectly moral and perfectly just. Thus, if the Bible is true, we should expect to see God executing perfect justice according to perfect morality. This fact leads us to the second point: Was God arbitrarily and unjustly murdering people, or was He delivering perfect justice according to a perfect moral standard?

Atheists love to cherry-pick verses out of context and hide that which they do not want others to see. They play off of the ignorance of their readers. They are so driven to find negative things about God, that they even turn to the Apocryphal books not recognized by the church.

There is not enough room to refute all 158 points here. However, every point is the same idea with verses pulled out of context. One only needs to see a few to get the picture. We will discuss three. Of the points listed, Mr Runyan says, “one in particular deserves a focused look, 1 Samuel 15:3.” So we will start there:

1 Samuel 15:3 – Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

This verse alone provides a major shock to anyone who reads it. Mr.Runyan provides no context, but simply leaves the verse. So we travel to the link he provides on point #67. Here, the author provides some commentary. However, it does not take long to see the false statements plastered throughout. Before we begin, I want to point out that I know the name of the author of the site, however, I am calling him “the author” because my intention is not to attack him, but his argument.

The author says that he is going to provide context. However, he never does. Context would tell us who the Amalekite people are, what type of people they are, what their relationship was to Israel, and why they were slaughtered. The author gives none of this, but instead fabricates a story plugging in verses out of context to try and make a case. Anyone who looks at the context would realize that this author fails miserably.

The author states, “we know why God wanted Saul to kill all the Amalekites — because God remembered what their ancestors did hundreds of years before they were born (they defended themselves when the Israelites tried to kill them and take their land).”

I’ll repeat that last line, “they defended themselves when the Israelites tried to kill them and take their land.”

These are the types of false statements that pollute most atheist arguments in their desperate attempts to make a case against the Bible. Let’s take a look at who the Amalekites really were and what really happened.

Genesis 36:15-16 – These were the tribal leaders among Esau’s descendants: The sons of Eliphaz, Esau’s firstborn, were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, Korah, Gatam, and Amalek. These were the tribal leaders descended from Eliphaz in Edom. They were the grandsons of Adah.

Numbers 13:29 – The Amalekites live in the Negev

So the Amalekites were descendants of Amalek, Esau’s grandson. Esau was the brother of Jacob, who later became known as Israel. Their father was Isaac, son of Abraham.

Esau came from a family that had been faithful to God. He was the firstborn son of Isaac and was to recieve the blessing of the firstborn son. However, he gave the blessing to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of stew.

Genesis 25:29-32 – One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”) “All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.” “Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”

This was the first indication of the family starting to walk away from God, but this does not change the fact that Esau and his descendants would have had adequate knowledge and proof of the God of their forefathers. Yet, he still started to plot against Jacob after Isaac blessed him:

Genesis 27:41 – From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.”

Although Esau eventually made peace with Jacob, his words seemed to carry on through his descendants. One tribe that stood out from the rest were the Amalekites. They were the first nation to attack Israel as they were leaving Egypt after the Exodus:

Numbers 24:20 – Then Balaam saw the Amalekites and delivered this message: “Amalek was first among the nations, but in the end it will be destroyed.

The attack is recorded in Exodus with more specific details given in Deuteronomy:

Exodus 17:8, 14-16 – While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord ’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 – Never forget what the Amalekites did to you as you came from Egypt. They attacked you when you were exhausted and weary, and they struck down those who were straggling behind. They had no fear of God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies in the land he is giving you as a special possession, you must destroy the Amalekites and erase their memory from under heaven. Never forget this!

The Amalekites were a cowardly group of barbaric Hitler-type people who snuck up behind Israel while they were tired, weak, and exhausted from traveling. They struck down those who were straggling behind. They brutally murdered the elderly, the pregnant women, the infants, and the animals that were behind.

Israel was not traveling in the direction of the Amalekites, so they didn’t even have a threat to address. The author’s claim that the Amalekites, “defended themselves when the Israelites tried to kill them and take their land” is a complete lie.

Given the constant absurd mockery of the Bible that he offers, it is safe to say that his lies are intentional and not merely an error. Blatant lies of this magnitude remove any and all credibility from the author, making my case sufficient as is. The commentaries offered on these 158 points are as useful as used toilet paper and can be discarded as such. However, I will continue to show more of these to further prove my point.

Continuing on, the Amalekites were a constant threat to Israel, attacking at every opportunity:

Judges 6:3-5 – Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These enemy hordes, coming with their livestock and tents, were as thick as locusts; they arrived on droves of camels too numerous to count. And they stayed until the land was stripped bare.

1 Samuel 14:48 – He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

When we turn to the verse in question, God had given the Amalekites about 300 years from the time they first attacked Israel to turn back to him. They had known about God from their ancestors and even witnessed God working through Israel. God’s love and mercy towards the Amalekites is explicitly clear:

Ezekiel 33:11 – As I live, declares the Almighty Lord , I don’t want wicked people to die. Rather, I want them to turn from their ways and live. Change the way you think and act! Turn from your wicked ways!

2 Peter 3:9 – God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

Furthermore, God positioned certain people around the Amalekites to remind them of Himself and His faithfulness. One of those groups were the Kenites, who lived in the Negev with the Amalekites:

Judges 1:16 – When the tribe of Judah left Jericho—the city of palms—the Kenites, who were descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, traveled with them into the wilderness of Judah. They settled among the people there, near the town of Arad in the Negev.

The Kenites were very familiar with God and His work through Israel:

Exodus 18:1-2, 5-11 – Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the Lord had rescued them from Egypt. Earlier, Moses had sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back to Jethro, who had taken them in. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, now came to visit Moses in the wilderness. He brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him, and they arrived while Moses and the people were camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent a message to Moses, saying, “I, Jethro, your father-in-law, am coming to see you with your wife and your two sons.” So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed low and kissed him. They asked about each other’s welfare and then went into Moses’ tent. Moses told his father-in-law everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and Egypt on behalf of Israel. He also told about all the hardships they had experienced along the way and how the Lord had rescued his people from all their troubles. Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians. “Praise the Lord ,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.”

Scripture is very clear that the Kenites and Amalekites lived together:

1 Samuel 15:6 – Saul sent this warning to the Kenites: “Move away from where the Amalekites live, or you will die with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites packed up and left.

Interestingly, this also shows that any sensible Amalekites would have had an opportunity to flee as well, and some did as we shall soon see.

God’s mercy continues to show up again and again. He always gives people plenty of time and opportunities to return to Him. The Amalekites had approximately 300 years to turn back to God. They were well well aware of God lifting Israel out of Egypt, yet they were the first to attack them anyway. They continued to repeatedly attack Israel even amongst the Kenites who also praised God.

The problem lies in the fact that the Amalekites were never going to change. God is all-knowing and knew this in advance. However, He still gives them plenty of time and opportunities so that we have written accounts of His mercy.

How do we know that they would never change? We also have accounts of those who avoided the Amalekite destruction. Instead of recognizing God’s mercy and turning back to Him, they kept getting more evil and walking further from God.

Haman was an Agagite, descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:8). Just as Hitler did, Haman tried to wipe out all of the Jews:

Esther 3:6, 8-10 – He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. Then Haman approached King Xerxes and said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live. If it please the king, issue a decree that they be destroyed, and I will give 10,000 large sacks of silver to the government administrators to be deposited in the royal treasury.” The king agreed, confirming his decision by removing his signet ring from his finger and giving it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.

The Amalekites were a group of Hitlers. They were on the same mission. What should one do with a group of Hitlers? Mr. Runyan says, “The image of Anne Frank writhing in pain while Adolf enjoys a latte presents a stark visual that there is something seriously wrong with Christian doctrine.” However, it is the Christian doctrine that says God destroyed the Hitlers and allowed the Anne Franks to live. According to Mr. Runyan, God is evil if He kills the Hitlers, yet, if He allows the Hitlers to live and murder the Anne Franks, then “there is something seriously wrong with Christian doctrine.” These are the types of contradictory statements that stem from worldviews without a God who is the absolute standard of morality.

This is the situation: The year is 1889 and you are in charge of the whole world. Hitler is born, and as you look at this seemingly innocent baby with that cute smile, you realize that this is the same Hitler that is going to murder 6,000,000 Jews in the very near future. The people of the world have no clue about the future. They only see an innocent infant. Do you kill infant Hitler, or allow him to grow up and murder the 6,000,000 Jews?

For those who live by a moral standard, the answer is simple, kill Hitler. It is not murder, it is justice being served. It is the same with the Amalekites. God knew the outcome of this group of Hitlers in advance if they were left to live. Justice needed to be served. Criticizm is going to come from the atheist regardless of the choice God makes.

For the second point, we will turn to #1, The Flood of Noah. As I read the author’s commentary, it becomes clear that he never read the Bible. He simply searches for verses that he can use against it.

God destroyed everything on the earth because it was corrupt and violent. Since God is the standard of good, I don’t see the problem here. Supposedly, God is evil because He made a good, righteous judgement. The atheist does not see it this way.

If this author was in charge of the world, this is what he thinks God should have done: “Well, you might think he’d start a school to teach people how to behave, have them go to counseling, get them interested in other stuff — like baseball or something. Anything to get their minds off their bad thoughts.”

This statement is hilarious! He thinks God should have started a school to teach people how to behave. This is what the synagogue & the church do! Nevermind the fact that God gave us a Book of instruction!

He continues, saying God should have had them go to counseling. This is the purpose of the institution of the family and the people of the church.

Finally, he thinks God should, “get them interested in other stuff — like baseball or something. Anything to get their minds off their bad thoughts.” This statement screams that this author doesn’t even see what is in front of his own eyes today, let alone history. We live in a time when there is more entertainment and more things to, “get their minds off their bad thoughts” than any other time in history, yet we live in one of the most violent and corrupt times in all of history.

Here is just a sampling of the counseling and schooling that God had in place:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Proverbs 19:8 – Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.

Proverbs 22:6 – Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

1 Corinthians 7:2-5 – But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Galatiaans 6:1-3 – Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

God offered plenty of opportunity for schooling and counceling on how to be good and righteous. But that is not the whole story. Peter records something interesting about Noah:

2 Peter 2:5 – God didn’t spare the ancient world either. He brought the flood on the world of ungodly people, but he protected Noah and seven other people. Noah was his messenger who told people about the kind of life that has God’s approval.

It is very clear that Noah was telling people about God. Genesis 7:6 says, “Noah was 600 years old when the flood came to the earth.” Once again, God’s mercy shows up as Noah preached for hundreds of years giving those people plenty of time to turn back to God.

It is clear that Noah preached before the flood. He warned people about what was coming. Those people chose not to listen. They ignored Noah, and most likely even mocked him much the same way atheists mock the Bible today. The fact that they chose to ignore God’s message through Noah confirms that they did not want anything to do with God; the standard of good and the Source of all good things. Instead, they chose to reject good, which leaves only evil.

God did not murder those people. He created all people to live for the rest of eternity. He simply moved them to the location of their choice, a location that is complete separation from God, the Source of all good. We call this place Hell. Since it is removed from the Source all good, only evil, pain, and suffering will be experienced there.

The sad part is that not much has changed since the time of Noah. Jesus tells us this:

Matthew 24:37-39 – “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day.  In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.  People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.”

Just as Noah spread the Word of God in his time, the church spreads the Word of God in our time. Many people still ignore and mock the message. God is on a pursuit to save every person who is willing to turn to Him. One cannot blame God and call Him evil when it is his or her choice to accept God’s pursuit. He will not force anyone into a relationship with Himself. Those who choose to separate from Him will eventually be separated for all of eternity.

This brings us to the final point, #158: Jesus. Once again, we find verses pulled out of context. On this particular point, the author MUST hope that those reading his post do not open the Bible, because his errors, out of context quoting and absurd mockery will make a complete fool of him. As much as I enjoy satire, it only works, and is only funny, when it contains a remarkable amount of truth.

The author starts by saying, “God killed his son in order to stop himself from torturing people forever after they die for something that someone else supposedly did thousands of years before they were born.” Really? Where is the scripture to support this claim? He doesn’t even show one verse because even out-of-context verses could’t be misquoted to say this.

This is what the Bible says:

Deuteronomy 24:16 – Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.

Ezekiel 18:20-23 – The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?” says the Sovereign Lord. “Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

Galatians 6:5 – For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As can be clearly seen, it only took this author one sentence to make an error and contradict the Bible. One lesson to be learned here is if you are going to mock and criticize something or someone, you should know what you are talking about before doing so. An error in the first sentence is clear evidence that this author doesn’t have the slightest clue what he is talking about.

The Bible is very clear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that everyone is responsible for their own conduct. However, the biggest problem I hear from atheists is with, “Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.” The atheist does not think he or she deserves to die.

Cell phones require a source of electricity to keep the battery charged. If you leave your phone disconnected from the source, it will die. You cannot blame the source. It is your responsibility to connect it to the source.

It is the same thing with God, the source of all good:

James 1:17 – Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

God pursues each one of us. If we choose to ignore the source of all good and walk away from Him, then we deserve that consequence. One cannot expect to live a life separate from the source of good and still recieve good things. Separation from the source of good can only lead to the opposite of good, evil and torture. There is no middle ground. It is a good thing God gives us these words: “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”

God is calling us back to Himself, the Source of all good. He gives us plenty of images of what it will be like if we choose to separate from Him. He knows that there is no good there and wishes that no one would go there. God does not torture people. People torture themselves by choosing to separate from the Source of all good. God merely removes them from His presence as they demand. He will not force them into His presence.

Jesus said, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”(John 4:14) If you choose to ignore the water that gives eternal life, then you deserve to die.

The author continues, “It’s hard to imagine something worse than a father planning to kill his own son. Except maybe a father killing his son in order to keep himself from torturing billions of others forever.”

This sentence screams that this author has no clue about the nature of God. His thinking would be great if the father and the son were two different beings. However, this is not the case. Jesus was God and by His own will, humbled Himself to walk among us and die for us:

Philippians 2:6-8 – Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

The real issue is why God would do this. The answer is found in Genesis 15. To fully understand what is happening, some historical context is required.

Most cultures in the days of Abraham handled promises with a covenant. In its original form, when two people would “cut a covenant”, they would take an animal and cut it in half, spilling the blood between the parts. The two people would then stand between the parts and declare, “if I do not keep my side of the promise, then you will spill my blood as we have done to this animal.”

The covenant was not a religious practice. It was a binding agreement similar to a contract. However, unlike a contract of today, which can easily be discarded, one could not get out of a covenant. Once a person made a promise, he or she was bound to keep it if it was handled by a covenant.

God calls Abraham and gives His promise in Genesis 12:

Genesis 12: 1-3, 7 – The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you…I will give this land to your descendants.”

Years went by and both Abraham and Sarah were old and God still had not given them a child:

Genesis 17:17 – Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”

Without a son, the promise that Abraham’s descendants would inherit the land and be a blessing to the whole world would not come true. That was Abraham’s cry to God:

Genesis 15:2-4 – But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord , what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”

Abraham said the same thing we still say today, “Prove it to me.”

Genesis 15:8 – But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord , how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”

Enter the covenant. God tells Abraham to get some animals (Genesis 15:9-11). Since the cutting of a covenant was standard procedure for promises in that culture, God does not explain to Abraham what to do with the animals. Abraham already knew what to do with them. After preparing the animals, it is recorded:

Genesis 15:12 – As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him.

Abraham was terrified because he knew that no person could keep his part of the covenant. The covenant was this:

Genesis 17:1-9 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility.”

The amazing part is that God does not allow Abraham to step between the parts, but instead, passes through twice Himself, carrying the burden of both sides of the promise:

Genesis 15:17 – After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.

It was at this point that God said that He would die for us. We could never keep our end of the covenant, so God passed through on our behalf. He declared that if we failed on our part, then we would spill His blood. And that is exactly what happened. He was beaten till His blood was spilled and His ribs were showing, then He was nailed to a cross.

This is a God who saw a bullet heading straight for you. He jumped in front of you so He could take the bullet for you. This author says we should not trust that kind of God. If he wants to push God out of the way and take his own bullet, then he deserves the bullet. That is on him. Your bullet is in your control. Do you take it, or let Jesus take it for you?

6. Failure to Return

Mr. Runyan starts this point by stating, “the disciples, and other followers were all convinced that the end of times was near and that an earthly kingdom presided over by Jesus would be established within the lifetime of some people who were then currently alive.”

This statement is partially true. However, this does not prove that Jesus failed to return. Furthermore, the verses that Mr. Runyan uses to support his claim are not used in context and do not support his claim. I will start by explaining his supporting verses in their context, then finish by showing how Jesus corrected the thinking of those that were looking for His earthly kingdom within their lifetime.

The first verse used to support the claim that Jesus failed to return is Matthew 16:28, “And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

This verse is not talking about the earthly ministry of Jesus. If you keep reading the next few verses right after this, you will discover that Jesus did fulfill this statement:

Matthew 17:1-9 – Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”  And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Peter makes it very clear that this was “the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” Furthermore, Peter knew that the earthly kingdom of Jesus would not take place before he died:

2 Peter 1:14-18 – For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life,  so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone. For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Peter, an eyewitness to the words and events of Jesus, did originally think Jesus came to set up His earthly ministry. However, before he wrote his letter, Jesus corrected his misunderstanding of the scriptures. By the time Peter wrote his letters, it is obvious that he did not expect Jesus to return before he died. He understood that James, John, and he had already seen “the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” This fulfilled the words, “some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” James, John, and Peter were the “some” that Jesus was referring to.

The other verse used to support the claim that Jesus failed to return is:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

Without any context, this verse does appear to support Mr. Runyan’s claim. The words “we who are still alive” stand out, so we need to look at the context to find out who Paul is referring to.

The first thing to understand is that the New Testament is mainly composed of letters. It was not written as a book. Paul, who planted most of the early churches, was writing letters to those churches to address issues and answer their questions. They were all written around the same time, so we can examine them to see if Paul thought Jesus was going to return before he died.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul explains this clearly:

Philippians 1:20-24 – For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Paul clearly expected that he would not be with Jesus until he died. He clearly points out that it would be more beneficial for himself to be dead so he could “go” and be with Christ. He most certainly did not expect Jesus to return before he died.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, those words “we are alive” show up again:

2 Corinthians 4:11, 14 – While we are alive, we are constantly handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that the life of Jesus is also shown in our mortal nature. We know that the one who brought the Lord Jesus back to life will also bring us back to life through Jesus. He will present us to God together with you.

Paul is telling us that christians are constantly being handed over to death. It is an ongoing thing that continues to this day. Daily news reports show hundreds of christians getting beheaded simply because they are christians. The “we” that Paul is talking about in these verses are the christians in general. He is not talking about those who are standing right there. This is made even more obvious by the fact that Paul, who wrote the letter, was not even there. He used “we” in the context of every follower of Christ regardless of the time he or she lived. Since “we” are still here, that also applies to those of us who are current followers of Christ. If Jesus comes tomorrow, the dead will rise first before those of us who are still alive. Then “we” who are still alive will be caught up to meet with them. Once again, the verse used to support this claim fails when put into context.

Finally, I mentioned in the beginning that it was partially true that, “the disciples, and other followers were all convinced that the end of times was near and that an earthly kingdom presided over by Jesus would be established within the lifetime of some people who were then currently alive.” We will now examine this.

Before the birth of Jesus, and during His life, the Jews were looking for the Messiah. The word “messiah” simply means “anointed one.” Generally, kings would be anointed, providing many messiahs. However, the specific Messiah that the Jews were waiting for would be different.

The Messiah predicted by the prophecies had to descend from the line of David. Because of this, the Jews were expecting an earthly king. He was predicted to deliver them from their oppressors and set up His kingdom. He would be the most famous king and would restore peace.

Hints that the Jews were expecting an earthly king are found many times in scripture. When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) As an earthly king, he would be a threat to king Herod. So he set out to kill Jesus and remove the threat:

Matthew 2:13, 16 – After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.

The reason they expected an earthly Messiah is because they misunderstood their own scriptures. Jesus pointed this out on many occasions:

Matthew 22:41-46 – Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “He is the son of David.” Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” No one could answer him.

Jesus was referring to Psalm 110:1 which the Pharasees knew very well. He was showing them that they misinterpreted the fact that He was merely an earthly king. He expands on this even further:

John 7:31-36 – Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me.  You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”

It is very clear that Jesus had no intention on setting up an earthly kingdom at this time. The claim that He did is simply false and has no supporting verses. It also is quite obvious why the Jewish people did think he was here to set up an earthly kingdom. They misunderstood the scriptures and couldn’t even figure it out when Jesus told them. Jesus was the king they were looking for, but they didn’t even know it:

John 1:10-11 – He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

The Jews were looking so hard for an earthly king that they were going to force Jesus to be that king:

John 6:14-15 – When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”  When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

The facts are straight forward that Jesus did not think He was here to be an earthly king yet. In fact, there are many places in the Bible where Jesus refutes this very notion. One in particular takes place with Pilate right before He is sentenced to death. Jesus is very clear that His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.

John 18:33-34, 36 – Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

Furthermore, Jesus was also very specific that no one knew when He would return:

Acts 1:6-8 – So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Matthew 24:36-39 – “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day.  In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.  People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

The evidence is clear. Jesus never taught that He would set up His earthly kingdom while some of those people were still alive.

Finally, Mr. Runyan leaves a quote by Professor Stephen L. Harris. Mr. Harris is a member of the Westar Institute and the Jesus Seminar. As discussed in point #1, these self-proclaimed scholars are highly unreliable. This is no exception as we shall see.

In the quote, Mr. Harris states, “Instead of freeing Jews from oppressors and thereby fulfilling God’s ancient promises—for land, nationhood, kingship, and blessing—Jesus died a “shameful” death, defeated by the very political powers the Messiah was prophesied to overcome.”

Was Jesus “defeated by the very political powers the Messiah was prophesied to overcome?” According to the Bible the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, the Bible is very clear that Jesus was not defeated by any political power, but rather betrayed by the very people He came to save.

John 1:10-11 – He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

Peter was very specific when he stood up in front of several thousand Jews and said the following:

Acts 2:36 – “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Acts 4:8-10 – Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.

Furthermore, Pilate and the Roman government found Jesus to be an innocent man:

John 18:38 – “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.

When Pilate couldn’t get through to the Jews, he was sure to point out that this was not his doing, but that of the Jews. The Jews, Jesus own people, were responsible for His death. Even they acknowledged and accepted this fact:

Matthew 27: 24-25 – Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”

The facts are straight forward and clear. The quotes used from the Bible do not speak of Jesus returning to set up an earthly kingdom before their death. The quote by the Jesus Seminar fellow, Professor Stephen L. Harris, is simply another unfactual statement that contradicts the Bible. It is one of deception, where Professor Harris plays off of the ignorance of his readers, hoping they do not open their Bibles.

There is simply no proof that Jesus failed to return. It is very clear that by the time the writers of the New Testament wrote their documents, they understood that they would all be dead before Jesus returned to set up His earthly kingdom. It is also very clear that the Roman government did not think Jesus was setting up an earthly kingdom. They did not see Him as a threat an found Him innocent.

7. Early Christians were uneducated and superstitious

First, I need to give Mr. Runyan two thumbs up for this point. This is an extremely powerful argument against the Christian faith. It is not because it is a good argument, but that it is not a common argument. Therefore most Christians have not encountered it, have not researched it, and cannot answer it.

However, as we progress, it will quickly become obvious that the argument is just another desperate attempt to discredit the Christian faith as the non-believer grasps into the air hoping to catch something he or she could use. Since this is a rebuttal, I recommend reading Mr. Runyan’s argument first, or you will get lost in this one.

Before we get started, something needs to be pointed out. Atheists consistently point the finger at Christians saying they are incapable of critical thinking. I always get a chuckle from this because atheists always have a quick response to any objection. They can come up with hundreds of arguments “without even thinking.”

Therefore, we should define “critical thinking.” It is defined as “a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion.” This definition is taken from:

One thing that stands out is that most atheist arguments never include source material. It is almost exclusively a quote of a quote which becomes obvious in this point. They do not question the arguments and conclusions, but instead simply accept all the arguments and conclusions they are exposed to and copy and paste them into their posts. For example, while I was researching for my response to this post I discovered almost a full dozen sites that simply copied and pasted Mr. Runyan’s entire blog. Not a single one of them questioned the arguments and researched the points to see what evidence was involved, or if the arguments were even factual.

Furthermore, the quotes they use are many times intentionally pulled so far out of context that it says the opposite of what the author intended. The original piece where the quote was taken from is then hidden by a deceptive citing practice, making the original piece hard to find. Once again, they play off of the ignorance of their readers knowing that most people will never check the original piece. This is why it is easy for an atheist to respond quickly. They fly through the internet to find something that agrees with them and quickly post it “without thinking critically.”

The Christian cannot respond as quickly because it takes time to compile source material, analize it, put it into context, and make a reasonable response. That is what true critical thinkers do. By the end of this point it will become clear that Christians have always been more literate and contain a higher number of critical thinkers than any other worldview.

Since this is a rebuttal, I do need to point out that Mr. Runyan has proven himself to be a fine critical thinker. He is sharing posts from the opposition on his page. He said in an email, “the more people see our material, the more they will have the information to make an informed choice. There’s nothing worse than apathy when it comes to this question.” There simply is no better form of critical thinking than that. With that out of the way, let’s begin.

First, we will start with the quotes used to support this claim, then we will zoom in on the early Christians to check the facts. The quotes were copied and pasted from:

From the first quote, it becomes clear that none of these copy and paste atheists researched the information on that website. They simply saw what they wanted to see and ate it up like their favorite dessert. The website gives the impression that it is authoritative with all of its quotes. However, when we look at the references, it gets really interesting.

The first quote given is by, as the website states, “the great historian Edward Gibbon.” The quote, as these atheists have used it, is recorded as if Gibbon is summarizing a fact about the Christians. I found it interesting that the quote starts mid-sentence and has (…) in the middle of a sentence.

Obviously, one who claims to be a critical thinker would want to see the context around the quote and discover what information is hiding behind the (…). The reference from the website shows that the quote came from the following:

Gibbon, Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: p187

Great! I own this book. The problem is that “The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon is a 6 volume collection. I found it odd that the author of the site failed to mention the volume. After searching page 187 in all 6 volumes, I was unable to find the quote. After several weeks of research,  I was finally able to find the quote on page 342 of Volume 2 in Chapter 15. Time to see what this website is hiding.

As I mentioned earlier, the quote starts mid-sentence. The first part of the sentence states, “it is urged by the adversaries of the faith, the new sect of the Christians was almost entirely composed of the dregs of the populace…” Hiding behind the (…) is “such was the charge of malice and infidelity.” Gibbon was clearly not summarizing this about the Christians as the author wants us to believe. He was merely reporting what the “malice and infidels” were saying about them. This is extremely deceptive quoting showing how desperate these people are to make a case.

This collection of books is now going to present a huge problem for the atheists who try to prove their case from it. Since they appeal to its authority, even calling Gibbon a “great historian”, to prove their case, they should have no problem accepting what it actually says in its appropriate context. If they wish to discredit Gibbon, they would simply be arguing with their own source. Therefore, I will use the atheists’ own source to prove the opposite of their case throughout this rebuttal.

The other quote by skeptic J.M. Robertson is documented as:

Robertson, History of Christianity: p61

The correct title is “A Short History of Christianity.” After searching through the 1st edition from 1902 and then the 2nd edition from 1913, the quote does not exist on page 61. In fact, after reading the first 90 pages of both editions, the quote was not there. Yet, these atheists copy and paste this quote “without thinking.”

Both of the quotes used to support this claim are useless. All that is left is Mr. Runyan’s words which are merely opinion. Now we can separate the facts from opinions.

The first thing to point out is that in its earliest form, Christianity was not a new religion. It was a sect of Judaism just like the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots. Early Christians used the same scriptures as the other sects. They also kept many of the same practices for much of the 1st century. These practices are recorded in the Mishnah.

The Mishnah is an early document dating around 217 AD. It explains the educational process of Jewish children in the 1st century in Pirkei Avot 5:21. It says children began learning how to read and write Scripture at age 5. At age ten, they began to commit Scripture to memory. Most women would end their education here and start working in the house. Age thirteen was the age of accountability; time to put into practice what has been committed to memory. At this age, many of the men would end their education and learn the family trade. Those that continued their education would begin learning Rabbinic interpretations and legal decisions at age 15. At age 18, they were ready and prepared for marriage. At age 20, those that chose to do so would pursue a vocation; we call this college today. At age 30, they are ready to teach.

This was the educational process of first century Jews. Since Christianity was a sect of Judaism, it followed the same process. No other worldview placed such a high value on education as that of Judaism and Christianity. Education was built into the very foundation of these worldviews.

The popular first century Jewish historian, Josephus stated, “Above all we pride ourselves on the education of our children, and regard as the most essential task in life the observance of our laws and of the pious practices, based thereupon, which we have inherited” (1). It is clear that education and observance of the laws were of most importance for first century Jews. Early Christians, being a sect of Judaism, were of that education system. In fact, Mr. Runyan’s own source, Edward Gibbon, points out, “Even the study of philosophy was at length introduced among the Christians” (2).

Christians were not a group of uneducated, superstitious people as atheists want us to believe. While some were uneducated, as it is with all worldviews, most were either educated professionals or of some trade. Gibbons says, “As the greater number were of some trade or profession, it was incumbent on them, by the strictest integrity and the fairest dealing, to remove the suspicions which the profane are too apt to conceive against the appearances of sanctity” (3).

Mr. Runyan says, “The fallacies and deceptions surrounding Christianity were plainly evident in the first hundred years of its existence, allowing the learned class to summarily dismiss it as a fraudulent enterprise.” However, his own source, Gibbon, once again rejects him, “Our curiosity is naturally prompted to inquire by what means the Christian faith obtained so remarkable a victory over the established religions of the earth. To this inquiry, an obvious but satisfactory answer may be returned; that it was owing to the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself, and to the ruling providence of its great Author” (4).

While Mr. Runyan says the fallacies were evident, Gibbon says Christianity spread rapidly because of the convincing evidence. Christianity was not created due to a superstition. It exploded onto the scene because of a real person and a real event with strong supporting evidence. In fact, Gibbon says that Christians rejected every mode of superstition, so much to the point that they were considered atheists by their protestors:

“Every Christian rejected with contempt the superstitions of his family, his city, and his province. The whole body of Christians unanimously refused to hold any communion with the gods of Rome, of the empire, and of mankind” (5).

“Malice and prejudice concurred in representing the Christians as a society of atheists…They had separated themselves (they gloried in the confession) from every mode of superstition which was received in any part of the globe by the various temper of polytheism” (6).

Mr. Runyan continues, “It was only after a few centuries passed followed by the adoption of Christianity as the Roman state religion that it began to attract members of the landed and ruling class.” Edward Gibbon would say that Mr. Runyan never even researched early Christianity. Gibbon once again refutes Mr. Runyan’s claim, “Several Roman citizens were brought before the tribunal of Pliny, and he soon discovered that a great number of persons of every order of men in Bithynia had deserted the religion of their ancestors. His unsuspected testimony may, in this instance, obtain more credit than the bold challenge of Tertullian, when he addresses himself to the fears as well as to the humanity of the proconsul of Africa, by assuring him that, if he persists in his cruel intentions, he must decimate Carthage, and that he will find among the guilty many persons of his own rank, senators and matrons of noblest extraction, and the friends or relations of his most intimate friends. It appears, however, that about forty years afterwards the emperor Valerian was persuaded of the truth of this assertion, since in one of his rescripts he evidently supposes that senators, Roman knights, and ladies of quality were engaged in the Christian sect” (7).

Furthermore, if Mr. Runyan wants to say that it took several hundred years for the landed and ruling class to become Christians, he must explain the explosion of Christianity in Alexandria, Egypt. Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that Mark was the first one to go to Alexandria during the reign of Emporer Claudius between 41-44 A.D. Alexandria was the home of the largest library in the history of the world up to that point, simply called The Great Library. It was the intellectual hot-spot of the world. In chapter 16 of book 2 of his Church History, Eusebius says, “the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life.”

Finally, Mr. Runyan concludes about these believers, “it was often more for political purposes than an expression of genuine faith.” Not sure what history Mr. Runyan is looking at, but all early Christians of every
class were being pursecuted and killed. They gained nothing politically, yet were willing to die for what they believed. Faith does not get more genuine than that.

Gibbon explains, “The apologies which were repeatedly addressed to the successors of Trajan are filled with the most pathetic complaints, that the Christians, who obeyed the dictates, and solicited the liberty, of conscience, were alone, among all the subjects of the Roman empire, excluded from the common benefits of their auspicious government” (7).

Gibbon then concludes, “If we seriously consider the purity of the Christian religion, the sanctity of its moral precepts, and the innocent as well as austere lives of the greater number of those who during the first ages embraced the faith of the gospel, we should naturally suppose, that so benevolent a doctrine would have been received with due reverence, even by the unbelieving world; that the learned and the polite, however they may deride the miracles, would have esteemed the virtues, of the new sect; and that the magistrates, instead of persecuting, would have protected an order of men who yielded the most passive obedience to the laws, though they declined the active cares of war and government. If, on the other hand, we recollect the universal toleration of Polytheism, as it was invariably maintained by the faith of the people, the incredulity of philosophers, and the policy of the Roman senate and emperors, we are at a loss to discover what new offence the Christians had committed, what new provocation could exasperate the mild indifference of antiquity, and what new motives could urge the Roman princes, who beheld, without concern, a thousand fonns of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway, to inflict a severe punishment on any part of their subjects, who had chosen for themselves a singular, but an inoffensive, mode of faith and worship” (8).

Once again, Mr. Runyan is in contradiction with his own source. While he wants us to believe that Christians had a political purpose, the great historian, Edward Gibbon says Christians, alone, were excluded from the common benefits of their government and they declined the active cares of war and government and instead received severe punishment because of their faith and worship.

Although atheists will try to use and misquote Gibbon in hopes that their readers do not check references, I highly suggest reading Chapters 15 & 16 of this book. Gibbon unintentionally destroys Mr. Runyan’s argument as he traces the history of the growth of Christianity.

I will conclude this point with a look at the built-in educational system and the assumption of literacy in Christianity. The first thing to notice is the many Old Testament references by the New Testament writers. These writers assume that their audience has access to and is familiar with the Old Testament. A quick example of this comes from Matthew 1:22-23:

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Literacy is assumed by the New Testament writers and this is consistent with the educational system of the Mishnah. Furthermore, Christianity is all about discipleship. A disciple is simply a student. Jesus trained twelve disciples. When the disciples were ready, Jesus told them, “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

From this point, the disciples became apostles, which were the teachers. This is how the church still functions today, although much heresy has slipped in as Jesus predicted. One thing that makes Christianity unique is that we possess letters from every generation from the first apostles all the way to the modern day with no gaps. For a religion that is supposedly uneducated and illiterate, we possess more writings than any other worldview in history.

1. H. St. J. Thackeray, Josephus: The Life, Against Apion (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), p187

2. Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2, Fred DeFau & Company, New York, (1906), p343.

3. ibid, Vol. 2, p302

4. ibid, Vol. 2, p262

5. ibid, Vol. 3, p6

6. ibid, Vol. 3, p7

7. ibid, Vol. 3, p2

8. ibid, Vol. 3, p1

 8. Borrowed Miraculous Elements

This is an interesting point. One who tries to argue in favor of this point loses credibility at an accelerated rate. No other point can be taken seriously from one who offers this objection to Christianity.

This point also highlights what I call the “school bully” syndrome, as demonstrated by most atheists. It is well known that school bullys will criticize others in the areas they lack. Since most atheist arguments are weak, suffering from lack of evidence and poor critical thinking, they resort to saying that Christians do not think critically. This makes atheists feel as though their arguments are more credible. As we have seen through nearly every point thus far, including the intro, Christians have been targeted as poor critical thinkers while the arguments put forth against Christians suffer from lack of research, lack of evidence, poor critical thinking, and deceitful quotes.

Mr. Runyan starts by saying, “Most of the miracles discussed in the Gospels were common elements of pre-Christian pagan religions.” Then he lists twenty-one bulletpoints that he believes Christians basically stole from pagan religions. The problem is that he makes no effort to support his claim or give any examples. This is because there is no support and there are no examples. The link that he provides as support for his claim is no more credible, once again playing off of the ignorance of its readers. It is filled with quotes so as to appear authoritative, yet fails to cite even a single source. One cannot easily find any of the quotes.

Kersey Graves was one of the first people to make this argument against Christianity in his 1875 book, “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Christianity Before Christ”. After reading the book, the famous agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman noticed something interesting that every person who uses this argument has in common. He concluded, “Possibly the most striking thing about all of these amazing parallels to the Christian claims about Jesus is the equally amazing fact that Graves provides not a single piece of documentation for any of them. They are all asserted, on his own authority. If a reader wants to look up the stories about Buddha or Mithra or Cadmus, there is no place to turn. Graves does not name the sources of his information. Even so, these are the kinds of claims one can find throughout the writings of the mythicists, even those writing today, 140 years later. And as with Graves, in almost every instance the claims are unsubstantiated” (1).

A clear example of this is at the link provided by Mr. Runyan. About two-thirds down the page is an image of Mithra. The caption below the image says, “Mithra springing to birth in the womb, from an egg.” This writer MUST hope that no one researches the claim. I copied and pasted that caption into Google and, to no surprise, discovered that the only site claiming this was the one Mr. Runyan used as support for his argument. However, every scholar agrees that Mithra was not birthed from an egg, but emerged as a full grown man from a rock, wearing a hat. The owner of the site clearly made up the story to decieve its readers. Because of that, I will waste no more time on the supporting page, but will focus on the issues Mr. Runyan has brought up.

With the lack of source material and the vague descriptions, it is quite clear that no serious research or critical thinking went into this point. Instead, it was a quick internet search to feed some itching ears. With that in mind, I will show that Christianity is truely unique and has very little in common with pagan religions.

There are two important points which make it near impossible for Christianity to steal from these pagan religions. First, as we saw in the last point, Christianity was not a new religion or religious movement in its early stage. It was simply a sect of Judaism. All of the content for Christianity was already present in the Jewish Scriptures. The first Christians were Jews and were very specific in stating where these claims about Jesus came from. Since they were very specific in pointing to the Jewish Scriptures as their source, those that say Christianity stole from other religions must then prove that the said borrowing predated Judaism.

For example, one of the most popular allegations is that Christians stole the idea of the virgin birth from pagan gods. This point sits near the top of Mr. Runyan’s list. However, you don’t even need to go any further than the first chapter of the first book in the New Testament to find the following:

Matthew 1:22-23 – All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Matthew, a Jew, was speaking to a Jewish audience. In the last point, we saw that the Jews memorized the scriptures by age 13. The audience would have clearly understood this verse from Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14 – All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Since Isaiah was written between 700-800 BC, any idea of a virgin birth must predate that in order to claim that the Jews stole it. The idea that Christians would have had access to virgin birth stories from 800 plus years before their time is ludicrous.

The second reason that it is near impossible for Christianity to steal from pagan gods is because nearly all of the gods used as examples of this copying are from mystery religions. Access to the cult was nearly impossible because of the secrecy and initiation processes. One source speaking about Mithraism says it like this:

“The lack of good written sources on Mithraism is largely due to its status as a mystery religion, in which the meaning of its iconography and rituals was a secret known only to initiates. Insiders did not record details of their religion and outsiders did not know much about it” (2).

Bart Ehrman notes, “the reason a religion like Mithraism is called a mystery cult by scholars is that the followers of the religion were bound by a vow of secrecy and so never revealed the mysteries of their religion, either their practices or their beliefs” (3).

This point that Mr. Runyan is trying to make burst onto the scene in the 19th century. Scholars found the theory so absurd that they either did not even address it, or they reduced it to footnotes. It vanished after a brief existence. However, with new historical, scientific, and archaeological discoveries confirming the Bible, the theory has resurfaced as a desperate attempt to avoid the logical conclusions of these discoveries. It has been popularized by movies such as “Zeitgeist” and touched upon by celebrities such as Bill Maher.

Although the Zeitgeist movie has been successful in promoting this idea to some, most atheists do not even accept this argument. The Atheist Experience, a weekly live call-in television show, has been asked by many viewers what they thought of the Zeitgeist movie and its argument against Christianity. So many, in fact, that they wrote a stock email as a response. They graciously shared the email on their web page stating that the part about Christianity was, “an unscholarly, sophomoric, horribly flawed, over-simplification that tries to portray Christianity as nothing more than the next incarnation of the astrologically themed religions that preceded it.”

The email then continues, “Zeitgeist is perhaps one of the most damaging films I’ve ever seen, because people who don’t exercise proper skepticism buy into a flawed story and then repeat it. They may convince other folks, and what we’ll end up with are a bunch of people who reject Christianity, for example, for very bad reasons – and the minute they come face to face with someone who can defend Christianity from these easily dismissed claims, they’re likely to not simply be convinced they were wrong but also convinced that Christianity is therefore true (after all, we’re talking about folks who weren’t bothered to investigate the truth in the first place)” (4).

All of this is not to say that we don’t see some similarities. Paul says this:

Romans 1:19-21 – They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like.

What Paul is saying is that throughout every age, all people have witnessed the basic laws of science and the order in the universe. Although we didn’t have names for such things as Cause and Effect and Thermodynamics, all people still witnessed it and it all points directly to God. The problem was that many people thought up foolish ideas of what God was like. This is what we should expect to see if there truely is a God. However, man-made views of God are very different than what God says about Himself. Paul concludes:

Romans 1:22-23 – Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

This is what we have seen throughout all ages; people have been trying to describe what God is like. All of those descriptions include material elements, especially the image of the god. Most, if not all, look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles just as Paul describes. So let’s look at a few of these supposed similarities.

One thing we should expect to see in any story about God is a story about where He came from and how He was born. All of the birth stories should include a miraculous element, otherwise there would be nothing special to note. However, the only similarity to note about the birth story of the one true God and man-made gods are that they are miraculous, just as we should expect. From that point on, they are completely different. Man-made god stories always feature a physical, material element which can be visualized, displaying the finite thoughts of man. Stories about the true God cannot be visualized, displaying the infinite God.

The first thing to note is that the God of the Bible is eternal, something no pagan god can claim. Most pagan gods were born to parents, some having siblings. Others simply emerge, but there is always a story of where they come from. The God of the Bible has no parents and no siblings. There is no story of where He came from because He has always been. Eternity is not something that the finite mind can envision, yet, the Bible speaks clearly about the eternal God. From the very first verse, the Bible assumes His existence with no story of how He was made or where He came from:

Genesis 1:1- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Isaiah 40:28 – Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Habakkuk 1:12 – O  Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal

So when we come to the story of the birth of Jesus, we need to understand that this is not a story of a created being that is born. This is not a story of where God came from and how He came to be. This is the one true eternal God “who is, who always was, and who is still to come” entering into humanity to fulfill the covenant in Genesis 15. We talked about this in point 5, but let’s do it again.

Most cultures in the days of Abraham handled promises with a covenant. In its original form, when two people would “cut a covenant”, they would take an animal and cut it in half, spilling the blood between the parts. The two people would then stand between the parts and declare, “if I do not keep my side of the promise, then you will spill my blood as we have done to this animal.”

This covenant was not a religious practice. It was a binding agreement similar to a contract. However, unlike a contract of today, which can easily be discarded, one could not get out of a covenant. Once a person made a promise, he or she was bound to keep it if it was handled by a covenant.

God calls Abraham and gives His promise in Genesis 12:

Genesis 12: 1-3, 7 – The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you…I will give this land to your descendants.”

Years went by and both Abraham and Sarah were old and God still had not given them a child:

Genesis 17:17 – Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”

Without a son, the promise that Abraham’s descendants would inherit the land and be a blessing to the whole world would not come true. That was Abraham’s cry to God:

Genesis 15:2-4 – But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord , what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.”

Abraham said the same thing we still say today, “Prove it to me.”

Genesis 15:8 – But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord , how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”

Enter the covenant. God tells Abraham to get some animals (Genesis 15:9-11). Since the cutting of a covenant was standard procedure for promises in that culture, God does not explain to Abraham what to do with the animals. Abraham already knew what to do with them. After preparing the animals, it is recorded:

Genesis 15:12 – As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him.

Abraham was terrified because he knew that no person could keep his part of the covenant. The covenant was this:

Genesis 17:1, 9 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility.”

God simply wants us to have a full relationship with Himself, but knows we will always wander off. Knowing this, God does not allow Abraham to step between the parts, but instead, passes through twice Himself, carrying the burden of both sides of the promise:

Genesis 15:17 – After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.

It was at this point that God said that He would die for us. We could never keep our end of the covenant, so God passed through on our behalf. He declared that if we failed on our part, then we would spill His blood. And that is exactly what happened. He was beaten till His blood was spilled and His ribs were showing, then He was nailed to a cross. Since God is not a material being, the only way He could let us spill His blood was if He was born as a human being. He did this through the virgin, Mary, to fulfill the prophecy:

Isaiah 7:14 – All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

No other birth story in history is even remotely close to the birth of Jesus. In fact, if we took even the smallest parts from many stories, we couldn’t even piece anything together that would be similar to the birth of Jesus. So let’s look at two of the most popular birth comparisons.

Mithras – According to the leading Mithraic scholars, David Ulansey and Franz Cumont, Mithras emerged from a rock (5) wearing a Phrygian cap and wielding a knife in one hand with a torch in the other (6). Nothing here like Jesus. In fact, nothing at all like the God of the Bible. Mithra had a begining while the true God did not. Due to the cult’s secrecy, we possess almost no literary evidence about the beliefs of Mithraism. The only texts that we have are not even from cult members themselves, but from early Church fathers who mentioned Mithraism in order to attack it, and from Platonic philosophers who attempted to find support in Mithraic symbolism for their own philosophical ideas. Therefore nothing else is known about the birth of Mithras.

Horus – It is hard to find anything solid on Horus because the name, Horus, was simply a general term for many different falcon gods. Some were worshipped throughout Egypt, while others were local cults (7). The most popular story of Horus, and the one compared to Jesus, tells of a miraculous birth. A great explanation of the comparison is found on the Stupid Evil Bastard website:

“Horus’s mother is Isis. Isis was married to Osiris. We do not know for what length of time, but presumably the marriage was consummated. Whether it was or wasn’t doesn’t matter though. After Osiris is killed, Isis puts him back together again (he was hacked into 14 pieces) except for his penis which was tossed in a river or a lake. Iris fashions a substitute penis for him, humps him and here comes Horus. There is nothing virginal about that” (8).

Let’s move right into gods dying and raising from the dead. After all, the central claim of Jesus is that He died and rose three days later to atone for the sins of the world. If there were other gods who did something similar, it would pose a problem for Christianity. Bart Ehrman responds:

“Can anyone cite a single source of any kind that clearly indicates that people in rural Palestine, say, in the days of Peter and James, worshipped a pagan god who died and rose again?  You can trust me, if there was a source like that, it would be talked about by everyone interested in early Christianity. It doesn’t exist” (9).

“Where do any of the ancient sources speak of a divine man who was crucified as an atonement for sin? So far as I know, there are no parallels to this central Christian claim. What has been invented here is not the Christian Jesus but the mythicist claims about Jesus. I am not saying that I think Jesus really did die to atone for the sins of the world. I am saying that the Christian claims about Jesus’s atoning sacrifice were not lifted from pagan claims about divine men. Dying to atone for sin was not part of the ancient pagan mythology. Mythicists who claim that it was are simply imagining things” (10).

To sum it up, there is not a shred of evidence that suggests the Christian claims were copied from pagan gods. Of those that make these claims, Ehrman says, “they have derived the details from sources that – in the judgement of the scholars who are actually experts in this material – simply cannot be relied upon” (10).

1. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Harper Collins, New York, 2012, p211

2. “Mithraism.” 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 14 Apr. 2016. <>

3. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist, p213

4. “The unofficial Atheist Experience response to Zeitgeist.” 9 Dec. 2008. Web. Accessed 21 Apr. 2016. <>

5. “Mithraism: The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras.” Web. Accessed 4 May 2016. <>

6. Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, 1903, p131

7. “Horus: Egyptian God.” Web. Accessed 14 June 2016. <>

8. “Ending the Myth of Horus.” Web. Accessed 13 September 2016. <>

9. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist, p224

10. Bart D. Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist, p214

9. Ten Commandments

I’m not really sure what to make of this point. The most reliable source of evidence that Mr. Runyan could find was a wiki page. It’s as if the primary source, the Bible, is impossible to find because there was no attempt to research the claim; a pattern that shines brightly throughout every point.

Mr. Runyan states, “most Christians do not realize that there are two versions of the 10 Commandments, one in Exodus 20 and the other in Exodus 34. The second version bears little resemblance to the first.”

That is a pretty bold allegation to make considering that the very first verse of Exodus 34 tells us what was written on the new stone tablets:

Exodus 34:1 – Then the Lord told Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.”

If the words on the new tablets were the same words that were on the tablets Moses smashed, how is this a new version? How does it bear little resemblance to the first? The rest of Exodus 34 is simply extra rules that God verbally gave to Moses to ensure that the people would follow the ten commandments. After all, the reason Moses smashed them was because he was angry at the people for creating a false god right after God just saved them from slavery, performed 10 miraculous plagues including the passover, and then parted of the Red Sea.

There is no other mention of what was written on the tablets until Deuteronomy 5. Here, Moses reads the commands from the new tablets; he reads them to the people just before they get ready to enter the promised land. They were the same words that were on the tablets Moses smashed just like Exodus 34:1 said.

The reason that “most Christians do not realize that there are two versions of the 10 Commandments” is because there is no second version. There is only one version of the ten commandments listed in the Bible. Anyone who thinks there are two versions most certainly did not get this belief from the Bible.

Mr. Runyan also seems to have a problem with things that are not included in the commandments. One of the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking which one of the commandments was the greatest. This is how He responded:

Matthew 22: 35-40 – One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

With the words of Jesus, Mr. Runyan’s whole list crumbles. We do not need Mr. Runyan’s list of things because they were already assumed in the commandments that were written.

Finally, Mr. Runyan states, “The Ten Commandments have been presented as the ultimate guide to human morality. But a close inspection reveals that only five have a meaningful impact- do not steal, do not perjure, do not kill, honor your parents, and don’t commit adultery. ”

The reason that this is completely false is that those who do not follow the first five commandments also struggle to follow the second five. Those who do follow the first five are much more likely to succeed in following the rest. It is extremely important here to distinguish the difference between true Christians and those who are Christians by name only. John says it this way:

1 John 2: 3-6 – And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

And Jesus said this:

Matthew 7:21 – Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

What these verses are saying is that those who disobey the second five also do not obey the first five. They are linked together. The ten commandments were written on two tablets with five commands on each. If you were to read them straight across, you would see how they are linked together and how the commands confirm one another. For example, if we read across from the first command to the sixth command, we see this:

Exodus 20:2, 13 – I am the Lord your God…You must not murder.

Understanding that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), to murder a person is equivalent to murdering God. It is impossible for one who truly loves God to murder. So the first command confirms the sixth command. Here is the second and seventh commands:

Exodus 20:3, 14 – You must not have any other god but me…You must not commit adultery.

One who is committed to God is much more likely to be committed to his or her spouse. Again, the second command confirms the seventh, etc.

Furthermore, let’s look at a couple of the commandments that Mr. Runyan implies have no meaningful impact. We will start with the Sabbath:

Exodus 20: 8-11 – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Interestingly, most atheists will twist this verse out of its biblical context to make it seem like God gets something out of it. As an example, you might hear some say that God needed to rest, so He cannot be all-powerful. They forget that God is a leader who leads by example.

God does not get anything out of the Sabbath. He does not need rest and He does not need worship. He is completely self-sufficient. Jesus, who is God, said this about the Sabbath:

Mark 2:27 – Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

Ask any physician, athlete, philosopher, poet, religious leader, or corporate leader and they will tell you rest is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life. It is essential for physical health, emotional health, mental health, and spiritual health.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room physician and the author of “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life,” spoke about the importance of taking a “stop day.” He says, “A ‘stop day’ is a day you really cease from your labors. This really comes in Western cultures from the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath. The word “Sabbath” simply means ‘to cease’ — to cease from your labors.”

As our culture moves away from observing the Sabbath, he continues, “I find that there’s a growing epidemic, really, of depression. We’re the most depressed country in the world.

The World Health Organization says somewhere between one in nine and one in 10 Americans are being treated for depression. We tend to work more hours than any other country in the world” (1).

The facts are very clear; the observance of the Sabbath has an incredible amount of meaningful impact, yet, this failed to make Mr. Runyan’s list. Now let’s look at the last commandment:

Exodus 20:17 – “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

Mr. Runyan does not think this commandment has meaningful impact. Yet, one who covets his neighbor’s things is much more likely to commit adultery, steal, rape, murder, blackmail, bribe, torture, and endanger children to get what he wants.

To sum it up, Mr. Runyan states, “It should be obvious that an all-knowing , all-wise, all-discerning, supernatural god would have devised a much better set of rules for mankind, a set that would have placed humanity on a more peaceful, loving, and kind trajectory than the one we have experienced.”

The problem is that the “one we have experienced” is one where people have largely ignored the first five commandments which reduces the rest of the commandments to mere human opinion. Those who do not love God and instead turn to other gods (self, money, power, or whatever their hope is in) have no standard by which to live. They only have the opinions of themselves and those around them. They assume no transcendant consequences, therefore they are free to act on whatever opinion sounds good at the moment. The bottom line is that the only way we will experience “a more peaceful, loving, and kind trajectory than the one we have” is when the culture starts to observe the first five commandments.

1. The importance of a ‘stop day’. –

10. Jesus baptized by John the Baptist

This point is a hard one to grasp. I can certainly see how Mr. Runyan could come to this conclusion. To truly understand what is going on here, we need context.

First of all, it is important to note that John the Baptist had the same issues that Mr. Runyan has. John already knew that Jesus was greater that he was:

Matthew 3:11 – I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John understood Jesus to be so much greater that he wasn’t even worthy enough to be His slave and carry His sandals. In fact, John tried to talk Jesus out of being baptized:

Matthew 3:13-14 – Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

Jesus was sinless. He was completely righteous. John was baptizing those who were repenting of their sins. Jesus did not need this. So why did Jesus get baptized? Jesus gives this answer; this is what we need to unpack:

Matthew 3:15 – But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires. ” So John agreed to baptize him.

There are a few key points of context needed here. Matthew recognized John as the one spoken of by Isaiah:

Matthew 3:3 – The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord ’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”

The verse that Matthew is quoting is Isaiah 40:3. Two verses later, we read this:

Isaiah 40:5 – Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”

Was the glory of the Lord revealed in front of all of the people as Isaiah prophecied? Matthew answers this:

Matthew 3: 5, 16-17 – People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Here, we see the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:5 as clear as day. The glory of the Lord was revealed, people from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley saw it, and the Lord spoke. All three elements were present confirming John as the one spoken of in Isaiah 40:3.

God gives a requirement for prophecy. It is the test of a prophet:

Deuteronomy 18:22 – “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord ?’ If the prophet speaks in the Lord ’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message.

So when Jesus says, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires,” one of the requirements is that the prophecy must come true. This confirms Isaiah as a true prophet and confirms John the Baptist as the one Isaiah spoke of. While John authenticated Jesus as the One that they had been waiting for, Jesus confirmed John by fulfilling prophecy.

Another reason Jesus was baptised is because He was identifying with humanity and leading by example. Anyone who has  read even a small portion of the Gospels would know that this was simply common practice for Jesus.

Mr. Runyan states, “to present oneself for baptism is a subservient action, implying that the person performing the baptism is of a higher station, though, according to Christian theology, Jesus was certainly superior to John the Baptist.”

According to Christian theology, it is the one doing the “subservient action” who is superior. This was always how Jesus acted and taught. For example, a common “subservient action” in that time was for a servant to wash the master’s feet. Yet, this was Jesus:

John 13: 3-8, 12-15 – Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.  And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow.

And again, Jesus teaches that those who are greater are to be full of subservient actions:

Luke 22:26 – But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

This was such an integral part of the life of Jesus that Paul states it this way:

Philippians 2:6-8 – Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Finally, Mr. Runyan notes, “the scripture states that John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the promised savior, and yet, inexplicably,  he does not become a follower of Jesus, but remains the leader of his own group of followers.”

John the Baptist already had a ministry which God had given to him. He was fulfilling his mission. Recently at my church, we were approached by some people who liked what we were doing and wanted to start a similar church in their area. So we brought them on as a campus. However, after it had grown they decided that they wanted to do some things differently, things that we don’t do at our church. After some discussion among our leaders, everyone agreed that if God wanted to use them to reach people that we were not reaching, then who are we to stand in His way. So, they split off into their own ministry. We still work closely together. They still use our teaching through live video broadcast. We both work in a complimentary way to reach different people. Yet, they are their own ministry with their own followers. Such is the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus; they are on the same mission with different ministries reaching different people:

John 3: 26-30 – So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.” John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

In these verses, John the Baptist explicitly declares that he is standing with Jesus. There are no problems here as Mr. Runyan has put forth. Both Jesus and John were fulfilling their missions in a complimentary way. Jesus baptism harmonizes perfectly with His life and teachings. He was not required to do it. He chose to do it to fulfill prophecy, to confirm John the Baptist as the one preparing the way, to display the glory of God to the people of Judea, to lead by example, and to humble Himself to God because “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God.”

Complete harmony and nothing less.