Tuesday, November 07, 2017

A guy walks out of a tomb...

Just listened to the recent Unbelievable show featuring 'Science Mike' and a more conventional Christian called JD Walters. I don't have much to say about the show except that on a few occasions Mike referred to the resurrection using phrases along the lines of "Jesus walked out of the tomb..."

Maybe I've been getting the wrong end of the stick all these years, but I always thought that the whole point of the stone being rolled away was to demonstrate that the tomb was actually empty, not to facilitate the risen Christ leaving? Jesus has no problem in the post-resurrection stories of simply appearing in locked rooms, so I had always assumed that the idea was that he could and did vanish (bodily) out of the tomb, and then appeared wherever later on, like on the road to Emmaus.

Do you think he walked out of the tomb?

I always thought that the tomb was empty before the stone was rolled away. Jesus didn't need the stone to be moved in order to get out. The rolling away of the stone was only to allow the witnesses to see an empty tomb.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Other boats?

There is a peculiar detail in Mark's gospel that I've never noticed before. It is found as part of the story of the stilling of the storm in Mark 4:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Have you ever noticed that short statement at the end of v36? Jesus and his disciples are in one boat, travelling across the sea of Galilee, but there were other boats travelling with them. These other boats explicitly do not contain members of 'the crowd' as v36 says they left them behind.

These other boats play no further role in the story, and appear to be entirely absent by the time of the storm and the miraculous calming. So why mention them at all? Matthew (ch8) and Luke (ch8) omit this detail of the story in their tellings of it.

This is one of the peculiar details in Mark that may reveal something about the sources Mark used for his gospel. Mark is clearly adapting an earlier story to present here. It looks like the earlier story included multiple boats, and even though Mark's telling of the story does not require the other boats for the narrative to make sense, he keeps the short statement about them anyway. Matthew and Luke, realising the redundancy of this statement, remove it.

So what possible function could the other boats have in the earlier story, the one that Mark adapted? A few options seem reasonable. It could be that these other boats were lost in the storm, and only the boat containing Jesus was saved. That would make narrative sense, and also be a good theological analogy. But that's an analogy that Mark doesn't make, so perhaps that suggests that this is not the original story.

Dennis R. MacDonald makes a compelling case in his book "The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark" (which I am reading at the moment) that this story about Jesus is based on a story about Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey.  I won't detail the parallels here, but suffice it to say there are clear narrative and vocabulary parallels between one specific passage in the Odyssey and this passage in Mark. In Homer, there are other boats, and these do play a minor role in the story. If MacDonald's case is true, then Mark used elements of a story about Odysseus, which which many of his readers would probably be familiar, as the basis for a story about Jesus. I've read elsewhere that this was actually fairly common in ancient literature (written in Greek), writers adapted well known stories so that they could highlight certain features of their hero (in this case Jesus) - that is, showing the ways in which their hero is like the well known hero, and sometimes highlighting the ways in which their hero is even better than the well known hero. Here Jesus is shown to be better than Odysseus, as the latter merely survived the storm, but the former demonstrated power over it.

The question for us, however, is whether or not events told in this way actually happened or not? Was there a real story about Jesus which has been told 'through the lens' of Homer, or is this a story of Homeric origin which has been fictionally recast with gospel characters to demonstrate just how much of a hero Jesus was to a Greek-literate audience?

We actually face this question again and again in Mark, the story as presented reveals details of an older source text, so is the source text the sole origin of the story, or is Mark's telling of the story a fusion between an earlier Jesus story and an older written document? This question becomes most important when we get to the crucifixion narrative. Is that a fusion of an earlier story about Jesus with the framework of Psalm 22, or is it a work of midrash, fictively expanding on Psalm 22? I'll leave that quandary for another time.

For now the question is whether the stilling of the storm story is a fusion of a Jesus story with an Odysseus story, or is it a fictive riff on the Odysseus story to show how Jesus is better than the Greek hero? How could we even tell? If we had access to any pre-Markan Jesus stories set on lakes, then maybe we could parse this story, but as it happens we do not, and therefore cannot.

I'm reasonably won over by MacDonald's thesis that the Sea of Galilee stories of Jesus are fictive attempts to put Mark's Jesus into similar situations as Odysseus. Indeed, it would seem that before Mark wrote his gospel, nobody ever referred to this small lake in the 'Holy Land' as anything other than a small lake. It was never a 'sea' before this. Mark, it would appear, beefed up the designation of this lake to a 'sea' so he could set Odysseus-style stories on it. The 'other boats' are just a little editorial oversight that Mark forgot to remove for his retelling of the story.

Of course, all this could be waaaay off the mark. Maybe the other boats had a completely different origin in Mark's non-Homeric source. I'd love to hear other opinions about what these boats are doing in this story.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Question Mark, Part 4

Welcome back to the world's slowest Bible study... two years ago I began slowly going through the gospel of Mark and so far I have managed to get to the end of... verse 1 of chapter 1. You can read the first two posts here and here. Hang on, you might be thinking, the title of this post says 'Part 4', what happened to 'Part 3'?

Well, I'm now about to annoyingly jump over ten verses and think about verses 12 and 13 of chapter 1. I'll come back to verses 2 to 11 in 'Part 3', which will follow at a later date. For now let's look at:
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Hmmm. That's not how you remember this story is it? You remember all the details of the temptation from Matthew's expansion of this story. This version is really short in comparison, and seems fairly pointless.

First we need to talk about the word "πειράζω" or "peirazō", translated in the NIV (above) as 'tempted'. As far as I can tell, the word here translated tempted generally means 'tested'. In this context it is clear that Jesus is being tested to show that he is up to the task that lies before him. Here Satan is fulfilling the divinely appointed role that he has in most of the OT, he is acting on behalf of God to test someone to see if they are truly righteous or not. Satan here is not God's adversary, but rather seems sent by God to test Jesus.

There are four characters in the story here: Jesus, the Spirit, Satan and the angels. God the Father, having popped up in verse 11 has again vanished off the stage and plays no active role here.

Jesus was directed by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tested by Satan. We are not told the nature of the tests, we are not even told if Jesus passed the tests! The reader actually has to make up their own mind about what they think happened. I guess this is why Matthew felt the need to be explicit about the nature of the tests and to be explicit in showing that Jesus passed them. Mark feels no such need to explain anything. Once again I am reminded of Robert M. Fowler's book "Let the reader Understand" - Mark doesn't give his audience everything, he expects them to work things out for themselves.

Maybe we should rephrase my comment above about the four characters in the story, there are actually five witnesses to the events - Jesus, the Spirit, the Satan, the angels, and the reader.

But why was the testing necessary? Did God the Father need to do this in order to find out that Jesus was up to the task? Well, that very much depends on your pre-conceptions of the Father. Did Jesus need to know for himself that he could pass the test? I don't think the angels really needed to know. Whether Satan needed to know would depend very much on your pre-conceptions of Satan. But really, I think, the main audience who need to know if Jesus passed the test are Mark's readers themselves. This story is for them. Nobody else in this story needs these events to have happened. That, in itself, should put a very big question mark over the actual historicity of this event, the event itself presupposes an audience, but as presented there was no audience present.

If we take for granted the Trinity, as generally believed in modern Christianity, this story makes no sense. Why would one member of the Trinity need to get another member of the Trinity to direct the third member of the Trinity to the place of testing? In this concept, God the Father must already know that God the Son is up to the task set before him, as they have been in communion together for eternity past. God the Father does not need to test God the Son, and certainly does not need the direction of God the Spirit to assist in this. From a Trinitarian point of view, the only way we can make sense of this passage is if Satan is the devil, and the point of the exercise is to demonstrate to the devil just who Jesus is. This seems to be the way that Matthew understands the story, but it is not at all clear in Mark's version. Various theologies in other parts of the NT rely on the assumption that the devil did not know who Jesus was, so they, at least, are inconsistent with this view of this event.

Put aside the idea of the Trinity for a moment, though, and the story makes a whole lot more sense. If God in heaven had chosen a righteous man, Jesus, to become his Son, and had poured his Spirit into this man (that's something to be discussed in the part of this study that we have temporarily jumped over), then he'd need to be sure that the man he had chosen was up to the task. From a non-Trinitarian (and, indeed, an adoptionist) point of view, this passage makes perfect sense. Here God is simply double checking that he made the right choice. And so from here on in, the reader can be sure that God made the right choice too.

I think this is the lens through which we need to view the rest of the gospel of Mark. Jesus is just a man, chosen and empowered to be the Son of God, but not part of the Trinity and not pre-existent.

Thinking in this way also makes this passage make sense from Jesus's point of view as well. Jesus himself needs to know that he can pass the test. He needs to know the power of the Spirit which is now within him. Having been through this, Jesus himself now knows that he is ready for the rest of the gospel, and so does the reader.

Before we move on, one final comment that, I think, contradicts what Matthew will later do with this passage when he expands it. Nothing in this passage suggests that Jesus is without food. Indeed, the angels 'attending' him would imply that they brought him whatever he needed, including food. For some reason this short passage makes me think of 1 Kings 17 where Elijah is ministered to by ravens, who bring him food. Perhaps it is even closer to 1 Kings 19, where an angel brings Elijah food. Either way, if this inference is correct, then Matthew's story, in which Jesus has no food for 40 days, contradicts this.

So there we have it, I think this short passage is clearly non-historical, and reveals an underlying theology which is at odds with current Christian belief.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why eyewitnesses remember things wrong...

This could be an interesting journal article, if only I could get it out from behind the paywall:



Sunday, July 09, 2017

God is not the answer

Reflecting on some apologetics I've been listening to recently, and on a book I'm reading at the moment, I have realised that quite often "God" is not an adequate answer to the question posed.

For example, how did life emerge out of non-life? Or how did consciousness arise out of non-consciousness? Or where do 'objective' morals come from?

In each of these questions, and many others like them, the apologist finds the answer in God. But God is not a satisfactory answer to any of these questions. God cannot explain the origin of life, because we assumed that God is and has always been living - God merely gives inanimate matter a property he already possesses. Similarly with consciousness, it is assumed that God has always been conscious, so consciousness really has no origin. Likewise, God has always been moral, so morals never began anywhere. 

So the God answer does not actually answer the question. In each case, proposing God as the solution is really saying "you're asking the wrong question, that thing you think had an origin really didn't and has always been." So the question is never answered.

The next layer of questions, however, are never asked. How did God become living? When did God become conscious? How did God develop his morality? The believer assumes that God never became living, or conscious, and he certainly didn't ever develop any of his attributes.

For the believer, therefore, the fundamental essence of reality (i.e. God) has always possessed a complex set of attributes and properties. Kind of like the so called 'fine tuning' of the universe, a set of fundamental properties that must have been there since the outset, and could not have changed or developed.

So which is it, did all of reality start out with a complex set of improbable parameters, or did all of reality start out with a complex set of improbable attributes and personality traits and sentience?

Both options seem ridiculously improbable, and yet here we are. What I can't see is a good reason why the complex personal set of attributes should be more likely than the complex impersonal set of parameters. Indeed, if I had to weigh up the two seemingly improbable options, Occam's razor might suggest we should cut off the 'more complex' option including personhood. But there's not a lot in it.

Where we end up is one of those places where 'I don't know' is a perfectly valid answer. Indeed, it is impossible to truly 'know' one way of another, using only this line of thinking. But with regard to this issue alone, there is no compelling reason to choose theism over atheism.

By the way, "42" is not a satisfactory answer to the questions either...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Accidental

I've heard a lot of debates between Christians and atheists where the Christian has presented the options for the origin of life on earth as being either (a) intentional design by a creator, or (b) an accident. That is, the word 'accident' is used as if it is the opposite of the word 'design'. I don't think it is, and I think this is a biased way of phrasing the question.

The word 'accident' carries with it loads of negative connotations. People die or are injured in car accidents. Accidents are generally when something goes wrong. The word accident does not just convey the idea of a random event, but it carries the connotation of an unfortunate random event. The word actually implies that there is some right-occurrence which could have happened, but did not happen, and the wrong-occurrence happened instead. The claimed dichotomy between design and accident is false.

The naturalistic atheist does not claim that life evolves by a sequence of unfortunate random events, if anything, the opposite is true. Live evolves because of beneficial, positive random events. Not accidents. There is a better word for this: Serendipity.

Of course the question remains, is life the product of design or serendipity? But that is a better question than is usually presented in these debates.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Meaning and purpose in life?

I was listening to a podcast earlier that touched on the old question of where do meaning and purpose in life come from? The usual Christian/apologetic argument is that without a creator or a higher being, there can be no meaning or purpose in life, and thus your life, and indeed the entire universe would be without meaning and purpose if there was no God.

Quite often the atheist debater in such discussions concedes that there is no 'ultimate' meaning or purpose, but sometimes we can define our own meaning and/or purpose in life. The Christian apologist usually doesn't think much of this and prefers to believe in a God who gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

This morning I found myself wondering if God himself (herself, itself, whatever) has a meaning and purpose in His life? I'm sure most Christians would claim that God does. So where did God get this purpose? From His creator? From some higher power? Or did he just give the meaning and purpose to Himself?

I'm sure that most Christians faced with this question would have to admit that if God has any purpose in his own existence, that he somehow devised this purpose Himself. In other words, beings can give themselves purpose without a higher power.

If God can give himself purpose, why can't we find meaning and purpose for ourselves? Why do we need a higher power when He does not?

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson (a response, Part 6)

Dear D.,

We're getting near the end of your book now, having worked our way through eight chapters of your book [1-3, 456-7 and 8], and now we come to Chapter 9: Maranatha. I think this may be the first chapter in this book with no actual apologetics in it. You're in preacher mode throughout.

You talk about the end of the world, heaven and hell, and your only justification in believing in any of these claims is that Jesus spoke about them in the Bible. Jesus said it, you believe it, that settles it.

I guess you'll not be surprised to find that many skeptics (or is it sceptics, I'm never sure?) don't find this line of reasoning particularly compelling. Why should there be any life after death? You don't explain. Is there any life after death? You offer no evidence. Why should the Christian explanation of heaven & hell be preferred to any other (after-)world view? You don't justify it. This is not an intellectually challenging or satisfying chapter.

This chapter, as with many discussions of heaven & hell that I've read, ends up simply quoting C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Truly, the best explanations of heaven and hell are to be found in fantasy fiction. Why should the version presented in Matthew's gospel (you don't notice this, but all your 'Jesus' quotes about heaven and hell come from Matthew's pen, not the other gospel writers) be any more real than the version presented in "The Last Battle"?

Have you ever noticed that Matthew is obsessed with heaven and (particularly) hell, in a way that Mark, Luke and John are not? And have you ever noticed that hell is (almost) entirely absent in the Epistles of Paul? Paul's message is one of salvation for those who are in Christ, but not one of damnation for those who are not.

Anyway, let's move on to the climax of your book, Chapter 10: Magnificent... where you remain in preacher mode and basically explain why apologetics only gets you so far. Indeed, you appear to dismiss the value of apologetics, which is odd in a book of apologetics. You also go in for a bit of atheist bashing, but I'm not really interested in that.

So you present no further evidence or argument for your case, but just list lots of theological reasons why Jesus is important to you. I suppose that's fair enough, but I'm sure adherents to other religions could give similar lists about Krishna, or Bahá'u'lláh, or Sabbatai Zevi, or Haile Selassie, or whoever. The justification for all your reasons is, essentially, because it is in the Bible.

Your book repeatedly takes the stories and claims of the Bible at face value, without question, and this is the greatest weakness (as I see it) of your case. It would appear that you've never needed to justify to yourself that the Bible is an authority, so you don't really need to justify it to your readers either.

For me, it was not the debates between science & Christianity, or by consideration of the big philosophical arguments for or against God, but the failings in the Bible itself that ultimately led to the erosion of my faith. The Bible is factually wrong in places, the Bible is internally inconsistent in places, the Bible records as history things that cannot have happened (and in some instances demonstrably did not happen) in history. The Bible tells stories about God and Jesus. If it is wrong about the other stuff, we have to at least consider the possibility that it is wrong on these subjects too.

After much study, I came (somewhat grudgingly) to the conclusion that the Bible is an errant book, and was written by human authors with human agendas. In your book, you have shown that you base your life on the Bible, but you haven't managed to convince me that the Bible comes from God. You've not even shown me why you came to that conclusion.

Your magnificent obsession concerns a man who comes to you through the pages of a flawed book. I agree, if the stories about Jesus are true, then he is worthy of this obsession, but for now at least I have reasonable doubts about the truth regarding Jesus, so I think your obsession is misplaced.

Regards,

R.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson (a response, Part 5)

Dear D.,

Following my comments on the first seven chapters of your book [here, herehere, and here], we come to Chapter 8: Modern. I came to read it following a few weeks break after reading the last ones, so I was pleased to find you started the chapter with a recap. The problem with the recap is, however, it doesn't just recap the stuff you've already established in earlier chapters, but sneaks a few extra things in there to make it look like you've already provided more of a case than you actually have. Your recap covers:
  1. God, the creator
    You've not actually gone there yet. You've not even tried the cosmological argument. Up until now, God the creator is a presupposition underlying everything else in here, but you've not even tried to justify or defend this presupposition. Now you're implying that we can take this for granted? Sorry, you still have work to do here.
  2. Made humans in His own image
    Similarly, I don't recall you justifying or defending this claim either.
  3. Freewill and the fall of man, bringing creation down with us
    You've gone into the issue of sin a bit in previous chapters, but have provided no case that we have freewill. You've certainly not explained or justified the claim that the sin of man could ruin all of creation. Why should that follow?
  4. God's redemption plan: Jesus
  5. Jesus: his miraculous birth
  6. Jesus: taught God's message
  7. Jesus: showed God's power
    Ok. You definitely have covered these. I'm not convinced, but I'll grant that you went there.
  8. Jesus: died our death and suffered our hell
    Yes, you went there, but let me remind you that Jesus descending to hell isn't actually in the Bible.
  9. Jesus: raised from the dead, and ascended
    Have you talked about the ascension? I don't remember that bit.
  10. The Holy Spirit
    Yes, we've touched on it, or is it Him?
Hmmm. So while your focus in the book thus far has been almost exclusively on Jesus, you basically want us to take God, the Father and Creator, as a given. Not sure that's how apologetics (a defence of the faith) actually works. To defend something, you need to actually defend it, not simply presume it or assert it. But anyway, on with the chapter...

Your aim in the first part of the chapter is to show that Christianity isn't dying out and isn't bad or irrelevant. You take swipes at hypocritical Christians, celebrity atheists, Bono, Stalin and Hitler along the way. Your trump card here seems to be a quote from Matthew Parris, an atheist, who observed that Christianity is making a positive change in parts of Africa because Christianity changes lives in a 'real' way. Of course, you can't prove anything by anecdote, but this seems to you to settle the question.

Sometimes, converting to Christianity is hugely beneficial for people and makes them better, kinder, more hopeful people. Does that mean Christianity is true? Not necessarily, it simply means that the Christian worldview is better than their previous worldview. Maybe there's a better one beyond Christianity that they could move on to? Then they might be even more kind and even more hopeful. Maybe.

Of course, the flip side of all this is all the miserable Christians that we've all met. And the useless ones who are 'too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good', and the ones who are downright horrible people and yet use Christianity, the Bible or God to justify this. For every anecdote there is an equal and opposite anecdote.

All you've really done here is show that for some people, being a Christian is a positive thing. I don't deny that. But that doesn't mean that Christianity is true, just that it can work as a positive worldview.

You claim that the Church is growing, and that where it is growing, it is growing particularly through attracting young people. I can't deny either of those facts, viewed worldwide, there is a definite trend towards church growth in superstitious societies. People who believe in all sorts of nonsense are coming to believe the Christian message, because it is more rational than the thing they believed previously.

But. Have a look at societies where Christianity has been dominant for a long time, there the picture is different. When I was young, in the 1970s, I seem to recall that about 12% of Scots were regular church attenders. When I was a student, in the 1990s, the number had dropped to about 10%. Now, in 2017, the latest numbers show that only 7% of Scots regularly attend church. Following that trend, I fully expect that we'll see numbers below 5% within 20 years, and maybe as low as 3% in our lifetimes. The Church in Scotland is dying. In particular, the established church (CofS, Scottish Episcopal, etc.) has pretty much already lost all its young people and is slowly losing members as its congregations die off. Of course, you will offer statistics that show that some churches are growing. Indeed. An increasingly smaller number of non-traditional churches are growing. They're growing primarily by hoovering up all the younger Christians who still believe, but have become disillusioned by the traditional church. The church I still attend has a congregation of about 200 folk every week, where 3/4 of the congregation are families with school age kids. But it is the exception, not the rule.

And finally I want to get onto the question of church growth through attracting young people. Of course this is happening. Evangelistic campaigns aim to attract young people. Some of those young people convert. This is mostly a matter of psychology. Young people's minds are still 'plastic' - they can adapt to new ideas and belief systems much better than older people. As we age we do get more set in our ways. It is much easier to change the mind of a teenager than it is to change the mind of a retiree. That's a matter of human nature. So evangelistic organisations work primarily among schools, universities and other groups of young people. Thus it is not surprising that those churches which are growing by conversion (a tiny minority of churches in my UK-based experience) are seeing this growth among young people. Its because they don't aim for conversion of older people, and would find it harder to do if they tried.

Fundamentally, what you've shown in this chapter is that Christianity works as a worldview, and works better than some other worldviews, and may be justifiable in comparison to some other worldviews, but haven't in any way demonstrated that it is true.

Regards,

R.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson (a response, Part 4)

Dear D.,

Following my comments on the first five chapters of your book [here, here and here], I now get to Chapter 6: Meaning. It is a strange beast, touching on a number of different topics, not as focused as the previous ones.

You start with the 'eyewitness testimony' of the disciples and the old claim that people don't die for a lie, again. Furthermore you claim that if Jesus had remained dead in the tomb, then the authorities could have just dug him up and demonstrated that the stories the disciples were preaching were false.

Once again, you are using a story told in one part of the Bible to 'prove' the historical accuracy of a story told in another part of the Bible. We have no secular evidence that the disciples preached anything at all about the death and resurrection of Jesus in the vicinity of the supposedly empty tomb, in the weeks or months following the alleged resurrection event. No, the only evidence that such events ever happened is contained in the book of Acts.

Of course, you believe the book of Acts is accurate reportage. To counter that assumption, may I mention that the "Acts Seminar" - a bunch of proper Bible scholars who spent years studying and debating the book of Acts - gave as the primary conclusion of their study that the book of Acts was a work of fiction, most likely written in the early 2nd century? Conservative evangelicals disagree of course, but I think the impartial observer has to at least consider the possibility that Acts is - or contains - fictional elements.

If the gospel was not preached until years or decades after the supposed event, and perhaps then not by the supposed eyewitnesses, who could dig up a body to prove anything?

From here you go off on a rant about some of the usual 'new atheist' authors and arguments. Fair enough. But you don't really present your own case, you merely attack their weaknesses. Eventually you get to your point, that Jesus is God, and we finally get to the Trinity. You call this the 'cornerstone of Christian thinking' but, of course, can't explain it, because nobody can. It is literally a mystery. Or possibly a nonsense. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. How can you believe something you can't explain?

You then touch on the 'but who made God?' question and don't really get anywhere. This discussion never gets anywhere because it is obvious to the believer that nobody made God and it is obvious to everyone else that the chain of cause and effect can't go back to something as complicated as an eternal and infinite triune Godhead. You can solve almost every finite problem by invoking an infinite and unseen solution, but you can't solve the problem of an infinite and unseen thing by invoking anything else.

You go a bit preacher for a while, revelling in the claim that Jesus is God, and then come back to some semi-apologetics questions, like why the Trinity isn't in the Old Testament (your answer: it is), and why did God have to become man to become our redeemer. 

Finally you get to the question of where Jesus is now and why could he not stay on earth. You don't actually address the first of those that well, considering that there are some biblical passages that imply that Christ remains in his human (perfected) body even now, i.e. he remains localised, while other passages speak of him 'filling all things' and the like, implying that he is anything but localised. I've heard your answer to the second of those before, and heard it from others than you. Of course Christ had to leave the earth, because if he didn't go, the Spirit could not come. Huh? So the Spirit and the Son are two distinct persons, but they can't both be on earth simultaneously? Why?

Through all of this you imply that the Trinity is the clear teaching of the Bible. It isn't. Sure, you can read the Trinity into the Bible in a good many places, but it is far from clear that all the Bible authors would agree with such a concept if you presented it to them. So at the end of this chapter I remain unconvinced that the Trinity actually makes sense. Oh well.

On we move to Chapter 7: Mission in which you defend the Church, by pointing out that it is made of flawed human beings. Yes it is. I don't really have much to comment on here. 

The only thing I really want to mention here is when you attack the straw man of "The Bible was compiled by the council of Nicea". While I have heard this claimed by Dan Brown and the like, this is a bit of a red herring. I'm far more convinced by David Trobisch's claim that the original NT was compiled and edited by Polycarp, and then widely distributed. But anyway, that's enough for now. I'll move on to Chapter 8 next time.

Cheers,

R.