CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Bill Maher, the irreverant (and increasingly irrelevant) host of some poorly watched show on HBO called "Real Time with Bill Maher", is, according to Sue Naegel of HBO, "a fearless, funny and totally original observer of the modern world." In fact, his show is so interesting that for the latest rating period I could find (October 24, 2011), his show was beaten in the 10:00 pm time slot by such notable television programs as "Sanctuary" on SyFy, "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" on the Food Channel, and the memorable "Hairy Bikers" on the History Channel. (Actually, it appears that Maher's program was beaten by every cable competitor in the 10:00 pm slot. I guess people just aren't that invested in Mr. Maher's original observations of the modern world.)

Anyway, Mr. Maher is no friend to Christianity. As I noted in a blog entry in 2006 entitled "Dr." Bill Maher's Unenlightened Diagnosis, Maher (in his original way) believes that anyone who believes that religion is true has a "neurological disorder." He has said, ""We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking." Mr. Maher also was behind a Religulous, a poorly grossing film ($13 million internationally) that contained some typical Maher quotes such as:

The plain fact is religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people - by irrationalists - by those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.

Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas.

If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers.

You see, what Maher lacks in wit, he makes up in bombast. And since he is pretty darn bombastic, I suggest it tells you about the level of his wit.

But in case that doesn't tell you, consider Maher's recent tweet about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. If you are not a follower of American football, Tim Tebow has become the star of the Broncos team by leading them to a series of exciting, come-from-behind victories that has led the team to the cusp of a place in the NFL playoffs. What's important for this blog is that Tebow is an outspoken Christian. In fact, he is so outspoken that even other Christian athletes (like Kurt Warner) have suggested that he tone down the God-talk.

Tebow's Christianity made him a target of the semi-wit of Bill Maher. You see, while the Broncos were on a winning streak (I believe it was 7 wins in a row), Tebow was thanking God. But then the Broncos faced the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve, and the Broncos were beaten pretty soundly. Maher, apparently in his role of "original observer of the modern world", had to tweet about the loss. According to the Washington Post in an article entitled Bill Maher and Tim Tebow: Why are so so many offended by the quarterback’s faith? reports that Maher tweeted: , “Wow, Jesus just [expletive] Tim Tebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is Tebowing, saying to Hitler, ‘Hey, Buffalo’s killing them.’” (For those not familiar with the lingo, "Tebowing" is the process of kneeling on the field to give thanks to God that Tim Tebow made temporarily famous in his short stint as quarterback.)

Some people have called for a boycott of HBO in response to the tweet. That's a better idea than boycotting Maher's program. After all, if he lost half his viewers no one would notice anyway. But I'm not blogging to advocate boycotting HBO. At least, Maher didn't say anything in the tweet that was unexpected given his prior comments, so there is nothing new here to justify the boycott. And since I don't subscribe to HBO (and never will given the low quality of programming they show), my boycotting of HBO would be merely a token gesture.

There are two things I note. I've already alluded to the first: Bill Maher has no class. He thinks he is bright, enlightened and funny. I contend he is none of the three. Rather, he's more like the wise guy in middle school who thinks it's funny to say outrageous things while teachers stand and frown because in the broader picture the child doesn't have a clue. He chooses to use foul language about God and bring Hitler into the picture because he thinks it makes him edgy. He's wrong.

The second thing I wanted to point out is the article from the Washington Post that I cited earlier. Author Sally Jenkins makes an outstanding point in the article that I want to share. She asks what it is about Tebow's "Tebowing" and references to God that makes non-religious people like Maher squirm. She has a good answer:

What is so threatening about Tebow? It can’t be his views. Tebow has never once suggested God cares about football. Quite the opposite. It’s Maher and company who stupidly suggest a Tebow touchdown scores one for Evangelicals whereas an interception somehow chalks one up for atheism. Anyone who listens to Tebow knows he doesn’t do Jesus Talk, he’s mostly show and no tell. His idea of proselytizing is to tweet an abbreviated Bible citation. Mark 8:36. He leaves it up to you whether to look it up. When he takes a knee, it’s perfectly obvious that it’s an expression of humility. He’s crediting his perceived source, telling himself, don’t forget where you came from. On the whole, it’s more restrained than most end zone shimmies.

So why does Tebow’s expression of faith make people so silly-crazy? Why do they care what he does?

Because he emphasizes the aspect of his talent that is given, not earned.

And that makes people nervous. The reactions to Tebow seem to fall under the category of what theologian Michael J. Murray calls “Theo-phobia.” In his essay “Who’s Afraid of Religion?” Murray argues we’re ill at ease with intrusions of personal faith. We fear they could lead to oppression, or mania, or even prove us wrong. We prefer to keep religion at the abstract distance of historical or socio-cultural discussion, the safe range described by historian George Marsden, “like grandparents in an upwardly mobile family, tolerated and sometimes respected because of their service in the past. . . but otherwise expected either to be supportive or to stay out of the way and not say anything embarrassing.”

When Tebow kneels on the field, his religion becomes challengingly present. Tebow doesn’t have to get into a bunch of Jesus Talk to put you or me in an uncomfortable state of mind. It’s more subtle than that. Murray suggests, if I have a reaction to The Knee, it’s because Tebow implies “that there is something in the universe over and above the natural which deserves my attention, allegiance, or honor and I find that distasteful or irritating.”

Just when you’re trying to mindlessly surrender to an afternoon of pleasure, Tebow begs the question, what if faith actually, well, works? Regardless of whether you believe Tebow’s athletic talent is random and indiscriminate, or bestowed and directed, when you watch his fourth-quarter comebacks it is impossible not to notice that faith is an undeniable performance enhancer, at least as powerful as any drug. For whatever reason.

Good points. During this season of Emmanuel ("God with us"), Tebow's kneeling on the field reminds people that he (like many Christians) really does recognize that God is with us -- not only when we are in church but when we are at work or at play. Maher, and others semi-wits like him, want to ridicule that acknowledgement because it challenges their belief that only those things that they think are true are true.

I think I'll root for the Broncos to win on Sunday, and regardless of whether they do I will be happy to watch Tebow stop to recognize God and provide him with this small token of praise as the creator.

The problem – intellectual and emotional – of why what we call 'evil' exists is age-old, and an issue that every human being, whether atheist or Christian, ultimately is confronted with. Philosophically and intellectually, it seems to be fairly easily overcome (as I will hopefully try to explain below) in a Christian worldview, but pastorally and emotionally, it is terrible and devastating upon us all, from atheist to devout Christian. My argument would then be that the Christian worldview, in fact, provides both a much more hopeful answer and decent solution  to the pastoral issue, as well as coping intellectually with the problem. 

We can start with the intellectual response, where we can split the 'problem' into three forms: logical, evidential and emotional/pastoral. See more >>

Remember how long the articles in this miniseries were? (Starting here?) Did you ever wish I could have just trimmed some discussion out and moved along?

Well... I did. Specifically on Hebrews 1:8, which I ranked at the top of the list of examples where Jesus is called {ho theos} in the New Testament. There's a mind-scrummingly dull textual transmission issue there which I tried to spare my readers from since (1) it would have been a digression of exceedingly minor importance, and (2) it would take me a lonnnng slogging way to demonstrate why and how it's an exceedingly minor digression. At the end of an already-lengthy entry, in the middle of other lengthy entries?? What would be the point?!

So of course, since it was the top of the list, someone quickly brought up the textual transmission issue.


Dr. BW, offsite, asks:

"Isn't there a textual variant with most translations providing the alternate, '...of the son, God is your throne... as the sceptor of His kingdom'? My inclination is that 'absolutely unambiguous' [as I called the grammatic argument there] exaggerates the case."

I assume he means "reported by most English translations", since the textual variant itself, while it has a few early respectable witnesses (including a papyrus), doesn't actually have any good text-critical argument in its favor on the basis of external attestation.

While it has three respectable early witnesses (Pap-46, "Aleph", and B), it only has those three textual witnesses at all, period, the end!

The other reading has equally early and respectable and monstrously wider attestation across categories and families, as well as backing by the Greek Septuagint Old Testament (by the way). If those three witnesses weren't respectably early and (in two cases) popular, there would be exactly no reason to go any further.

Unfortunately, they are. So this is only the beginning of the wicket we're going to be stuck chopping through in addressing this issue.

This super-minority textual variant, {autou}, "of him" (instead of {sou}, "of you"), doesn't make much grammatic sense there either. Translators of this variant's inclusion basically ignore it completely, and supply a "your" which isn't there anymore having actually been replaced by the super-minority {autou}!--which is why I'm willing to bet a Coke my reader won't find many translations trying to provide the alternate "God of him is your throne"!

You could take my word for it that this is the sum of the whole matter and move along; or if you insist on following out the details... remember, I did warn you!

Ho, weary readers! The end of this series is here!

This will be a handy summary page for my results. But I'll link to prior articles when speaking of each example, so that the argument can be seen in detail.

We're running out of groups of New Testament texts where Jesus isn't on rare occasion called {ho theos}! (Or {ton theon} or {tou theo} or some grammatic equivalent that still would translate to "the God" in English.)

Several times in the Johannine texts; at least once (maybe twice) in the Petrines; at least once (maybe two times) in Hebrews; at least once in the Pauline Pastorals (Titus); most likely once in Acts.

It's starting to look like the popular understanding on the topic may be reversed--Jesus might be called {ho theos} more often in the New Testament than He is called merely {theos}! (Although neither is particularly common of course.)

But these texts seem so late in composition. Maybe that makes a difference? (Actually, the supposed lateness of their composition hinges routinely on scholars recognizing high Christological characteristics in them and using that as evidence for late composition! Acts is the exception; its theories of late composition don't typically involve high Christology.)

Are there any texts widely agreed to be written earlier than the others, where Jesus is called {ho theos}? There shouldn't be--should there?!

Yes, Jesus is called {ho theos} on occasion across the Johannine texts. And at least once (maybe twice) in the Petrine texts. And at least once (maybe two times) in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

At this point, someone denying Jesus is ever called the God in the New Testament is in serious trouble.

But fortunately for such a person, Paul of Tarsus, the one NT author no one can get around (as C. S. Lewis used to call him) can be called on to save the day! For surely (unless Paul wrote EpistHeb) someone identified as Paul never calls Jesus {ho theos}!

(The reader expecting this had better be familiar with disappointment by now.)

Soooo, okay, maybe Jesus is (occasionally) called "the God" ({ho theos} and grammatic variants thereof) in the Johannine texts (Part 1 and Part 2), and in the Petrine texts (Part 3).

But what about the Pauline texts, huh?! None of them ever call Jesus "the God"!--right?!!

Your week, my reader, is about to get longer...

In summary so far: yes, Jesus is called "the God", {ho theos} or {tou theou} or {ton theon}, in the New Testament. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

(Part 1 introduces the topic and discusses John 1:1. Part 2 continues through other Johannine text examples.)

An implied {ho theos} is the best explanation for the textual transmission oddities, and the best fit of stably transmitted oddities nearby in the text, at John 1:18; it happens as a direct (although extended) grammatic effect in 1 John 5:20; it happens directly (if not especially obviously, thanks to the evidence being spread out a bit) in the final chapter of RevJohn; it is the best fit of the grammatic implications at John 1:1 (where the direct article wouldn't be printed for obscure grammatic reasons, but would be understood to be there for those same reasons); and it happens unambiguously, by all direct grammatic evidence and by established usage of the phrase elsewhere, at Thomas' confession in GosJohn 20.

But maybe that's only a Johannine habit, or even an outright invention of the Johannine school or line of tradition or congregation or whatever. It doesn't happen in other New Testament texts, right?

Well, not only do the Johannine texts have it, so do the Petrine epistles.

In Part 1, I went over in detail the example of "the Word was (very emphatically) the God" from John 1:1, arguing that the grammar actually points toward Jesus (as "the Word") being called "the" God there, with a direct article intended by the writer, even though due to another grammatic rule the author had to omit the article--ironically, for the purpose of even more strongly emphasizing that the Word was the God!

Is Jesus called {ho theos}, "the" God, any other times in the NT? Maybe a bit more grammatically obviously?--other than with Thomas' confession late in GosJohn? (Which I am saving for last in this entry.)

Yes, there are some times (other than Thomas' confession) when this happens grammatically obviously. But there are times when it isn't so obvious either; and on the broccoli principle I'll discuss those first.

A few texts with ancient attestation (although mostly variants of ancient Patristic commentaries) including a papyrus, call Christ {ho theos} at John 1:18, or more specifically {ho monogene_s theos} (the only begotten God). A much larger and also very respectable and ancient set of witnesses (including two papyri) call Christ "only-begotten god" without any direct article. By far the most numerous and widest attestation across types of witness, including some very respectable ancient texts, call Christ "the only begotten son" instead.

It is admittedly unlikely that a direct article for "god" would have been dropped over time, but on the other hand it is unlikely that "god" would have been changed to "son" as time went on (and the Christology debates became formal and intense). So until relatively recently the text-criticism argument landed pretty squarely on "the only-begotten son", which matches usage elsewhere in GosJohn.

But then (as mentioned earlier) two more early papyri showed up reading "only-begotten god" (without the direct article); which lends more significantly more weight to what is the most difficult reading between the two options--it now becomes more likely that early scribes "fixed" the reading to fit an established usage elsewhere in GosJohn!

Yet the form still remains very strange; if {ho} is not original but the "only-begotten god" text is, why would scribes "fix" it to "the only-begotten son"? But if "the only-begotten son" was the original texts, and reverent scribes wanted to affirm the deity of the son, why erase the "the" when changing "son" to "god"?

(It might be thought that this would help avoid confusion with the Father, but as we shall see the Father is called "god" nearby without the direct article, too!!)

Editors of the UBS/Nestle-Aland critical edition were still notoriously divided about the original reading on grounds of various plausibility (none of which involve preference for their own ideologies, by the way.)

Is there a way out of the deadlock?

The form of the sentence there indicates a triple (or even possibly quadruple!) subject. "Only-begotten", although an adjective, has some weighty 20th century scholarly argument behind it (including Raymond Brown from his commentary on GosJohn) indicating it might be being used here as a noun, specifically as a name-title. Metzger in his notes for the 4th edition of the UBS critical Greek text, reports the editors agreeing that the usage as a noun is attractive for "internal considerations".

He doesn't explain what those considerations are. But John 1:14 just previously, definitely reads "the only-begotten", without "son" or "god", in regard to the Son. (There is a minority textual tradition which only reads "the only-begotten" without either "god" or "son" at John 1:18, too, but its textual attestation is too poor to consider it original.) "The only-begotten" is also definitely a separate title for "the Son" at possibly the most famous verse in the whole New Testament, John 3:16. (English translations routinely smooth this over to the familiar "His only begotten son".)

But aside from that possibility, certainly the noun "god"-or-"the son", as well as {ekeinos} "that one", "reveals" "Him". There is also an intervening clause of {ho o_n eis ton kolpon tou patros} which describes "(the) only-begotten god/son" (or "only-begotten" and "god") as "the one who is in the heart of the father"; which certainly clarifies that "theos" in this sentence does not mean the Father, but otherwise does not help settle the reading.

So there are three (or possibly four) grammatic subjects: "only-begotten" (maybe, as an adjective being used as a name-title, which definitely happens with a direct article twice elsewhere in GosJohn, including just recently at 1:14), "god" or "the son" (depending on which textual variation is original), "the one who is in the heart of the father", and "this/that one" for the singular verb "reveals". By context these subjects would refer to the same entity, as titles or descriptions of the entity; but this does not yet solve whether the Son is being called {ho theos} here.

(The {ho} in the intervening clause is only a common pronoun shortcut for saying "the one" and/or "who", and would be used regardless of whether {theos} earlier had an original explicit or more likely silently implied direct article.)

Something overlooked (or at least not mentioned) by the UBS editing team, however, is the evidence of the preceding sentence or main clause.

The "Him" being revealed by "only-begotten" / "god"-or-"son" / "who is in the heart of the father" / "that one", is {theon oudeis heo_raken po_pote}, "god no-one has-seen anytime", the God Whom no one has seen at any time.

By context, and especially cultural context, this invisible God, Who cannot be seen by contrast to the Son, must be the Father (as people on all side of the disputational aisle typically agree). But notably, the Father is not called "the" God here in Greek!--nor can this be explained by fronting a nominative object, as there is no 'verb of being' relative to this noun, and it is properly in an accusative (not nominative) form. It is being fronted in the sentence for emphasis, but without the "the". (This is another example of something mentioned in Part 1: "the God" Whom almost all parties agrees is God Most High, even unitarian Christians, is occasionally not given direct articles either when He is being called "God".)

This leaves us with a stylistic (although not quite a grammatic) parallel. We are expected to understand {theon} to mean "the" God, even though it lacks the direct article {ton} (as practically everyone in the dispute agrees); and then we are told that "god", no direct article, in the heart of the Father reveals and explains Him.

This lends compositional weight toward considering the direct article as being silently intended in the culmination of a highly poetic and stylized prologue, just as it was silently intended for the immediately preceding usage of {theon}. The fact that "only-begotten" had itself also been recently used (at verse 14) with a direct article by itself, lends more weight by comparison: its lack at verse 18 is certainly not evidence that the idea of meaning {ho monoge_nes}, the only-begotten, is foreign to the Evangelist. Moreover, if the author did mean "the only-begotten", although he didn't write "the", that would mean "god" stands by itself between two other name/title descriptions which both feature "the" (one silently, and the other explicitly as a shorthand pronoun for "the one who").

In other words, the sequence of name/title/descriptions for Christ would look like this:

(silent "the") only-begotten
(?) god
(explicit "the" as a pronoun "who") is in the heart of the father
(explicit pronoun as a description by itself) this/that-one

"God" would be out of place in this list without an intended {ho}.

It may be replied that "the only-begotten son", which does admittedly have the best quality of external attestation (even if not decisively early), easily solves all these problems. That's true--but the ease with which it solves all problems leaves us no good explanation for why there are difficult attestation problems in the transmission of this text! The other best attested variant ("only-begotten god", no explicit "the"), which happens to now have the strongest of earliest weights among the variants, doesn't cleanly improve on "the only-begotten son", whether theologically or grammatically.

The theory that a silent {ho} was intended at John 1:18, and was known to be intended, explains the actual shape of the external data better--including why the variant with an explicit "the only-begotten god" was so popular among early commentor texts (and also has a few early respectable occurrences in some texts of GosJohn itself, including a papyrus!) Commentators (and a few early scribes) were bringing out the silent {ho}.

Still, that's a pretty obscure and difficult example--even moreso than for John 1:1, because of the dicey textual transmission!--although being a completist (and because the text is often brought up in trinitarian vs. unitarian disputes for evidence either way) I thought I ought to discuss it. (The text for John 1:1 is quite stable in transmission, by the way.)

Another not terribly obvious example (until the grammatical math is done) can be found at a more stable text, 1 John 5:20. The first portion of this text is very unstable about whether the Father is being called "the true one" or "the true god" in a couple of different grammatic ways, but the final clause is quite stable: {houtos estin ho ale_thinos theos kai zo_e_ aio_nios} "this one is the true god and the eternal life".

The pronoun “this one” {houtos} normally refers back to the nearest noun (including name/titles). But the immediately preceding noun set is “Jesus Christ”. Thus, "we are in Him Who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ: {houtos} (this one) is the true God and eternal life."

Could {houtos} be referring instead to the Father, Who is described as the True One twice recently in the same verse? (The reading of "god" there has to be rejected due to the numerous places it shows up in and around the phrase: the only reasonable explanation is that scribes were adding it in various places.) While it isn’t impossible, it would run against the tradition of Johannine texts, of calling Jesus “the Life” and “Eternal Life”, including at the beginning of this epistle (1 John 1:2 -- and the grammar of 5:20 certainly indicates that “the true God and eternal life” are referring to the same entity); this would be the only time in a Johannine text that the Father is called ‘zoe eonian’. Moreover, John has also recently said that to have Jesus in one’s heart is to have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-12)

While it’s possible for {houtos} to refer back to a subject or object beyond the nearest noun, this happens only rarely and shouldn’t be considered the first option. The Father is admittedly called “the true God” in John 17:3 (by Jesus no less), but this is no more a contradiction than for both of them to be called the true One (the Father in this verse 5:20, the Son in Rev 3:7. Indeed in John 14:6 Jesus declares himself to be the Truth!) Moreover, the grammar of the previous sentence tends to indicate an introduction of the concept: “we are in Him Who is true: in His Son Jesus Christ.” The prepositional phraseology is parallel: who are we in? He who is true, namely Jesus Christ, Son of the One Who is true. This Son of God has come (as in the first sentence of the verse) to give us understanding so that we may know Him Who also is true (by local and larger contexts, the Father).

The stability of the final clause has some bearing on grading the original version of the first description of the Father earlier in the same verse: He is at least once (and very stably in textual transmission) described as “the One Who is true”, but before then is also described either as “the One Who is true” or as “the true God”.

An impressive number of texts have “the true God”, but an even stronger majority (although split as to grammatic form) have “the true one”: the Son of God has come that we might know “Him Who is true” (or “the true God”). Considering that the context is definitely talking about the Father, it is hard to imagine later copyists changing “the true God” to “the true One”, though; whereas if the Son by grammar was understood as being called the true God, it would be tempting to add something clarifying that the Father (as Jesus occasionally says in GosJohn) is the true God--at least as much so as the Son! Moreover, as noted above, the word "god" in describing the father there shows up before or after the word "true" in various texts. Whereas, the variant grammatic forms for "the true one" indicate that scribes thought it might be better to emphatically call the Father "the truth" (in a gender neutral fashion) rather than only "the true one" twice.

In any case, the emphatic "this one", {houtos}, expects an immediate topical reference, and the most immediate and natural reference is "Jesus Christ", Son of the True One (and maybe of the true God, certainly "Son of God" as Jesus is called at the beginning of the verse). It may not be theologically convenient to any apologists wanting to deny that Jesus is ever called {ho theos} (and in this case "the true theos"!) But it's there, and its grammar explains the textual variations earlier in the verse, as scribes tried to bring up the Father's description to par, especially by the addition of {theos} to one (but not both!) of the recent incidents of the author calling the Father "the true one".

Aren't there any examples more obvious than these, though?! Well, if the examples were all especially obvious, it wouldn't be so common among some (not all) unitarian Christians to claim that Jesus is never called the God, would it?

Of course, even when there are obvious examples, objections can still be tried. Some unitarians would say that the term "only-begotten" qualifies that this cannot be "the" God, and would still say this even if they acknowledged that the direct article was either original or tactily intended by grammatic context. It should be noted that this objection, even if it held water, would fail in any example where "theos" has no other description (completely aside from whether "only-begotten" is supposed to be a subject parallel to {theos} there)--it cannot be used against John 1:1, for example.

Such a tactic would also fail in any example where {ho theos} has maximally important descriptions, like "the true God". But since God the Father is Himself called "the God" with connected grammatic descriptions (such as, for example, "the true God"!), the inclusion of adjectives per se cannot be a very weighty objection in itself against the full deity of someone being called {ho theos} (or cognates thereof, like {ton theon}).

That doesn't mean Jesus is commonly called "the God"--again, if such incidents were common they would be obvious, and trying to claim otherwise would not be so impressive to people having trouble in other regards with orthodox trinitarian theism!

What often (not always!) happens instead is that Jesus is called "the God" in a fashion that has some grammatic ambiguity or difficulties, or by extended context instead of just directly. Here is an example of such an extended context--and with much relevance for unitarian disputes in a fashion beyond whether Jesus is called {ho theos}!

In the Revelation to John, the author himself becomes (quite naturally) confused about the identity of various persons and things he is seeing and talking to--a confusion the reader should be able to sympathize with! Late in the Revelation (19:9), an angel has shown up from somewhere, and says to John "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb'" and then says to John "These are the true sayings of the God." John, mistaking the angel for God, falls at his feet to worship him, but the angel quickly stops him, saying, "Look, no! I am a fellow slave of yours, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus! Worship the God!--for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

This clarifies that the angel isn't God, of course. It also clarifies that the angel isn't Jesus. It also clarifies that even if an angel is sent to speak directly for God, we aren't supposed to worship such an angel because the angel is not God!

Later something similar happens again, but with a far more provocative detail. An angel helping show things to John (possibly the same one as before, but anyway called "one of the seven messengers who have the seven bowls brimming with the last seven calamaties", Rev 21:9), says again to John, "These sayings are faithful and true. Now, the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, commissions the messenger of Him to show to the slaves of Him what must swiftly happen."

So grammatically, {ho theos} of the spirits has sent this angel.

The angel then continues, "Now look! I am coming swiftly! Happy is the one who is keeping the sayings of the prophecy of this scroll!" (v.7)

John, hearing and seeing these things, gets confused again--most likely because the angel has started speaking as though he was {ho theos}! So John thinks the angel is {ho theos} (sent by {ho theos}, notably!) and falls to religiously worship the angel.

Once again the angel stops him (22:9): the angel is a fellow slave along with John and the other prophets. "Worship the God!" {ho theos} of the spirits, Who has sent this messenger (which is the prerogative of {ho theos} alone anyway), is the only entity Who should be religiously worshiped--even if the angel starts speaking directly for God in delivering his message.

Which the angel proceeds to do, picking up again (after a bit of a digression) with a standard declaration of YHWH {ho theos} Most High, "Look! I am coming swiftly and My wage is with Me, to pay each one as his work is!" Something only YHWH would do in the Jewish Scriptures, by the way. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Origin and the Consummation!" Also claims proper only to the one self-existent God Most High.

This goes on with some more detail for a verse or two, and then the messenger, sent by "the God" of the spirits, Who should alone be worshiped, and speaking for "the God" as if "the God" is there, says (22:16): "I, Jesus, send my angel to testify these things to you in the congregations!"

So: Jesus has sent this angel, who is not Jesus, to testify with the words of Jesus about these things. But earlier John specifically and clearly said that {ho theos} sent this angel!

Admittedly, Jesus speaking by means of the angel goes on to testify that {ho theos} shall add the tribulations of the scroll to anyone who adds to the prophecy of the scroll, and that {ho theos} shall be eliminating the name from the book of life anyone who eliminates anything from the scroll. But still, that hardly means the detail should be eliminated from the scroll that Jesus has been called {ho theos} here, Who sends the angels and Who alone is worthy to be worshiped, not any not-God angel even if the angel is currently speaking directly for {ho theos}!

Again, this isn't simply obvious. But it is there in the text. Nor can it be waved away by a supposed appeal to qualifying grammatic adjectives of {ho theos}: there aren't any.

Well okay, this sort of thing might be expected of the author of GosJohn and/or RevJohn (who certainly seems of John's "school" even if perhaps not the same person.) Indeed so!--although some branches of unitarian Christianity (not all of them) still claim that even the Johannine materials never call Jesus {ho theos}. That includes (what I would call) the most obvious example in the Johannine texts, Thomas' confession at GosJohn 20:28.

Overwhelmed by seeing the risen Jesus with proofs of the sort that Thomas had refused to believe without, Thomas answers Jesus with the exclamation, "The lord of me and the god of me!" In Greek this is {ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou}.

It literally couldn't be more straightforward. There are no adjectives to quibble about, as if adjectives (like "true"!?!) would necessarily qualify that someone is not really being called {ho theos}. The term is not even in a different grammatic form, like {ton theon} or {tou theou}, which would still mean the same thing as {ho theos} for any rational evaluation. (For example "about the God" or "of the God" respectively.)

The only way to even imagine that this is not being said of Jesus, is to write it off as an exclamation to the invisible God (Who naturally could be construed as omnipresently there, even if not mentioned recently.) That, however, is to read an ideology into the text.

That isn't strictly impossible--the phrase is quite identical to similar phrases which definitely apply to YHWH Most High, such as at Psalm 35:24 (to give an OT example, although the order of the terms is reversed), or at Rev 4:11 (to give a NT example that even unitarians will agree applies only to God Most High--because Jesus is not immediately being mentioned!) Such standard phraseologies addressed explicitly to YHWH Most High also indicate, in the absence of any direct evidence otherwise (and there is no such evidence), that Thomas is not dividing between persons here, exclaiming to Jesus so as to mean "the lord of me (but not the YHWH ADNY of me)" and in exactly the same breath exclaiming to the Father "the God of me (by which I mean YHWH ADNY Whom I would otherwise call 'lord' to avoid accidentally saying Your name)".

But it is impossible to prove from the textual details that Thomas is exclaiming to God Most High and not to Jesus. At most, such a claim can only be an ad hoc defense for maintaining that Jesus is never called {ho theos} anywhere in the NT; and as a defense it runs up hard against the problem that the text explicitly says Thomas is "answering Jesus and saying" this--a phrase which everywhere else in the Gospels (and Acts) is a standard way of saying the speaker is addressing someone with what he is saying.

The direct grammatic argument is that Thomas, be he right or wrong (or historically or fictionally, if a sceptic prefers), is addressing Jesus personally as {ho theos}. And not only as "the God" but as "the God of me". Any other theory, for better or for worse, has to be read in over against the grammatic evidence.

This is enough to answer the charge that Jesus is never called "the" God in the NT. John 1:18 may be theoretical (although as a theory it best explains the resulting textual spread); but the grammar at John 1:1 is clear (if obscure to English grammar), and the example from 1 John is grammatically solid as well as able to explain textual variances earlier in the same verse, and the example from RevJohn is both grammatically and conceptually solid (although the thematic logic has to be followed out to see the result), and Thomas' confession is rock solid in the directness of its grammar. The only way to defend against most of these examples is to read a theological position into the text, over against the grammar (and against the thematic logic as well in RevJohn's example), in order to explain that Jesus isn't really being called {ho theos}.

Such a theological overwrite might or might not be the right thing to do; but it has to be done because the texts would otherwise indicate Jesus is being called {ho theos}!--and in each case, in a fashion that at least parallels how the Father is being described (even John 1:18, where the Father doesn't explicitly have a {ho} in front of {theos} either). Sometimes in a fashion that indicates the highest religious identity unique to God Most High: being called "the true God"; sending angels to speak for Himself, which angels are not supposed to be worshiped even though they are speaking directly for Himself in making claims proper to YHWH Most High in the Old Testament; being called by a religious phrase elsewhere appropriate only to YHWH Most High; sharing in the foundationally creative act that is supposed to be unique to God Most High.

But all the examples so far come from GosJohn or Johannine texts. That ought to be enough for unitarians to have to include in their exegetical account of things, if they can--at least, it ought to be enough for unitarians who use this argument against trinitarians (and modalists, and some other unitarians for that matter) to stop trying such a claim as an argument against textual testimony of the full divinity of Jesus.

But many non-Christians wouldn't find this at all surprising; and would simply slot GosJohn into a late development of Christology, meaning by this that the author (and/or his congregation and/or school or whatever) invented such claims about Jesus.

After all, Jesus is never called {ho theos} anywhere else in the New Testament... right?

[Next up: wrong.]

I have been working up a new series for a while, where I will be following sets of canonical texts through their claims about God Most High and His relation to Jesus Christ (the Son) and/or the Holy Spirit. It's a followup to the huge (800+ pages!) metaphysical argument I spent a few years posting here on the Cadre a while back. (Anyone who wants to discover what it feels like for their eyes to start bleeding, is welcome to start on that here. {g})

The new series will most likely be just as long, or maybe longer. (Sorry--lots of data to cover.) But although I'm not quite ready, I'm getting itchy to start, so I thought I would compile together a few things as a teaser article.

(Although with me being 'me', the "teaser" article is seven lengthy parts, of course... {wry g})

When discussing the New Testament texts with some (although not all) types of 'unitarian' Christian, as well as with some (although not all) types of non-Christian, the claim will occasionally be made that while Jesus may be called "a" god every once in a while in the NT, He is never called "the" God.

In short, should I really be using divine Caps for nouns and pronouns relating to Jesus (as I just did in that previous sentence)? Did the NT authors regard Jesus as being a lesser lord-or-god, or somehow as "the" God Most High? Do they report Jesus making such claims?--or if some perhaps do, are there others who do not?

This (please believe me when I say) is a massively huge topic, because there is much more to questions of divine identity in the NT than whether some entity is ever called "the God". The Father, for example, never outright says "I am the God" when NT authors occasionally present Him as speaking!--and rarely, as "the Father" (in a way explicitly distinguished as such), does He call Himself "the God". (I can think of only one example offhand--where the Father, explicitly identified as such, also directly calls the Son "the God"! More on that in a later entry.) But of course authors and other people by report often call the Father "ho theos" or a grammatic variant thereof.

More to the point, there are other ways, standard protocols, for discerning when an author is being a zealous monotheist, and when a zealous monotheist, especially within the Jewish religion, is speaking of God Most High and not of some lesser lord or god. And even most non-Trinitarian Christians, and even most non-Christians, agree that by using such methods NT authors are trying (even if incorrectly in various ways) to talk about God Most High when they reference God apart from the question of Jesus Christ.

Now of course, just because a collection of texts refers to an entity as God (whether that entity is Jesus Christ or anyone or anything else), does not necessarily in itself mean that anyone reading those texts should agree that such an entity exists and really is God Most High, or that the authors are talking truly about God Most High if He/She/It exists. But when assessing the claims of a text, or set of texts, for what we ought or ought not to believe about them, it naturally helps to get an accurate idea of what the authors of those texts are claiming!

More on this later, when I introduce the new series (God willing and the creek don't rise). Until then, let us consider the particular question of whether Jesus is ever called "the God" in any New Testament texts.

The most well-known clincher that I would lead out with is John 20:28, where the apostle Thomas exclaims in reply to the risen Jesus' invitation to put his hand in the holes in His hands and side, "The lord of me and the god of me!" I will still argue this by itself defeats the challenge, but it's usually well-known by people claiming none of the NT texts call Jesus "the God", and I would rather cover other examples first so I can introduce some important topics along the way.

When people claim that Jesus isn't ever called (nor calls Himself) "the" God, why do they put it that way?

Because in Greek, direct articles (like the English "the") are important in emphasizing special identity. While English translations naturally omit this factor, in the Greek texts proper names often feature a direct article in front of them. Jesus for example is often called "the" Jesus. Randomly picking up and thumbing through a Greek NT, the first proper name I happened upon was Zaccheus, the short tax-collector whose story is told in the Gospel According to Luke. At GosLuke 19:8, the text would literally read in English, "Now standing, the Zaccehus said toward the Lord..."

Not surprisingly, when Jewish and Christian writers wanted to help readers understand they were talking about God Most High, they would often treat "theos" as a proper name and use the direct article, "ho theos". Which can also be understood as it might be in English, the one and only God, the only one Who is God even to the gods, God Most High.

The counter-orthodox claim being considered, then, amounts to this: that Jesus is never called "God" in such a way that serious Jewish monotheists of the time would ever use for clearly identifying the one and only God Most High--specifically, by using a "the" (as we would say in English) with "God" while writing about Jesus in Greek. That would be calling Jesus "the God".

Now the data starts to complexify, though.

First, NT authors may usually use "the" to introduce proper names, but they don't always do so. Jesus isn't always called "the Jesus", for example, but we're still expected to recognize which Jesus is being talked about from the context. This immediately leaves open some agnosticism about whether the authors might be using "God" in reference to Jesus and meaning "the" God even without a "the".

Opponents may reply that surely, though, the authors always refer to God Most High as "the" God. Well, that leads to...

Second: authors, including when reporting the words of Jesus, don't always use "the" even when referring unambiguously to God the Father!

A text frequently cited by unitarian Christians themselves against trinitarianism exemplifies this, GosJohn 20:17. Jesus is reported saying to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection, "I am ascending to(ward) the father of me and father of you and god of me and god of you." No one disputes that He is talking about God the Father--even the bare handful of Christians who try to claim that "the Father" is not really God Most High after all! But while the author uses "the" in regard to the Father, translating the words of Jesus by report, the author does not quote Jesus here using "the" in regard to the term "god".

Opponents may reply that the rules of Greek grammar indicate well enough that "the" would be implied as following from the previous "the", which is one indication that Jesus (and/or the author reporting this incident) isn't talking about four different persons but only one Who can be described those four ways.

Maybe so--but that starts to open up more possibilities for the same thing to be happening in regard to Jesus, so long as He is called "the"-something-else first in a similar construction.

Third: while Greek has a direct article, like the English "the", at the time of the NT composition it did not have an indirect article (such as when I just now typed "an" indirect article. Indirect articles in English are "a" if the subsequent word starts with a consonant, or "an" if it starts with a vowel.) But authors could still write of nouns intending them to mean what we would translate as "the" without them having used a Greek equivalent of "the" (such as {ho} or {ton} or {tou}). Lack of a direct article in Greek might or might not mean we should translate in English with an indirect article instead. Context helps determine this, although sometimes we also just have to guess. But that further muffs much weight to a claim that Jesus is never called "the" God in the NT: context may indicate a "the" even if no "the" is written.

Fourth (or third-and-a-half): there are times in Greek grammar when an author would intentionally omit a direct article that would otherwise normally be supplied, because for the grammatic construction he was attempting the article was supposed to be omitted--yet still understood to be silently there.

John 1:1, one of the famous texts on this topic, could be an example of this. Literally the end of the sentence would read in English "and god was the word." Previously in this same verse, "god" is referred to with a direct article, "the god", while "word" always has a direct article here and elsewhere nearby. Trinitarians (and some other types of Christians, including modalists and even some unitarians in a way) argue that here "the word" is being identified as "the God" (while still being distinguished from "God" in some way--a point modalists would ignore or downplay).

But an argument typical for some unitarians is that there is no direct article here, and so the Word (which they may or may not agree is a reference to Jesus Christ personally) is a most only a god, not the God. Even if they acknowledge that the lack of a direct article doesn't mean no direct article should be supplied, they would still say that, at worst (for their case), the agnosticism cuts both ways: it might mean "a god" just as easily.

Detailed trinitarians don't hinge an interpretation of "(the) God" here (or elsewhere) purely on whether the word has a direct article or not, but also on other contexts of the scriptural testimony in question. After all, it might be possible (although no examples come to mind) that something not intended to be authoritatively identified as "the God" could be called that in Greek!--perhaps.

But aside from other contexts, there is another factor definitely in grammatic play here.

Somewhere in this clause must be a subject of the verb and an object of the verb.

This can be a bit confusing, but I'll give some examples.

I am he -- subject, verb, object.

I love him -- subject, verb, object.

Usually if the noun as the object has a form other than the same form it would use as the subject, it takes the other form. "Him" loves "I" would be improper grammar, because the object form is being used for the subject and vice versa. "Me" loves "he"?--also improper. It should be, as above, "I love him", or "He loves me".

But when the verb is a verb of being, like "be", or "am", or "is", the noun for the object should be in the form it would be for the subject, because some kind of identity is being expressed about the two nouns. "I am him" is grammatically wrong. "I am he" is correct.

Biblical Greek (and maybe some other types of Greek, but the NT canon was written in a more informal cosmopolitan street Greek of the period) has the same rule. The object of a verb, if the verb is one of being, should be in the nominative form (like "he" or "I", not some other form (typically the accusative), like "him" or "me").

Now things get a little more confusing! Greek, like many other languages, has far more suffixes for its word forms than English does (and we have quite a few!) Sometimes this is more helpful, sometimes not. {ho logos} {e_n} {ton theon} would be "the word was the god", but with "the god" in the accusative form (for both words, "the" and "god"), not the nominative.

(Note: I am including an underscore after long etas and long omegas, here and afterward, as Blogger doesn't have an underlining function. If an 'e' or an 'o' doesn't have one, that means it's a short epsilon or short omicron.)

It ought to be the nominative form, thus: {ho logos} the word {e_n} was {ho theos} the God. ({ton} and {ho} both translate directly in English to the direct article "the", but the first form is accusative and the second form is nominative.)

Still with me? Okay, if the author for some reason didn't want to say "the god", he could still write {ho logos e_n theos}. He might still mean "the god", or he might only mean "a god".

What if he wanted to emphasize he meant the God? The first way he would do that would be to include the direct article, of course, and write {ho theos}. For poetic or other artistic reasons he might prefer to use some other way, but that would be the normal first way.

What does it read in Greek there? Well, it doesn't read {ho logos e_n ho theos}, but it doesn't read {ho logos e_n theos} either. It reads {theos e_n ho logos}.

More complexity! Argh!!!

So, does this mean {theos} is the subject and {ho logos} is the object?--"a god was the Word"?

It might mean that (although for the grammatic reasons I will give below I strongly doubt it). But it might also mean something else.

Word order isn't quite as important in Biblical Greek (or in some other languages) as it is in English. There are normal expected word orders, but when authors want to emphasize a term, they'll front it ahead of its usual order. Readers are supposed to know where a noun 'really' goes by what kind of suffix it uses, and especially by the form of its direct article (which has fewer overlaps in common form than suffixes for nouns).

For verbs of being, though, the form would be nominative whether the word was a subject or an object. And if the object was supposed to have a direct article, there would be literally no way to tell for sure which word was supposed to be the subject and which the object.

Consequently, there was a rule: wherever the object of a verb of being was placed by the author, before or after the verb, or even before the subject, it would not have a direct article even if the author intended its meaning such that we in English would translate it "the".

[NOTE: ON THIS POINT MY ANALYSIS IS WRONG! Please see this comment below for my correction. For self-critical purposes I am leaving my original fault in the text, since ultimately it makes no difference to the conclusion of my analysis. I will try to catch brief references to it in subsequent entries and fix those, however.]

But then, what if an author wanted to stress that he meant "the", in order to avoid misunderstanding that the object was only "an" object?

Then the author would be very well advised to front the object in his sentence, which was a common way of emphasizing the importance of a word to the idea of the author. But then to make sure people didn't mistake this word for the subject, the author would be well advised to put the subject after the verb with a direct article (especially if he thought it ought to have a "the" anyway).

And that brings us to the form of the statement at the end of John 1:1.

Put shortly, while the clause might mean "a god was the Word", it fits the situation of the author wanting to say that the Word was "the God"; but having to drop the direct article for the object of the verb; while still wanting readers to know he didn't mean (as we would say) "a god". In fact, he would be inept to write {theos e_n ho logos} if he didn't mean {ho logos} was {ho theos}!

Is there a way to tell the difference? Aside from considering other contextual clues (which I will discuss in the main series), we may consider the author's hypothetical options.

The author has just finished saying that "the Word was with the God", clearly using direct articles. Rhetorical parallel construction would suggest the next phrase would be "the Word was the God", unless of course the author wanted to emphasize that the Word was only a lesser god not the God. But if he wanted to emphasize the dis-identification, he chose a strange way of doing so. He does not say, as he does shortly afterward when emphasizing a dis-identification, that X is not the Y. Nor does he use a contrasting conjunction "but": "the Word was with the God but the Word was a god" or "...but a god was the Word". He doesn't use the specific contrasting conjunction {alla}, but the general purpose conjunction {kai}. While {kai} can mean "but", that doesn't happen as often as with the weaker general purpose conjunction {de}. It is much more usual for authors to use {alla} instead of {kai} to mean "but"; and per the hypothesis our author, a devout monotheist, wants to emphasize that he doesn't mean the Word is the God but only a lesser god. It isn't impossible that he would use {kai} for "but" here, but it would be inept to his hypothesized purpose.

On the other hand, hypothesizing that the author wanted to stress an identification that he knew his audience was going to have natural trouble believing, namely that the Word despite being distinguished from the God in some ways nevertheless also was the God, fronting "the God" would be a very good way to do that--but he would have to omit the article.

(On yet another hand, had the author wanted to stress that there was no personal difference between "the Word" and "the God" somehow, such as for modalistic theology, he would not have included personal distinctions nearby or elsewhere in GosJohn, of which there are many.)

Taken altogether, the grammar together with nearby contextual logic points toward "the Word" (which the author identifies as Jesus soon afterward) being called "the God" here, even though the direct article is not printed.

This is quite a subtle and obscure example, unfortunately, so I certainly don't blame opponents for not picking up on it. (I didn't either until a few years ago!) There are other examples much less obscure, such as the one I started this article with--and which I will return to last!--but... say, how many examples of Jesus being called "the God" are there anyway?

[Next time: more examples from the Johannine texts, including the Thomas declaration.]

No updates this year to my Cadre Thanksgiving Sermon, so I'll just link back to last year's version.

For any readers hoping for yet another massive series between now and Easter: there's one on the way, God willing!

But not until Monday, probably. For which other Cadre readers may gladly give thanks. {g}

Since atheist have low self esteem they are constraint trying to reassure themselves by maintaining the myth that they are more intelligent than religious people. The stduies linking atheists to low self esteem I have posted on this blog before. They are mainly by Leslie Francis but there are others that link negative God image with negative self esteem. I have contacted a theory that atheists are so snide and rude on message boards and often reveal such vehiment hatred toward religion and religious people becuase their method of ganiing self esteem is to put down religious people. They put themselves up by putting us down.

I had previous done several pages on Doxa on atheist IQ claims. I went through every study to date (in the 90s) and demonstrated how 16 t0 6, the preponderance of the evidence favored a view that either religious people are smarter or that there is no correlation. Since that time some more studies have been done by atheists and they are being used extensively for propaganda. These new one's are even worse than those done before.

Here present a little synopsis of the new studies and criticism thereof and then a loot the old studies.

Einstein believed in God.

There's a huge lie being propagated about the net that religious people have lower IQ's than atheists. This is one of the major points being made the site that we looked at last time, the Psychology Today blog tended by Satoshi Kanazawa. That article and study she sites are everywhere. They are repeated on every atheist blog and website ad infinitum, not always approvingly.I promised I would deal with the IQ scam and I shall. The Study sited by Kanasawa is the Lynn, Harvey, Nyborg study. Nyborg is the main the figure. There are actually two studies by this same group. One of them deals with data gathered by department of labor (National Longitudinal surveys) the other study takes the data an analyzes it country by country. So one is about do religious children have higher IQ's version atheist (of course they say "no!"). The other one (linked above) is about do religoius countries have more smart people than atheist countries (of cousre they say not, atheist countries--wherever those are--have more smart people). These studies are ubiquitous. From this one set of data that the alleged researchers did not compile the vast army of atheists are willing to pat themselves on the back and assume they are smarter than people who believe in God.

The fact that the group did not collect their own data but used department of labor statistics is a problem because they data was not gathered from a study designed to measure or compare the intelligence of believers vs. non believers. There is no study design there. They have been criticized for referring to a large desperate group of statistics gathered by others with no attempt to unify or make sure they pertain to the same things. Before turning to that, however, it would be more helpful to examine the old data. Before the Nyborg study there was an atheist website that tried to prove the same thing, it got a great deal of attention, until I destroyed it. I proved that they lied about one of the studies.

Nyborg had also been criticized as a racist and sexist. He believes that women are less intelligent then men. He says the Danes have given up trying to control their dentity by relaxing natural selection and an influx of low IQ foreign workers has brought down the IQ of the nation.

The original data was from "Free Inquiry" Spring of 1986. This forms the basis of the whole IQ scam. It's been floating around for years and thousands of atheists have been brain washed by its' lie. It is a lie as I am about to demonstrate. It's been floating around in the form of several websites that take their ques from this one. The sites its on is called 'the liberalism resurgent, by Steve Kangas." That's the site I linked to for my rebuttal page way back years ago when I first put it up. All he does is list a bunch of studies that supposedly show that atheists have higher IQs than religious people. These were all done with school children, so there's no way to know how many of the same kinds in the study who said they were atheists became religious in adulthood.It's an easy guess that many did because that happens a lot so it would be important to know that. Moreover, notice he places the Hoge study (#15) Hastings and Hoge, 1967, 1974 (actually two studies) in the category of those that back his view. But I received literature form Dr. Francis a researcher in UK university who did several studies on the issue, this literature showed that Hoge showed no correlation between intelligence and religious belief, which contradicts the study and indicates that Kangas either lied or made a blunder. One can see from the rest of the literature that the thesis Kangas is working on is totally ravaged by the facts from just listing the studies that Francis sent in his study:

What follows is reproduction of my page:
The site also presents 17 studies giving the impression that all 17 support the thesis that more successful and higher scoring students tend to be non-believing students, while religious students score lower. Then they actually argue that this is a reliable guide to which world view is correct! (Appeal to success, similar to appeal to authority!)

But if we divide them into categories according to what they actually say, we see a much different picture. The first number is the counting number, to show how many are in each section, the number in parenthesis is the actual number given in the list on the website.

Studies too Veg to Draw a Conclusion

1. (#7) Donald Gragg, 1942
Reported an inverse correlation between 100 ACE freshman test scores and Thurstone "reality of god" scores.

2. (#9) Michael Argyle, 1958
Concluded that "although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs."

3. (#14) Robert Wuthnow, 1978

Of 532 students, 37 percent of Christians, 58 percent of apostates, and 53 percent of non-religious scored above average on SATs.[but wait, there's no comparison of the scores, so even though only 38% of Christians as opposed to 58% of apostates scored above average, what if the Christians scored way above average and the apostates only slightly?]

4. (#16) Norman Poythress, 1975
Mean SATs for strongly anti religious (1148), moderately anti-religious (1119), slightly anti religious (1108), and religious (1022). [From what sample group? All of them? Doesn't say!]

The few studies that actually seem to support the conclusion

1. (#1.) Thomas Howells, 1927
Study of 461 students showed religiously conservative students "are, in general, relatively inferior in intellectual ability."

Doesn't show how conclusion was arrived at 2 (#2.) Hilding Carlsojn, 1933
Study of 215 students showed that "there is a tendency for the more intelligent undergraduate to be sympathetic towards atheism."

Doesn't really say "sympathetic" means self-identified as atheists, nor does it show how he arrived at his conclusion.

3 (3.) Abraham Franzblau, 1934
Confirming Howells and Carlson, tested 354 Jewish children, aged 10-16. Found a negative correlation between religiosity and IQ as measured by the Terman intelligence test.

4 (11.) Young, Dustin and Holtzman, 1966
Average religiosity decreased as GPA rose.8. Brown and Love, 1951 At the University of Denver, tested 613 male and female students. The mean test scores of non-believers was 119 points, and for believers it was 100. The non-believers ranked in the 80th percentile, and believers in the 50th. Their findings "strongly corroborate those of Howells."

5 (13.) C. Plant and E. Minium, 1967
The more intelligent students were less religious, both before entering college and after 2 years of college.[Doesn't say how they determined this]The interesting thing about this is, there are actually more studies that have counter findings than there are supporting the thesis, which give enough information to be clear about how they obtained it (with four that are too vague about this to consider).

6. (#4) Thomas Symington, 1935
Tested 400 young people in colleges and church groups. He reported, "There is a constant positive relation in all the groups between liberal religious thinking and mental ability There is also a constant positive relation between liberal scores and intelligence҆"Note: This guy with the website habitually assumes that liberal religious views are not religious views and counts liberal religious thinkers as unbelievers, which is absurd and dishonest; he does it with this study and on page 2, you will see he does it a lot.

Studies presented that actually count as evidence counter to the claim.

1. (#5) Vernon Jones, 1938

Tested 381 students, concluding "a slight tendency for intelligence and liberal attitudes to go together." [This doesn't say anything about religious belief or lack thereof. He's equating "liberal" with non-religious.]

2. (#6) A. R. Gilliland, 1940
At variance with all other studies, found "little or no relationship between intelligence and attitude toward god."[Obviously its not really at variance with "all" others since I just listed several others that don’t make those findings, and little or no relationship counts as negative evidence.]

3.(#10) Jeffrey Hadden, 1963
Found no correlation between intelligence and grades. This was an anomalous finding, since GPA corresponds closely with intelligence. Other factors may have influenced the results at the University of Wisconsin. [counts against his assumption that grades = intelligence so he can't measure intelligence through the studies that make that assumption. Also, what does he site in the face of this one to prove that graces indicate intelligence? And what about motivations?] (I suggest a sentence such as [This study discounts his assumption…)
4.(#12) James Trent, 1967
Polled 1400 college seniors. Found little difference, but high-ability students in his sample group were over-represented.[so they polled them? What did they use as a measure of intelligence? Doesn't say. But it does say they found no relation, or little, and virtually admit the sample is worthless so this counts as negative or at best as inconclusive.]

5. (#15) Hastings and Hoge, 1967, 1974
Polled 200 college students and found no significant correlations.[negative correlation is clearly negative evidence, there is no relation] Notice: the Francis study lists Hoge under the category of those that show no correlation between intelligence and religion, but that website lists it as positive to their thesis.
6. (#17) Wiebe and Fleck, 1980
Studied 158 male and female Canadian university students. They reported "nonreligious S's tended to be strongly intelligent" and "more intelligent than religious S's."[dosen't hint at how this was determined]

Studies not on the web site (listed by Francis) which found either no corrollation or postive corrollation

No Correllation

1) Feather (1964)Critical reasoning test and religious attitudes scale to 165 male psychology students. "He found no significant relationship between these measures."

2) Feather (1967) replicated in among 40 students.

3) Young et al., (1066) 32 item scale by Holtzman and young (66) five percent random sample of native born full time students at University of Texas, "where they found no significant relationship between mean attitude scores and cumulative grade points."

4) Dodrill (1976) 20 Christians, 24 non Christians, "This study found no significant differences between the two groups using the Westchester Adult Intelligence scale."

5) Francis (1979)using frequency of prayer and church attendance) 2272 school children between 9-11,"found no relationship between school assigned IQ's and religious behavior after controlling for paternal social class."

6) Fracis'('86 replication) findings replicated in second study among 6955 students.

7) Francis ('98) the study these studies are sited in, using sample of 711 students, the Francis Religious attitude Scale and standard IQ tests Francis again found no correlation.

Positive Correllation

1) Pratt (1937) among 3040 students at regional state college, taking denominational affiliation as sign of religiosity, "found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on the American council Examination than any students affiliated to any denominational group."

2) Rummell (1934) also using denominational affiliation 1194 students at University of Missouri. "He found that non-affiliates recorded lower mean scores on his scholastic index compared with Methodists and Episcopalians."

3) Corey (1940) 234 Freshmen University of Wisconsin positive correlation between scores on the Ohio State Psychological Examination and the Thurstone scale of attitude toward God. "'The more intelligent were more favorably inclined toward God.'"

4) Kosa and Schomer (1961) 362 students at a Catholic undergraduate college: taking participation in campus religious activities as scale of religious attitude "intensive participants recorded significantly higher scores than non-participates on OSU aptitude Test and OSR reading comprehension test.

6 studies find negative correlation.

17 find positive or no correlation.

[Leslie J. Francis, University of Wales Lampiter, "The Relationship Between Intelligence and Religiosity Among 15-16 year olds," Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 1, Number 2, 1998]

Counting all the studies together, both those presented as negative and those presented by Francis which are either neutral or positive, 17 to 6 in favor of the thesis being unproven. But more importantly, Hoge was listed wrongly, so what else can we not trust about those studies? Moreover, the sample size for the positive or neutral correlations are much larger in many instances. None of the negative sample sizes come close.

negatives: 1448, 532, 354, 315, 613, 400 (not all listed)

Largest positive or neutral:381, 1400, 200, 158, 165, 44, 2272, 711, 3040, 1194, 362.

The Positive or neutral studies would tend to be the better studies since they have more with larger samples sizes, and Francis controls for the Freudian bias which taints all the negative studies. Poythres (1975) sets the differences within the context of psychoanalytic theory.(Francis 188). We also notice that the negative studies tend to be older, ranging mainly form the 1930s to 1968, while all of the positive or neutral studies tend to be set in the 1960s to the 80s and one as recent as 98. This is explained by Hoge in terms of increasing socioeconomic status and greater exposure of religious people to new ideas at a younger age.

"The long discussed shock of freshmen encountering Atheistic professors at college and the transition problems from childhood beliefs to intellectually defensible beliefs have been reduced in recent years. Today the shock comes earlier and with less force than in decades past."(in Francis 188). (This capitalization is a matter of mild controversy. If Atheism is a religion, then it is capitalized as Buddhist, Moslems and Christianity are.)

We really have to ask ourselves, in studying students, especially freshmen in college, they are getting kids when they are the most rebellious? For those in early college they are going off to school for the first time, away from home, no longer under the strictures of Mom and Dad, they tend to rebel against Mom and Dad. It's a time of experimentation. Naturally we should expect to find that bright kids are experimenters, that they are willing to try new ideas. Secondly, how long did these kids remain unbelieving? How many are no in middle or even old age having had a life time of religious commitment gained in graduate school or beyond? Not a single one of these studies gave any indication of being longitudinal! That is extremely important, because it makes sense that students in late high school and early college will be rebellious and more inclined to question their upbringing. How many of them were actually still atheists 20 or 30 years latter? We don't know and not a single one of the studies even tried to find out. For all we know the vast majority of them might have become believers in 10 years out of college! In fact we have good reason to suspect that this is the case; after they got married and started raising families, they probably began to believe again, and this seems to be the pattern. That conclusion would also be supported by the quotation form Hoge above, the shock of leaving home, encountering atheist professors, dealing for the first time with serious challenge of new ideas could for time lead the unwary into doubt, but latter they recover.

pie charts from Pew study

In the late 90s, atheists began making the argument that less than a majority of scientists believe in God. In addition to this they argued that the National Academy of Sciences had only about 5% members who believed in God. All of this was due to the publication of a 1998 article entitled "Leading Scientists Still reject God." In that article, the author got hold of a survey done in 1914 by a guy named James Henry Luba and Nature Magazine noticed that the stats had not changed. So the conclusion that scientists are such great priests of knowledge, if they don't believe in God there must not be one.

Research on this topic began with the eminent US psychologist James H. Leuba and his landmark survey of 1914. He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 "greater" scientists within his sample [1]. Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67 and 85, respectively [2].
In 1996, we repeated Leuba's 1914 survey and reported our results in Nature [3]. We found little change from 1914 for American scientists generally, with 60.7% expressing disbelief or doubt. This year, we closely imitated the second phase of Leuba's 1914 survey to gauge belief among "greater" scientists, and find the rate of belief lower than ever — a mere 7% of respondents. (Nature, ibid)

Atheists made the most of this since Luba echoed the fallacious conclusions they themselves drew from the data. "Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among "greater" scientists to their "superior knowledge, understanding, and experience" (ibid). Of course this is fallacious, scientists don't have any special knowledge that would tell them God doesn't exist or that he does. It was Nature that polled the NAS. One of the things that I argued at the time was that the questions were rigged to slant the discussion toward the fundamentalist concept of God portrayed in a literal understanding of the Bible. I argued that if you factored in a more liberal concept of God belief among scientists would go way up.

There are now several studies or surveys that reflect this assumption and a new set of findings changes the ball game. Several studies:

(1) Trow, Martin and Associates. 1969. 35% of scientists do not believe God exists. This is a lot more than the general population but a lot less than the over 50% promised by Luba and Nature. It also raises the question if the Luba and/or Nature weren't confusing the issue by assuming that "un-churched" or "non-affiliated, no religious affiliation" means the same as don't believe in God. It does not. Over and over again that distinction is made clear in the better studies.

(Carnegie Commission National Survey of Higher Education: Faculty Study [computer file]. Berkeley: University of California at Berkeley, Survey Research Center [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: University Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor].

(2)Elaine Ecklund, and Christopher Scheitle: Disbelief in the existence of God was not correlated with any particular area of expertise:

Disbelief in God by Academics4
Discipline %
Physics 40.8
Chemistry 26.6
Biology 41.0
Overall 37.6
Sociology 34.0
Economics 31.7
Political Science 27.0
Psychology 33.0
Overall 31.2

(tabel is from article)

That contradicts the findings of nature which had most unbelief in hard sciences (physics and biology) and more belief in 'soft' or social sciences. Elaine Ecklund, and Christopher Scheitle" questioned 2,198 faculty members in the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology from 21 elite U.S. research universities.4 Overall, 75% of professors contacted completed the survey."

Euklund and associates also found that in a sample of 21 major universities only 15% of scientists found that science and religion were always at odds. Euklund's findings show that factors which lead scientists to be unbelieving are not usually related to science but to personal aspects of their lives, such as being emigrants, or being raised in atheist households. It's a cultural thing. Think about it, if a kid is bright he wants to excel in the things to which he is exposed, he going to be more likely to go into a religious vacation if he's exposed to religion and less likely if he's form an unbelieving background. The odds are a bright kid will go into science rather than business if his temperament doesn't lead him/her into liberal arts.

"Instead, particular demographic factors, such as age, marital status, and presence of children in the household, seem to explain some of the religious differences among academic scientists... Most important, respondents who were raised in religious homes, especially those raised in homes where religion was important are most likely to be religious at present."
3) Pew Forum on religion in pubic life: (2009) 51% of scientists believe in some form of diety

According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006. Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view.
The finding here totally contradicts Luba and the atheist argument. They would have it that more than half don't believe. It's much less than the general public but much more than Luba thought.

A surprising finding is that medical doctors tend to be very religious.

The first study of physician religious beliefs has found that 76 percent of doctors believe in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife. The survey, performed by researchers at the University and published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 90 percent of doctors in the United States attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of all adults. Fifty-five percent of doctors say their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.
These results were not anticipated. Religious belief tends to decrease as education and income levels increase, yet doctors are highly educated and, on average, well compensated. The finding also differs radically from 90 years of studies showing that only a minority of scientists (excluding physicians) believes in God or an afterlife.
“We did not think physicians were nearly this religious,” said study author Farr Curlin, Instructor in Medicine and a member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University. “We suspect that people who combine an aptitude for science with an interest in religion and an affinity for public service are particularly attracted to medicine. The responsibility to care for those who are suffering and the rewards of helping those in need resonate throughout most religious traditions.”

In the general popularization belief my decline with increases in education but this is not so among the most educated. Professors across the board (all subjects) reflect belief in God similar to that of the General Population. My own explanation is that people who get degrees and go into non-acadmeic jobs know just enough to be dangerous, they don't continue the life of thought they know the old image of atheism was an intellectual image but they don't keep up with learning and thinking as professors do.

Tim Radford writes an article for the Guardian (sept 2003) on how science doesn't have all the answers, give several examples of scientists who have religious beliefs:

Colin Humphreys is a dyed-in-the-wool materialist. That is, he is professor of materials science at Cambridge. He believes in the power of science to explain the nature of matter. He believes that humans - like all other living things - evolved through the action of natural selection upon random mutation. He is also a Baptist. He believes in the story of Moses, as recounted in the biblical book of Exodus. He believes in it enough to have explored Egypt and the Holy Land in search of natural or scientific explanations for the story of the burning bush, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and the manna that fell in the wilderness -and then written a book about it.
"I believe that the scientific world view can explain almost anything," he says. "But I just think there is another world view as well."
Tom McLeish is professor of polymer physics at Leeds. Supermarket plastic bags are polymers, but so are spider's silk, sheep's wool, sinew and flesh and bone. His is the intricate world of what is, and how it works, down to the molecular level. He delights in the clarity and power of science, precisely because it is questioning rather than dogmatic. "But the questions that arise, and the methods we use to ask them, can be traced back to the religious tradition in which I find myself. Doing science is part of what it means in that tradition to be human. Because we find ourselves in this puzzling, extraordinary universe of pain and beauty, we will also find ourselves able to explore it, by adopting the very successful methods of science," he says.
Russell Stannard is now emeritus professor of physics at the Open University. He is one of the atom-smashers, picking apart the properties of matter, energy, space and time, and the author of a delightful series of children's books about tough concepts such as relativity theory. He believes in the power of science. He not only believes in God, he believes in the Church of England. He, like Tom McLeish, is a lay reader. He has con tributed Thoughts for the Day to Radio 4, those morning homilies on the mysteries of existence. Does it worry him that science - his science - could be about to explain the whole story of space, time matter and energy without any need for a Creator? "No, because a starting point you can have is: why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there a world? Now I cannot see how science could ever provide an answer," he says.
Radford expresses surprise that so many scientists believe in God, even with the old figures that gave atheists such solace. The figure he uses is the outdated 4 in 10. We have to keep in mind atheism is not a rational choice made by thinking machines who feel nothing. It's an emotional choice made by people with low self esteem. They need to put themselves up by putting Christians down. They can't say they hate God, even though they hate themselves and thus they must hate at least the idea of a creator, so the next best thing is to hate those who believe in God. It's very important for them emotionally to believe that they are smarter and that all intelligent people validate their world view. The atheist ideology suggests that science is a priesthood of knowledge and scientists are the only people who know anything. These are not rational analysis based upon empirical data from studies, but articles of faith.

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Mural by Jose Clemente Orozco "Christ Destroying
his Cross," 1943

This post comes under the heading of "what I want to tell atheists positively about Jesus." I started it back when I posted that one about Jesus and Dylan. It's based upon my outrage or dismay (I should say) over learning that so many atheists don't admire or respect Jesus as a historical figure. I re-posting it because after reading it again it seems pretty good.It's also in response to the statements by Weekend Fisher.

I have been deeply moved by Mexican muralist Jos√© Clemente Orozco's (1883-1949) painting of Jesus chopping down his own cross. The Christ of this mural prostrate is drawn in a very primitive style. Christ is not the Pascal lamb but refuses his destiny and will not go to the cross. The painting is disturbing because the first impression is that of blasphemy. Is the artist mocking Christ? Is he rejecting faith at its most sacred level? Orozco is not trying to blaspheme Jesus, nor is he denying the atonement. I find this painting very moving not our any rejection of Christ’s sacrifice or any desire to defame the doctrine of atonement, but because for me it says Jesus would, weather as the son of God, or if he was only a man in history, refuse to be the poster boy for institutional hypocrisy, Jesus would NOT allow himself to be used as symbol to sanctify the institution as it oppresses the poor and ignores the needs of the people. I believe that the real Jesus of history is both the Son of God and the man of history, and he does refuse this role. The real Jesus was a revolutionary of a most remarkable kind. Often we hear that Jesus is the great ethical teacher, and he claimed to be the Messiah, and savior of the world. We usually understand his ethics as an addendum, something any self respecting son of God would be required to have, but mainly irrelevant to his claims of godhood. Jesus ethics were far from being an addendum, however, they were the weaponry and major battle tactics of his amazing revolution. Politics and religion were intertwined in first century Hebrew society. Jesus’ ethics and his Messianic claims work together to fulfill his ultimate mission of world saving and together they make for one the most unique revolutions in human history.

It is not so strange to think of Jesus as a revolutionary. There were even Priests in Latin America in the 60’s, such as Camillio Tores but joined Che and became gorilla fighters. But Jesus the man of history was a true revolutionary. The region from which Jesus is said to have sprung is known as “the Galilee.” The Galilee was a hot bed of revolution, filled with uprisings and tensions. The Romans regarded it as the seat of Zealotry where the real revolutionaries were based. Just four miles from Jesus’ family farm “Nazareth” is a major metropolis known as Serapes. Just four miles down the road Jesus would have had access to what was then modern sophistication, political unrest and new ideas. Nor did he have to go to India to learn of traditions beyond his native prudential Judaism, the major trade route to India went right by his house,. That route lay on the plain of Megiddo where the end of the world is supposed to take place, the final battle between good and evil. Nazareth overlooks the plain of Megiddo and apparently the battle of Armageddon. All of these influences would have been at work in Jesus upbringing. Not to mention the fact that he was a descendant of David, born in Bethlehem and named as the high priest of Zechariah (Joshua = Jesus) who is linked to the Messiah (Zechariah 4).

Jesus revolution, however, was a bit odd. He did not lead an army nor did he command his followers to fight or pick up weapons. His was a non-violent revolution in the mode of Gandhi and that is where his ethics play a major role in backing his mission. The role of the Messiah in the society of Israel was that of political liberator, but it took on overtones of cosmic proportion. In the book of Isaiah we see the concept of Messiah first begins to be introduced, and is then back read into previous statements such as Moses admonition that “a prophet like me will come” and even God’s word to Eve “I will place enmity between the serpent and your seed.” The Messianic kingdom sketched out at the end of Isaiah is not the millennial kingdom of Christ’s post epochal reign on earth, but Israel after the return from the exile. By the second temple period and the time of Jesus, the concept had grown to almost divine proportions. The Messiah was to stand on the top of the temple and shout “Jerusalem your time at hand” the end of the world would ensue. The Messiah was to rise from the dead all of fallen Israel and for that reason he held the keys of life and death. The Jews did not see the Messiah as world redeemer; they did not see him as atoning sacrifice. These weren't entirely Christian innovations, they were foreshadowed at Qumran. But they weren't mainstream. The Jews certainly did not expect the Messiah to be crucified and raise from the dead.

Jesus was such a radical revolutionary, that is a "strange" different, unconventional one, that when his guys made noises about actually installing him on the throne the ran from them. That's because he knew, as everyone from the Galilee knew, the futility of trying to fight the Romans. The slaughter of the innocents in the book of Luke, is not recorded in history. Atheists are always quick to remind us of this. But it does not have to be recorded to have happened because that kind of thing happened all the time. Even a gathering as innocent as the sermon on the mount risked attack by Romans even though nothing provocative was being said. When they started talking about making Jesus king he slopped away and ran from them. Not because he lost his nerve, but because that would totally divert the people from his true purpose. Jesus has no intention of leading an armed revolt that was the opposite of what he had in mind. neither did he intend to pacify the people to accept pain and hardship with platitudes about pie in the sky. Was his program escapist? Was it just a personal nirvana with no touch stone in reality or responsibility to the world? It was not this ether. It was a practical and pragmatic system fro changing the nature of the world by changing the way people relate to each other. He accomplished this by taking people out of the world while keeping them in it.

In Jesus' system we live by the dictates of a higher citizenship, a world beyond this one ruled entirely by God. This is echoed in the model prayer he taught the disciples "thy kingdom come thy will be don't on earth, as it is in heaven." The device Jesus used for this trick of living by the rules of world while being physically in another, we the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God was the essence of Jesus' message:

Mt 3:2
and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

atheists think Jesus was saying "If you don't believe in me you will go to hell." But he actually never says this. All the action is in the kingdom and the kingdom is the big deal. The coming of the kingdom Jesus makes out to be an immanent, immediate, almost emergency status event that will happen soon, and when it does, man is it a big thing!

Mt 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Mt 4:23
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Mr 1:15 - Show Context
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

He never says the Kingdom is reward becasue you had the good sense to believe on him, but he does speak as though its the answer to all our troubles:

Mt 5:3
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 5:10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Most revolutionaries come to abolish the standing order, not impose a kingdom, one kingdom over another.It is within this context that he talks about the ethics and personal relationships and how to relate to people. This is not just some ad-on that's in addition to believing the right things, nor is it unrelated, but it is an outgrowth, a logical extension, one is the basis of the other. The Kingdom is coming. It's power is already here. We can be part of it now, because it has two aspects. This is "realized Eschatology" which was developed by the theologian C.H.Dodd; the kingdom has an "already" dimension" and a "not yet" dimension. We live in the kingdom now even as we are in the world. How we treat each other is an integral aspect of the kingdom.

Mt 5:20
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 7:21 - Show Context
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus ethical and moral teachings may be the greatest ever recorded, of course that's a biased and culturally bound appraisal. But they are certainly among the greatest, and the leaders and theologians of other world religions laud him for his teachings and many of them try to claim him as their own; the Muslims, The Hindu, and the B'Hai. Yet is was not the originality of his moral thinking that makes him great; the Stoics and others said many of the same things. And yet there are certain factors which do make Jesus' teachings unique and worthy of particular attention above and beyond that of most if not all ethical teachers...

Let's use a crash course in Jesus' ethics as a means of understanding his values:


The "beatitudes" that Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the mount indicate the value system out of which he worked. Blessed means "happy" but he is saying more than "happy are the peacemakers." In pronouncing them blessed he is saying basically 'these are the good guys' and indicates a natural Tao working through the divine economy to protect and vindicate those who live by such values. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted;...meek will inherit the earth...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled...merciful shown mercy...pure in heart will see God...peacemakers called sons of God...those persecuted for righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heave." (Matt.5:3-10)

This is the way, this is how to be, these are the values one should hold. This is basically what he is saying. Essentially these qualities are those of a righteous person, they are oriented around God as the primary value and love for the neighbor as the main manifestation of love for God. To mourn probably means repenting for the evil we have done, or at least being able to empathize with other, to care about the pain others. "poor in spirit" refers to real poor people made more explicit in Luke, but the poor in the Bible are the righteous poor who trust in God for their sustenance.

prioritize: Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...

"Do not be anxious saying 'what shall we eat?' 'what shall we drink?' 'what shall we wear?' The Gentiles seek all fo these things and your heavnly Father knows that you need them all, but seek first his kingdom and his riaghteousness, and all these will be added unto you..." (Matt. 5:28-33)

prime directive: Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." ..Other religions, probably all, have similar injunctions, but I have not found has this qualifier making it a self-reflexive command.

Self-Reflexive nature

By placing the command in terms of one's own standard of well being, the command becomes an exhortation to "love the neighbor as you love yourself." No higher standard could be given, one does to himself only that which he/she most desires to be done. By placing the command in these terms one cannot refuse to come to the aid of anyone in need. We would all prefer that others come to our aid. If the command were stated negatively, "do not do unto others that which you would not have done to yourself" one could ignore the neighbor in need. If the command stopped at merely loving the enemy or the neighbor one could refuse to help. By placing it in these self reflexive terms it is made active. One must go out of his way to seek out the needy.

b) Categorical Imperative.

Kant's great ethical system the categorical imperative was based on the Golden Rule of Jesus.

3) Love for Enemies

If you love those who love and hate those who hate you even the Gentiles do that, but I say unto you love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you

matt 5-6....

4) Greatest commandment

Matt 22:35. "and one of them, a lawgiver, ask him a question to test him, 'teacher what is the greatest commandment?' ...37 "and he said to him ye shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first command,and the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend the law and the prophets." (RSV).

Note: All legal regulations and striving of law keeping are summed up in love of God and love of neighbor. This shows that Jesus' ethics surpass the rule keeping stage and ascend to the highest level of conceptual morality, that of the ideal stage where actions are motivated by internalized principles. Moreover, by basing the second command upon love for the neighbor, but relating to love for self, it forms it's own second version of the categorical imperative. Note also if we love our neighbor as ourselves we are commanded to love ourselves, to rectify the self image in relation to reciprocal nature with others. At the same time, we cannot get off the hook by loving enemies any less (since even enemies are neighbors). Thus the will for the good of the other is indexed by our own will for our own good.

Psychological Motivations

Great Compassion

The compassion of Jesus can be seen in many of the stories. The woman caught in the act of adultery is taken before him and the mob wants to stone her. She has broken the law, she is worthy of death (accordion to that culture and that time). Jesus stoops and writes in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but perhaps it was the names of those in the mob who had slept with her (they weren't being accused). He says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." There is the compassion he exhibited to the many people who implored him for healing, and he never refused anyone.We forget anyone else would have been running from those lepers and demoniac that he healed. The demoniac were dangerous, and the leapers thought contagious. But the also demonstrates a total lack of hypocrisy in being unafraid to associate with those who needed him most. When he was criticized for being in the company of drunkards and prostitutes; he merely made fun of the prudes and said, in affect "well, I didn't come to help those who are so well off (the self righteous people) but those who know they need help" There is no way to capture the greatness of Christ's compassion and moral teachings in one of these sub points, but I urge you to get a Bible and read the Gospels over and over, and with an open heart and you will see no greater compassion than that of Jesus Christ, and that of course is culminated in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

Greatest Sacrifice

He did lay down his life for the sins of the world. "Greater love hath no man than to give up his life for a friend," yet Jesus' died for everyone; and his own understanding of what he was doing was that he laid down his life as a "ransom for many." But it seems unlikely that his followers would enlarge upon his mission to this extent. Perhaps they could have enlarged upon his death o include the mission to Israel and it was Paul who expanded it to the rest of the world. But there is great likelihood that he understood himself to be doing something beneficial for all humanity. After all it was not Pauline Theology but the understanding of the Beloved Disciple of the fourth Gospel who puts into Jesus mouth the statement "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Living as though we were in the kingdom now is the most radical move of any revolutionary program. We don't need to hurt anyone, we don't need to fight anyone. ;We just treat people the way God wants us to treat them, out of love. Over time like the mustard seed int he parable he told, the kingdom will grow into a mighty tree that will shade the world. Of course that brings up a sore spot. Some might suggest that has not happened. Others might suggest are still working on it. I think it's worked out much better than skeptical types are willing to admit. Of course the problem is the quasi religious types who think they can manipulate the truth for their devices, and the legalistic types who think they have to kiss up the quasi religious types or they aren't religious enough. While there's a long way to go we need to be cognizant of the fact that Christianity is more than just a social agenda and plan for living. The Kingdom of God is not just a social club or a political program it's a spiritual reality. What Jesus was offering was not just membership in heaven, but a heaven that starts now on earth and is manifested in the way we treat people.

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