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Letters exchanged with Gary…

Gary discovered my website and wrote to me to repeatedly on several topics. This exchange -I can't really call it a debate- did not get very far in any one direction, as we never managed to agree upon which topic should be discussed.

My opinion is that this exchange of letters is perhaps the least constructive and the least interesting among those on my site. However, Gary became convinced that I was dodging his questions and would never reprint the exchange. Even though we made little meaningful progress in our conversation I must admit that some of Gary's beliefs proved to be interesting although implausible.

For example, Gary made it clear that he believes:

Perhaps not explicit, but still evident in Gary's writings, is the assumption that the truths of Scripture are always asserted in a strictly literal manner. Hence, the apostle John is asserting an "obvious falsehood" when he states, "There are still many other things that Jesus did, yet if they were written about in detail, I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to hold the books to record them." John 21:25 NAB. Yet Gary later claimed that the statement is hyperbolic without ever adjusting his conclusion that it is a "falsehood". This sort of confusion about accounting for literary types in one's interpretation of a text says a great deal about Gary's insistence that Scripture contains numerous errors.

Gary repeatedly decries the "fundamentalism" of his upbringing, and blames his parents for concealing from him that "the Bible was not perfect, that it did contain contradictions and errors". Now he seems to detect "fundamentalism" around every corner, including in my letters. I've never been accused of being a fundamentalist before! -I think most fundamentalists would be insulted to think I was one of them!

Despite all this, Gary exhibits positions that are particularly fundamentalist: that Scripture must be interpreted in a strictly literal manner; that in a debate on Christian doctrine the only admissible evidence is Scripture -historical evidence of what the early Church believed is somehow not relevant to the discussion; reliance on self as the final and ultimate interpreter of Scripture.

 

Gary's letters are in blue font, mine are in black. All text appearing in brackets was added by myself for the purpose of clarifying who is the author of the passage.

Comments and questions on this material are welcome.

 

 

23 January 2003:

 

Subject: "Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

Found your page about Jesus not having brothers and sisters very funny.

Why the need to have Jesus an only child? So Mary had sex with her husband after the birth of Jesus, what is the problem?

 

Gary

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24 January 2003:

 

Subject: "Re: Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

 

Gary,

 

If you want to ignore the biblical evidence, that's up to you. If you consider it funny, what is that to me?

 

God bless you,

John Robin.

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Subject: "Re: Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

 

John,
It just amazes me how far Catholics will go to protect their goddess from that terrible evil of sex with her husband. lol They will go to extremes to prove that when the bible clearly says "his mother, brothers and sisters" and even gives their names, it really means something else, but will ignore the verse in Isaiah that uses the wrong Hebrew translation to say Mary was a virgin when the proper interpretation is that the woman spoken of there is only "young woman".
Keep up the misinformation. :o) Keep worshiping those idols.
Gary

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Subject: "Re: Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

 

Gary,

Thank you for writing again, Gary. Allow me to respond to your points. You commented on Isaiah 7:14...

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el." Isaiah 7:14 RSV

Do you read and speak Hebrew? I do not, so I can't claim to be an expert in Hebrew translation. However, several resources that I've checked do not really appear to support your extreme position that it is "wrong" to read Isaiah 7:14 as referring to a "virgin".

The Hebrew word in question, transliterated "almah", which appears seven times in the Old Testament, is defined as follows in these established non-Catholic resources:

"a lass, damsel, maid, virgin" -Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.

"virgin, young woman; of marriageable age; maid or newly married." -KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.

"There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin." -Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.

The King James Version of Scripture, also a non-Catholic source, translates the word as "virgin" in 4 cases, "maid" in 2, and "damsels" in one instance. The KJV applies "virgin" to Isaiah 7:14.

Now, at the same time, I understand that the word does not necessarily indicate a virgin, and certainly some Jews and some non-Christians accuse Christians of misinterpreting the passage. However, from the very early years of the Church this passage was understood to apply to the Messiah, and it was understood to convey that the mother of the Messiah conceived as a virgin. Hence, the doctrine of the "Virgin Birth" is an ancient article of the Christian faith, and no one who rejects it adheres to the faith handed down once for all to the apostles.

It's interesting to note that Mary's perpetual virginity is far from being an exclusively Catholic doctrine. The eastern orthodox churches, who reject the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, hold this belief firmly, as did most of the early Protestant "reformers".

Testimony on Mary's virginity, from some of the founders of Protestantism:

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldreich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Wesley all believed that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, and all of them -except for possibly Calvin- believed that she remained ever-virgin. You can find this documented in their writings at this site: http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ460.HTM

Nor is this belief a recent invention. It goes back to the first centuries of the Church, and is documented plainly for any honest seeker of what the Church really believed in its earliest years.

Testimony on Mary's virginity, from some of the early Church fathers:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Ever_Virgin.asp

Regarding whether names are provided for natural brothers of Jesus, I offer you this short passage:

"By comparing Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; and Jn 19:25, we find that James and Joseph - mentioned in Mt 13:55 with Simon and Jude as Jesus' "brethren" - are also called sons of Mary, wife of Clopas. This other Mary (Mt 27:61; 28:1) is called Mary's "adelphe" in Jn 19:25 (two Marys in one family?! - thus even this usage apparently means "cousins" or more distant relative). Mt 13:55 and Mk 6:3 mention Simon, Jude and "sisters" along with James and Joseph, calling all "adelphoi". Since we know that James and Joseph are not Jesus' blood brothers, it is likely that all these other "brethren" are cousins, according to the linguistic conventions discussed above. " David Armstrong, http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ153.HTM, http://ic.net/~erasmus/ERASMUS9.HTM#PERPETUAL%20VIRGINITY

As far as your remarks about worshipping goddesses, idols, and denigration of sex, these deserve no reply other than to remind you of Peter's exhortation that when you make a defense for your faith, you should "do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15 RSV). Besides, condescension, sarcasm, and misrepresentation of another's beliefs will almost always backfire in a debate and make you look really bad. I know they have whenever I've employed them! Only inept debaters use such tactics. Gary, I encourage you to drop them from your arsenal; you'll improve the quality of your argumentation a thousand percent.

Finally, since you described my paper, "Brothers of the Lord", as "funny", I assume you read it. But I note that you did not respond directly to any of my arguments. If you want to have a serious discussion on this topic in which we deal honestly with the evidence and each other's points, then I'm interested and will welcome your future correspondence. But if you just want to throw mud and ridicule my beliefs, then let's not waste our time. I will regard any response to this as an indication of your character.

God bless you, Gary.

John Robin.

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25 January 2003:

 

Subject: "Re: Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

 

Mr. Robin,
Sorry for the harsh manor that I first responded to your essay. I will do my best to pull the reins back on my poor manors. There is so much to debate with you regarding your claims I must do it piece meal if that is all right with you. I would like to start with the verses that Matthew uses as a prophecy of the Messiah, Isaiah 7:14-16

Matthew wants his readers to believe that this passage is a prophecy of Jesus Christ. I contend that it is not, and I will attempt to prove that it isn't.

To do this I must first give my understanding of the context of these verses being spoken by Isaiah. If you are a seeker of truth and not just an apologist, you too will see that this scripture is not a prophecy of Jesus Christ, that it does not have a thing to do with Jesus, nor to anything that could happen in the time that Jesus was born and lived, which was about seven hundred years after the time of Isaiah.

Here is the context: On the death of Solomon the Jewish nation split into two monarchies: one called the kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, the other the kingdom of Israel, the capital of which was Samaria. The kingdom of Judah was of the line of David, and the kingdom of Israel that of Saul and these two rival monarchies frequently warred against each other.

At the time of Isaiah, Ahaz was King of Judah, and Pekah was King of Israel. Pekah allied himself to Rezin, King of Syria, to war against Ahaz. These two kings joined their powerful armies and marched against Jerusalem. Ahaz and his people became alarmed at their danger, and "their hearts were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Isaiah 7:3.

In this very bad situation, Isaiah comes to Ahaz, and assures him in the name of the Lord, that these two kings will not win against him and to assure Ahaz, tells him to ask a sign of God. Ahaz declined doing it, giving as a reason, that he would not tempt the Lord, so Isaiah says in verses 14 - 16 "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son , and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good - for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land which thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings" - meaning the Kings of Israel and the King of Syria who were marching toward him.

Here was the sign: the birth of a child by a virgin or young woman depending upon your take, and that child a male would be named Immanuel and there was also a the time limit for this sign, namely, before the child should know to refuse the evil and choose the good (0 - 5 years). So to be a sign of success to Ahaz, it must be something that would take place before the battle then pending between him and the two kings. A thing to be a sign must precede the thing signified. To take this otherwise one must throw logic, reason and very straight forward scripture out the window.

It would make no sense for Isaiah to have assured Ahaz with a sign that these two Kings would not prevail against him, with a child being born seven hundred years after he was dead, and that before the child born should know to refuse the evil and choose the good, Ahaz, would be delivered from the danger facing he and his kingdom. This is not at all a prophecy of a far away event.

Reality is, that the child that Isaiah speaks of was his own child, with which his wife or other young woman was then pregnant, for he says in the next chapter, verse 8:2 "And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah; and I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bear a son;" and he says, in verse 18 of the same chapter, "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel."

I apologize for being redundant, but I must point out again, that the word translated "a virgin" in Isaiah, does not signify a virgin in Hebrew, but merely a young woman. Should you hold to your contention that Virgin is correct, then the child born at the time of Isaiah was also born of a virgin. You can't have it both ways unless you violate Revelation 22:19. The tense is also incorrect in the translation. Levi gives the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7:14, and the translation in English with it - "Behold a young woman is with child and beareth a son." The statement is in the present tense not the future tense.

This "IS" translation agrees with the other events related to the birth of this boy which was to be a sign to Ahaz, not one to be born seven hundred years later. The Christian translators have falsified the original and instead of making Isaiah say, behold a young woman IS with child and beareth a son, they have made him to say, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."

While here, lets look at this prophecy Isaiah made. Did it come true? Did Ahaz triumph over the two kings marching toward him? No, Ahaz and his people were killed (120,000) and the rest taken into slavery. II Chronicles 28:5-8. This of course makes Isaiah a false prophet if we believe what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 18:22 on how to know a false prophet. A couple other points to make regarding the prophecy of Isaiah and it's non-fulfilment, at that time, or 700 years later: The child was to be named Immanuel and of course Jesus was not named that, nor was the child born at the time of Isaiah. 8:1 "..Maher-shalal-has-baz" was the name given the child. Secondly, in verse 7:15 "Butter and honey shall he eat....." This would mean the child prophesied would be raised in royalty or wealth and of course Jesus was not raised in such a manor, just the opposite, but Maher-shalal-has-baz was. Isaiah 7:14-16 is not a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, it is a false prophecy plain and simple.

I will await your analysis of my humble understanding of the prophecy of Isaiah before I inflict you with the next point of debate. I hope you will, like I have, only use only the scriptures to back your arguments and not traditions of the church and sophistry.

The Son of a Preacher Man,
Gary

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Subject: "Virgin Birth = No Messiah"

 

Mr. Robin,
I quote you, then respond.

[J Robin] "It's interesting to note that Mary's perpetual virginity is far from being an exclusively Catholic doctrine. The eastern orthodox churches, who reject the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, hold this belief firmly, as did most of the early Protestant "reformers"."

[Gary] This is not evidence. These are opinions with no proof given. Millions of asians believe firmly in Buddha, and this does not make his teachings the one true way either. Agreed?

[J Robin] "Testimony on Mary's virginity, from some of the founders of Protestantism:
Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldreich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Wesley all believed that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, and all of them -except for possibly Calvin- believed that she remained ever-virgin. You can find thisdocumented in their writings at this site:
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ460.HTM"

[Gary] Seems to me that all of these people lived centuries after the event. Again, this is just men's opinions and does not represent evidence of fact. Millions of Arabs believe in the Koran as the word of God, this does not make it so either. Agreed?

[J Robin] "Nor is this belief a recent invention. It goes back to the first centuries of the Church, and is documented plainly for any honest seeker of what the Church really believed in its earliest years."

[Gary] How about Paul? Is he early enough for you? He told his followers not to teach strange doctrine, i.e.. virgin births qualifies as just that. That concept was very strange to the Jewish population of the day. Paul never mentions such a concept as virgin birth, so he had no knowledge of it or didn't believe it himself. That was a belief of the pagans, i.e. Hecules, Mithra, Horus, Dionysos, Jove, Krishna, Attis, Ra, Dionysos, etc... etc... etc..... regarding their many virgin born gods prior to Jesus. Do you believe these other gods were also born of virgins? I doubt it.

Matthew 1:16 "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus."
Luke 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli."

This seems to be a contradiction. The genealogy of Joseph is given twice in the NT and neither match the other but in a few names. They are there to show that Joseph is of the house of David to prove that Jesus is the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. There is one great big problem with all this. Jesus was not of the seed of Joseph if we accept the virgin birth story. This eliminates Jesus being of the house of David. Mary was not of the line of David but of Levi and Joseph was just a step father. My Irish mom marrying a person of the Native American race after I am concieved by a german father does not make me a Native American. Mary being married to Joseph does not make Jesus of the seed of David. Am I wrong?

How can you believe the virgin birth story and at the same time believe that Jesus fulfilled the requirement of being from the seed of David? I will be interested in hearing how you resolve this major problem in church doctrine, while maintaining reason and logic.

I hope you do not base everything you believe on what others believe without question. For me I followed the verse in II Timothy 2:15 to get to where I am in my belief. One verse in Isaiah that is very questionable, one in Matthew quoting that same doctored verse and another in Luke is not enough for me to believe such a fantastic story. Exceptional claims require exceptional proof. Hope you have some.

Why didn't Jesus ever mention it himself? Why isn't it mentioned in every book of the NT?
--
The Son of a Preacher Man,
Gary

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Subject: "Re: Jesus Brothers and Sisters"

 

Gary,

It was very kind of you to write again, and I appreciate your kind words.

After reading your interesting interpretation, I find myself drawn especially to some of your opening words, as well as your closing words.

You began your presentation,

"Matthew wants his readers to believe that this passage is a prophecy of Jesus Christ. I contend that it is not, and I will attempt to prove that it isn't."

Then, your closing remarks:

"I hope you will, like I have, only use only the scriptures to back your arguments and not traditions of the church and sophistry."

These two statements are quite remarkable and provide much food for discussion, even if we do not touch upon the paragraphs separating them.

Gary, I have to question first your curious challenge that I should use "only the scriptures to back your arguments and not traditions of the church and sophistry." Why should I do this? Does Scripture say anywhere that only Scripture is a legitimate source of evidence for discussion and debate? I'm not aware of any such scriptural support for such a position. In fact, I reject the idea as self-refuting, because Scripture in fact does not make any such claim, and challenge you to provide any scriptural evidence that explicitly defends such a doctrine. My contention is that such a position is not a biblical doctrine, but is rather a "tradition of men", and is just the sort of sophistry that I want to avoid in a any serious discussion.

Your suggestion that I should restrict myself to scriptural evidence implies that historical and other extra-biblical evidence is inadmissable. On what basis, then, should I place any credence in your logic or testimony, seeing that it does not originate in Scripture, but rather originates in your own limited human intellect: specifically, in your private interpretation of Scripture? Do you see, Gary, adopting a "sola scriptura" position eliminates any claim to credibility you may otherwise have to debating scriptural doctrine. Interpreting and debating inescapably involves introducing the mindset of the interpreter, which in a modern debate, is always an extrabiblical witness -even when it appeals to scriptural evidence.

Gary, essentially you have set yourself up against the evangelist and apostle Matthew and charged him with error in writing his Gospel. Do you really grasp the magnitude of what you are saying? There are some serious implications to this belief of yours, but I'll mention just one: that the Gospel of Matthew and therefore the inspired Word of God contains error. This position I utterly reject as totally incompatible with the Christian faith.

Have you considered what your rejection of Matthew's application of the Isaiah passage means in light of the authority that Jesus specifically gave His apostles? Rather than cite the numerous passages that address this directly, I will provide just a few:

"He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16
Therefore, brothers, stand firm. Hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15
The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach)... Romans 10:8
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures... Luke 24:45
...God's household, the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth. 1 Timothy 3:15

My point, put bluntly, is this: only a fool will accuse the Gospels of containing erroneous interpretations of Scripture, or claim the apostles twisted Scripture.

If such an accusation really is the premise of your argument regarding Isaiah 7:14, then you're off to a bad start from the first step, and I won't follow you down that path at all.

Finally, your position really is self-contradicting. You wanted me to stick with Scripture in my response to you, but you yourself built your whole argument on the premise that Scripture contains error in the Gospel of Matthew.

Gary, I thank you again for your thoughtful letter, and for responding to me the way you did. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts, and hope to hear from you again.

God bless you always,

John Robin.

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26 January 2003:

 

Subject: ":o("

 

Mr. Robin,

Again, I will quote you and then respond.

[J Robin] You began your presentation, "Matthew wants his readers to believe that this passage is a prophecy of Jesus Christ.

[Gary] Do you not believe that the writer of Matthew wanted us to believe that this verse in Isaiah foretold of Jesus birth? I just stated the obvious.

I contend that it is not, and I will attempt to prove that it isn't.

Based on the instructions in II Timothy 2:15 it is our duty to study the text of the scriptures and divide out that which is and is not truth. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" To do otherwise we must believe that the earth is flat, that bats are birds, that the sun orbits the earth, that the earth is the center of the universe and does not move. Do you believe the scriptures that claim these things? I doubt it. I believe I saw a story recently where even the Pope gave a nod to evolution over the 6 day story of creation in Genesis. <http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/darwin.htm> So quit putting up this bogus argument and admit that you too have divided out that which is true and that which is not from the scriptures.

[J Robin] Then, your closing remarks:
[Gary] "I hope you will, like I have, only use only the scriptures to back your arguments and not traditions of the church and sophistry."

[J Robin] These two statements are quite remarkable and provide much food for discussion, even if we do not touch upon the paragraphs separating them.

[Gary] Very convenient that you want to ignore my questions and focus on other side issues to avoid them. I wonder why?

[J Robin] Gary, I have to question first your curious challenge that I should use "only the scriptures to back your arguments and not traditions of the church and sophistry." Why should I do this? Does Scripture say anywhere that only Scripture is a legitimate source of evidence for discussion and debate?

[Gary] This is a very strange statement for sure and I find it hard to understand why using scripture to discuss scripture is somehow out of bounds. I am getting the feeling you are looking for a way out of debating me.

[J Robin] My contention is that such a position is not a biblical doctrine, but is rather a "tradition of men", and is just the sort of sophistry that I want to avoid in any serious discussion.

[Gary] ??? Using scripture to debate scripture is a "tradition of men"? Then what is using the opinion of men to debate scripture, "a tradition of God"? Then avoid it. Use what ever you like, just don't run away and hide. Being the word of God, it is understandable by even the most simple, even me. Psalms 119:130, so I will rely on it for my debate points unless you force me to do otherwise.

[J Robin] On what basis, then, should I place any credence in your logic or testimony, seeing that it does not originate in Scripture, but rather originates in your own limited human intellect: specifically, in your private interpretation of Scripture?

[Gary] You are the one who wants to use stuff that does not originate in Scripture, my argument was totally from the scriptures. Your begging the question, a very bad debating method. Shame on you. Are you implying that only you and those who agree with you have been given the ability to understand and interpret scripture and I haven't. I believe this is called being condescending that you so sternly warned me of. I will let it slide though, as you let me off the hook about it earlier. Your human intellect is no less limited than is mine, but Psalms 119:130 says we both can understand the words of God without a problem, so get down off that pedestal and refute my arguments with facts.

[J Robin] Gary, essentially you have set yourself up against the evangelist and apostle Matthew and charged him with error in writing his Gospel.

[Gary] 1. Your statement seems to claim that the Book of Matthew was written by the apostle Matthew. What proof do you have for this claim?
2. Must I accept out front that every word or statement in the Bible is without error for you to give me the time of day? Are you saying I must believe that the sun orbits the earth, that the earth is flat, that rabbits chew their cud and insects have 4 legs before you will discuss any thing with me? If so, what is the point of any discussion if I have to agree with you first? To hold this position you are ignoring I Peter 3:15 ... be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

[J Robin] Do you really grasp the magnitude of what you are saying? There are some serious implications to this belief of yours, but I'll mention just one: that the Gospel of Matthew and therefore the inspired Word of God contains error. This position I utterlyreject as totally incompatible with the Christian faith.

[Gary] Bolder dash.. With this statement you take the position that every word of the Bible must be taken as fact, when you know other wise. When you are ill, do you go to the doctor, or do you rub oil on yourself and have a couple elders from your church come and pray over you as the Bible tells you to do when you are ill? If you go to the doctor then you too are taking the same position that I am. Do you handle poison snakes, drink poisons and raise the dead? Making the general statement that a Christian must accept that the Bible contains no errors is in error itself. It is one that says that every Christian on the planet must believe just like you or they are not Christians. :o( I believe this is the mind set that resulted in your church burning people at the stake by the tens of thousands. It is one of intolerance and total arrogance that only you and those who believe just like your are real Christians. I guess the Pope is not a real Christian based on your standard either. How sad.

[J Robin] Have you considered what your rejection of Matthew's application of the Isaiah passage means in light of the authority that Jesus specifically gave His apostles?

[Gary] Again you make the claim that the apostle Matthew wrote the book bearing his name. I await your proof of such an undocumented claim. Since you opened the door to bringing in the scholarship of others outside the scriptures in this discussion, I will do the same if you remain stuck on this claim, and provide you with extensive information regarding the origins of the 4 gospels and other books of the NT. But for now, I will await your proof. I hope it will be more than just opinions, and tradition this time and will contain some real historical evidence.

[J Robin] My point, put bluntly, is this: only a fool will accuse the Gospels of containing erroneous interpretations of Scripture, or claim the apostles twisted Scripture.

[Gary] Now you have sunk to name calling, but more than that, Matthew 5:22 "Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." and I quote again I Peter 3:15 ..be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Your providing evidence that following the scriptures is not required, just believing them without question is key for "real Christians" like you.

[J Robin] If such an accusation really is the premise of your argument regarding Isaiah 7:14, then you're off to a bad start from the first step, and I won't follow you down that path at all.

[Gary] So here you are again back to the position that if I don't agree with you out front, then you will not discuss the Bible with me. I believe this is just a dodge on your part, as you can not refute my argument regarding the prophecy in Isaiah and its total lack of relevance to the birth of Jesus Christ. Your putting up this objection to avoid this admission. I understand your reluctance to do this.

James 1:13 "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
Genesis 22:1 "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham..."
One of these verses is an error of fact. Your non belief (an assumption, I admit) in the earth being flat, or that the sun orbits the earth, or that the earth is the center of the universe proves, that you too, do not find the Bible totally accurate. If on the other hand you believe these false things, then I understand you not wanting to have an intellectual discussion of the Bible with me.

The Son of a Preacher Man,
Gary

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Subject: "Still waiting for evidence"

 

Mr. Robin,
Again I quote you and respond. My earlier quotes are in green.

[Gary] Paul never mentions such a concept as virgin birth, so he had no knowledge of it or didn't believe it himself.

[J Robin] That's a silly argument. Are you implying that every single thing that Paul believed or knew is recorded in his writings?

[Gary] Yes I do. I don't add anything to the scriptures that are not there. If it was as important as you claim and he knew about it and believed it then he would have preached it. He didn't, so it isn't.

[J Robin] Many Christian doctrines were strange to the Jews of the first century, and to Jews of the twenty-first as well.

[Gary] Other than virgin birth, please give me a list.

[J Robin] Is the Virgin Birth a "strange doctrine" just because you say so? Where does Scripture teach that it is a false or strange doctrine?

[Gary] The absence of it from the mouth of Jesus and the writings of Paul is very strong evidence that it was a later invention by the writers of Matthew or Luke. Also that Mary did not understand her son's ministry. He had to rebuke her when she showed up with some of his friends thinking he was beside himself. If she had delivered him as a virgin by the holy spirit she would not for a minute question his teachings, ministry or sanity. This is pretty strong evidence in the scripture, Mark 3:21-33, that not is all well regarding this strange doctrine.

[J Robin] Besides, I didn't fail to notice that you totally avoided dealing with the undisputable wealth of ancient testimony on what the early Church firmly believed regarding the Virgin Birth. You evidently don't like to discuss historical fact because historical fact is not on your side.

[Gary] What someone believed well after the time of the event, is not fact. It is hearsay and opinion only. The same people you rely on also firmly believed it was OK to murder anyone who didn't agree with their belief. I guess you agree with their opinion in that area too?????

[J Robin] But ignoring it won't make it go away. You accuse Scripture of containing error, and you refuse to consider historical evidence...

[Gary] Opinion is not evidence or fact. I am still waiting for evidence and you have not provided a jot or tittle of it yet.

[J Robin] Do you realize that if Jesus had a natural human father, then He can not be God?

[Gary] Why not, isn't everything possible with God? Your above statement hedges upon blasphemy. You must believe in a different God than the one in the Bible who is omnipotent.

[J Robin] The teaching of the Apostles and the constant teaching of the Church since the first century is that Jesus is truly and fully God, and truly and fully man. He is true God because His Father truly is God, and therefore Jesus possesses a true divine nature. And He is true man because His mother is a woman, and therefore from her Jesus acquired a true human nature. The incarnation of God as man is absolutely central to Christianity, and this stands or falls with the Virgin Birth.

[Gary] If this is so, then why was it so unimportant to Paul that he never teaches it as critical to salvation or even mentions it once? It seems very strange that something that is so very, very important is ignored by everyone but the writer of Matthew or Luke. Very strange in deed. The same Church taught that it was Ok to kill all unbelievers too, men, women and children. Just because the Church taught it does not make it scriptural or right. 600 years later the same church had to invent the trinity to make this strange doctrine fit.

[J Robin] When you deny the Virgin Birth you deny the divinity of Christ and forfeit any basis for hope in salvation.

[Gary] You are the one who is putting a virgin birth as a requirement for Jesus to be divine, not me or the scriptures. Please read Matthew chapter 25 where Jesus tells us about the judgment day. Please point out to me in this passage where the belief of his virgin birth, or his divinity shows up there as a requirement to enter heaven. His supposed virgin birth seems so unimportant to him that he never mentions it in his teachings, or instructs his apostles to preach it, or makes the belief of it to get into heaven a requirement. It only seems important to a very late gospel writer, not to Jesus or Paul.

[J Robin] Finally, you have raised what you said were serious problems with the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, but none of them proved to be either serious or a problem. They haven't stood up to scrutiny.

[Gary] What scrutiny? You dodged my questions completely. Still waiting for you to counter my analysis of Isaiah's prophecy instead of ignore it.

[J Robin] Therefore, if you deny the Virgin Birth but claim to worship Jesus, then you are either misguided, or you are guilty of worshipping a man who is not God

[Gary] 1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." You mean this man? (I don't see Mary mentioned here, don't you guys teach that she too is a mediator between God and men?) Where does this unscriptural doctrine come from? Probably the same place the virgin birth doctrine comes from, pure invention by men.
Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." Or the man who said this?

[J Robin] This makes you either a fool or an idolater.

[Gary] Sorry that you are resorting to calling me names, but your not the first Christian to resort to such poor behavior. I will not do that to you. I do not worship idols either, I leave that up to those who worship Mary as a goddess and have idols of her they pray to. The same sect who leave the commandment not to make graven images out of their list of commandments in their own additional Bible violating Revelation 22:18-19.

Is this a true statement? And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
I hope you can be truthful in your answer to this question, but I doubt it. If you say yes, then you will be adding lying to your list of bad behavior in this discussion. If a 10,000 page book was written for each second of Jesus' entire life, they would not even fill up a couple NFL football stadiums let alone the whole earth. If you answer No, then you are agreeing with me that the writer of Matthew is more than capable of making up other things in his zeal to pump up the story of Jesus, including a virgin birth tale, and a prophecy taken out of context and altered to back it up.

The Son of a Preacher Man,
Gary

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Subject: "Matthew does it again"

 

Mr. Robin,

Matthew 2: 1-6. "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East and are come to worship him. When Herod the king heard these things he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem, in the land of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not
the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel." This passage is in Micah 5:2.

The wise men are said to have followed a star in the East, when they came from the East. Wouldn't the star need be in the West for them to show up in Jeruselum? Oh well, who cares about little mistakes like this anyway?

The book of Micah, in the passage quoted above is speaking of some person, without mentioning his name, from whom some great achievements were expected, but the description he gives of this person in verses 5 & 6 proves that it is not Jesus Christ. It says, "and this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise up against him (the Assyrian) seven shepherds and eight principal men.

"And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod on the entrance thereof; thus shall he (the person spoken of at the beginning of the second verse) deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders."

This is a description of a military chief, so it cannot be applied to Christ. Also the circumstances of the times spoken of, and those of the times in which Christ lived, are in contradiction to each other.

It was the Romans, and not the Assyrians that had conquered and were in the land of Judea, and trod in their palaces when Christ was born, and when he died, and instead of him driving them out, as called for in this OT scripture, it was they who signed the warrant for his execution, and crucified him.

It seems the writer of Matthew was looking for absolutely any OT scripture to use as a prophecy of Jesus and again he missed the mark. These verses in Micah have not a single thing to do with Jesus birth or life or anything regarding him.

I will await your rebuttal.

The Son of a Preacher Man
Gary

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Subject: "RE: Matthew does it again"

 

Dear Gary,

Thanks for your three notes in reply, and for the thoughtfulness of your responses. It seems you've been burning the midnight oil!

We have quickly split into multiple threads of discussion, and the topics have multiplied beyond any practical possibility of answering them all. I am still interested in speaking with you, but only if we can rein in the discussion to one topic and keep it down to one thread of letters. If we can agree on a topic for discussion, then that would be helpful.

Gary, I know you are interested in delving into the Isaiah prophecy, so I assume that this is fairly important to you. However, it seems to me that this topic is not nearly as foundational as another issue which has quickly come to the surface in our discussion: the authority of Scripture and how to properly interpret it. Unless we can come to some understanding on that point it will be pointless to try to examine other doctrines which depend upon it, such as the Virgin Birth.

It is clear to me that you misunderstood some basic points in my previous letters, especially regarding how to arrive at authentic doctrine. To review briefly, you had challenged me to restrict myself to Scripture. I questioned you as to why you believe it is necessary to not also consider relevant evidence from any source, whether it is biblical or other historical evidence. I asked you to provide scriptural evidence for your position that only the Bible should be used. You did not provide any such evidence, but apparently misunderstood my request, suggesting that I want to avoid the Scriptures. Clearly that is not what I said. I merely challenged your unbiblical position that the Bible should be our sole resource for evidence in debate. Gary, if we can't agree on what are our legitimate sources of evidence for discussion, it won't be possible to sustain any meaningful discussion. If you insist we must use only the Bible, and can provide persuasive biblical support for the position, then I will agree to your request. If you can't demonstrate such evidence, however, then it would be appropriate for you to ammend your position.

Regarding the tone of our discussion, I want to be clear about what you have termed name-calling. I can not dare to judge you guilty of being an idolater or a fool, or any other such thing. Please note that my statement was conditional...

"Therefore, if you deny the Virgin Birth but claim to worship Jesus, then you are either misguided, or you are guilty of worshipping a man who is not God. This makes you either a fool or an idolater. I'll let God be the judge."

I affirm and stand by the conditional statement... IF you deny the Virgin Birth but claim to worship Jesus... then ultimately this does make you a fool or an idolater. But God -not I- will be the judge. I must not pretend to judge what really is in your heart. On the other hand it is proper for me to denounce false doctrine and to give a clear warning to a brother Christian about the folly of believing such false doctrine. I would be culpable of a guilty silence for not clearly rejecting the error of denying the Virgin Birth.

To summarize, we need to address the foundational question of the authority of Scripture and on what basis we can properly interpret it. I will want to avoiding delving into other areas until we can at least understand each other here and see whether we have a base from which to examine other doctrines. Do you agree, Gary?

Finally, I would like to ask your permission to publish your letters (along with mine) on my website, similarly to how I have published other series of debate letters. I promise that your letters would be reprinted exactly word for word, in their entirety, without any alteration of the text. As you can see for yourself from my website, I do not post letters and then attack the authors, and I always honor my promise not to alter the text of the letters. This would be an opportunity for you make your beliefs and arguments known perhaps to a slightly wider audience. Without your permission I will not publish your letters, but I invite you to stand by your words and grant permission. Either way, thanks for your consideration.

Gary, it has been a pleasure speaking with you.

God bless you,

John Robin.

http://users.rcn.com/jcrobin/

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Subject: "Deny the Virgin Birth, and you deny that Jesus is God."

 

Gary,

Just moments ago I sent you a response to your previous note, which I think actually serves as a response in principle to your second note. But I'll add a few notes below...

God bless you,

John Robin.

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary ...
Sent: Saturday, 25 January 2003 9:11 PM
Subject: Virgin Birth = No Messiah

[Gary] Mr. Robin,
I quote you, then respond.
[J Robin] "It's interesting to note that Mary's perpetual virginity is far from being an exclusively Catholic doctrine. The eastern orthodox churches, who reject the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, hold this belief firmly, as did most of the early Protestant "reformers"."
[Gary] This is not evidence. These are opinions with no proof given. Millions of asians believe firmly in Buddha, and this does not make his teachings the one true way either. Agreed?

[J Robin] I'm afraid you missed the point. The point was not that many opinions make something true, but that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is not a uniquely Catholic doctrine, as you seemed to imply.

"Testimony on Mary's virginity, from some of the founders of Protestantism:
Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldreich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Wesley all believed that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, and all of them -except for possibly Calvin- believed that she remained ever-virgin. You can find thisdocumented in their writings at this site:
http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ460.HTM"
[Gary] Seems to me that all of these people lived centuries after the event. Again, this is just men's opinions and does not represent evidence of fact. Millions of Arabs believe in the Koran as the word of God, this does not make it so either. Agreed?

[J Robin] Again, same point. Luther's testimony doesn't make it true. But it does prove that the doctrine is not held only by Catholics.

 
"Nor is this belief a recent invention. It goes back to the first centuries of the Church, and is documented plainly for any honest seeker of what the Church really believed in its earliest years."

[Gary] How about Paul? Is he early enough for you? He told his followers not to teach strange doctrine, i.e.. virgin births qualifies as just that. That concept was very strange to the Jewish population of the day.

[J Robin] Many Christian doctrines were strange to the Jews of the first century, and to Jews of the twenty-first as well. Does that make the doctrines false? Is the Virgin Birth a "strange doctrine" just because you say so? Where does Scripture teach that it is a false or strange doctrine? Besides, I didn't fail to notice that you totally avoided dealing with the undisputable wealth of ancient testimony on what the early Church firmly believed regarding the Virgin Birth. You evidently don't like to discuss historical fact because historical fact is not on your side. But ignoring it won't make it go away. You accuse Scripture of containing error, and you refuse to consider historical evidence... what else is left to base a discussion upon but your unsubstantiated musings?

[Gary] Paul never mentions such a concept as virgin birth, so he had no knowledge of it or didn't believe it himself.

[J Robin] That's a silly argument. Are you implying that every single thing that Paul believed or knew is recorded in his writings? Where did you get such a bizarre doctrine? Is such a doctrine recorded anywhere in Scripture? Obviously not. No, I think you invented it yourself, and that perhaps you're confusing your own inventions with scriptural teaching.

[Gary] That was a belief of the pagans, i.e. Hecules, Mithra, Horus, Dionysos, Jove, Krishna, Attis, Ra, Dionysos, etc... etc... etc..... regarding their many virgin born gods prior to Jesus. Do you believe these other gods were also born of virgins? I doubt it.

[J Robin] Gary, you're really going way out there! Whom besides Jesus did the Apostles or the other biblical authors identify as being "born of a virgin"? Let's try to be serious here. You may accuse the gospels of containing false doctrine, but I firmly uphold their inerrancy.

Matthew 1:16 "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus."
Luke 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli." [J Robin] This seems to be a contradiction. The genealogy of Joseph is given twice in the NT and neither match the other but in a few names. They are there to show that Joseph is of the house of David to prove that Jesus is the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. There is one great big problem with all this. Jesus was not of the seed of Joseph if we accept the virgin birth story.

[J Robin] "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli..." Luke 3:23. Gary, do you really believe that you're the first person to raise this objection, and that the Church is now suddenly stumped by this great discovery? Jews and pagans in the first century made the same objection against the preaching of the Apostles. It seems pretty clear to me that Matthew and Luke in their genealogies were primarily driving at establishing that Jesus was a son of David. But note that none of the Gospels states or even implies that Joseph was his natural father. No, Matthew explicitly teaches that Jesus was "born of a virgin". If you don't like Matthew's Gospel, that's frankly your problem.

Luke's genealogy of Jesus very pointedly refrains from directly calling Jesus the "son of Joseph"; rather he adds the qualification "as was supposed". However, the genealogy establishes that from a legal standpoint Joseph was the father of Jesus. According to Jewish reckoning, this made Jesus a son of David. Note also that Matthew's genealogy, which identifies generation after generation of family relation through the fathers, abruptly changes its pattern at the end and speaks of Jesus not in relation to a natural father, but in relation to His mother. But Matthew then recaps the genealogy by again tracing lineage from Abraham to David, and from David to Christ. Matthew and Luke agree in establishing that Jesus is the son of Mary, the son of God, and the son of David, and that his lineage from David is established through Joseph.

[Gary] This eliminates Jesus being of the house of David. Mary was not of the line of David but of Levi and Joseph was just a step father. My Irish mom marrying a person of the Native American race after I am concieved by a german father does not make me a Native American. Mary being married to Joseph does not make Jesus of the seed of David. Am I wrong?

[J Robin] Yes, you are wrong. Even though Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, he was His legal father. But your analogy isn't very good, is it, Gary? You had a natural father, and no amount of remarrying on your mother's part will change that. Jesus had no natural father, but was appointed by His heavenly Father a guardian in the person of Joseph, the husband of Mary. If the inspired Word of God declares in Matthew's Gospel that Jesus is a son of David and was "born of a virgin", I assure you that no amount of denial on your part will sway me.

[Gary] How can you believe the virgin birth story and at the same time believe that Jesus fulfilled the requirement of being from the seed of David? I will be interested in hearing how you resolve this major problem in church doctrine, while maintaining reason and logic. I hope you do not base everything you believe on what others believe without question. For me I followed the verse in II Timothy 2:15 to get to where I am in my belief. One verse in Isaiah that is very questionable, one in Matthew quoting that same doctored verse and another in Luke is not enough for me to believe such a fantastic story. Exceptional claims require exceptional proof. Hope you have some. Why didn't Jesus ever mention it himself? Why isn't it mentioned in every book of the NT?

[J Robin] Gary, the problem really is yours, not mine. You disagree with me because you disagree with Scripture. After all, you have already admitted that you do not accept the explicit testimony of Matthew in his application of the Isaiah passage. I want to be clear, so I want you to correct me if I've gotten the wrong impression: that you explicitly accused Matthew of misinterpreting and misapplying the Old Testament prophecy. That means you do not believe that Scripture is inerrant, you do not believe the testimony of the Apostles, and you are coming at me with a "different gospel". Paul and the other Apostles caution me not to accept such an alien gospel, and I don't mean to do so.

You ask why the Virgin Birth "isn't mentioned in every book of the NT?". Why should it be? It's mentioned in Matthew, isn't it? How many inerrant books of the Bible do you think it needs to be stated in before you will believe it? How many Christian doctrines can you name that are actually taught "in every book of the NT"? I'd be interested to see you identify a single such doctrine. And why does it need to be recorded in the words of Jesus Himself in order for it to be true? Do you believe only what Jesus is recorded as having said? Did you forget that He gave His Apostles the authority and power to teach in His name? "He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16. Why do you keep throwing up these unbiblical and illogical litmus tests for doctrine, tests that not even a single doctrine can pass? These are not the actions of someone who is interested in the truth.

Finally, you have raised what you said were serious problems with the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, but none of them proved to be either serious or a problem. They haven't stood up to scrutiny. The real problem, again, is yours. Do you realize that if Jesus had a natural human father, then He can not be God? The teaching of the Apostles and the constant teaching of the Church since the first century is that Jesus is truly and fully God, and truly and fully man. He is true God because His Father truly is God, and therefore Jesus possesses a true divine nature. And He is true man because His mother is a woman, and therefore from her Jesus acquired a true human nature. The incarnation of God as man is absolutely central to Christianity, and this stands or falls with the Virgin Birth. Reject it, and you're not a Christian.

I worship Jesus, the only Man who is God. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the only Savior of man. When you deny the Virgin Birth you deny the divinity of Christ and forfeit any basis for hope in salvation. Therefore, if you deny the Virgin Birth but claim to worship Jesus, then you are either misguided, or you are guilty of worshipping a man who is not God. This makes you either a fool or an idolater. I'll let God be the judge.

Gary, I pray you will abandon this error and submit yourself to the plain teaching of Matthew's Gospel.

May God truly bless you,

John Robin.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Re: Matthew does it again"

 

Mr. Robin,
Again as always I will quote you and respond.

[J Robin] We have quickly split into multiple threads of discussion, and the topics have multiplied beyond any practical possibility of answering them all. I am still interested in speaking with you, but only if we can rein in the discussion to one topic and keep it down to one thread of letters. If we can agree on a topic for discussion, then that would be helpful.

[Gary] I apologize for so many threads, but I did so in hopes that you would pick at least one item and give me a straigh forward answer or analysis. This has been fruitless so far, as you, as standard practice ignore my points, then create ones of your own. A review of our correspondence so far follows that pattern repetitively.

[J Robin] Gary, I know you are interested in delving into the Isaiah prophecy, so I assume that this is fairly important to you. However, it seems to me that this topic is not nearly as foundational as another issue which has quickly come to the surface in our discussion: the authority of Scripture and how to properly interpret it.

[Gary] This is an example of your method of evading the points that I make. You want to only discuss what you want to discuss and ignore mine. Your contention so far is that both you and I are too stupid or lack some special ability to interpret scripture ourselves and must rely on that of other people. I personally reject that notion as not scriptural at all. If you want to, out front, say that Psalms 119:130 and II Timothy 2:15 are not relevant, or the writers of those verses were not under the inspiration of God, or these verses don't say what they say then we are at an impasse.

[J Robin] Unless we can come to some understanding on that point it will be pointless to try to examine other doctrines which depend upon it, such as the Virgin Birth.
It is clear to me that you misunderstood some basic points in my previous letters, especially regarding how to arrive at authentic doctrine.

[Gary] Please take this opportunity to clarify how this is done and who are the authorities you plan to rely upon. How do we arrive at authentic doctrine and interpretation of the scriptures. So far I get the feeling that it has to be "the take" of the same people who endorsed the slaughter of millions of pagans, burned libraries, held to ignorance and jailed, tortured or murdered all freethinkers, scientists or philosophers who saw things differently than did they. If they are the corner stone of truth and interpretation for you, I can not participate or agree with such a regressive notion.

If your position is that nothing is questionable in the scriptures and I am a heretic or a fool if I dare to challenge anything written there with logic and reason, then this is not an exchange of ideas, but a pep rally for tradition. If there is a rule out front that there are no mistakes or factual errors in the Bible then there is no reason to discuss anything. Dealing with a closed mind is not something that I want to waste my time with, and reveals a lack of intellectual honesty. I was raised in a fundamentalist household and have had enough of that mental desert.

[J Robin] Gary, if we can't agree on what are our legitimate sources of evidence for discussion, it won't be possible to sustain any meaningful discussion. If you insist we must use only the Bible, and can provide persuasive biblical support for the position, then I will agree to your request. If you can't demonstrate such evidence, however, then it would be appropriate for you to ammend your position.

[Gary] I am willing to allow outside sources, but you must pledge to stay on topic and answer straight forward questions, an ability so far you have not shown. I will mostly use my God given intelligence, logic and reason and the words of the scriptures as my first resource, but will if required go to outside sources when it comes to ancient languages and the history of the cannon and the church. I would also request that we only use the KJV of the scriptures as they are the ones I am familiar with and own. I also request that you not use lazy debate methods by providing links to other sites to make your argument for you, as you have resorted to before. If you have a point to make then make it yourself. Cut and paste if you must, but no links. I will pledge to do the same.

[J Robin] Finally, I would like to ask your permission to publish your letters (along with mine) on my website, similarly to how I have published other series of debate letters.

[Gary] How you answer this question will determine whether I will agree to this request or if this discussion will continue. I have asked it before and you have ignored it. It is a very simple yes or no question.

Is this a truthful statement? And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

The Son of a Preacher Man,
Gary

PS. Could you use a larger font in your emails. They come thru to me so small I can barely read them (6 point, see above). At least 12 point please and there is no need to send me emails in html.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "The Word of God is inerrant"

 

Gary,

Thank you again for your response.

Perhaps we are beginning to make some progress; at least we we both seem willing to discuss further.

An important concern to me is your statement that you feel I am evading your points and willing to discuss only mine. Please allow me to insert comments below...

-----Original Message-----
From: Gary ...
Sent: Sunday, 26 January 2003 5:01 PM
Subject: Re: Matthew does it again

Mr. Robin,
Again as always I will quote you and respond.
[J Robin] We have quickly split into multiple threads of discussion, and the topics have multiplied beyond any practical possibility of answering them all. I am still interested in speaking with you, but only if we can rein in the discussion to one topic and keep it down to one thread of letters. If we can agree on a topic for discussion, then that would be helpful.
[Gary] I apologize for so many threads, but I did so in hopes that you would pick at least one item and give me a straigh forward answer or analysis. This has been fruitless so far, as you, as standard practice ignore my points, then create ones of your own. A review of our correspondence so far follows that pattern repetitively.
[J Robin] Gary, I know you are interested in delving into the Isaiah prophecy, so I assume that this is fairly important to you. However, it seems to me that this topic is not nearly as foundational as another issue which has quickly come to the surface in our discussion: the authority of Scripture and how to properly interpret it.
[Gary] This is an example of your method of evading the points that I make. You want to only discuss what you want to discuss and ignore mine. Your contention so far is that both you and I are too stupid or lack some special ability to interpret scripture ourselves and must rely on that of other people. I personally reject that notion as not scriptural at all. If you want to, out front, say that Psalms 119:130 and II Timothy 2:15 are not relevant, or the writers of those verses were not under the inspiration of God, or these verses don't say what they say then we are at an impasse.

[J Robin] Gary, my method has not been to avoid your points, but you have made many points, and I've simply tried to respond to the ones that I believe are most key to our discussion. For example, in your letter in which you gave your detailed interpretation of the Isaiah passage, I picked the two points that I found most important in your letter: 1) your charge that the Gospel of Matthew misinterprets Isaiah 7:14; and 2) your attempt to restrict the discussion only to biblical evidence. Please note that I specifically noted these two points immediately and clearly in my response and addressed the points directly and in some detail. Now, I realize that you were looking for me to respond to your interpretation of Isaiah 7:14, but as I already stated clearly, I see that discussion as secondary and peripheral to much more foundational issues. It's not a matter of personal preference of me simply not wanting to discuss your preferred topic. But as I tried to explain, if we can not reach some understanding on the question of doctrinal authority in interpreting Scripture, then it will be pointless to attempt any debate on other doctrinal matters. Anyway, I assure you that if you can't establish your authority to overturn apostolic teaching in the form of Matthew's Gospel, I would not be willing to consider seriously your position.

Unless we can come to some understanding on that point it will be pointless to try to examine other doctrines which depend upon it, such as the Virgin Birth.
It is clear to me that you misunderstood some basic points in my previous letters, especially regarding how to arrive at authentic doctrine.

[Gary] Please take this opportunity to clarify how this is done and who are the authorities you plan to rely upon. How do we arrive at authentic doctrine and interpretation of the scriptures. So far I get the feeling that it has to be "the take" of the same people who endorsed the slaughter of millions of pagans, burned libraries, held to ignorance and jailed, tortured or murdered all freethinkers, scientists or philosophers who saw things differently than did they. If they are the corner stone of truth and interpretation for you, I can not participate or agree with such a regressive notion.
If your position is that nothing is questionable in the scriptures and I am a heretic or a fool if I dare to challenge anything written there with logic and reason, then this is not an exchange of ideas, but a pep rally for tradition. If there is a rule out front that there are no mistakes or factual errors in the Bible then there is no reason to discuss anything. Dealing with a closed mind is not something that I want to waste my time with, and reveals a lack of intellectual honesty. I was raised in a fundamentalist household and have had enough of that mental desert.

[J Robin] Gary, I'll be happy to discuss doctrinal authority with you, so long as we can have a serious discussion. But again you've made references to unnamed murderers and torturers, and I can tell you I'm not intimidated by cheap, sensational debate tactics. I take it that you're not referring to Protestant murderers, book burners, and iconoclasts, but instead to unidentified Catholic individuals. Gary, either historical evidence is relevant to our discussion, or it's not, right? Please let's try to be consistent in our positions, and let's try to be relevant, too. If somehow the scope of our conversation extends to the point of examining the sins of past Christians -either Catholic or non-Catholic- then I'm sure we'll want to back up our claims with real documentary evidence, not veiled references to sensational stories.

As far as who are the authorities in question, perhaps we should examine that in more depth in subsequent letters, not here. For now I'll put it very briefly in a nutshell:

Jesus selected Peter and other men to be His apostles, and He gave them the authority, power, and mission to preserve His message intact and proclaim it to the world. Jesus is the cornerstone of the Church, and the apostles form the foundation, with Peter being the chief of the apostles. The apostolic foundation of the Church is an essential and permanent part of the Church, and apostolic authority passed to other men that the apostles personally chose for the mission, and then subsequently to other men whom they likewise selected. The first instance of this is recorded in Scripture, in which Matthias was appointed by the apostles to fill the "office" of Judas. (I note that the KJV uses the term "office" to denote the permanent position held by each apostle, even the one who betrayed Jesus.) This process of apostolic succession has continued until our day. The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, united to the Bishop of Rome -the successor of Peter, hold this authority today, and their credentials can be verified with documented historical evidence.

Scripture calls the Church the "pillar and bulwark of truth". If we wish to remain grounded in the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Gospel of Christ, we must be willing to embrace the apostolic teaching which has been preserved intact by the Church, and which is guaranteed by the promises of Christ.

Now, I'm pretty sure that you don't see things that way, Gary. But if we are both going to honestly examine what Scripture has to say about how we are to know the truth, then I'm sure these things will be discussed in the near future.

[Gary] I am willing to allow outside sources, but you must pledge to stay on topic and answer straight forward questions, an ability so far you have not shown. I will mostly use my God given intelligence, logic and reason and the words of the scriptures as my first resource, but will if required go to outside sources when it comes to ancient languages and the history of the cannon and the church. I would also request that we only use the KJV of the scriptures as they are the ones I am familiar with and own. I also request that you not use lazy debate methods by providing links to other sites to make your argument for you, as you have resorted to before. If you have a point to make then make it yourself. Cut and paste if you must, but no links. I will pledge to do the same.

[J Robin] I know it's a little frustrating to you that I don't see any benefit in digging into Isaiah 7:14 when we've got unresolved questions over your authority to impose interpretations that contradict the teachings of the apostles. But I can't pretend to ignore that foundational issue. I won't grant you the high ground by pretending you possess greater doctrinal authority than the apostles. I'm glad to hear you are willing to look at relevant evidence regarding the history of the canon of Scripture and the Church. We can't have a serious discussion without use of historical evidence. I certainly don't mind if you restrict yourself to KJV, but personally I don't feel any need to restrict myself to it. I read the KJV sometimes, but it's not the only one I read, and I wouldn't say that I consider it consistently reliable.

Your comment regarding "lazy debate methods" made me smile (I figure smiling is better than taking offense). Allow me to point out that I made a clear factual claim about the writings of several Protestant founders. Rather than quoting extensively from each of them to prove the claim, I provided a link to a document which provides the exact evidence to which I referred. It's the email equivalent of a footnote, Gary, and it indicates not laziness but diligent scholarship in providing traceability to my claim. I hope you will similarly provide adequate documentation for your assertions. Likewise, I quoted -cut and pasted- a passage from David Armstrong, and then provided a link to document the source of the quotation. Again, this is reasonable documentation as opposed to unsubstantiated claims. I try to avoid making claims that I can't substantiate, and I trust you'll want to do the same in your future letters. If you make claims you should provide documentation that allows your reader to verify them. Please do not keep your pledge to abstain from necessary links and references. I can't place much credence in undocumented scholarship.

Finally, I would like to ask your permission to publish your letters (along with mine) on my website, similarly to how I have published other series of debate letters.

[Gary] How you answer this question will determine whether I will agree to this request or if this discussion will continue. I have asked it before and you have ignored it. It is a very simple yes or no question.
Is this a truthful statement? And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

[J Robin] Yes. Of course, yes, Gary. Let me stipulate now that I believe that everything that Scripture truly asserts is inerrant. Perhaps later we may discuss exactly what that means, and how we are to understand instances of apparent contradiction, or apparent scientific error. I recognize that's an important topic. Since God is the divine author of Scripture, therefore Scripture can contain no error, because God does not make errors nor does He lie. At the same time, the Bible in which God reveals Himself to man, and I don't pretend that God's interest was to write a science textbook. I do not take every assertion in Scripture at literal face value, because I do not believe that the truths in Scripture are all taught in that manner. So for example, I can say that I believe the Genesis account is inerrant. But I can also say that I do not believe that the Genesis account necessarily asserts that the creation of the universe took place in six 24-hour days. Did God create the universe in six days, or ten billion years, or a billionth of a second? I don't know. I don't really believe that Genesis addresses that question.

Your interest in this passage is very interesting to me, Gary, in light of your assertion that everything that Paul believed and knew is contained in his writings. Maybe we'll explore this some time, too.

Sorry about the problems with the format of my email. I almost always use Arial 10 point in my letters; I don't know why they ended up as 6 point on your end. But I'll try to remember to stick with 12 point in my future notes.

So, do I have your permission to reprint your letters? I won't do so without your explicit permission. Either way, thanks in advance.

One more thought. I bet we might really enjoy our discussion together if we choose up front to regard each other as Christian friends. In this spirit I ask you to pray for me, Gary, and I pledge to you that I shall pray for you. We may disagree and disagree strongly on some or even many issues. But there is no reason that we should not treat each other with respect as a fellow Christian and brother, and hope for the best possible outcome in our friendship. May our discussion serve to glorify God and bless each other.

Gary, it is kind of you to spend this time discussing with me the things of God. Thank you.

God bless you, my friend!

John Robin.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

27 January 2003:

 

Subject: "The Lie Detector is buzzing loudly"

 

Mr. Robin,

Is this a truthful statement? And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

[J Robin] Yes. Of course, yes, Gary. Let me stipulate now that I believe that everything that Scripture truly asserts is inerrant.

[Gary] Sorry Mr. Robin, you just lost all credibility with me. No person who values truth could say that the statement at the end of the gospel of John is a truthful statement.

[J Robin] Perhaps later we may discuss exactly what that means, and how we are to understand instances of apparent contradiction, or apparent scientific error.

[Gary] To late for qualification, you have already shown me that you will take obvious falsehood and claim it as truth. I can't now trust you to be truthful with me. This silly statement is blatantly false, the words of a used car salesman or ad man, not the words inspired by a serious God. It is called hyperbole.

[J Robin] I recognize that's an important topic. Since God is the divine author of Scripture, therefore Scripture can contain no error, because God does not make errorsnor does He lie.

[Gary] You have proved that he does not need to lie, his followers will do it for him.
2 Chronicles 18:22 "Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets." So I will credit God for your answer to the question above. Don't feel too bad, you're not the first nor will you be last Christian that has bare faced lied to me to protect their baseless claim of Bible inerrancy. Your in a fine tradition, as Paul himself endorsed lying for God. Romans 3:7 "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?"

[J Robin] At the same time, the Bible in which God reveals Himself to man, and I don't pretend that God's interest was to write a science textbook.

[Gary] If God knew the truth of things, which he had to, since he created everything, and instead wrote things that were patently false, like the earth is flat, the sun orbits the earth etc... then he is deceitful. Sorry, your explanation for these errors of fact does not pass the smell test, nor does your convoluted version of truth.

[J Robin] I do not take every assertion in Scripture at literal face value, because I do not believe that the truths in Scripture are all taught in that manner.

[Gary] You claim it is the perfect, inerrant word of God, but you can't take it at face value? Wow, that is one of the most illogical things I have heard in a very long time. No wonder Martin Luther said to have faith you need to pluck out your eye of reason.

[J Robin] I read the KJV sometimes, but it's not the only one I read, and I wouldn't say that I consider it consistently reliable.

[Gary] What a revealing statement. Finally some truth from you. What version is reliable? Are any reliable, or are none reliable? Not a single one of the believers I have talked to will take the Bible at face value. It always requires something outside the scriptures to really understand it perfectly like they do. What arrogant heresy and sophistry they spew. They, like you, claim if the Bible says black, it really means blue. That I am just not seeing it correctly, and to believe what it says there at face value makes me a fool or worse.

If the prophecy in Isaiah 7 & 8 clearly reads that it was a prophecy for only the days of Isaiah and also shows in II Chronicles that even that prophecy was not fulfilled, it is because I am just not seeing it clearly and there is other authority that over rides what it says right there in black and white on the pages of the inerrant scripture. This is heresy plain and simple. They all seem to claim that it is perfect, on one hand, then tell me that it means something other than what it clearly states. You can't have it both ways. If it was perfect, then it would be clearly understandable by even the most simple of people, even me.

I Corinthians 14:33 For god is not the author of confusion,......

If this verse doesn't really mean just the opposite of what it says, or if some supposed apostle has not written that it really means that God had tuna for dinner last night, then the claim that God is the author of the Bible that has come down to us thru history is most likely false. It is a book of total and absolute confusion.

Believers have turned it into a shell game of mumbo jumbo and you have proved that to me one more time. Don't believe what it says, believe what my sect of Christianity tells you it says, is the mantra of every evangelizer I have met.

You will need to find someone else to play your Biblical shell game with on your web site, I am out of here. I value truth and reason way to much to buy the bill of goods that you are trying to sell me. Christian's willingness to blatantly lie to me proves they are not to be trusted with rightly guiding me thru scripture. You can keep your dubious doctrines and ignore scripture at face value as it pleases you, but I will study to show myself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth for myself.

Have a great life.

The Son of a Preacher Man
Gary
_______________________________________________________________________

 

This must make you proud :-(<http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/DailyNews/Ireland_abuse030126.html>

Gary

_______________________________________________________________________

 

28 January 2003:

 

Subject: "Casting pearls"

 

Gary,

Let's not waste any more time on this exchange. It's evident you're uninterested (or incapable) to sustain a serious discussion with me on the truths of the Christian faith. It's unfortunate you were unwilling to expose your messages to the light of public scrutiny on my website. I'm sure the merits of your case would have been evident to all.

I'll pray for you, and for your eventual conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, the Church Jesus founded, "the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:15

God bless you, Gary.

John Robin.

"In them [Paul's letters] there are some things that are hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures." 2 Peter 3:16

_______________________________________________________________________

 

29 January 2003:

 

Subject: "Re: Casting pearls"

 

Mr. Robin,
I read thru your web site and noticed that your responses and those of the other apologist there rely on the very same rigid and narrow argument. That being what the church says goes and all other opinions and interpretations are not relevant or of value.

There are not real exchange of ideas there. But what really made me decline your invitation was your answer to the question regarding the last verse in the book of John. Anyone who would contend that that verse is accurate or even close to truthful has no concept, in my opinion, to what truth is.

I could not consider being a Roman Catholic. It seems daily there is one revelation after another of depravity currently and in the past that comes to the light of day regarding the activities of your church. I could never consider joining such an organization.

"the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:15 I believe this verse and the book of 1 Timothy is a forgery as many biblical scholars contend, written well after the early gospels, by the early church fathers, in the second century, anonymously, to give them and their church power. I see you are using it just as it was intended; to stifle all other opinions and interpretations of scripture, and stake claim to being the only true church.

"In them [Paul's letters] there are some things that are hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures." 2 Peter 3:16 Yes, and this verse can also apply to you and your churches understanding of the scriptures as well. This is the part you will not concede, so discussion with someone who demands first that I accept that he has the only real truth before he will discuss a matter is not wanting an open exchange of ideas, but only wants to lecture. Remember, "There is more confidence in ignorance than in knowledge" I don't claim to have the truth, just a logical, reasoned opinion and an open, seeking mind. You will not take that same position, so a discussion with you is pointless.

This bastion of truth, the Catholic Church, put Galileo in prison because he challenged their truth. Who, had the real truth, Galileo or your bulwark of the truth? History has proven over and over that your church's truth is not infallible, but just opinion and that of fallible men. You will not accept that often proven fact, so you lack intellectual honesty in my opinion.

I hold no malice toward you personally. I wish you only well and hope at some point your church cleans up its act.
Gary

_______________________________________________________________________

 

4 February 2003:

 

Subject: "Serpent - Lucifer - Original Sin = Error"

 

Mr. Robin,

What is your take on this?

<http://members.cox.net/galatians/Lucifer.htm>

Gary

 

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't"

_______________________________________________________________________

 

9 February 2003:

 

"HARRINGTON SITES: Revealing the Spiritual duality of the Bible, whose conflicting duality sows good or evil according to the nature of one's Spiritual heart."

 

Dear Gary,

 

I followed your link and a couple of further Harrington links. My "take" is that Wayne Harrington is profoundly ignorant of the truths of the Christian faith. If you buy what Harrington is offering you are travelling a dangerous path.

 

If you are interested in learning about the faith handed down once for all from the apostles, I invite you to refer to my website, which provides resources to reliable Catholic sources, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

 

Thank you, Gary.

 

God bless you,

John Robin.

http://www.enteract.com/~jcrobin/

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Re: Serpent - Lucifer - Original Sin = Error"

 

Mr. Robin,

I follow no man. My reason for sending you the link was only regarding the recent discovery of the verse in Isaiah and that it has to do with a fallen king and not a fallen angel, named Lucifer. Can you counter his recent discovery, with facts, and not just bluster?

Of course as usual with you, you ignore my point and throw in your claim to sole possession of the truth.

 

Gary

 

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't" - Me

_______________________________________________________________________

 

10 February 2003:

 

Subject: "RE: Serpent - Lucifer - Original Sin = Error"

 

"I follow no man." -Gary .

"I follow Christ." -John Robin.

 

Dear Gary,

 

I'm not addressing the points you wish, but I'm persisting in addressing by far the more relevant issue, which is that of authority. It's clear to me that you think you've got doctrinal authority exceeding that of the apostles, and I won't hesitate to shine a bright light on that ridiculous but sadly common position.

Do you really think that your challenge about Lucifer amounts to a "recent discovery"? You can't be serious! ...but somehow I suspect you are. It's amazing how some people think that simply because an idea seems new to them, that it hasn't crossed the mind of any other human since the dawn of time.

Gary, you've made it clear throughout your letters that you're unwilling or incapable of conducting a serious, focussed, civil discussion with me on an agreed topic of Christian doctrine. Obviously we both feel that our points are not being seriously addressed by the other. Under these circumstances, I'm really not interested in further discussions along these lines. I'd much rather spend my time in apologetics with individuals who are prepared to remain and focussed and openminded enough to consider another's points.

If you persist in contacting me along these lines I will assume you wish to make our discussion public, and I thereby reserve the right to reprint on my website your future and past letters to me. I'll let my readers judge for themselves who is making more sense. In this case I will not use your full name, but will refer to you either as "Gary" or perhaps "G". Of course, if I reprint your letters I will preserve the accuracy of their text as I have done with all the other correspondents whose letters I have reprinted by permission. But let this note serve as notice to you that I will regard further contact from you as implicit permission to reprint any and all of your notes to me. Thanks in advance.

 

God bless you,

John Robin.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric"

 

Mr. Robin,

 

[J Robin] I'm not addressing the points you wish, but I'm persisting in addressing by far the more relevant issue, which is that of authority. It's clear to me that you think you've got doctrinal authority exceeding that of the apostles, and I won't hesitate to shine a bright light on that ridiculous but sadly common position.

[Gary] One of the great minds of the last century was Carl Sagan. He developed what he called a Baloney Detector. His contention was when some one debates you and uses any of the techniques in his list then they are selling baloney and not the truth. Item number 2 in his list is "Argument from Authority" Throughout our one sided discussion you have not addressed a single one of my points, but instead demanded that I first concede to your Argument from Authority. The full list of debate baloney methods are at: <http://www.mksmith.org/bs_detector.htm>

[J Robin] Do you really think that your challenge about Lucifer amounts to a "recent discovery"? You can't be serious! ...but somehow I suspect you are. It's amazing how some people think that simply because an idea seems new to them, that it hasn't crossed the mind of any other human since the dawn of time.

[Gary] Begging the Question is also on Mr. Sagan's Baloney Detector list. It is used when one does not want to answer the question posed, so throws out one of their own to answer, even if rhetorical and the one you are posing strongly resembles and ad hominem attack, which is number 1 on the list.

[J Robin] Gary, you've made it clear throughout your letters that you're unwilling or incapable of conducting a serious, focussed, civil discussion with me on an agreed topic of Christian doctrine.

[Gary] I can say the very same about you. In all our correspondence you never answered a single point, but instead kept demanding that I accept, out front, that your in sole possession of the truth. So if anyone here is unwilling and incapable of conducting a serious discussion it has been you. You want the rules of the debate to be in your favor or you take your marbles and go home.

[J Robin] Obviously we both feel that our points are not being seriously addressed by the other. Under these circumstances, I'm really not interested in further discussions along these lines. I'd much rather spend my time in apologetics with individuals who are prepared to remain and focussed and open-minded enough to consider another's points.

[Gary] Like I just said, you want to take your marbles and go home, unless you get to cheat.

[J Robin] If you persist in contacting me along these lines I will assume you wish to make our discussion public, and I thereby reserve the right to reprint on my website your future and past letters to me. I'll let my readers judge for themselves who is making more sense. In this case I will not use your full name, but will refer to you either as "Gary" or perhaps "G". Of course, if I reprint your letters I will preserve the accuracy of their text as I have done with all the other correspondents whose letters I have reprinted by permission. But let this note serve as notice to you that I will regard further contact from you as implicit permission to reprint any and all of your notes to me. Thanks in advance.

[Gary] Go for it. Let your readers see for themselves how you have ignored my questions and points. How you constantly demanded that I first accept your snake oil salesman's, Argument from Authority, as acceptable in an open-minded discussion. Sorry, the two things together is an oxymoron. Your inability to discuss doctrine without the other person accepting that you are in sole possession of the truth first, proves that your "truth" can not hold up to honest scrutiny on a level playing field.

Will you print my full correspondence, including this one, as sent and formatted is the question. I doubt it. Sorry to question your honesty, but you are the one who said the last verse in John was truthful. You will have to regain my trust in your capability to be intellectually honest with me. You have a ways to go to achieve that. Lying for the Glory of God still makes you a liar.

Gary

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't" - Me

_______________________________________________________________________

 

12 February 2003:

 

Subject: "Your Web Site"

 

Mr. Robin,
I noticed you have not posted our email debate on your site. Are you having second thoughts?

Thomas Paine -
"Something more therefore is necessary than mere cry and wholesale assertion, and that something is TRUTH; and as inquiry is the road to truth, he that is opposed to inquiry is not a friend to truth. "The God of truth is not the God of fable; when, therefore, any book is introduced into the world as the Word of God, and made a groundwork for religion, it ought to be scrutinized more than other books to see if it bear evidence of being what it is called. Our reverence to God demands that we do this, lest we ascribe to God what is not His, and our duty to ourselves demands it lest we take fable for fact, and rest our hope of salvation on a false foundation.

"It is not our calling a book holy that makes it so, any more than our calling a religion holy that entitles it to the name. Inquiry therefore is necessary in order to arrive at truth. But inquiry must have some principle to proceed on, some standard to judge by, superior to human authority."
--
Gary

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't" - Me

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Gary,

Second thoughts? I've hardly had time to have first thoughts yet! I trust that you can see from my site that I'm not reluctant to post letters from individuals who disagree with me, if I feel that there may be some benefit to posting them. I have not yet decided whether to post our letters; I'm inclined to think I will, despite the simple fact that our discussion proved to be quite a disappointment in terms of focussing on a meaningful issue. We clearly did not agree on where the discussion should go.

In the next week or two my internet provider will be forcibly migrating my email and website to a new server and URL. Around that time I will need to do a bunch of work to fix the site and perhaps at that time (or within a few weeks) may add our letters. You're more than welcome to visit my site whenever you feel like. If you find our letters there sometime, fine. If not, feel free to draw your own conclusions.

The new site will be: http://users.rcn.com/jcrobin

Thanks for your interest!

God bless you,

John Robin.

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Better Late than Never"

 

Mr. Robin,
Reviewing our correspondence, I discovered that, in reality, you did, at the very beginning, respond to one of my points. Here is your response to the point I made about Isaiah 7:14 and the mistranslation of "young woman" vs. "Virgin":

[J Robin] "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el." Isaiah 7:14 RSV

Do you read and speak Hebrew? I do not, so I can't claim to be an expert in Hebrew translation. However, several resources that I've checked do not really appear to support your extreme position that it is "wrong" to read Isaiah 7:14 as referring to a "virgin".

The Hebrew word in question, transliterated "almah", which appears seven times in the Old Testament, is defined as follows in these established non-Catholic resources:

"a lass, damsel, maid, virgin" -Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.
"virgin, young woman; of marriageable age; maid or newly married." -KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.
"There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin." -Theological WordBook of the Old Testament.

The King James Version of Scripture, also a non-Catholic source, translates the word as "virgin" in 4 cases, "maid" in 2, and "damsels" in one instance. The KJV applies "virgin" to Isaiah 7:14.

[Gary] I do not read or speak Greek either, but have done some research of my own regarding the verse Matthew quotes. (Isaiah 7:14). My research is more extensive than just looking the word "almah" in a dictionary, lexicon or concordance, so please bare with me.

As you have noted, the Hebrew word translated as "virgin" in this verse is "almah," which I contend is more accurately translated simply as "young woman." The Hebrew word "bethulah" means "virgin." In the book of Isaiah, "bethulah" appears four times (23:12, 37:22, 47:1, 62:5), so Isaiah was aware
of the two words and their meanings. He did not use "bethulah" in verse 7:14 for this reason. In the New American Standard translation of the Bible, all other appearances of "almah" are translated simply as "girl," "maid," or "maiden" (Genesis 24:43, Exodus 2:8, Psalms 68:25, Proverbs 30:19, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8). So Matthew's claimed fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, is called into question when it was not a virgin but only a young woman.

Some Christian apologists claim that "virgin" is meant because the Jewish translators of the Old Testament into its Greek form (the Septuagint) used the Greek word "parthenos" ("virgin") for "almah" in translating this verse. This most likely indicates, rather, that Matthew used the Septuagint, an inferior translation, thus getting it wrong. Gerald Sigal [1] points out a case (Genesis 34:3) where the Septuagint uses "parthenos" for the Hebrew word "na'arah" ("girl") when the woman in question is most definitely not a virgin (see Genesis 34:2). Nahigian [2] also points out that later Greek translations of Isaiah, by Lucian, Theodocion, Aquila, and others did not use "parthenos" to translate "almah" in Isaiah 7:14.

Sources:
[1] Sigal, Gerald (1981) The Jew and the Christian Missionary: A Jewish Response To Missionary Christianity. N.Y.: Ktav Publishing House, Inc. (p. 24)
[2] Nahigian, Kenneth E. (1993) "A Virgin-Birth Prophecy?" The Skeptical Review 4(2, Spring):13-14, 16. (p. 13)

I am sorry I got side tracked at the time and did not respond to your rebuttal. I apologize for the delay and also for overlooking the fact that you did respond, to at least one of my points, prior to demanding that I accept your Argument from Authority , or you were going to take your marbles and go home.
--
Gary

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't" - Me

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Farewell"

 

Gary,

 

Thank you for the integrity you displayed in acknowleging the falseness of your claim that "In all our correspondence you never answered a single point" (2/10/2003). I do accept your apology, and acknowlege that I've sometimes bungled things in discussions as well. It was good of you bring this into the open.

Since we are on the topic of corrections and retractions, I would like to point out that contrary to your repeated claims, I have never claimed to be in "sole possession of the truth" (1/29, 2/9, 2/10/2003). You have repeatedly misrepresented my statements, accused me of lying, impugned my credibility, and rejected without response my genuine offer of friendship (1/26/2003). This really isn't the sort of discussion that interests me. I'll make time for serious discussions with individuals who are serious about important topics, but won't bother sustaining a dialog with someone whose hostility overshadows the discussion. I've already told you I'm not interested in furthering our discussion, and at this point I will not commit to respond to any further letters from you. However, I do wish you well and will pray for you. I humbly ask you to remember me in your prayers as well.

God bless you,

John Robin.

"Therefore, brothers, stand firm. Hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter." 2 Thessalonians 2:15

_______________________________________________________________________

 

Subject: "Re: Farewell"

 

Mr. Robin,

Again we arrive at the same point as many times before. What am I talking about? It is your inability to answer my questions or respond to my scholarship. The email your responding to does not merit this response. Nor the one before that you answered with out calling it quits. Your actions are transparent.

Any objective observer can clearly see why you are taking your marbles and going home now. It has nothing to do with any sharp exchanges between us, as you contend, as we have both given and taken on an equal basis. It is because you can not refute my analysis of Isaiah 7:14. You know your understanding of it and your church's is in error. You must instead throw up a smoke screen so you don't have to admit that to me, but more important so you don't have to admit it to yourself. To do so, your belief starts coming apart at the seams. If the virgin birth does not have a scriptural basis, then there goes your goddess Mary, followed by the divinity of Jesus, then a realization that Matthew was in error, so also goes the inerrancy of the scriptures, and their claimed inspiration. Soon the Bible is laying at your feet in a pile of mythology. So you call off the debate and bid me farewell to avoid this.

I will tell you now, this is just what happened to me a few years back. I finally read the four gospels, one at a time, took notes and compared them side by side. Suddenly I realized what a mess they were. There were major contradictions between them, the man Jesus was a different person in each one. The newer the gospel the more divine he was.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist minister's home. I was taught from the day I could first understand that the Bible was inspired, without error or contradiction. I had always been guided in my study of the Bible by my parents and Sunday school teachers. They were careful to keep me from seeing all the contradictions, errors and scriptures that contradicted what our church taught as right and wrong.

Once I was able to accept that the Bible was not perfect, that it did contain contradictions and errors, I again read the Bible from cover to cover. This time skeptically. Skepticism is the first step towards truth. -- Denis Diderot,

I am disappointed that you are running away, but am not surprised. You have believed this mythology, and dogma for so long, that the idea of being skeptical of it, scares you silly. The thought that you have believed something that may not be based in reality and truth is a hard thing to accept and deal with. I was in your shoes at one point, but my need to know the truth drove me on past my fears. What bothered me the most was the understanding that my dad had been so wrong all those years. I knew he was a very smart man, I knew he had studied the Bible all his life and had to have discovered the errors and contradictions.

A couple years before his death, he and mom came for a visit. During this visit my wife asked him if he really believed the Bible was inerrant. I would have never asked my dad such a question. I was in the other room at the time, and I am sure my mouth fell open when he responded to her. He told her that the Bible did have some very big problems, but because he had always preached that it was inerrant, he was going to end his ministry on the same ground. He said it was too late for him to teach differently, and he was planning to retire very soon anyway.

Though I never discussed this subject with my dad, my respect for him and his intellectual honesty grew from that day forward. I understood him finishing out his ministry as he began, he really had no choice. I am sure he did not want to come to terms with it, as he probably feared what you fear now; the Bible is not the inspired word of God.
I will not attempt to refute the reasons you gave for calling off our debate, as you and I both know they hold no water. If Isaiah 7:14 is not an "important topic", worthy of discussion, then there are none. I was reluctant to accept your friendship, as you were not willing to debate on a level playing field, and showed intellectual dishonesty from the very beginning.
I know you will not be posting our correspondence on your web site, and I understand why. You lost. I will however be posting them on a web site for deconversion and recovering ex-fundamentalist. Your name will be removed and any links that refer back to your web site will also be deleted.

It will assist others seeking to find their way out of the darkness of fundamentalism. It shows clearly the inability of fundamentalist to grapple with logical discussion of their belief, and accept the truth when placed right in front of them. I appreciate your patience with me, you hung around much longer than most do. I apologize again for my hard edged manor, but patience is not my strong suit.

You're probably a very nice, and earnest man. If at some point you do realize and accept the error of your belief and need someone to lean on or talk to, I will be here for you. At that time I will offer my hand to you in friendship.
Gary

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13 February 2003:

 

Subject: "Re: Farewell"

 

Dear Gary,

You do have my permission to publish my past letters to you, on the condition that they are unaltered and complete in their content, including the old and new URLs of my website. If you can not abide by this condition, you do not have my permission to reprint my letters.

God bless you,

John Robin.

http://www.enteract.com/~jcrobin/

_______________________________________________________________________

14 February 2003:

 

Subject: "Re: Farewell"

 

Mr. Robin,

I will add your URL links back in. Thanks for your permission. I do wish you had responded to my last email regarding Isaiah 7:14. Your taking that opportunity to bail out, does not reflect well on you or your religion. It is very evident you waved the white flag of surrender. There would have been more honor in admitting that you could not refute my scholarship than to not respond at all.

"He who cannot reason is defenseless; he who fears to reason has a cowardly mind; he who will not reason is willing to be deceived and will deceive all who listen to him." - Maxim of Freethought

I do hope at some point you take a more critical look at your belief. I feel so free and am looking at the world in a healthier way now that I am out of fundamentalism. It is not a, me and them, situation now with my fellow man. I am living this life as though it is the only one I will have. No matter how strongly you believe in your religion, it does not guarantee, nor do you really know for sure there is any life after this one. I feel pity for people who put all their hopes for fulfillment and joy in the next life, that may not be there and waste this life in the process.

I now live my life with a hope of a life here after, but do not stake it all on it. Nor would I tell someone there is, when I have no proof of it. You have no proof either, just hope. To teach others, that which you have no proof, is deceitful IMO. If Matthew chapter 25 is right, I am on the right path, and all other doctrine and rituals are meaningless.
I would tell you that I will pray for you, but in all my years of Christian life I never saw a single prayer answered. God was given credit for every coincidence of fait, and all failures of prayer were ignored or blamed on the believers' lack of faith. I will however keep you in my thoughts, and will be here for you should you need someone outside of your faith to talk to.

Gary

"Anyone claiming sole possession of the truth proves, by doing so, that they don't" - Me