Godly Contradictions: Who Made God | Rocks So Big

(First posted in 2010, edited in 2015, added to in 2018, re-edited 2024)

My FACEBOOK intro to this post:

In this updated post from 2010, the category mistakes of

  • “can God make a Rock so big he can’t lift it?”
  • “if everything needs a beginning [as the Kalam Cosmological Argument says], who began [created] God”
  • “can God make 2+2=5?”

are answered herein

  • These kinds of arguments are clearly illogical and even silly, although they are commonly used by inexperienced atheists. Most intelligent atheists have dropped these kinds of arguments long ago.

This post should be married to my other post:

The Euthyphro Argument Dissected

Well, Who Created God?

A response by Andrew Wilson to an objection received on Big Objections

  • I also want to stress that this isn’t special pleading for God. This is what the atheist has typically said about the universe; that the universe is uncreated and eternal in its existence. No atheist was asking “Who created the universe”? They thought the universe was “Just there,” that it was a brute fact. Although that conclusion is now invalidated by powerful scientific evidence and philosophical arguments. As Frank Turek put it “Something must be eternal. Either the universe or something outside the universe”. Since science has proven that the universe isn’t eternal, whatever brought it into being must be eternal. (Cross Examined)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes the eternality of the universe in atheistic cosmology.

The Daily Apologist has a good concise response. As well as Apologetic Junkie.

J. P. Moreland shows how the “what caused God” (or “who caused God”) rebuttal to the Kalam Cosmological Argument is making a categorical mistake. Furthermore, Moreland shows that calling God the uncaused cause is not arbitrary nor is it trying to define God into existence.

God and Rock n Roll

Here is a PDF of a Power Point presentation I gave in a Sunday school class. Another good read on this can be found at Christianity.com.

Similarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?”  William Lane Craig mentions a paper written by Thomas P. Flint and Alfred J. Freddoso in the following video, that is here: Maximal Power

Here is an old post by me:

The following will explain why many experienced atheists have given up this argument. Richard Swinburn in his book, The Coherence of Theism, explains why such thinking is illogical (pp. 153-154):

A person is omnipotent if and only if he is able to do any logically possible action, any action, that is, of which the description is coherent. It may be objected that in order to be truly omnipotent, a person should be able to do not merely the logically possible, but the logically impossible as well. This objection is, however, misguided. It arises from regarding a logically impossible action as an action of one of one kind on a par with an action of another kind, the logically possible. But it is not. A logically impossible action is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which is coherent to suppose could be done. It is no objection to A’s omnipotence that he cannot make a square circle. This is because “making a square circle” does not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done.

A proper understanding of omnipotence has been known and defined for quite some time; the way it is used by the skeptics here in this thread is the miss-defining of a well-defined concept. For instance, in the Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion, omnipotence is defined as: “The quality of being all-powerful, normally understood as the power to perform any action that is logically possible and consistent with God’s essential nature.”

Even Thomas Aquinas saw this o’ so long ago:

This point was recognized by Aquinas. He wrote that

“it is incompatible with the meaning of the absolutely possible that anything involving the contradiction of simultaneous being and not being should fall under divine omnipotence. Such a contradiction is not subject to it, not from any impotence in God, but simply because it does not have the nature of being feasible or possible. Whatever does not involve a contradiction is in the realm of the possible with respect to which God is called omnipotent.” — Summa Theologiae, vol. v. (Thomas Gilby trans.), Ia.25.3

All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word ‘all’ when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, “God can do all things,” is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent. Now according to the Philosopher (Metaph. v, 17), a thing is said to be possible in two ways.

First in relation to some power, thus whatever is subject to human power is said to be possible to man.

Secondly absolutely, on account of the relation in which the very terms stand to each other. Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do.

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject, as that Socrates sits; and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject, as, for instance, that a man is a donkey.

Summa Theologica I:25:3  (REDDIT: Can God make 2+2=5 if he so chooses?)

From a previous debate elsewhere on the net The below was taken somewhat from the book, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith, by Geisler & Bocchino.

You are again making a category mistake, this is a real “logical fallacy,” or, mistake! When you ask who made God – or, does God need a beginning, it is akin to asking, “how does the color green taste.” Your other comments about change and the like is akin to the following mock conversation, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed your last few querieswhy? Because you are asking questions while assuming the thing said is true, e.g., God’s unlimited power (you are assuming what you are refuting – in other words). A true skeptic sheds even skepticism at times and puts on the alternative view and seeks answers and criticisms from within:

One day, while I am having lunch with some student friends, tom decides to sit at the table and say, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

You answer, “No prob.”

Tom then asks you, “Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 19:26, ‘With God all things are possible?”

I answer, “Yes.”

Tom continues, “Do you believe that God is all-powerful and can do all things?”

Again I answer, “Yes.”

Now Tom thinks his moment is about to unfold, so with a sarcastic grin he asks, “Okay, can God create a rock so big that He cannot lift it?”


I ponder the question for a moment, thinking to myself, If I say yes, I’ll be admitting that God is powerful enough to create the rock but not powerful enough to move it! However, if I say no, I’ll be admitting that God is not all-powerful, because He cannot create a rock of that magnitude. It seems that either answer will force you to violate the law-of-noncontradiction and contradict your view of God, defined as an all-powerful Being. It also seems as if Tom is using first principles to discredit you and your view of God. It is true that Tom is speaking correctly about God’s power, but is he using first principles correctly?

Before we examine Tom’s questions, remember that now is not the time to appeal to ignorance and tell Tom that he is trying to use human reason and that there are some things we just cannot understand about God. Nor should you say that somehow God is exempt from such a question. Instead, I must focus in on this question and think of a principle question to ask him (Socratic method) that moves the conversation from unstable emotional ground to firm conceptual territory.

Let’s think about Tom’s question and apply the law-of-noncontradiction. Tom wants God to create a rock so big that He cannot lift it. What is Tom really asking God to do? In order to find out, we need to define and clarify the use of Tom’s words. The first question that comes to mind is, “How big of a rock does Tom want God to create?” Well, Tom wants God to create a rock so big that it would be impossible for Him to move it. Now, how big would a rock have to be in order for God not to be able to move it? What is the biggest physical entity that exists? Of the course, the biggest physical entity is the universe, and no matter how much the universe expands it will remain limited, finite physical reality – a reality that God can “lift.” even if God created a rock the size of an ever-expanding universe, God could still lift or control it. The only logical option is for God to create something that exceeds His power to lift or control. But since God’s power is infinite, He would have to create a rock of infinite proportions! This is the key: Tom wants God to create a rock, and a rock is a physical, finite thing. How can God create an object that is finite by nature – and give it an infinite size? There is something terribly wrong with Tom’s question. So let’s apply the correct use of the law-of-noncontradiction to analyze it.

It is logically and actually impossible to create a physically finite thing and have it be infinitely big! By definition, an infinite, uncreated thing has no limits, and a finite, created thing does. Consequently, Tom has just asked if God can create an infinitely finite rock, that is, a rock that has limits and, at the same time and in the same sense, does not have limits. This question, then, violates the law-of-contradiction and turns out to be utter nonsense. Tom thought he was asking an important question, one that would put the Christian on the horns of a dilemma. Instead, he only managed to show his own inability to think clearly.

Now that we have a clear understanding of Tom’s question, it’s simply a matter of formulating a principle question to ask him in order to reveal his error. How about this one: “Tom, how big do you want God to create that rock? If you tell me how big, I’ll tell you if He can do it.” I can keep asking Tom that question until it reaches the size of the universe and eventually introduce the idea of infinity. Once Tom reaches the point where he begins to see what he is really asking God to do, to create an infinite rock, he needs to be shown that he is asking God to do something that is logically irrelevant and impossible. God could no more create an infinitely finite rock than He could create a square circle: both are examples of intrinsic impossibilities. Commenting on intrinsic impossibility and an all-powerful God, C. S. Lewis said:

“It [the intrinsically impossible] is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds and for all agents. ‘All agents’ here includes God Himself. His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense.” (The Problem of Pain, p. 28)

Not every question being asked is automatically meaningful just because it is a question. The question may sound meaningful, but we (anyone here, but especially the believer) must be sure to test it with first principles to see whether it is valid in the first place. The key is to not respond too quickly to questions; a person may wind up trying to find cogent answers to a question that has no logical relevance. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College (my favorite Catholic philosopher) says on the matter, “There is nothing more pointless than an answer to a question that is not fully understood” (Making Sense Out of Suffering, p. 27)

…. Could God think of a time when He was not omnipotent? If He can’t think of it, He isn’t omnipotent, but if He does think of it then there was a time when He wasn’t omnipotent?

This question is quite similar to the rock question above. The answer, of course, is that God can never think of a time when He wasn’t omnipotent. God has always been omnipotent. His inability to contradict His divine character does not mean that He isn’t omnipotent.


The atheist distorts the biblical definition of omnipotence in order to “prove” that God cannot exist. Contrary to their claims, omnipotence does not include the ability to do things that are, by definition, impossible. [This is a straw-man argument] Neither does omnipotence include the ability to fail. By defining omnipotence as requiring one to have the ability to fail, atheists have defined omnipotence as being impossible. Of course, an omnipotent God would never fail.

These kinds of arguments are clearly illogical and even silly, although they are commonly used by inexperienced atheists. Most intelligent atheists have dropped these kinds of arguments long ago.

(God and Science)

Here is another look at the same problem:


When we say that God is unlimited, we mean that He is unlimited in His perfections. Now evil is not a perfection; it is an imperfection. The same is true of nonexistence, weakness, ignorance, finitude, temporality, and any other characteristic that implies limitation or imperfection. We might say that God is “limited” in that He can’t enter into limitations, like time, space, weakness, evil—at least not as God. He is only “limited” by His unlimited perfection.

Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), 31. See also this one page response by Geisler (PDF)

And finally, I think Keith Ward in his recent book, God: A Guide for the Perplexed, adds the finishing understanding to this topic.

The real problem, however, comes from our thinking that God must be able to do anything we can think of or imagine. Because we, ignorant as we are, can imagine lots of things which are really quite impossible. For example, we can imagine going back in time to kill our grandparents before they had any children – you can even see films in which such things happen. Yet we can see that such a thing is obviously impossible, since without our grandparents we would not exist, so we could not kill them. We think we can imagine finding a square equal in area to a given circle – but mathematicians can prove that is logically impossible. We think we can imagine the force of gravity being just a little stronger than it actually is [throughout the universe, that is] – but physicists can tell us that, if it were, then electrons would collapse into the nuclei of atoms, there would be no atoms, and so there would be no organized universe at all…. Our imaginations are a poor guide to what is really possible, because we have absolutely no idea of what sorts of things can really exist, or of what might be necessary or optional for God. So I think we just have to say that God is powerful enough to create the universe…. and that is as much as we have a right to expect from omnipotence.


Who Wrote Gospel of Mark (Martyr for the Cause?)

(Jump to “Atheist Morals“)

Two Quotes I Love About Jesus:

Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that: 1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; 2) many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; 3) he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; 4) he was crucified under Pontius Pilot in the reign of Tiberius; 5) despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by A.D. 64; 6) all kinds of people from the cities and countryside – men and women, slave and free – worshipped him as God by the beginning of the second century (100 A.D.)

Michael J. Wilkins, ed., Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 221-222.

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strong-minded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

I want to first deal with the “authorship of Mark” challenge. I may deal with the video authors challenge about the Old Testament God — but really this is old news by the “new atheists.” This has been thoroughly dealt with by many, many fine apologists over the years. If I do it will be in a “PART 2” But for now, this will suffice:

Missing The Moral Mark

“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”

C.S. Lewis, God In the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 52–53.

If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling “whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

— Atheist Morals Noted Below —

Calling All Martyrs

In the VIDEO, the author tries to make a connection between the zealots who died following Jim Jones, and what Jesus has called people to in Mark 8:34-35:

34 Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

— Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Mk 8:34–38.

What are the KEY THEMES via the ESV Study Bible?

But to sum up the people willing to die after Jesus’ ascension, you have a myriad of martyrs being burned alive, fed to lions, and the like. They did not poison themselves or die fighting to convert others. For instance, in 2016 about 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith worldwide. Christians are the most martyred group in the world. Maybe Jesus was foreshadowing this reality’s in His omniscience? (I will post a commentary at the end to show the slightly more complex idea than the simpleton one in the video.)


This first – short – video is by J. Warner Wallace, followed by a quick blurb I assume many do not know well… followed still by some more of the same. I wanted to post on this topic because of a video by , the part that got me thinking was the section from the 10:32 mark to the 12:05 time stamps.

LEARN RELIGIONS has this interesting blurb for the uninitiated:

John Mark in the Bible

John Mark was not one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. He is first mentioned by name in the book of Acts in connection with his mother. Peter had been thrown in prison by Herod Antipas, who was persecuting the early church. In answer to the church’s prayers, an angel came to Peter and helped him escape. Peter hurried to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where she was holding a prayer gathering of many of the church members (Acts 12:12).

Both the home and household of John Mark’s mother Mary were important in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. Peter seemed to know that fellow believers would be gathered there for prayer. The family was presumably wealthy enough to have a maidservant (Rhoda) and host large worship meetings.

The earliest manuscripts tell us Mark wrote the Gospel: “according to Mark.” But who was Mark?

Mark, or John Mark, as he was known, lived in Jerusalem, and his mother owned a home where the earliest followers of Jesus gathered. He worked with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Later, he joined Peter in Rome. It was in Rome, according to church tradition, where Mark wrote Peter’s version of the Gospel.

ZONDERVAN has an excellent article titled,Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?. Here is part of that article:

The earliest tradition on Mark’s authorship

Despite this anonymity, there is strong and early tradition identifying the author of the Third Gospel as John Mark, part-time associate of both Paul and Peter. The earliest tradition is reported by the church historian Eusebius (c. AD 263 – 339), who quotes Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, in the latter’s five-volume work known as Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord (Λογίων κυριακῶν ἑξήγησις). Papias, likely writing around AD 95 – 110,37 quotes John “the Elder” concerning the authorship of the Second Gospel:

The Presbyter used to say this also: “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote down accurately, but not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of his followers, but later, as I said, a follower of Peter. Peter used to teach as the occasion demanded, without giving systematic arrangement to the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark did not err in writing down some things just as he recalled them. For he had one overriding purpose: to omit nothing that he had heard and to make no false statements in his account.”2

Eusebius points out that though Papias did not himself know the apostles, he was in direct contact with those who had heard them, including John the Elder, Aristion, Polycarp, and the daughters of Philip the Evangelist (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.1 – 9; cf. Acts 21:8 – 9).3 We thus have a first-century tradition claiming that Mark accurately interpreted (or translated) Peter’s eyewitness accounts, turning Peter’s anecdotal stories into a connected narrative, though not necessarily in chronological order.4

Mark’s authorship in the second century 

Second-century sources make similar claims. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark (c. 160 – 180) identifies Mark as the author and links him to Peter: “Mark . . . who was called ‘stump-fingered’ because for the size of the rest of his body he had fingers that were too short. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the departure [or ‘death’] of Peter himself, the same man wrote his Gospel in the regions of Italy.”5 The odd statement about Mark’s disfigured fingers may point to a reliable tradition, since the church is unlikely to have invented such a disparaging remark.6 We find here two additional pieces of information: that Mark wrote after Peter’s death and that he wrote in Italy.

Irenaeus (c. 180), referring to Peter and Paul, similarly asserts, “Now Matthew published a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing and founding the church in Rome. But after their departure [ἔξοδος; death?], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed over to us, in writing, the things preached by Peter.”7 The implication is that Mark is writing from Rome after the deaths of Peter and Paul.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 180) specifically refers to Rome: “When, by the Spirit, Peter had publicly proclaimed the Gospel in Rome, his many hearers urged Mark, as one who had followed him for years and remembered what was said, to put it all in writing. This he did and gave copies to all who asked. When Peter learned of it, he neither objected nor promoted it.”8 Peter’s apparent indifference to Mark’s work suggests that this statement was not created as an apologetic defense of the Petrine tradition, since, if that were the case, one would expect a much more positive affirmation by Peter. Other early church writers, including Tertullian (Marc. 4.5), Origen (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.25.5), and Jerome (Comm. Matt., prologue 6), affirm Mark’s role as author and that he was dependent on the eyewitness accounts of Peter.

How many of these early witnesses are dependent on one another is not known. Yet their unanimity is impressive. No competing claims to authorship are found in the early church. Since John Mark was a relatively obscure figure, it seems unlikely that a gospel would have been attributed to him if he had not in fact written it. We could add to this the evidence of the titles to the Gospels, which, as noted above, appear in nearly all of our extant manuscripts.

Internal evidence for Markan authorship

Although internal evidence does not provide direct evidence for authorship, it can be used to help corroborate the external claims. (1) The author’s many Aramaisms (Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 10:45; 14:36) are compatible with a Palestinian Jew like John Mark (cf. Acts 12:12). (2) The large number of Latinisms would also fit a Roman provenance (place of origin). (3) The identification of Rufus and Alexander as sons of Simon of Cyrene (15:21) is also significant, since it confirms that the author was known to his readers. It seems unlikely that the title “according to Mark” (κατὰ Μάρκον) could have been attached to the gospel so early if the original readers knew it came from someone else. Furthermore, if this Rufus is the same one mentioned in Rom 16:13, we have incidental confirmation of a Roman provenance.



2) Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.15 (translation from P. Maier,  Eusebius: The Church History (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 129 – 30.
3) “Papias thus admits that he learned the words of the apostles from their followers but says that he personally heard Aristion and John the presbyter. He often quotes them by name and includes their traditions in his writings” (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.7; trans. Maier, Eusebius, 127).
4) The connection to Peter is also indirectly made by Justin Martyr (c. AD 150), who refers to Mark 3:16 – 17 ( Jesus’ naming of Simon as “Peter,” and James and John as “Sons of Thunder”) as coming from the memoirs of Peter (Dial. 106). For strong defenses of the authenticity of the Papias tradition, see Hengel, Studies, 47 – 53; Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 1026 – 45.
5) Cited by C. Black, Mark: Images of an Apostolic Interpreter (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994), 119. The date of the Anti-Marcionite prologues is disputed, with some scholars placing them in the third century.
6) The same description is found in Hippolytus, Haer. 7.30.1 (see Black, Mark, 115 – 18).
7) Ireneaus, Haer. 3.1.1; translation from Black, Mark, 99 – 100.
8) Cited by Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.14.6 – 7 (trans. Maier, Eusebius, 218).

GOT QUESTIONS also notes much of the same:

Author: Although the Gospel of Mark does not name its author, it is the unanimous testimony of early church fathers that Mark was the author. He was an associate of the Apostle Peter, and evidently his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13). From Peter he received first-hand information of the events and teachings of the Lord, and preserved the information in written form.

It is generally agreed that Mark is the John Mark of the New Testament (Acts 12:12). His mother was a wealthy and prominent Christian in the Jerusalem church, and probably the church met in her home. Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but not on the second because of a strong disagreement between the two men (Acts 15:37-38). However, near the end of Paul’s life he called for Mark to be with him (2 Timothy 4:11).

Date of Writing: The Gospel of Mark was likely one of the first books written in the New Testament, probably in A.D. 55-59.

Commentary 1

  • T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 339–341.

34 Mark uses προσκαλέομαι to alert the reader to expect something new or emphatic to be revealed, or some new instruction to be delivered to the disciples (cf. 3:13, 23; 6:7; 7:14; 10:42; 12:43). What is surprising here is that the object of the verb is not just the disciples, whom one would expect, but τὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ. We have gained from vv. 27–33 the impression that the setting is a private retreat in the countryside in the far north of Palestine, where Jesus was presumably little known and the population probably largely non-Jewish. A crowd of people in this area who were at least potentially followers of Jesus seems incongruous, and they will play no further part in the narrative. From the narrator’s point of view, however, the introduction of the ὄχλος serves here, rather like οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν σὺν τοῖς δώδεκα in 4:10, to widen the audience for a key pronouncement; their inclusion in the audience asserts that the harsh demands of the following verses apply not only to the Twelve but to anyone else who may wish to join the movement. The introductory phrases εἴ τις θέλει and ὃς γὰρ ἐάν (vv. 35, 38) further generalise the scope of the paragraph; this is not a special formula for the elite, but an essential element in discipleship.

ὀπίσω μου is used here not as in v. 33 but in its more normal NT sense (see 1:17, 20 etc.), and the double use alongside it of ἀκολουθέω (cf. 1:18; 2:14) confirms that we have here a basic condition of discipleship. It is to join Jesus on the way to execution. This is the first use of σταυρός by Mark, and neither noun nor verb will occur again before chapter 15. Jesus’ predictions of his death in 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34 do not spell out the means of death, and this specifically Roman form of execution would not be the first to come to a Jewish mind when hearing of death at the behest of the Jewish authorities. By the time Mark wrote his gospel, of course, Jesus’ crucifixion was well known, and his readers would need no explanation for the σταυρός here. But at the beginning of the journey to Jerusalem such language is calculated to shock, and evokes a vivid and horrifying image of the death march with all its shameful publicity. The preservation of so specific an image at more than one point in the gospel tradition (see also the Q saying Mt. 10:38; Lk. 14:27) may suggest that it originates from Jesus’ own awareness of how he would die rather than from Mark’s reading back the later event.

The metaphor of taking up one’s own cross is not to be domesticated into an exhortation merely to endure hardship patiently. In this context, following 8:31, it is an extension of Jesus’ readiness for death to those who follow him, and the following verses will fill it out still in terms of the loss of life, not merely the acceptance of discomfort. While it may no doubt be legitimately applied to other and lesser aspects of the suffering involved in following Jesus, the primary reference in context must be to the possibility of literal death.

The call to take up the cross is preceded by ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτόν, a phrase not paralleled in the gospel tradition. The verb ἀπαρνέομαι is particularly associated with Peter’s eventual denial not of himself but of his master; in that context it means to dissociate oneself completely from someone, to sever the relationship. So the reflexive use implies perhaps to refuse to be guided by one’s own interests, to surrender control of one’s own destiny. In 2 Tim. 2:13 ἀρνήσασθαι ἑαυτόν (of God as subject) means to act contrary to his own nature, to cease to be God. What Jesus calls for here is thus a radical abandonment of one’s own identity and self-determination, and a call to join the march to the place of execution follows appropriately from this. Such ‘self-denial’ is on a different level altogether from giving up chocolates for Lent. ‘It is not the denial of something to the self, but the denial of the self itself.’

35–37 The talk of losing and gaining the ψυχή in these verses depends on the range of meaning of ψυχή, and poses problems for the translator. The same noun denotes both the ‘being alive’ (as opposed to dead; cf. 3:4; 10:45) which one might seek to preserve by escaping persecution and martyrdom, and the ‘real life’ which may be the outcome of such martyrdom, and therefore is to be found beyond earthly life. It is in this latter sense that the English word ‘soul’ is traditionally used here, but the wordplay is better preserved by retaining ‘life’ but where necessary qualifying it with ‘true/eternal’ or ‘earthly’.

The immediate subject of these verses, following as they do the imagery of taking up one’s cross in v. 34, is surely the literal loss of (earthly) life which the disciple is called to accept as a potential result of following Jesus. Only that sense fully does justice to the wordplay. To extend this sense to the loss of privilege, advantage, reputation, comfort, and the like may be legitimate in principle, but only so long as this primary and more radical sense is not set aside. To cling to the things of this life, the things which humanity naturally values most, is the way to forfeit true life; clinging to life itself is the ultimate example of this concern, and is set in contrast with the acceptance of death (for the right reason) as the way to real life. Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection, will be the supreme example of this new perspective.

The promise of true life is not attached to death in itself, but to the loss of life ἕνεκεν [ἐμοῦ καὶ] τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (see Textual Note). The possibility of literal martyrdom as the outcome of Christian discipleship is clearly envisaged here; cf. 13:9 (ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ). Jesus’ expectation of his own death must have raised this possibility, and the experiences of the early church from Acts 7 onwards would add weight to it. The specific mention of the εὐαγγέλιον as the cause of loss of life indicates that the disciples are to play an active role in mission rather than merely privately following the teaching of Jesus, and that it is in this missionary work that they are likely to meet with persecution and death. Best rightly emphasises that the addition of this phrase indicates the inadequacy of a view of discipleship as merely the imitation of Jesus.

In the Synoptic Gospels κόσμος does not carry the negative connotation it has elsewhere in the NT, and especially in John; it denotes the created world in a neutral sense. κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον therefore simply expresses the height of human ambition and achievement, measured in terms of earthly life. While ζημιόω sometimes carries a juridical sense of penalty or punishment, the context here does not require that nuance. Its more normal sense is simply loss or disadvantage. ζημιωθῆναι in v. 36 therefore denotes the opposite of κερδῆσαι; this is a profit and loss account, and it is clearly understood that the loss of the ψυχή (here ‘true life’) far outweighs any gain in terms of earthly advantage.

The same idea is differently expressed in the rhetorical question of v. 37, where again the assumption is made that the ψυχή is all that ultimately matters, and that nothing else can compensate for its loss. The ἀντάλλαγμα (cf. LXX Job 28:15) is the ‘exchange rate’ at which the ψυχή is valued; it is beyond price. The language of exchange echoes Ps. 49:7–9 (though LXX there uses λυτρόω/λύτρωσις, not ἀνταλλάσσομαι/ἀντάλλαγμα), but whereas the psalm speaks of a payment to avoid physical death, here the focus has moved to ‘true life’, which is even more beyond the reach of human valuation. There is no reason in this context to read into the question any developed theology of redemption; it is simply a statement of comparative value.

Commentary 2

  • David Smith, Mark: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), 157–169

Insight into the Messiah’s Task

Mark 8:[31]–33

…….3. Jesus’ First Passion Prediction 8:31–33

Coupled with the immediately preceding command to silence, the core of Jesus’ self-revelation began with a redirection of the disciples’ choice of titles. They chose Messiah; Jesus offered another, more enigmatic title: the Son of Man (8:31). What Jesus was about to say regarding suffering and death might have been incomprehensible if He had retained the disciples’ more victorious-sounding title: “Christ.” Jesus would not allow himself to be categorized. For Jesus, the title “Christ” carried too much militaristic and nationalistic baggage; it had to be tempered with the less familiar “Son of Man” designation. He went on to teach His disciples the essential issues with reference to His identity.

The “Son of Man must suffer many things” (8:31). The disciples had seen nothing but power and victory in the acts of Jesus thus far. So these words had no place to take root. Moreover, the suffering and death of the Messiah raised huge theological problems. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, why would God allow Him to be rejected and be killed (8:31)? Though the answer is not fully elucidated in the gospel of Mark, it is part of a plan found in the Old Testament. Mark reported that the Son of Man must suffer many things. The word must is often used of divine necessity as spelled out later in 9:12 and 14:21, 49. Thus, Jesus’ rejection and death are to find their source in Scripture and the heart of the Father’s will and not in the violence of Palestinian politics. Mark would not allow Jesus’ death to be read as a sociological mistake but rather as an act of divine redemption.

The wording of each of the three passion predictions is just a bit different. It is only in this passage that the reader of Mark sees the word suffer. But with rejected, Mark draws attention to Psalm 118:22, where Christians identify in Jesus’ fate that the “stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” and His following vindication. Each of the three passion predictions ends with the same climax: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The disciples were no more attentive to this aspect of Jesus’ teaching than any other.

No matter how much explanation He provided, the disciples never achieved complete clarity. This unveiling of the messianic mission demanded a response from the disciples. And it came from Peter as he took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him (8:32). Peter displayed that he was at cross-purposes with Jesus’ agenda. The word “rebuke” connotes a command by one taking authority over another. Jesus, without hesitation, turned and looked at his disciples (8:33), implicating them as coconspirators, as he rebuked Peter. The repetition of the same verb (8:31, command of Jesus to disciples; 8:32, Peter’s rebuke of Jesus; 8:33, Jesus’ rebuke to Peter) demonstrates irreconcilable perspectives. Jesus settled the issue when He ordered Peter to get behind Him. Note how this short statement is spatially as well as relationally oriented. First, Jesus said, “Get behind me.” This is the same language used by Jesus in His initial call of His disciples in 1:17 and could be translated, “Come, behind Me.” This might be understood as Jesus calling Peter to get back in step with Him. Further, there is another occurrence of the word in the next verse, where the phrase is translated, “If anyone would come after me” (8:34), cementing Peter’s call to follower-ship based not on his notion of power or might, but on Jesus’ revelation of rejection, shame, and death.

Relationally, Jesus called Peter “Satan.” In short order, Jesus completed His own counter-rebuke of Peter. Peter’s plan, which avoided the cross, placed him in league with Jesus’ archenemy. This is partially why Jesus commanded (rebukes) the disciples to silence, for the proclamation of a Messiah without the cross is satanic in its message. This exchange was brought to a culmination with Jesus’ closing reproof: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (8:33). The NIV makes this a separate sentence, while in actuality it is a dependent clause, specifically a result clause: “for you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of people.” The plain teaching of Jesus (8:31) cannot be grasped on a merely human level.

The vision for ministry that Jesus is teaching is irreconcilable with the vision Peter and the other disciples have for Him as the Messiah. The misguided vision of the disciples and their determined refusal to adopt Jesus’ revelation precludes them from full comprehension. Teaching, even from such a skilled educator as Jesus, would not adequately overcome humanity’s blindness. Thus, Mark conveys a truth that became Christian doctrine: Men and women must not merely become educated (or catechized) in the Church; they must initially be transformed.

The Demands of Discipleship

Mark 8:34–9:1

  1. The Cost of Following Jesus 8:34–35

The call to discipleship is comprehensive in its reach (disciples and crowds), but it immediately takes on a conditional nature: “If anyone would come after me” (8:34). The phrase literally translated reads, “If someone wishes/wants after me to follow.…” Jesus demands a heartfelt choice, which eliminates other, possibly more appealing, choices.

Jesus set the agenda according to His spiritual compass; a follower must “deny himself.” Powerfully, the insertion of the reflexive pronoun himself implies the first aspect of discipleship is to refuse to be guided by one’s own interests. Moreover, self-denial is not to be confused with asceticism (the denial of things one desires) or even with self-discipline. Self-denial is the denial of the self itself (see Phil. 2:3–4). The second requirement of a follower is to “take up his cross.” This is the first use of the word in the Gospel, certainly creating a link back to Jesus’ earlier prediction of His own death. In the first century, a cross indicated punishment of a shamed criminal at the hands of the Romans. Moreover, this Roman form of execution might be heard by the listeners as a call to rebel against Rome and to risk their lives. Yet, the word will not reoccur until chapter 15. This provided Jesus with ample time to define the impact and meaning of His own death and the cross-bearing imagery associated with His followers. For in summary, the self-denial to which Jesus calls one is abandonment of one’s autonomy and adoption of Jesus’ leadership and lordship.

Finally, Jesus beckoned His disciples to “follow me” (8:34). Jesus’ initial thrust into discipleship-making seems more directional than doctrinal. His call is bracketed with terms of motion. “Mark is rich in verbs of motion. Jesus is on the move; he summons disciples to come after him” Each time Jesus called His disciples, He was in motion (1:16, 19; 2:14; 10:17). Further, His call was to get in step directly behind Him. Thus, for one to be a disciple, one must follow. The mark of a faithful disciple is to be seen not in fully comprehending all the theological nuances of the person of Jesus, but in setting one’s sight unwaveringly on the path laid out by Jesus. The path to the cross is costly and counterintuitive, yet Jesus clearly laid out the directional markers for all who are willing to follow.

The demands of discipleship are further refined. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (8:35). Jesus offered this paradoxical principle for savings one’s life, using two meanings of “life.” The word implies physical life in its first use (as opposed to death; see 3:4; 10:45). In this sense, people might think they can preserve their lives by avoiding conflict and persecution. However, Jesus’ other meaning was that by losing one’s physical life, one receives (saves) eternal life. More precisely, this call to a loss of life is not a morbid acceptance of death. Rather, it is an adoption of Jesus (for me) and His mission agenda (for the gospel) around which one reorients one’s focus and through which one discovers true life. A disciple is to follow Jesus by publicly adhering to the gospel, proclaiming it to the world, and dying if necessary.

  1. Keeping an Eternal Perspective 8:36–9:1

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (8:36). Here the contrast between this world and the next (soul) is made more explicit. In this Gospel, “world” represents the created order in a neutral sense. Gain implies human ambition and drive for worldly success. Thus, one should not connote an evil intent on the part of the pursuer, but the explicit contrast as the loss of one’s life or soul far exceeds any profit in terms of earthly gain. This contrast is continued in the rhetorical question “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (8:37). This passage continues with the theme that we cannot grasp the priceless value of one life or soul, and that there is another way to categorize value apart from what we can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

Verse 38 repeats the conditional emphasis begun in 8:34: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” The contrast of honor and shame was a primary value of the first century. So, if anyone was ashamed of Jesus (of me) and His authoritative demands (and my words), she or he might have received worldly honor, but forfeited honor in the future, coming Kingdom. David Garland summarizes it this way:

Jesus uses the threat of judgment to induce his followers to be faithful. To be put to shame is the opposite of vindication (Ps. 25:3; 119:6; Isa. 41:10–11; Jer. 17:18). Those who may be frightened by the edicts of earthly courts (represented in the Gospel by Herod Antipas, the high priest’s Sanhedrin, and the Roman governor, Pilate) should fear even more the decision of the heavenly tribunal, which determines their eternal destiny.

The use of the adjective adulterous reminds the reader of the frequent Old Testament charges against the nation of Israel as she constantly committed spiritual adultery and went out after other gods (Isa. 1:4, 21; Ezek. 16:32; Hos. 2:4).

The traditional early church understanding of the Son of Man “coming” was that of the parousia or the second coming. Yet the imagery and background in this material comes from the visions of Daniel 7: “… one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” He is presented before the throne of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13–14), and “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The scene is clearly set in heaven, and His “coming” is better described as an entrance into the throne room of God, not the “second coming” to earth. One must keep in mind that Jesus’ teaching in 8:31 is an intricate series of contrasts between this world and the next, with the Son of Man prophecy as its climax. Thus, the shaming of the Son of Man on earth by people will result in their judgment in the heavenly realm.

There is an interesting combination of Son of Man language and the Father’s glory. The voice at Jesus’ baptism directly referred to Jesus as His Son (1:11). Jesus only referred to God as His Father again in 13:23 and in His prayer in Gethsemane (14:36). Yet the importance is not simply familial but theological. For here the Son of Man and Son of God concepts are closely linked with each other and with the messianic overtones of the entire passage. This would not happen again until Jesus’ confession before the high priest in 14:62.

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (9:1). Seemingly, 9:1 assures the first-century disciples (and subsequent readers) that for all they abandon in this lifetime, they will indeed see the kingdom of God come and share in His exaltation. The implication is that the event being referred to is near enough that a privileged few will catch a glimpse of this unveiling. Numerous suggestions have been offered regarding the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction. The most prominent suggestions include (1) the death of Jesus and the resultant tearing of the Temple curtain, (2) victory over death in His resurrection, (3) His ascension and enthronement in heaven, (4) the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and (5) the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. All of these would certainly be viable options within the lifetime of the original hearers. Yet nearly all except the first option fall outside the narrative of the gospel of Mark. Possibly the most text-centered line of interpretation would be to look forward to the Transfiguration (9:2–13). The events are linked temporally and precisely—after six days—a highly unusual practice for Mark outside of the passion narrative. Additionally, the Transfiguration narrative reports what the disciples saw, and the cloud appearing and enveloping the disciples is suggestive of the Mount Sinai theophany (Exod. 19), leaving the reader with the impression of Jesus coming in power. One could feel less than satisfied with seeing Jesus transfigured on a mountain being equated with seeing the kingdom of God come with power. Yet throughout the Gospel of Mark, the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus are inseparably linked. The Kingdom was brought near with the coming of Jesus and the proclaiming of the good news of God (1:14–15). Later, the secret of the Kingdom was revealed in Jesus’ parabolic instruction (4:10–12). Thus, it seems appropriate for Mark to make known the joining of the Kingdom of God and the person of Jesus as a signal of the real, though not yet fully revealed, presence.

An Atheist Response Turns Into Evidence of God | Fazale Rana

(Originally posted September 2013; updated June 2021)

My title, “An Atheist Response Turns Into Evidence of God,” is worded that way because if the evidence used against God is said to be proof against His existence… and later it is shown that such evidence actually support the God hypothesis, it doesn’t cease being evidence, it just changes columns (or can be in both). Much to the skeptics chagrin. (In other words, “natural evil” turns out not to be so evil.)

First order of business: God Talk

Mind you, these are consequences of a fallen world, i.e., things that must happen via entropy in order for life to continue when not sustained directly — like before the fall. One commentator put it thus:

  • The question then becomes how do we know if a particular natural disaster is directly from God. The answer is simple. We don’t know. What we do know is that the ratio of the very small number of God-announced natural disasters compared to the total number of naturally occurring natural disasters is very, very small. So we can safely assume that a natural disaster is probably just that, a naturally occurring phenomena that happens because we live in a fallen world [….] So let’s stop blaming God for something that He didn’t directly cause…. (DAVE MAYNARD)

However, as an aside, “fullness of history” itself is known by God alone, so verses like this make known a great mystery that all of it bends to the “arch of God,” if you will:

  • He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration [dispensation] of the days of fulfillment [of times]—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

To support the idea of Mr. Maynard, here is the final paragraph of a decent short dealing with the Sovereignty of God:

  • While Christian thinkers often have used speculative methods in an attempt to explain the interplay of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, finite creatures likely will never fully understand this mystery. Yet believers can live in the full confidence that God is in control and that the Lord of the universe always does what is right (Genesis 18:25b).


Another example is that hurricanes help to regulate the earths temperature, and cause “sea deserts” to bloom… assisting in many ways earth’s climate:

  • “Some parts of the ocean are like deserts, because there isn’t enough food for many plants to grow. A hurricane’s high winds stir up the ocean waters and help bring nutrients and phytoplankton to the surface, where they get more sunlight, allowing the plants to bloom,” Babin said. (NASA | NASA)


Why are these “blooms” important, you ask? Well, the blooms produces most of the worlds oxygen, one old article I noted said 90% — but in fact it is closer to 50% (NATGEO says %50… still, that’s the lions share!), and revitalizes what is known as “Dead Zones” in the ocean. Which bring life in “blooms” to the ocean which feed its inhabitants. To wit:

In the process of photosynthesis, phytoplankton release oxygen into the water. Half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. The other half is produced via photosynthesis on land by trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants.


To support the above, via TAMPA BAY TIMES:

….“Most certainly,” says Steve DiMarco, a Texas A&M University oceanography professor who for 16 years has studied the Gulf of Mexico, which has a “dead zone” where oxygen-depleted water can kill marine life.

In early July, most of the Texas-Louisiana shelf from Freeport, Texas, to the Mississippi River Delta was hypoxic – meaning the salt water has lost large amounts of oxygen. Later in July, Hurricane Dolly disrupted the dead zone and re-oxygenated the shallow waters south of Louisiana and the entire shelf off Texas. Oxygen levels started to drop again within days after the storm.

In early August, Hurricane Eduard re-oxygenated the Louisiana shelf, but by mid-August oxygen concentrations dropped to hypoxic levels.

And guess what?

Hurricane Ike re-oxygenated the shelf when it made landfall Sept. 12 in Texas. The latest data collected in October showed oxygen concentrations nearly all at normal levels, DiMarco said….

For even more examples, head over to WINTERY KNIGHT and his post on the matter, “Why does God allow so much natural evil from phenomena like earthquakes?” For example, plate-tectonics and earthquakes are turning out to be an observed necessity for life to exist (as Fazale was mentioning):


New research provides yet another component that appears fine-tuned for life. In a letter in the September 27, 2007 issue of Nature together with a corresponding news release from the University of Bonn, Arno Rohrbach and his colleagues have discussed another mechanism similar to the carbonate-silicate cycle. It also depends on plate tectonics but, in this case, the mechanism controls the amount of oxygen on the surface of the Earth.

Oxygen becomes bound up in various oxides which are then drawn into the Earth’s interior, where various processes result in its being incorporated into an exotic mineral called majorite. The results reported in this letter established that majorite functions as a kind of “reservoir” for oxygen, and when the majorite ascends nearer to the surface of the Earth it breaks down and releases its oxygen. Some of this oxygen also binds with hydrogen released from the interior of the Earth to form water. The authors have referred to the whole process as an “oxygen elevator.”

They go on to say that “without the ‘oxygen elevator’ in its mantle the Earth would probably be a barren planet hostile to life. According to our findings, planets below a certain size hardly have any chance of forming a stable atmosphere with a high water content.”

This research confirms the existence of one more finely tuned mechanism that depends on plate tectonics and contributes to an environment that can support life. It also gives humans one more reason to be appreciative rather than dismayed when we experience an earthquake that breaks some precious possessions beyond repair.

…read more..

In other words, the skeptic should be THANKING God for the environment that allows life. The gift of life and the opportunity to know and have a relationship with your Creator is a miracle! And is why God is a jealous God and burns with righteous anger at the rejection of giving Him alms — instead the non-regenerate use even their breath to curse Him.

C.S. Lewis:

If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling “whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?” But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

Is There Life After This Life?

What happens after we die? Does everything just end? Or, is there something that comes after this life? Who hasn’t asked themselves these questions? In this compelling video, Dennis Prager deals with the issue of the afterlife head on.

Here is a quote I love from Grant Jeffrey’s book[s] on heaven:

A Hypothetical Test on Your Desire For Heaven

To illustrate this lack of awareness of the reality of Heaven’s glories, I have often during the last few years challenged congregations to participate in an experiment. I ask my audience to imagine for a moment that there is a button on the back of the pew in front of their seat. Then I suggest that they imagine that, if they pushed that button, they and their loved ones would be instantaneously transferred to Heaven to live forever. Then I ask the question, “Would you press the button?” The response of the congregation is fascinating. Usually about one-half of the church audience smile in anticipation of what awaits them in Heaven if their button actually translated them to the presence of Jesus Christ. However, at least half of the audience reveal a perplexed expression on their faces that showing that they have little interest in pushing that hypothetical button. Ask yourself this question: Would I want to go to Heaven today with all my loved ones? If the answer is NO; why not?

Your Mental Image of Heaven

I have asked congregation members in private conversations their real reasons why they would either “push the button” or not. Their responses were quite revealing. Your personal mental image of Heaven will determine to a great degree your attitude and longing for the eternal city. Those Christians who would press this hypothetical button are usually mature believers who are strong in their faith due to many hours spent studying the promises of God. As a result of personal Bible study, reading a book, or attending a church where the pastor taught these great truths, the Christians who would choose to press the button have obtained a strong conviction of the reality of God’s promise. They are not suicidal; nor do they lack plans for their future. They simply believe that Heaven is as real as this Earth and they are prepared to joyfully go home whenever Jesus Christ calls them. On the other hand, those Christians who would not choose to push the button almost invariably had received little teaching about the reality of Paradise. When I asked these believers to describe the mental image that went through their mind when they thought about Heaven their answers were very revealing about why they wanted to avoid this as long as possible. They didn’t want to avoid Heaven forever; they just had no desire to go there now because of their mental image of it. They would prefer to wait until they were ninety-seven years old with one foot in the grave before they pushed that button and went to the heavenly city.

What was the mental image of Heaven held by those who didn’t want to go there now? Many of them told me that they thought they would spend eternity sitting on a cloud playing a harp in an endless eternal church service that would never, ever, ever end. In other words, if they were honest, they thought of Heaven as being an incredibly boring place with nothing worth doing, nowhere to go and an eternity of passivity with no activity. Naturally their vision of the New Jerusalem was about as exciting as watching the grass grow on your back lawn. It is no wonder that such Christians have little interest or motivation regarding God’s promises about our eternal home. Does their description resemble your own present view of Heaven? If it does, then you are in for a delightful journey of discovery as we examine the true reality of what the Bible teaches us about the glories of Heaven.


From Video Description:

In this “Ultimate Issues Hour,” Dennis Prager (a conservative Jew) discusses “Ultimate Justice” (God’s Justice and otherwise) and justice’s involvement/affect in/on behavior. A new study reveals that belief in hell [and heaven] predicted a lower crime rate; belief in heaven predicted more crimes. Dennis tackles this hard to explain — or is it — issue.

This is uploaded because of an article by a detective and Christian apologist that likewise deals head-on with these questions as well (Cold Case). Detective Wallace says, “Criminals who justify their actions with religious doctrines are typically woefully ignorant of (or purposefully distorting) these doctrines,” I concur. Having been in jail for almost a full year-and-a-half with three felonies, I know first hand the psychological crutch religion can play, rather than the Refiner’s Fire Christianity is meant to be (Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7, Job 23:10, Isaiah 48:10).

I will add that “Liberalism,” wherever it is applied (politics, economics, faith, ethics, and the like), harms immeasurably the actions of those involved in it. Theology is no less hurt by this progressive matrix.

Just the latest example of this are those that are opposed to pro-lifers support of a bill that will stop late-term abortions. They can be heard chanting “hail Satan” in response to others singing “Amazing Grace.” As well as “fu*k the church!” The Democrats that once supported and made up John F. Kennedy’s base would not recognize the liberal Democratic party of today. Which is why Dennis says (as well as Reagan) that the Democratic Party left them, not the other way around.

  • A University of Oregon psychologist has found that a country’s belief in heaven and hell is related to its crime rates, and that a belief in a punitive God equals less crime while a belief in a forgiving savior means more crime. (CHRISTIAN POST)

And of course…


Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 1996), 113-114.

This is an illustration of C.S Lewis’ third talk of the third radio series called ‘What Christians Believe’. This became Chapter 3 of Book 2, in the book called ‘Mere Christianity’.

Logical Consequences of Atheism (e.g., Silly Syllogisms) [Updated a Tad]

Here is a thoughtful challenge by someone a friend is in conversation with:

I’ll jump into this message by addressing the assertion that suffering is related to sin. I understand that this is what the Bible says, and during the infancy of the human species, when religion was our first attempt at making sense of the world, it might have made sense to attribute suffering to violating the will of a god. However, to make such an assertion in 2016 seems rather ridiculous. Nine million children die every year before they reach 5 years old. Remember that tsunami in 2004 that killed 250,000 people? Imagine one of those every ten days, only killing children under the age of five. We’re talking about a thousand dead children per hour, or about 17 every minute. This means that before you reach the end of this paragraph, some few children will likely have died in terror and agony somewhere in the world. The parents of these children almost certainly believe in God, and are praying at this very moment for their children to be spared. You and I both know that these prayers will go unanswered. The classic position taken by nonbelievers is that any god who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to suffer and grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them, or doesn’t care to. This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent.

The very first thing that pops into my mind is the idea Dr. Clouser pulls from many positions taken by people who profess to “think well,”

The program of rejecting logic in order to accept mutually contradictory beliefs is not, however, just a harmless, whimsical hope that somehow logically incompatible beliefs can both be true…it results in nothing less than the destruction of any and every concept we could possess. Even the concept of rejecting the law of non-contradiction depends on assuming and using that law, since without it the concept of rejecting it could neither be thought nor stated.

Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2005), 178.

(More can be see in this regard in my intro chapter to my book, here)

We will venture into how this challenge is void of “thoughtfulness” — which is why I italicized this word in the first sentence at the top of this post. The main laws of logic will show that if the skeptics viewpoint is “true,” then “truth” does not exist. But I digress ingress.


In the challengers paragraph we find him inferring the classically and oft used syllogism that follows:

  • Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)
  • Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
  • Premise 3: Suffering and evil exist
  • Conclusion: An all-good, all-powerful God could not exist since there is so much suffering and evil in the world. If he did, he would eradicate this evil.

However, not many atheists use this any longer since the excellent work of Alvin Plantinga in his book, God, Freedom, and Evil. This syllogism changes a bit and looks like this:

  • An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God created the world.
  • God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so.
  • Therefore, the world contains evil.

Ronald Nash comments further, and a larger excerpt can be found in my detailing Greg Gutfeld’s agnosticism:

Numbers 1 and 2 taken together do, of course, entail 3. Therefore, the propositions from our original theistic set that now make up 1 are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding 2 is whether it is possibly true. Obviously it is since it is not logically false. Therefore, the theistic set is logically consistent from which follows the impossibility of anyone’s ever demonstrating that it is not.

Ronald Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 189.

So we see that by using logic found in philosophical principles that the challenger alluded to, especially in his last sentence, saying “This conception of a deity is therefore either evil or impotent,” that the challenge is defeated.

Not only that however, is, HOW does the challenger come to a conclusion that he can judge something to be wrong, outside of his personal opinion that is. In other words, he is saying that an action or inaction constitutes evil. He uses this moral presupposition bound up in “evil” to insert into a syllogistic formula to disprove God (at least God in the Judeo-Christian sense… for “evil” being negative is absent from every other religious viewpoint).

He, the challenger, is saying that I, that my neighbor, someone in Bangledesh, or Papua New Guinea [etc.] should see this formula, understand what “evil” action or inaction is, and agree with him. He is – in other words – inserting an absolute principle in the formulation. This is where I want to challenge such an idea.

CS Lewis once reflected on himself doing the same thing as an atheist when he said:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

To further draw out this idea, Ravi Zacharias responded to a questioner at Harvard where a moral principle was inserted into the premise of the question:

You see… when an absolute is brought into the equation, the challenger ceases being an atheist or skeptic. UNLESS they pause and explain to others why they should accept what they consider to be an “evil” act. ~These presuppositions also assume a goal or end to life, inserting meaning and purpose that the skeptic EXPECTS others to see and agree with.~ Let us see a little about what atheists consider to be “evil.” Again, these are people bringing their worldview to their logical ends (for references, see, 26 Brutally Honest Atheist Quotes Worth A Read):

  • “When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is not self—evident. . . Christianity is a system.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “…to say that something is wrong because… it is forbidden by God, is… perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong… even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable….” “The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” ~ Richard Taylor
  • “There is no objective moral standard. We are responsible for our own actions….” | “The hard answer is it [moral decisions] is a matter of opinion.” ~ David Silverman
  • “There is no purpose to life, and we should not want there to be a purpose to life because if there was that would cheapen life.” ~ Dan Barker

Here is my “AFTERTHOUGHT” to two examples proffered by myself in regards to a meme floating around the internet:


Just as an afterthought. A skeptic who rejects God and accepts naturalism cannot say rape is wrong like the theist can say this:


  • THEISM: evil, wrong at all times and places in the universe — absolutely;
  • ATHEISM: taboo, it was used in our species in the past for the survival of the fittest, and is thus a vestige of evolutionary progress… and so may once again become a tool for survival — it is in every corner of nature;
  • PANTHEISM: illusion, all morals and ethical actions and positions are actually an illusion (Hinduism – maya; Buddhism – sunyata). In order to reach some state of Nirvana one must retract from this world in their thinking on moral matters, such as love and hate, good and bad. Not only that, but often times the person being raped has built up bad karma and thus is the main driver for his or her state of affairs (thus, in one sense it is “right” that rape happens).

In other words they have to BORROW FROM ethics the worldview that they are trying to disprove (again referencing CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias’ work above).

For more on this, see my post noting many more atheist/evolutionary (philosophical naturalism) positions followed to their logical conclusions here:

Here we see the logical consequences of the “God Is Dead” movement and Nietzsche’s prophecy concerning the outcome:

Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.

The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.

Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII (New York, NY: Image Books, 1994), 405-405.

And so, the Twentieth Century was indeed the bloodiest ever. In fact, non-God [atheistic] governments killed more people in 100-years than all religion did the previous nineteen. See my “Religious Wars” post for more.

Again, even truth is called into question, as the many quotes in the above link show, if God is extant from our discussion about reality.

“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”

C. S. Lewis, God In the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 52–53.

Do you see? If atheism is true, then these absolute statements entwined in these skeptical position vanish. In fact, “consciousness” is a problem for this discussion:

Atheist Daniel Dennett, for example, asserts that consciousness is an illusion. (One wonders if Dennett was conscious when he said that!) His claim is not only superstitious, it’s logically indefensible. In order to detect an illusion, you’d have to be able to see what’s real. Just like you need to wake up to know that a dream is only a dream, Daniel Dennett would need to wake up with some kind of superconsciousness to know that the ordinary consciousness the rest of us mortals have is just an illusion. In other words, he’d have to be someone like God in order to know that.

Dennett’s assertion that consciousness is an illusion is not the result of an unbiased evaluation of the evidence. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unbiased evaluation” in a materialist world because the laws of physics determine everything anyone thinks, including everything Dennett thinks. Dennett is just assuming the ideology of materialism is true and applying its implications to consciousness. In doing so, he makes the same mistake we’ve seen so many other atheists make. He is exempting himself from his own theory. Dennett says consciousness is an illusion, but he treats his own consciousness as not an illusion. He certainly doesn’t think the ideas in his book are an illusion. He acts like he’s really telling the truth about reality.

When atheists have to call common sense “an illusion” and make self-defeating assertions to defend atheism, then no one should call the atheistic worldview “reasonable.” Superstitious is much more accurate.

Frank Turek, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 46-47.

These are meta-narratives just assumed by the skeptic with no regard to how they arrived there. I liken it to an analogy of driving a car. The atheist thinks he has gotten in his car, backed out of the drive-way, and is a few turns into his trip to the market of reason. I am merely pointing out that the car is not starting when the key is turned. One may wish to go through another post of mine entitled, “Is Evil Proof Against God? Where Does It Come From?

Remember, always ask yourself if the question or challenge is a proper one to begin with…

Mortimer J. Adler rightly points out that while many Christians are quick in responding to the conclusions in an argument often times the Christian is unaware that the point of departure is not in the conclusion, but in the starting premise, the foundational assumptions.

Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001), 20-21.

Classic Syllogism – Simple Change

This is how it is often presented:

★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil.
★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil.
★ Evil exists.
★ Therefore, there is no God. (Or: God is either not all-powerful, or He is not good.)

All that is really being done is this simple change, and it is sound:

★ If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil.
★ If God is good, He would want to prevent evil.
★ Evil exists.
★ Therefore, the world contains evil.

The conclusion that the world contains evil has no explanatory power on why it does or even if this impacts the existence of God in any way.

Actor Stephen Fry’s “Evil God” Video Critiqued (Re-Edited)

Firstly, the original video from William Lane CraigReasonable Faith should be the place to comment and thank Dr. Craig for his [body] of work… not my video edit (which I explain a bit below).

For more clear thinking like this from Dr. William Lane Craig, see his site: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/

I changed a couple things from the original video (https://youtu.be/XG35_ZJP0BM).

FIRST I knocked the opening intro volume down some DBs… people like me that may be up late watching this stuff while my wife is asleep in the next room and then have this *BLARE* creates bad blood between husband and wife. (Fellas’ you know what I am talking about… can you give me an “AMEN!”)

The audio from Fry’s video used was horrible… like they were recording the sound from the laptop, fixed that with the inclusion of the video of Stephen Fry’s interview — something that offers a better visualization of what Dr. Craig and Kevin Harris are viewing for audience inclusion and clarity.

Responding to the “Angry, Immoral God” – Objection

How would you respond to the following quote: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion). In this video, filmed at a Fearless Faith Seminar, Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace respond to this common objection. If you would like to bring a Fearless Faith seminar to your community, visit http://crossexamined.org/fearless-faith-seminars/

Buddhism “Hashed Out” To Its Logical Conclusions

Originally Posted May 24th, 2010

A partial portion from my proposed book and an old post elsewhere:

I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist.  This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like. The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me.  (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):[1]

My initial engagement:

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.) Curious.

They Call Him James Ure, responds:

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others. Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

I respond:

Then if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva[2] the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a ‘Bodhi-being.’ And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.” (Comparative Religions – Buddhism)

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well. One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

My Final Response

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

Here’s another way to see the same thing, Dan Story weighs in again:

It may be possible that nothing exists. However, it is impossible to demonstrate that nothing exists because to do so would be to deny our own existence. We must exist in order to affirm that reality doesn’t exist. To claim that reality is an illusion is logically impossible because it also requires claiming that the claim itself is unreal—a self-defeating statement. If reality is an illusion, how do we know that pantheism isn’t an illusion too?[3]

Another author put it thusly, “if pantheism is true (and my individuality an illusion), it is false, since there is no basis by which to explain the illusion.”[4] The challenge then becomes this: “if reality is an illusion, how do we know then that pantheism isn’t an illusion as well?”[5] You see…

most people assume that something exists. There may be someone, perhaps, who believes that nothing exists, but who would that person be? …. no one ever consciously tries to defend the position that nothing exists. It would be a useless endeavor since there would be no one to convince. Even more significantly, it would be impossible to defend that position since, if it were true, there would be no one to make the defense. So to defend the position that nothing exists seems immediately to be absurd and self-contradictory.[6]

Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil.[7] Dan Story points out what should be becoming obvious, “He is the cause of it (remember, all is God).” Mr. Story continues:

Pantheism and the New Age may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is merely illusion.  But let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world.  Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a parent who has just lost a child that evil and suffering are illusion.  Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real.  In either case, evil exists.  As Geisler noted, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion?  Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?…  How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?”[8] The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.[9]

Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion is not an answer at all.  Must we not live as if this illusion is reality?   In other words, “look both ways:”

As the professor waxed eloquent and expounded on the law of non-contradiction, he eventually drew his conclusion: “This [either/or logic] is a Western way of looking at reality. The real problem is that you are seeing contradictions as a Westerner when you should be approaching it as an Easterner. The both/and is the Eastern way of viewing reality.”

After he belabored these two ideas on either/or and both/and for some time, I finally asked if I could interrupt his unpunctuated train of thought and raise one question.

I said, “Sir, are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and system of logic or nothing else?”

There was pin-drop silence for what seemed an eternity. I repeated my question: “Are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and logic or nothing else? Have I got that right?”

He threw his head back and said, “The either/or does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?”

“Indeed, it does emerge,” I said.  “And as a matter of fact, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street – it is either the bus or me, not both of us.[10]

Pantheists may pawn this inane philosophy on people, but no one can live it out consistently as Ravi pointed out.  Moreover, when a large population tries to live it – like in India – one can see the fruits it produces, the destruction of the family a case in point.[11] The promulgation of suffering and the inability of the religious Hindu to stop and help a suffering child or the rampant infestation of disease ridden — crop eating — pests, is all a loud refutation of trying to live an unlivable religious proposition.  A lie.

[1] I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html

[2] “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

[3] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[4] Francis J. Beckwith and Stephen E. Parrish, See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997), 210.

[5] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 112-113.

[6] L. Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

[7] Michael J. Murray critiques quickly the Ramanuja and Madhya philosophies:

Stated in terms of Christian terminology, Ramanuja’s view implies that every soul that has ever existed endured an eternity in “hell” (i.e., the cycle of rebirths) before it could enter “heaven” (i.e., union with God). Now unlike Madhya, Ramanuja claims that God freely, and beginninglessly, created the world, and all existing souls, out of his own being. This latter claim, however, presents Ramanuja with a very severe problem of evil: that of reconciling his belief that God is perfectly good and all-loving with God’s ultimate responsibility for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of sin and suffering. The problem of evil faced by Ramanuja here is much more severe than that faced by Western theists. First, unlike Western theists, Ramanuja cannot say that this evil is a necessary consequence of God’s creating creatures with free will. Although the suffering of a soul in any individual life could be blamed on the bad karma resulting from its free choices in previous lives, the fact that the suffering is beginningless — and hence infinite — cannot be blamed on free choice. The reason for this is that, no matter what free choices souls make in this life, or have made in any previous life, they cannot change the fact that they have beginninglessly endured an infinite amount of suffering; but one cannot be responsible for what one was powerless to change. Followers of Ramanuja, therefore, do not seem to have recourse to the traditional free will theodicy invoked in the West to explain evil. Second, the amount of evil that needs to be explained is infinitely larger than that faced by West­ern versions of theism, since, according to Ramanuja each soul has committed an infinite number of evil acts and endured an infinite period of suffering. Unfortunately, as Julius Lipner points out, neither Ramanuja, nor any other orthodox Hindu theologian, ever attempted to address this particular problem of evil since they took the eternality of the world and souls as an “unquestioned datum for life and thought.” Unlike Ramanuja (and Western theism), however, Madhva’s theol­ogy largely avoids the problem of evil. The reason for this is that in his theology God is neither responsible for the beginningless existence of souls in a state of bondage, nor for the fact that they continue to remain in bondage, this being ultimately the result of their inherent, uncreated na­ture. Nonetheless, his system suffers from two drawbacks when com­pared to Ramanuja’s view. First, Madhva’s system leaves one with a plurality of ultimates — souls, matter, and God — without accounting for their existence. Although this is not a devastating criticism of Madhya, everything else being equal, views that hypothesize a single, unified source of everything (such as God), are in virtue of their simplicity, philosophically more satisfactory. Second, even though Madhya claimed to base his view on scripture, from the perspective of many orthodox Hindus his theology seems to contradict both those passages of Hindu scripture that appear to imply a deep sort of identity between God and souls and those that appear to imply that the world emerges out of God.

Reason for the Hope Within, 200-202.

[8] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 189 (emphasis added).

[9] Dan Story, Christianity on the Offense, 113.

[10] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 128-129 (emphasis added).

[11] Rabi R. Maharaj, Death of a Guru, 13 and 14:

No matter how fulfilling life becomes, there are always cer­tain regrets when one looks back. My deepest sense of loss involves my father, Chandrabhan Ragbir Sharma Mahabir Maharaj. How I wish he were still alive! Nor does the fact that this extraordinary man died so young and under such mysterious circumstances entirely explain my regret. So much that is even more remarkable has happened since then. I often wonder what it would be like to share it all with him, and what his reaction would be. To share it with him! We never shared anything in our lives. Because of the vows he had taken before I was born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed. Just two words from him would have made me un­speakably happy. More than anything else in the whole world I wanted to hear him say, “Rabi! Son!” Just once. But he never did.  For eight long years he uttered not a word, not even a whispered confidence to my mother…. “Why is Father that way?” I would ask my mother when I was still too young to understand. “He is someone very special—the greatest man you could have for a father,” she would reply, always patient with my persistent questions and puzzled expression. “He is seeking the true Self that lies within us all, the One Being, of which there is no other. And that’s what you are too, Rabi.”

I want to leave the reader with this thought by Robert Hume. In his book, The World’s Living Religions, he comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world”  [I can add here, the cults either].  These include the character of God as a loving Heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Further, he says:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great re­ligious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strongminded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been wor­shipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their prac­tical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a con­sistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the com­prehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

Robert Hume, The World’s Living Religions (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), 285-286.

Buddhist/Christian Manuscripts Compared

Dr. Habermas discusses Buddhist and Christian Scriptures compared to original manuscripts:

The Buddha is said to have dies around (using the earliest date) 400 B.C.. The earliest portion of a Buddhist writing is dated at about 179 A.D. SBuddhist Text Compared Finalo let us compare this:


References for the above dating of the Buddhist fragments: 

  • Richard Salomon, Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara: The British Library Kharosthi Fragments (PDF summation, book);
  • Ingo Strauch, The Bajaur collection: A new collection of Kharoṣṭhīmanuscripts:  A preliminary catalogue and survey (PDF).

Diamond Sutra Compared to Book of John

The most complete copy that dates early is the Gospel of John (Bodmer Papyrus II – 150-200 A.D.). That is 127 years after Christ, for the Gospel of John. The earliest fragment is dated to 120 A.D. And Clement of Rome quoted from it about 95 A.D., and Polycarp quoted from it around 110 A.D. [+]. So we KNOW John is older.

The oldest full book key to Buddhist thought is the Diamond Sutra, dated at about 868AD. That is 1,268-to-1,468 years after Buddha’s death. We KNOW the Diamond Sutra is older… but the fragments and quotes of the Gospel of John match up well with earliest text. The earlier quotes of the Diamond Sutra and it’s fragments show drastic change.

Another example. The earliest copy of Isaiah the church had was dated to about 900AD. They found a copy of Isaiah dated to 1,200 years earlier. Because of how the Jewish scribes copied text… there were only a few letters in the entirety of the text that were different. Most were in a word known to be “light” No meaning or concept was changed in those letters being different. (Sources: here, here, and here.)

The change in meaning in the Diamond Sutra from earlier Buddhist teaching as well as fragments is great:

Since at least the fifth century, generations of Buddhists have memorized and chanted the Diamond Sutra, a short Mahayana Buddhist scripture. The work, which offers meditations on illusion and perception, was originally written in Sanskrit and first translated into Chinese in 402 A.D. Despite the text’s longevity, Stanford religious studies professor Paul Harrison’s latest research suggests that previous translations may have incorrectly interpreted certain words in a way that affects the entire meaning of the text.

For the last seven years Prof. Harrison has been working on re-editing and re-translating the Diamond Sutra. Though he is a professor of religious studies his translation work falls squarely in the field of philology. Harrison is often surrounded by a large semicircle of previous translations and dictionaries that he consults as he combs through the sutra one word at a time.

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most historically important texts in the Buddhist faith, in part because a copy of it is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world (868 A.D.). Also known by its Sanskrit title Vajracchedika, the Diamond Sutra posits that something is what it is only because of what it is not. The text challenges the common belief that inside each and every one of us is an immovable core, or soul—in favor of a more fluid and relational view of existence. Negative, or seemingly paradoxical statements by the Buddha abound in the text, such as “The very Perfection of Insight which the Buddha has preached is itself perfection-less.”

Professor Harrison elaborated, “I think the Diamond Sutra is undermining our perception that there are essential properties in the objects of our experience….

(Sources: here and here)

I write about the early attestation to the New Testament in the first 16-pages of my chapter on Gnosticism and Feminism. But I reworked Kenneth Boa’s graphic on comparing dating of ancient texts with some updated information not only cataloged via the aforementioned chapter from my book, but also from here, and the books:

  • Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1999);
  • Carsten Peter Theide and Matthew d’Ancona, The Jesus Papyrus: The Most Sensational Evidence on the Origins of the Gospels Since the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York, NY: Galilee DoubleDay, 1996).

(I edited the last column under “Date Written” and “Time Span”)

manuscript comparison AGAIN 700

Below is some of the evidence for the early dating of the New Testament.

More on this from Dr. Geisler:

...Earliest Attested Fragments

[DSS stands for Dead Sea Scrolls]

….Light on the New Testament. Some DSS frag­ments have been identified as the earliest known pieces of the New Testament. Further, the mes­sianic expectations reveal that the New Testa­ment view of a personal messiah-God who would rise from the dead is in line with first-century Jewish thought.Geisler 188 CHART

The New Testament fragments? Jose *O’Callahan, a Spanish Jesuit paleographer, made headlines around the world in 1972 when he announced that he had translated a piece of the Gospel of Mark on a DSS fragment. This was the earliest known piece of Mark. Fragments from cave 7 had previously been dated between 50 B.C. and A.D. 50 and listed under “not identified” and clas­sified as “Biblical Texts.” O’Callahan eventually identified nine fragments. The center column in the following chart uses the numbering system established for manuscripts. For example, “7Q5” means fragment 5 from Qumran cave 7.

[RPT’s Note: 7Q5 matches up well with Mark 6:52-53 ~ see below, sources for graphic: here, here, as well as this chapter and the aforementioned books.]

Both friend and critic acknowledged from the beginning that, if valid, O’Callahan’s conclusions would revolutionize current New Testament the­ories. The New York Times reported: “If Father O’Callahan’s theory is accepted, it would prove that at least one of the gospels—that of St. Mark—was written only a few years after the death of Jesus.” United Press International (UPI) noted that his conclusions meant that “the peo­ple closest to the events—Jesus’ original followers—found Mark’s report accurate and trustwor­thy, not myth but true history” (ibid., 137). Time magazine quoted one scholar who claimed that, if correct, “they can make a bonfire of 70 tons of indigestible German scholarship” (Estrada, 136).

7Q5 Dead Sea Scroll FinalOf course, O’Callahan’s critics object to his identification and have tried to find other possi­bilities. The fragmentary nature of the ms. makes it difficult to be dogmatic about identifi­cations. Nonetheless, O’Callahan offers a plausi­ble, albeit revolutionary, possibility. If the iden­tification of even one of these fragments as New Testament is valid, then the implications for Christian apologetics are enormous. It would be shown that the Gospel of Mark was written within the life time of the apostles and contem­poraries of the events.

A date before A.D. 50 leaves no time for mythological embellishment of the records. They would have to be accepted as historical. It would also show Mark to be one of the earlier Gospels. Fur­ther, since these manuscripts are not originals but copies, it would reveal that the New Testa­ment was “published”—copied and disseminated—during the life time of the writers. It would also reveal the existence of the New Testa­ment canon during this early period, with pieces representing every major section of the New Tes­tament: Gospels, Acts, and both Pauline and Gen­eral Epistles.

The fragment of 2 Peter would argue for the authenticity of this often disputed epistle. The absence of fragments of John’s writings might in­dicate that they were written later (A.D. 80-90) in accordance with the traditional dates. With all these revolutionary conclusions it is little wonder that their authenticity is being challenged.

First-Century Jewish Messianic Expectations. The DSS have also yielded text that, while not re­ferring to the Christ of the New Testament, have some interesting parallels, as well as some signif­icant differences. The similarities that confirm the New Testament picture accurately describes Jew­ish expectation of a personal, individual Messiah who would die and rise from the dead. A frag­ment called “A Genesis Florilegorium” (4Q252) re­flects belief in an individual Messiah who would be a descendant of David. “Column 5 (1) (the) Government shall not pass from the tribe of Judah. During Israel’s dominion, (2) a Davidic descendant on the throne shall [not cease . . until the Messiah of Righteousness, the Branch of (4) David comes” (see Eisenman, 89).

Even the deity of the Messiah is affirmed in the fragment known as “The Son of God” (4Q246), Plate 4, columns one and two: “Oppression will be upon the earth . . . [until] the King of the people of God arises, . . . and he shall become [gre]at upon the earth. [ . . . All w]ill make [peace,] and all will serve [him.] He will be called [son of the Gr]eat [God;] by His name he shall be desig­nated. . . . He will be called the son of God; they will call him son of the Most High” (ibid., 70).Geisler 189

“The Messiah of Heaven and Earth” fragment (4Q521) even speaks of the Messiah raising the dead: “(12) then He will heal the sick, resurrect :he dead, and to the Meek announce glad tidings” (ibid., 23; cf. 63, 95).

The Dead Sea Scrolls also confirm that Qum­ran was not the source of early Christianity. There are significant differences between their concept of the “Teacher of Righteousness,” ap­parently an Essene messianic hope, and the Jesus revealed in Scripture and early Christianity. The differences are enough to show that early Chris­tianity was not just an offshoot of the Essenes, as has been theorized (see Billington, 8-10). The Essenes emphasized hating one’s enemies; Jesus stressed love. The Essenes were exclusivistic re­garding women, sinners, and outsiders; Jesus was inclusive. The Essenes were legalistic sabbatarians; Jesus was not. The Essenes stressed Jewish purification laws; Jesus attacked them. The Essenes believed two messiahs would come; Christians held that Jesus was the only one (see Charlesworth).

Conclusion. The DSS provide an important apologetic contribution toward establishing the general reliability of the Old Testament Hebrew text, as well as the earliest copies of parts of Old Testament books and even whole books. This is important in showing that the predictive prophe­cies of the Old Testament were indeed made cen­turies before they were literally fulfilled. Further­more, the DSS provide possible support for the New Testament. They may contain the earliest known fragments of the New Testament, and they definitely contain references to messianic beliefs similar to those taught in the New Testament.

Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books/Academic, 1999), 188-189.

Take note as well that the earliest Church Fathers quoted Scripture… which would need to be completed and widely used by then:

  • You write “All four gospels are quoted in patristic writings (a technical term which means writings by the early church “fathers.”) before AD 100 in books such as the Epistle of Barnabus, the book of Clement of Rome and the Didache.” There is nothing said about the four Gospels in the “Clement of Rome”. It is really pathetic that you must base supernatural ideas on false evidence and then you show this false evidence to the masses. I’d really like to get a response as to where I can find the gospels mention in the “Clement of Rome”. I’m curious to know what words you rummaged through to come up with this ridiculous accusation.


I sense a lot of anger here. The use of words like “pathetic” and “ridiculous” are really not helpful if you want to engage in honest conversations. I want to encourage you to use a more respectful tone, even with those with whom you do not agree. In any case, I just gave a very quick little read of the Letter of Clement to Rome. I found a few quotations from the gospels as well as ones from the letters. Below is a sampling. Besides these, I found a number of allusions to the gospels and other New Testament Books. After each quote, I will have a very short comment.

1Clem 13:1 Let us therefore be lowly minded, brethren, laying aside all arrogance and conceit and folly and anger, and let us do that which is written. For the Holy Ghost saith, Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the strong in his strength, neither the rich in his riches; but he that boasteth let him boast in the Lord, that he may seek Him out, and do judgment and righteousness most of all remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching forbearance and long-suffering.

This is a quote from 1 Corinthians 1:31

1Clem 13:2 for thus He spake Have mercy, that ye may receive mercy: forgive, that it may be forgiven to you. As ye do, so shall it be done to you. As ye give, so shall it be given unto you. As ye judge, so shall ye be judged. As ye show kindness, so shall kindness be showed unto you. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured withal to you.

This is a quote from Matthew 7:2

1Clem 15:2 For He saith in a certain place This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

This is quoting from either Matthew 15:8 or Mark 7:6

1Clem 16:1 For Christ is with them that are lowly of mind, not with them that exalt themselves over the flock.

This is an allusion to Luke 22:26 or Matthew 23:11

1Clem 34:8 For He saith, Eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, and it hath not entered into the heart of man what great things He hath prepared for them that patiently await Him.

This is a quote from 1 Cor 2:9

1Clem 36:2 Through Him let us look steadfastly unto the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent visage; through Him the eyes of our hearts were opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springeth up unto the light; through Him the Master willed that we should taste of the immortal knowledge Who being the brightness of His majesty is so much greater than angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name. 1Clem 36:3 For so it is written Who maketh His angels spirits and His ministers aflame of fire 1Clem 36:4 but of His Son the Master said thus, Thou art My Son, I this day have begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession. 1Clem 36:5 And again He saith unto Him Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.

These are quoting from Hebrews Chapter one….


Ignatius of Antioch would be another prime example.

Effectively the above information updates this older Josh McDowell graph here. In other words, we know the early history of Christianity because of the wealth of evidence behind certain events. For instance:

“Pharisaic Judaizers come down to Antioch (Acts 15:1, 5) in the late summer of 49 A.D. and teach that circumcision is necessary before a person can be saved. Paul, Barnabas, Titus and certain others (Galatians 2:1-2) are sent to Jerusalem to confer with other apostles, elders and brethren concerning the relationship between circumcision and salvation. This gathering is commonly referred to as the Jerusalem Conference. This conference occurs in the Fall of 49 A.D. around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (Acts 15:2).”

We know this because of the evidence… the same evidence to say that two letters describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are considered history.


Buddhism lacks this historical attestation and predictive power that the New Testament has in that the original texts are much closer to the events that happened. In fact, the New Testament is superior to ALL ancient documents in this respect.

“…but test all things. Hold on to what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21);
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1);
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test[a]” (2 Corinthians 13:5 — [a] “unless you are disqualified” or “you are counterfeit”).