Jesus was a Tough Son-of-a-Bitch

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Jesus was a Tough Son-of-a-Bitch

One of the great travesties of modern feel-good femininized Christianity—and a travesty which alienates a lot of non-Christian men—is the fact that Jesus Christ is so often portrayed as an individual who is utterly meek, mild, and submissive—as if Christ were some type of go-along-to-get-along hippie who just wanted peace, tolerance, and “love”, man! But nothing could be further from the truth, for the fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ was one tough son-of-a-bitch, and his strength and grit manifested itself in a number of ways. In fact, in many respects, Jesus Christ is a model of male toughness, and if you don’t believe me, well then just consider the following three points.

Physical Grit

First, there is the physical form of fortitude, which is a type of toughness that Jesus clearly demonstrated, for not only are there good grounds to believe that Jesus was a builder of some type (Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3), and thus that he had the natural physical strength that comes from working in manual labor, but there was also another incident that clearly showed Jesus’s physical prowess:  namely, the clearing of the temple.

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. (John 2:14-15, ESV)

So here we have Jesus literally making himself a weapon and then using that weapon to clear out a temple full of merchants and animals. And although we are not told the exact number of people who were in the temple at the time, it nevertheless takes some serious balls to single-handed bitch-slap a room full of dudes and chase them away from their money and their live-stock. Indeed, regardless of whether you think that Jesus was right or wrong in what he did, the fact is that there are few men alive today who would have the intestinal fortitude to man-up and clear out a group of men with nothing but their hands, a bit of cord, and some righteous fury.

Intellectual, Emotional, and Social Fortitude

Now, while the above example demonstrates Christ’s physical toughness, the fact is that Christ was also intellectually, socially, and emotionally tough. What do I mean by this? I mean that in his words and actions, Christ did not bow to the politically-correct platitudes of his day, nor did he sacrifice the truth for niceness, nor did he care about the approval of his followers if doing so meant sacrificing his integrity. And indeed, when you call out a group of people as being sons of the Devil (John 8:39-47), and when you boldly preach the truth in a manner that leads to those who hear you wanting to kill you afterwards (Luke 4:16-30, John 8:58-59), and when you hold fast to a teaching regardless of the fact that it leads to large numbers of your followers abandoning you (John 6:60-71), you know that Christ had intellectual and emotional strength. In fact, Christ was strong enough to even call out his close friend when it was required (Matthew 16:22-23). And this is not even to mention the iron mental will it would take to fast for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2)! And so we see the strength of Christ manifest itself not only physically, but only intellectually and socially. This was a man who was emotionally and mentally tough. He had a mission, and he would let no man—neither friend nor foe—stop him from achieving it.

Mission-Oriented Toughness

Finally, we can note that Christ had the type of fortitude that men admire most:  a self-sacrificial mission-oriented grit that few men exhibit in their lives. Indeed, in his final days, Christ—in order to fulfil his mission of redemption against the forces of evil that control this Earth (John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4)—allowed himself to be whipped, beaten, and hung on a cross. Now many people might consider such an outcome to be a sign of weakness. After all, Jesus did nothing to defend himself from his attackers and oppressors, and so his apparent submission to a painful death seems pathetic, not bold or strong. But this has the issue entirely backwards, for true strength and toughness is demonstrated via the endurance of pain and suffering to accomplish a mission, not necessarily through the specific way in which that mission is accomplished. Think, for example, of the platoon commander whose cowering platoon is pinned down by enemy fire and blocked from advancing due to a barbed wire barrier; in order to save his men and ensure that his mission is completed, the platoon commander charges the wire under heavy enemy fire and throws himself upon it, thereby allowing his platoon to break through and complete their mission. Is this platoon commander a coward? Is he weak? Is the soldier who throws himself on top of a grenade to save his friends and ensure their survival pathetic? Of course not! Was Arnold Winkelried gutless when, in 1386 at the Battle of Sempach, he sacrificially threw himself against a spear wall in order to make the critical opening for his Swiss comrades to break the Austrian lines and ultimately gain their freedom? Obviously not! And so, such men as those just mentioned are not weak, but rather, they have the biggest balls of all, for they willingly and freely take on the pain and suffering from countless foes in order to save their friends and ultimately accomplish their mission by doing so. And the same is true for Christ: he freely and willingly endured unbearable pain to ensure the completion of his mission, which was the salvation of mankind. In fact, when looked at from a theological perspective, Christ’s sacrifice can be seen as being even more awesome, for a plausible understanding of the crucifixion holds that Christ literally experienced and endured the punishment for all the sins of all mankind during his death, an experience which would create a level of pain that would be utterly unimaginable to us. And yet he took on that pain freely, a deed that few others—if any—would ever do!

And so, the long and short of it is this: while Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was without a doubt kind and gentle with many individuals, he was also incredibly tough, and his fortitude showed itself in many different ways. Consequently, it always needs to be remembered that Christ was not a weak man, but was, in fact, one of the toughest—if not the toughest—SOBs to have ever lived. He was a man’s man, and we need to remember him as such.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 13

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

The Gospels, Personal Relevance, and A Priori Commitments

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

The Gospels, Personal Relevance, and A Priori Commitments

Note:  Please be advised that this essay was inspired by David Marshall’s blog post located here:  http://christthetao.blogspot.ca/2017/01/epic-rap-battle-jesus-vs-alexander.html

When speaking about the gospels, as well as the veracity of all the records for Jesus’s life, unbelievers often point to the fact that there is a great deal of dispute amongst scholars concerning the details of Jesus’s earthly existence—especially when compared to the relative agreement that scholars have concerning the details of the lives of other historical figures—and such unbelievers point out this fact as a means of undermining both the credibility of the gospels and certain Christian claims about Jesus Himself. And so indeed, unbelievers thus bring up this issue as a reason to reject the claim that we can know much about the life of Jesus. However, there is often an ignored reason for why there is such a major dispute concerning the life and times of Jesus and so relatively little dispute about other ancient figures: namely, personal relevance. After all, for the unbeliever, if the gospels are true, then this not only means that his entire worldview is false, but also that, suddenly, he is morally at fault for various things, he is morally responsible for those faults, and there are even potentially everlasting repercussions to his faults if he does not repent of them. Thus, the debate over Jesus is not merely an academic one, as it is in the case of most other historical figures. Rather, it is a debate which affects every single one of us, whether we want it to or not. And in such a case, both motivated reasoning and cognitive biases can flare up to a major level in anyone who wishes to deny the evidence for Christian theism, such as the evidence found in the gospels.

Therefore, the issue of “relevance” concerning the gospels is a point that cannot be overlooked. In fact, it is so important that one wonders whether one should, before having a discussion with a non-believer, ask them whether they would genuinely come to believe that Jesus had caused miracles to occur or that God had resurrected Jesus from the dead even if they had ten eyewitnesses to the events in question as well as video evidence of both Jesus’ miracles as well as his death and subsequent resurrection. Since I doubt that many of them actually would believe in Jesus’s miraculous workings or his resurrection even given such evidence—rather, they would grasp at any naturalistic explanation possible, such as that ‘aliens’ did it or that the video evidence was forged—then it soon becomes reasonable to believe that such unbelievers’s current objections to the gospels are merely objections meant to give more plausibility and apparent legitimacy to their already existent a priori rejection of Christianity and the gospels. In essence, their current objections against the gospels—which, though not without merit, are all-too-often exaggerated and selectively-skeptical—make it easier for them to maintain their intellectual credibility in light of their a priori commitment against theism and Christianity; and such objections certainly make such unbelievers seem more rational than if they outright admitting that no amount of historical evidence would ever convince them to believe in miracle-working Jesus or in his miraculous resurrection from the dead.

And lest you think that I am merely “supposing” that some atheists would react this way, note the following examples.

First, note atheist JJC Smart, when, on page 46 of the 2003 second edition book Atheism & Theism, he states the following:

 [QUOTE] …someone who has naturalistic preconceptions will always in fact find some naturalistic explanation more plausible than a supernatural one… Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostle’s Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have changed their position. I don’t know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad—I would probably go mad. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added]

Second, consider arch-atheist Richard Dawkins, who, in an interview with fellow atheist Peter Boghossian, which can be found on Youtube under the title “Richard Dawkins in conversation with Peter Boghossian”, essentially admits that no evidence can convince him that God exists. Here is a transcript of their conversation between the 12 minute and 30 second mark and the 15 minute and 30 second mark (and please note that I am indebted to the ‘Shadow to Light’ blog for this transcript):

[QUOTE] Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?

Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.

[Peter Boghossian begins to speak and is in full agreement with Dawkins, arguing, for example, that if the stars spelled out a message from God, we would first have to rule out alternative explanations, like an alien trickster culture.]

Dawkins then agrees with Boghossian.

Boghossian then asks him: So that [stars aligned into a message] couldn’t be enough. So what would persuade you?

Dawkins: Well, I’m starting to think nothing would, which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://youtu.be/qNcC866sm7s%5D

Third, in a Pharyngula blog post which was written on the 9th of October 2010, accessed on the 14th of January 2017, and titled “It’s like he was reading my mind”, atheist PZ Myers—author of the aforementioned popular atheist blog site—also admits that no evidence could convince him that God exists:

[QUOTE] Steve Zara has a nice article at RD.net [Richard Dawkins.net] that is actually saying the same thing I’ve been arguing at recent talks: There is no possibility of evidence to convince us of the existence of a god. … There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/09/its-like-he-was-reading-my-min/%5D

Finally, Steve Zara—mentioned above—in an article on ‘richarddawkins.net’, which was written on the 30th of July 2011, and accessed on 14 January 2017, and titled “There can be no evidence for God (revisited)”, writes:

[QUOTE] …we should challenge the very concept of gods, we should not let believers set the rules of the game with flim-flam about the possible truth of Biblical miracles, or other ways of knowing reality, or necessary beings. We should make it clear that all arguments that lead to gods are wrong because they lead to gods! God is a singular mistake, a philosophical division by zero, a point at which the respectability of arguments break down. God is out of the question, the ultimate wrong answer. [UNQUOTE, bold emphasis added, https://web.archive.org/web/20140121204114/http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/642394-there-can-be-no-evidence-for-god-revisited%5D

In light of the above quotes, is anyone surprised that such unbelievers would vociferously argue that the gospels are not persuasive and that they would use any means necessary to make their objections against the gospels and against any historical record which supported Jesus’s historical nature? Of course not, for doing so is the only way to maintain their intellectual credibility in light of their a priori anti-theistic commitments. In fact, given the above quotes, it is not even shocking that some unbelievers try to outright deny the very existence of Jesus, for doing so makes their dismissal of the gospels that much easier. And so, while points can indeed be made concerning certain weaknesses in the gospels, we cannot lose sight of the fact that objections against the gospels would be made no matter how good the evidence for them was. In fact, funnily enough, Jesus himself tangentially admits as much in a more general way in Luke 16:27-31 when he says that some people would not believe in the miraculous or in Christian theism even if they saw a man raised from the dead, and so Christians should not only not be surprised when people readily deny the evidentiary value of the gospels, but they should actually predict that this will be the case in many instances.

Finally, it should be noted that while Christians are not immune to the same problem as the one identified above, this problem is not necessarily as acute for believers as it is for unbelievers. After all, even if the gospels are deemed to be weak historical evidence, a Christian could nevertheless remain a Christian on purely philosophical grounds, or on the basis of Paul’s writings, or the Christian could even move to fideism or to Reformed Epistemology as the grounds for his faith; or even, the Christian might lose Christianity, but he could remain a religious theist, and so the blow to the Christian would not be nearly as much as it would be to the unbeliever if the unbeliever had to admit that the gospels were powerful historical evidence. Thus, for the Christian, changing his perspective on the gospels would not be nearly as life-changing as such a change would be for the atheist. Thus, a good case could be made that the atheist’s drive to deny the strength of the gospels is greater than is the believer’s drive to affirm their strength.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  as unpleasant as it might be to have to question a person’s motives and worldview commitments when dealing with their arguments concerning the gospels, the fact remains that when it comes to assessing the gospels, a person’s a priori commitments concerning them are highly relevant, and so they simply cannot be ignored. And this is a point that should never be forgotten when discussing the gospels with an unbeliever.

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Anno Domini 2017 01 14

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

There is Nothing Intrinsically Wrong with Slavery

The Reconquista Initiative

 Presents…

 There is Nothing Intrinsically Wrong with Slavery

One of the arguments that Christians routinely hear unbelievers make against both the Bible and against Jesus Himself is something along the following:

“Jesus and the Apostles never condemned slavery and the Old Testament actually encouraged both indentured servitude and slavery; and so, in light of these points, both Christian morality generally and Biblical morality specifically, as well as the personal example of Jesus Himself, are all suspect and unworthy of being fully followed.”

And indeed, I have heard an objection like this one being used as a moral indictment against both the character of Jesus and the moral code found in the New Testament, as well as serving as an objection against the Bible as a whole. As such, this is not some fringe objection to Christian truth but one which many people consider to be a serious issue for Christianity.

Now, in answer to this objection, many Christians try to explain that the commands of God in the Old Testament were unique to the Jews and were very specific to their particular circumstances, and so while slavery may have been allowed at that point in time, it no longer is. Or, alternatively, Christians try to claim that slavery was simply part of the ancient world and could not be easily or quickly changed, which is why Jesus nor the Apostles condemned it outright at that time, for to do so would lead to the end of the Christian message before it could even start. Or some Christians claim that opposition to slavery, and its condemnation as evil, is made implicitly through the other teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, and so these Christians argue that the New Testament actually does condemn slavery, but only via inference from other teachings. And finally, some Christians simply shift the discussion by pointing out that Christians, and primarily Christians, led the push to outlaw slavery, and so the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament ultimately did lead to the end of slavery, which thus points to Christianity’s ultimate opposition to the institution of slavery.

Now, while all the above responses have merit, and while they are all true to some degree, I wish to answer this objection in a totally different, and perhaps shocking, way. In essence, I will argue that the reason that Jesus never condemned slavery is because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with slavery; indeed, I contend that, in-principle, slavery is not necessarily immoral, and so there was no reason for Jesus to condemn it as such. And to explain why this is the case, a short thought-experiment can be made. But before that occurs, it needs to be clear that by slavery, or more specifically by the word ‘slave’, I mean “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them”, which is how the online Oxford dictionary—accessed on the 5th of December 2016—defines the term. And the Cambridge dictionary online, accessed on the same day, defines a ‘slave’ as “a person who is legally owned by someone else and has to work for that person.” So this is what is meant by the idea of slavery. Additionally, note as well that some versions of slavery or bondage could be set for a certain period of time, such as with indentured servants, or they could be indefinite, such as with slaves or bond-servants. Thus, the length of time that a person serves in servitude can vary, but whatever amount of time this is would not negate one’s status as a slave during that time.

Note as well that, in this essay, it needs to be absolutely and categorically clear that I am not claiming that, say, the kidnapping or abduction of a person to make him into a slave is moral; indeed, such an action would be immoral. But the fact remains that there is no necessary connection between slavery and the kidnapping of people to make them into slaves, for while the latter action is indeed immoral, for no one should be taken against their will, that does not mean that slavery itself is moral. After all, it is true that a person could volunteer himself to become a slave, much like is the case with indentured servants, and so there is nothing which in-principle connects the idea of slavery with an immoral way of acquiring a slave. So it must be clear that this short essay is not arguing that all the means of acquiring a slave are moral, for they are not, but the essay is arguing that there are moral means of acquiring a slave—such as the slave consensually volunteering to be a slave, thus being an indentured servant—and also that the idea of slavery itself is not intrinsically immoral. And lest one think that no one would ever volunteer to be a slave, note, for example, that the Bible itself provides for just such a possibility in Exodus 21:5-6, and there are stories of freed slaves in the past who wished to stay with their masters even though they did not have to.

So, with all that stated, let us conduct the aforementioned thought-experiment to see why slavery is not, in-principle, immoral.

Imagine a society where everyone was free to quit the work that they had and move around at will, but, for nearly everyone, all the work offered in every place in that society was such that 1) people had to work like dogs just to make enough to survive to the age of reproduction and they would die a few years after, and 2) they were given no holidays, and 3) they were fired from their job if they had a conscientious objection to some form of their work or they complained about their conditions, and 4) they were fired from their work if they did not accept the advances of their superiors, and 5) they were fired for having the wrong religion or the wrong views, and so on. But now imagine another society where nearly everyone who lives in this second society is a slave bound to a master whom the slave ultimately has to obey, and yet, in this society, the masters 1) ensure that the slaves’ work hours are entirely reasonable, and 2) that the slaves are very well paid (based on merit) and have full health and retirement benefits, and 3) that the slaves can change to different jobs if they wish to do so and are qualified to do so, and 4) that the slaves have self-chosen holidays and family days and sick days, and 5) that the views and opinions of the slaves are listened to and respected, and 6) that the slaves can move elsewhere if necessary, and finally 7) that the slaves can freely worship, speak, complain, and so on. Now, in viewing these two aforementioned societies, both of which are possible, it is clear—at least to me—that the immoral one, and the one that truly denigrates people made in the image of God, is the former ‘free’ society, whereas the latter ‘slave’ society is quite moral and genuinely respects men as being human persons made by God. In fact, in a strange inversion, the in-principle “free” society is the in-practice slave society, whereas the in-principle “slave” society is the in-practice free society. And note that while such a free “slave” society would likely not exist in-practice—for humans, being humans, would very likely mistreat any people that they owned as slaves—the point is that, in-principle, a slave society could be much more just, moral, and free than a free society could be. And indeed, note that, under slavery, there is nothing, in-principle, that could stop a master, whom the slave must obey, from telling the slave that the slave is free to do whatever the slave wishes to do; in fact, if he so wished, the master could decide to not even give the slave any command at all for the slave’s entire tenure as a slave! Thus, in-principle, a master could command a slave to act freely and to be free in a practical sense, even though, by law, the slave would be bound to obey the master in all things. In fact, in-principle, a slave master could, in-practice, free a slave while still indefinitely supporting the slave and paying for his livelihood, much like a financial patron would; and such a life, for the slave, would not only be moral, but could be considered even more moral and beneficial than a life of ‘free’ toil. So the whole point here is to realize that, in-principle, there is nothing about slavery which means that a slave must necessarily be mistreated, nor that the slave must necessarily be less-free, in-practice, than a man who is ostensibly considered free; thus, in-practice, a slave could be better treated and more free than a man who is theoretically free but is actually little more than a wage-slave.

Thus, what this little thought experiment helps to show is that a good case can be made that slavery, on a theoretical level, is not, in and of itself, immoral. Furthermore, this thought experiment helps to bring out the point that what is potentially immoral about slavery is how the slaves are treated and dealt not, not the fact that they technically fit the definition of being a slave. However, it is also obviously understood that, in practice, sinful men, being fallen creatures, would readily abuse their authority and nearly always abuse their slaves, and so the institution of slavery should be abolished and remain abolished for pragmatic reasons; but again, this does not therefore mean that, theoretically-speaking, slavery as such is an immoral institution, but only that men cannot be trusted to faithfully institute such a practice here on Earth.

And so, the long and short of it is this: a solid argument can be made to show that slavery, as a mere concept, is not necessarily immoral, but rather that it is how slaves are treated in practice that is the immoral aspect of slavery. But, if this is the case, then we would expect that Jesus and the New Testament would not object to slavery outright nor condemn it directly, but rather they would focus on how the slave is treated; and lo and behold, note that in Ephesians 6:5-9 and in Philemon—both of which speak to the fact that a slave should be respected and treated like a brother—that is precisely what the New Testament does indeed focus on. Thus, when it comes to slavery, the New Testament actually does address the primary moral point which should be addressed concerning slavery: namely, the treatment of slaves. And so the ‘slavery’ objection against the New Testament is, in light of this fact, much weaker than is normally assumed.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 05

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam