Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Answering Common Questions and Objections Part 2 - Vintage
11/08/2012 - James White
8. How can Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18 (both stating that no one can see God) be reconciled with Genesis 32:30 and Exodus 33:11 which say that men have seen God?
Answer to Question #8: Seeing God.
Using John 1:18 to demonstrate the Deity of Christ has been a long tradition in apologetics. There is indeed a contradiction here if one does not have a Tri-Une conception of God. Indeed, I have pointed this out more than once to representatives of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the Deity of Christ, so they obviously do not believe that Jesus is Jehovah. I have often used John 1:18 in comparison with Isaiah 6:1 to demonstrate that the Bible shows that the Jehovah of the Old Testament who was seen by men was the Jesus of the New. This can be seen in the comparison of Isaiah 6 with John 12:39-41. Indeed, a proper understanding of John 1:18 would have cleared up the original problem, for here John is using the first term "God" to specifically refer to the Father, not the Son. He calls the Son the "only-begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father" and says that Jesus has "made Him (the Father) known." Jesus is the Word who has made the Father known. Therefore, the Bible is again correct - no one has seen God the Father at any time. But man has seen God the Son on numerous occasions in the Old Testament as well as in the New.
9. How can the resurrection be so important when others were raised before Jesus was?
Question #9: Jesus’ Resurrection
It is true that others were raised from the dead before Jesus was. This statement assumes that the Biblical statements concerning those resurrections are true, and therefore the question is really a theological one, and must be answered in that way.
There is no indication in the Bible that any of the others who were raised from the dead lived eternally. Instead, it is clear that they lived on and then died a natural death. Jesus did not die again - he lives eternally.
This makes His resurrection unique as it is a true resurrection to life eternal.
Secondly, Jesus was God in human flesh. None of the other people who were resurrected were Deity!
Third, Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied long before. He himself foretold it (none of the others foretold their deaths and resurrections). He also said that he had authority to take hack his life again (John 10:17-18). No other person claimed to have a part in raising himself (or herself)!
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection makes possible the resurrection of all who trust in him. We as believers have the promise of our own resurrection because of the resurrection of our Lord. My resurrection is not guaranteed because of the raising of the son of the widow of Nain or of Lazarus; but, as I am united with Christ, and he was raised, so shall I be.
Just these few points are sufficient to demonstrate to anyone willing to examine the information the uniqueness and importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
10. How can Jesus be our perfect savior when he made many false and deceptive statements?
Answer to Question #10: Jesus’ integrity
The question of going to the feast (John 7:8) revolves around a textual variant and is therefore hardly something that can be the proverbial "smoking gun." The reading "not yet going up to this feast” is supported impressively by P66 and P75 (two of the earliest known manuscripts of John) as well as by B (Vaticanus) and the majority of the tradition. This reading is also in harmony with the contextual mention of Jesus’ time not yet being fulfilled. Even if the reading “not going up to this feast" is accepted, a number of things mitigate against a charge of duplicity on Jesus part. First, the meaning of “going up” may refer to the public ascension in procession to Jerusalem with its attendant festivities, psalm singing, etc. Also, the situation in which Jesus was living (the death threats of the Jews should he go into Judah again) comes into play as well. Perhaps the statement of Jesus was nothing more than a non-announcement of his plans? Given the fact that his brothers were at this time antagonistic to Jesus’ claims and would undoubtedly reveal his arrival, prudence would be the better course in that situation.
Be that as it may, the other references hold no weight. What is deceptive about Jesus’ promise that the thief would be with him in paradise that day when it was true? The atheist must assume that Jesus was lying to prove that he was! Circular argumentation at its best. In an earlier issue of BE McKinsey expanded on his charge at this point. He states that since Jesus did not go to heaven until three days later, and paradise is heaven, then Jesus was lying. He then takes Dr. Gleason Archer to task for what he said concerning this in his book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (pages 367-368) charging Dr. Archer with coming up with an explanation that "abounds in suppositions, conjectures and hypotheses...’ Actually, it is McKinsey’s attack that abounds with suppositions, none of which he can prove. First, why does he say paradise is in heaven? Is he aware of the Biblical teaching concerning sheol, the realm of the dead? Has he allowed Jesus’ story concerning the rich man and Lazarus to be a factor here? Why does he assume that paradise could not have been moved from sheol to heaven after the resurrection of Jesus? Why does he consistently (and here McKinsey is always consistent!) deny the Bible the ability to explain itself? Why does he apply rules to the Scriptures that he would never apply to anything else? His consistent underlying assumption is that the Bible is contradictory, and therefore any explanation that would deal with his "proof” can be nothing but "rationalization."
Matthew 5:22 is hardly an immoral statement. As above, McKinsey elaborates on what he means by pointing out that Jesus called the religious leaders “fools" thus supposedly contradicting himself. He lists Matthew 23:17, 19 and Luke 11:40 as his examples. Here again we see the “foolishness” of attacking Scripture in the way McKinsey does without knowing the languages of the Bible. In Matthew 5:22 Jesus uses the technical term "Raca" followed by the term “More” which means "fool." In Matthew 23:17 the term is moroi which is the normal term for “foolish persons." Whether verse 19 uses moroi is questionable on textual grounds. The term in Luke 11:40 is aphrones, meaning "one without understanding.” Therefore, we must look at two things - first, Matthew 23:17 is the only reference to Jesus calling someone a "fool” (the corrupt religious leaders) and second, what is the context of the original passage in Matthew 5:22? Jesus there uses Hebrew parallelism to connect the terms “raca” and "more." What does this mean?
It is clear that the context of the two statements is completely different. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus is speaking of the true intent of the law and how this relates to each individual. In 5:21 he points to the command against murder, and then in verse 22 goes beyond this to say that to harbor hatred in one’s heart against one’s brother is to start on the path to murder. Here the Lord shows us what we know ourselves - few murder without first hating, and Jesus warns us that obedience to the law is a matter of the heart preeminently. The outer actions are determined by the inner motives. What then of Matthew 23:17? Was Jesus harboring hatred in his heart for the Jewish leadership? Was he breaking his own rules, so to speak? No indeed! In the 23rd chapter of Matthew we have hard words spoken to equally hard men. The occasion more than justifies the terminology! Here we have the men who were supposedly the stewards of God’s law twisting that law to the opposite end. Jesus uses the term “fools" precisely in the context of true "foolishness." Jesus is not using it as a pejorative term as he proscribed in 5:22; rather, he is using it as an accurate description of the "foolishness" of the religious system they had built up. The Jews were saying that if someone swore by the gold in the temple that he was hound by the oath. Jesus rightly points out that the gold is made "special" by the temple, not vice versa. Their position on oaths was “foolish” and was accurately described by the Lord. In no way is Jesus’ usage of the term "fools” here the same as what was discussed in Matthew 5:22 if for not other reason than the fact that Matthew 5 relates to relationships between believers ("he who calls his brother") while Jesus is dealing with un-believers in Matthew 23 (the Jewish leadership).
In addition to the above, it might he noted briefly that God, the one described in the Bible as “seeing the hearts of men” is in the proper position to judge whether a man is a "fool” or not. It is precisely because we as humans are not able to see the attitudes of the heart that we are told not to call anyone fool, nor even to judge the intents of another’s heart in these matters.
What is meant by a "non-existent cross” is anyone’s guess, as everyone in Judea knew what Jesus meant by the term "cross." Crucifixion was a common mode of death at the time, and to “take up one’s cross” would be filled with meaning for anyone living in that culture.
Of all the people of the world, Jesus’ integrity is the last to be questioned. This is admitted by believer and infidel alike. His moral teachings and standards have been the basis of civilization and society ever since.
11. How can the Bible he the epitome of morality and virtue when it uses profanity such as that found in 2 Kings 18:27, Ezekiel 23:20-21 and Song of Solomon 5:4?
Answer to Question #11: Supposed Profanity in the Bible
We here encounter a question that is based on a common misconception - the Bible was not written in English. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with some chapters in Aramaic) and the New Testament was written in Greek. Therefore, we must differentiate between translations of the Bible (such as the King James Version or the New International Version) and the Bible itself. The Bible does not use “profanity” as the above question says. The Bible does refer to such items as "urine” (2 Kings 18:27) and feces (note the context of these items - that of the stark reality of the siege of a city and the resulting starvation) as well as to the genitalia of animals and man as well (what Song of Solomon 5:4 has to do with anything is very unclear). But the frank way in which the Bible deals with these subjects is hardly grounds for impugning its high morality and virtue! Such is silliness! Because the law mentions specific sinful acts and says thou shalt not does that make the law any less holy? Certainly not! Such a question is based on an obviously irrational desire to put the Bible down and to judge it by standards that are completely capricious and without basis.
12. How can the various accounts of the Resurrection he reconciled?
Answer to Question #t2: The Resurrection Accounts
Though a full discussion of all the factors inherent in the discussion of the various accounts of the Resurrection would take quite some time and space, it would be good to deal with a few of the more common objections. Some of the objections are inane simply due to the fact that they will not allow for harmonization . This is a vital point - the Gospels are four different perspectives on the same events. They do not say the same thing about each and every story - one emphasizes one thing, one another. It is only logical to allow for this fact in our interpretation and study of the books. Now, if one of the Gospels says “Jesus did A at B time” and another says “Jesus did not do A at B time’ then we obviously have a contradiction. We cannot have “A” and "non-A” at the same time, obviously. However, one Gospel writer may say “Jesus met with A” and another may say “Jesus met with A along with B” without contradicting one another. The second writer is simply providing additional information that the first did not. This is by far the most common occurrence (i.e., Matthew 20:30/Mark 10:46; Mark 5:2/Matthew 8:28). Other objections are impossible to answer due to lack on information. For example, Mark 16:2 indicates that the women traveled to the tomb “after the sunrise.” John 20:1 says it was still dark. We don’t know whether the sun rose as the women arrived and that they started out in the pre-dawn darkness or just how that all worked - the text simply is not exact enough to make a decision about that. This, however, does not make the text “wrong” or "errant.” It just means the author did not give the information needed to answer the question. It is like faulting the Bible for not being able to answer the question, “what color were Jesus’ eyes?” We don’t know, neither does it matter.
Some point out that some gospels (Matthew and John) mention angels while others (Luke and Mark) mention men. This is not a contradiction, of course, but simply two ways of referring to the same beings. Angels normally appear in human form in the Old Testament, and seemingly did so here. In the same way it is wrong to limit the angels’ movements to an either/or situation - in some instances they are in the tomb speaking to the believers (Mark, Luke, John) while Matthew says the angel was outside. However, Matthew only mentions the angel being outside; he does not restrict the angel to the outside of the tomb nor does he say that the angel spoke to the women while still outside.
Another point need he made that will be vital to any Christian who is called on to face the attacks of anti -theists. Before you get defensive in a situation with an anti-theist, stop long enough to examine the claims he or she is making. Very often an anti-theist such as McKinsey will make statements that would require the maker of that statement to have all -knowledge of the surrounding events. They are in effect claiming omniscience! It is completely illogical to fault the Biblical record for not providing answers to every question that could be asked - no book ever written could do so. Simply because there are questions concerning the events that took place 2,000 years ago does not mean that we should doubt that those events took place. We don’t know what color of cloak Caesar wore the day he was murdered - should we therefore say that we don’t know that Caesar died because we can’t answer all the questions that might be asked about the events of that day? Shalt we say that a historian’s record is false simply because it is not exhaustive in what it says? No one would seriously suggest that this is true, yet this is exactly what Biblical critics have done and continue to do with the Bible. Now, before the anti-theist says “but you claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God so it must be open to more scrutiny than any other book” allow me to point out that in matters relating to that claim, the anti-theist is perfectly right - we must examine the Bible as closely as possible to support such a claim as we Christians make. However, this does not mean that we abandon logic and reason in some wild search for supposed errors.” When dealing with historical subjects we need to utilize our best historical knowledge and technique. We must do what we do with all other books of antiquity - we must give the book the “benefit of the doubt” for a very basic reason - we weren’t there! We don’t know all of the facts. The writer was a whole lot closer to the events than we are, so, unless there is some overriding reason to do so, the ancient writer is judged to be correct in what he or she has to say. We are optimistic to say that we have so much as 5% of the information needed for a “complete” picture of all the events taking place in Palestine in those days. Are we wise to contradict those who lived at that time from such a position that we find ourselves in? I think not. The New Testament provides us with a wealth of information - far more than we would need to make historical decisions. It does not, however, lend itself to the fancies of man. It does not describe “non-essentials." Faulting it for this is illogical.
13. How can women support the Bible in light of the demeaning status accorded them in 1 Corinthians 11:3, 9, Ephesians 5:22-24, and other appropriate verses?
Answer to Question #13: Women in the Bible
I have encountered this type of question on numerous occasions in radio debates. I recall that Ben Ackerly, the gay/atheist author of The X-Rated Bible brought this up as well, as did a representative of “Fundamentalists Anonymous.” I have little patience for such drivel, sorry to say. Anyone familiar with the cultural background would know - the revolutionary stance that Christianity took relative to women. I find it very offensive when people “pontificate” on matters when they have never taken the time to do the necessary background study to give them the authority to make such statements. Such is the case here. Women were nothing more than property in the ancient culture in which Christianity found itself. They were not “persons” of equal standing before God. The Gospel narratives make this very clear. Jesus treated women as women individuals who were created in God’s image and were of worth as people. He elevated them far above anything that was known at the time, or even today!
The modern critic, however, is zeroing in on the fact that the Bible, old fashioned book that it is, naively suggests that there is a difference between men and women, and that God designed that difference for a reason. Gracious! How backwards! How out-of-date! I do hope I can get my tongue out of my cheek, but this is the very objection that is being made. Since the Bible does not conform to modern, liberal standards of “unisex" and “liberated women" then it must be archaic! Hardly! My wife is happy to be a woman and I’m happy to be a man and I sure am glad my wife is a woman and she’s glad that I’m a man! God made us differently and we don’t try to play around with God’s design. He has a purpose for it, and his purpose in my opinion is very wise.
The New Testament presents women as co-heirs right along with the men in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. See if you can find that in any culture of the day! Interestingly enough. McKinsey’s citation of Ephesians 5 ends with only the woman’s duties to her husband, but does not include what is an amazing passage for a Jewish man like Paul to write: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies...each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph. 5:25, 29, 33). This is a “demeaning status"??? Hardly!
14. How can Jesus, who is allegedly God, talk to God the Father and yet only one God exist?
Answer to Question #14: The Trinity
Since we provide tapes and information on the subject of the Trinity and its basis in the Bible, I will not take too much time here to deal with this objection. However, for some reason, critics seem to enjoy taking “shots” at that which they know precious little about, and the Tri-Une nature of God seems to be a favorite target. Therefore a brief answer is in order.
The Bible is abundantly clear on the fact that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10 etc.). It is also beyond serious dispute that three persons are called by the one title of God in the New Testament - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now, some have denied the separate personhood of the Three, but the Bible will not allow for this. The Father is a Person, the Son another Person, and the Spirit the third Person. McKinsey calls this a “rationalization” which is OK since it is rational and it conforms to the Biblical evidence. Therefore we have one God presented to us in three Persons. This can be seen in a multitude of facts, one of which is that the Father is identified as Jehovah, the Son also is identified as Jehovah (Isaiah 6/John 12:41 is one example) and the Spirit is said to share in that same name as the Father and Son (Matthew 28:19). Now, given the fact that the Bible teaches an infinite God, there is no problem with three co-equal and co-eternal persons sharing the one Being that is God. The anti-theist may not be able to comprehend this, but that does not make it untrue. We cannot comprehend eternity, but that does not mean that eternity does not exist. I suggest the study of our tape "The Tri-Une Nature of God” as well as our material on the Deity of Christ (series title: “Son of God, Lord of Glory") and our information sheet “Is Jesus Yahweh?”