Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Snap: Walton and Sandy's "The Lost World of Scripture"

This is an excellent new contextualizing book, and I'm giving the floor to  my ministry partner Nick Peters for this one, since I'm proposing to write a review of my own somewhere else.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

On "A Course in Miracles"

From the December 2010 E-Block.

***

Some time ago a reader requested that we have a look at A Course in Miracles (CiM), a document supposedly brokered via Helen Schucman via a “rapid inner dictation” over 7 years. This volume, which ends up being over 1000 pages long, uses Christian terminology to relate a sort of universalist/pantheist/Buddhist message of salvation that some believe was inspired by demons.

As a preterist, demonic inspiration is an option I’m not able to countenance, but even if I were of a different persuasion I’d likely not opt for it anyway. The message of CiM is so dull, so repetitive, so vain, and so much like what one can read in countless other volumes of pop psyco-spirituality, that I’d have to say that a demon would have to have done a much better job. Indeed, rather than Helen Schucman being the author, it could be marketed under the name of Eckhart Tolle and no one would be the wiser.

CiM is somewhat evasive for most of its text about what exactly the “miracles” are that you ought to be learning to do. A full 99.5% of the text is mere exhortation; actual instruction has to be rooted out with a microscope. In the end, it is clear that a “miracle” is not so much some sort of feat of divine strength, but rather, in the manner of Dyer and Tolle, a rewriting of your contract with reality so that the problem requiring miraculous intervention doesn’t bother you any more. Thus some of the first lessons in the student workbook say:

#1 – The student is to look around at objects and say, “That ____ does not mean anything.”

#2 - The student is to look around at objects and say, “The meaning that ____ has is all given to it by me.”

#3 – The student is to say of objects, “I do not understand that ___.” (This is meant to “clear your mind of past associations”. Good luck with this tactic in your college coursework, though.)

#6- The student is to say, “I am upset because I see something that is not there.” All objects are seen in light of past experience, we are told; how do you know this object will not be different?

#32 – “I have invented the world I see.”

So it is that at one place in CiM, a miracle is defined as “a correction” that “looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false.” Elsewhere it is said, “Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself, and can therefore abolish both. You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator. Everything else is your own nightmare, and does not exist. Only the creations of light are real.” That’s no doubt useful thinking in the cancer ward, as long as everyone is properly anesthetized.

The voice of CiM, it becomes clear, is meant to be that of Jesus, but it is a Jesus who would have ended up thrown out of first century Jewish Palestine for lunacy. Many Biblical statements and doctrines are force-reinterpreted into the CiM worldview, for example:

‘No man cometh to the Father but by me’ does not mean that I am in any way separate or different from you except in time, and time does not really exist. The statement is more meaningful in terms of a vertical rather than a horizontal axis. You stand below me and I stand below God….

The Second Coming of Christ means nothing more than the end of the ego’s rule and the healing of the mind.

If a demon inspired this, though, it was a demon that wasn’t very competent at exegesis; and indeed, at one point, doesn’t even seem to know the Bible well:

The Bible tells you to know yourself, or to be certain. Certainty is always of God.

Unfortunately, “know thyself” isn’t actually in the Bible, unless Socrates’ words were snuck in there while we were not looking.

As with the other Tolle-like messages, the epistemology of CiM is also conveniently nondisprovable. If you can’t do “miracles,” the problem is you’re afraid:

The real purpose of this world is to use it to correct your unbelief. You can never control the effects of fear yourself, because you made fear, and you believe in what you made.

You may insist that the Holy Spirit does not answer you, but it might be wiser to consider the kind of questioner you are. You do not ask only for what you want. This is because you are afraid you might receive it, and you would.

You retain thousands of little scraps of fear that prevent the Holy One from entering.

So if you fail the course, there’s always some reason why that is your fault. Fear, we are told, keeps you from realization of what to do, but we’re never told clearly what to do. Most of instructional message of CiM reduces to:

1) You have to do this right for it to work.
2)If you don’t do it right, it won’t work.
3) Here are the things you’ll be able to do if you do it right.

Instructions for doing these miracles, though, never get more specific than such as this:

The miracle abolishes the need for lower-order concerns. Since it is an out-of-patterns time interval, the ordinary considerations of time and space do not apply. When you perform a miracle, I will arrange both time and space to adjust to it.

And you are given instructions to be sure that any time your beliefs are questioned, it is the other guy’s fault; Lesson #135 – “If I defend myself I am attacked.” So no one can correct your epistemology, and you don’t need to defend the authenticity of the CiM message.

Another element imitated in Tolle, et al is that CiM promotes in its readers an egotism so pure that it is practically innocent. This is ironic inasmuch as “ego” is designated as the enemy. Yet the self-image CiM designates for reader is such that it is effectively self-worship, as in:

The Kingdom of Heaven is you. What else but you did the Creator create, and what else but you is His Kingdom?

God Himself orders your thought because you were created by Him.

The lessons offer the same message, one guaranteed to assure the student that they are never in the wrong:

Lesson #35- “My mind is part of God’s. I am very holy.”
Lesson # 36 – “My holiness envelops everything I see” e.g., “My holiness envelops that rug.”
Lesson #38 – “There is nothing my holiness cannot do.” “Your holiness reverses all the laws of the world…[and] is totally unlimited in its power because it establishes you as a Son of God, at one with the Mind of his Creator.”
Lesson #49 – “God’s Voice speaks to me all through the day.”

Unfortunately, CiM is no better than Joyce Meyer, or the Mormons, at explaining the how-to of identification of this voice. Lesson #106 says, “If you will lay aside the ego’s voice, however loudly it may seem to call; if you will not accept its petty gifts that give you nothing that you really want; if you listen with an open mind, that has not told you what salvation is; then you will hear the mighty Voice of truth, quiet in power, strong in stillness, and completely certain in Its messages.” So what it boils down to is, you know when you’ve failed because you have failed.

But there’s more to feed the non-egotistical ego in the CiM graduate:

Lesson #61 – “I am the light of the world.” (And, it’s your job to enlighten those lacking these truths.)
Lesson #77 – “I am entitled to miracles.”
Lesson #124 – “Let me remember I am one with God…How holy are our minds! And everything we see reflects the holiness within the mind at one with God and with itself.”
Lesson #186 – “Salvation of the world depends on me.”

Finally, CiM offers its own correctives to Christian concepts, such as:

God does not believe in retribution…He does not hold your ‘evil’ deeds against you.

Sacrifice is a notion totally unknown to God. It arises solely from fear, and frightened people can be vicious.

When you recognize what you are and what your brothers are, you will realize that judging them in any way is without meaning.

Lesson #101 – “God’s will for me is perfect happiness…There is no sin, it has no consequence.”

Lesson #103 – “God, being love, is also happiness.” (That’s a definition of agape that the ancients would have had some fun with.)

So what can we say in close? CiM is a thousand plus pages of virtually nothing, and especially nothing with any epistemic warrant. It offers a self-closing system whereby the student can assure themselves that the CiM system cannot be proven wrong by any means.

In other places, something like that would be called a cult.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Potpourri

Here's a few odds and ends before I sign off for Christmas, and a little break...

My YouTube pal ukchristian28 has recommended some interesting sites (linked below) that illustrate the folly of some forms of literary and historical criticism, especially as applied to the Bible. They're examples of how the same kind of methods give us ridiculous results when applied to nursery rhymes.

The latest e-book, Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths, has had such a good reception that I now plan to do a similar e-book for Easter. Easter comes late this year (April 30), so there'll be plenty of time to do that, while I also finish the next e-book on conspiracy theories (presently titled Crackpots, Con Artists, and Conspiracies).

My ministry partner Nick Peters pointed out that some of the same arguments I addressed in Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths are even used by -- get this -- Richard Carrier. How about that?

That's all for now. Merry Christmas to all, and I'll see you later in the week.


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Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christian Inmates Myth


From the December 2010 E-Block.

***

A favorite fundamentalist atheist myth over the years has been that prison inmates are overwhelmingly Christian, and that this in some way proves that Christianity is bad for morals. As a former prison employee myself, and having written an article for the Christian Research Journal on the subject of inmates and spirituality (see link below), I’d like to collate some of my findings and observations on this claim, as well as comment on a response that has been issued by a group called Errant Skeptics. 

The atheist case builds on statistics reputedly obtained on March 5, 1997. The statistics indicate that some 83% of inmates with a known religious affiliation profess for some faith in the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

There are a few problems, initially, with what relevance this data has. 

First, it represents a very small sample from a very limited population – in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. As I indicate in the CRJ article, each state collects its own statistics. Some states have not done surveys on inmate religious preferences in a long time. Some have mixed categories. However, without the much larger state populations, to say nothing of county jail populations, this survey doesn’t do much to capture a decent picture of inmate religious preferences.

However, it must be added that in those states that did have useful data, “Christian” designations ranged from 60 to 90 percent of inmates.

Second, a very large number of inmates are listed as having “unknown” preference or no answer. In fact, the number is so large that if it had been a group itself, it would have ranked third (18,381) after Catholic (29,267) and Protestant (26,162), and before Muslim at a distant fourth (5,435). Such a large group of unknowns by itself means that it is illicit to draw any conclusions from this study about connections between religion and incarceration.

Third, the study only reports then-present inmate religious preferences and does not account for conversions while behind bars. There are a number of evangelistic groups that do prison ministry (Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship, for example) and for a connection between incarceration and criminality to hold, it must reflect preferences prior to incarceration.

Fourth, and of most relevance to my experiences: The atheist argument assumes that there is no motive for an inmate to profess a religious preference other than being a practicing adherent of a religion. But there are many other reasons why an inmate may choose a certain religious preference (some of which also apply in the outside world):
  • The may have been raised in a certain environment and, should they die in prison, wish to be buried according to their family’s religious traditions.
  • They may be eligible for special visits on religious holidays if they express a preference.
  • They may be able to attend religious services which provide a break in a rigorous and demanding schedule (to say nothing of the fact that religious facilities in prisons have air conditioning, whereas dormitories usually do not).
  • They may join a religious group as a way of belonging to a social network that will support them in prison (eg, defense from other inmates).
  • They may think that expressing a religious preference will earn them rewards from staff, or make staff less suspicious of them and less likely to search their belongings.
  • When it comes time for parole or “good behavior”, being a member of a religious group can be perceived as a point in favor.
The sum of it is that it is exceptionally naïve to take a survey of religious preference of inmates as simply a survey of religious allegiances of inmates. Inmates are far from an objective and disinterested group when it comes to profession of anything that might serve their own interests.

Would there be any way to collect serious data on this subject, that might prove (or disprove) the atheist claim? Here is what would need to be done:
  • Redo the study with a much larger sample.
  • Get rid of the “unknown” and “no answer” category – if possible. Seeing as how this is a population which considers “mind your own ***** business” a civil answer, that might not be possible!
  • Query religious affiliation prior to incarceration.
  • Establish affiliation according to practice. This admittedly cannot be done easily. Errant Skeptics wisely notes an important distinction between merely expressing a preference, and actual practice. Preference does not measure “the standard sociological measures of religiosity, such as regular prayer, scripture study, and attendance at worship services.” It measures, rather, an expression of a default. It may simply mean, “this is the church my parents or grandparents went to.” As Errant Skeptics puts it: Religious proponents may be less pleased at the studies of religious behavior that indicate that even nominal measures of religious behavior lag far behind religious identification. As mentioned earlier, simply stating a "religious preference" in answer to a survey question may mean nothing other than that the respondent remembers the religious preference of a parent or grandparent. A respondent answering "Presbyterian" to a question may attend church every week, in addition to helping at a church-sponsored literacy program for 3 hours every Wednesday, praying daily, having a particularly forgiving heart, and studying the Bible almost daily. Or they may have never been inside any church, except to attend weddings and funerals, since they were ten, when their mom dropped them off at a Sunday children's program almost every week for 8 months straight, saying "We're Presbyterians. I want you to learn what that means." The "self-identified" Presbyterian may fit into either of these categories. One of these categories is not expected by sociologists to have any affect whatsoever on behavior.
Measures of religiosity need to be tested for this survey to have any validity. But the testing will have to be rigorous because of the nature of the population being tested. Tests like "who goes to services" are not absolute when it comes to inmates (and few do attend services, unless there is free food, or hot weather, or...). For this reason, atheist claimants have an extra burden in terms of why such inmates should be counted on the "true believer" side, given that assembling together is stated as required by the package, so that a “faker” will readily attend services. So likewise, an inmate professing to be part of a Native American faith may ask for a plot of "sacred ground" inside the prison. If they never do, the atheist is the one that needs to explain why they count as genuine -- it is not our place to defend why they are not.

The Errant Skeptics report points to a 1995 study of jail population which indicates that “while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions…only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion. This is demonstrated by attendance records at religious services, which averaged anywhere between 30% and 40%, depending upon the time of year and the institution in question (and who was preaching).” On the surface, this survey did a better job of separating preferences from practice, and also trying to divide out fakers from actual practitioners (that is, “consider themselves religious” vs. “confirmed to be practicing”) – and it also does little to support the fundamentalist atheist connection between religion and criminality.

I will now switch over to a more personal view, speaking as one who has worked in prisons for many years. Many inmates claim a religious preference. In reality, most inmates are actually deists at best and atheists at worst, who use religious profession in a cynical way to get themselves some sort of special treatment, if they use it at all. Most that I met would say they believed in God for no other reason than that they were taught to; if you pressed them for more, you might end up creating a convert to atheism! A few might say they believe in God for some reason that would amount to a form of the argument from design. But in strictly functional terms, all of these would be either deists (who do not think of God as being in any sense relevant to how they live) or atheists (who act as though God does not exist at all).

However, it would be incautious to use this to make a connection between irreligiousness and criminality. I would rather say that the fundamental “first cause” for both is the same root: Indifference to anything that does not serve the interests of self. People do not usually get to prison because they care about others. Nor do the selfish tend to be interested in religion (which usually demands commitment of the self), though it is interesting that Scientology (a self-centered religion if there ever was one!) thinks of prisons as primary recruiting grounds.

In sum: The Christian inmate myth is bogus.

Here is my article for CRJ on religion in prisons.
Here is the report by Errant Skeptics.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Boghossian's "Manual for Creating Atheists," Part 2



Back into my Wheel of Masochism, I return to Boghossian’s Manual for Creating Atheists (MCA). It takes a bit for me to find anything in need of refutation but The next chapter is worthy of note if only to indicate how little challenge Boghossian really wants to give himself, and how much he is actually a wolf preying on the vulnerable.

Boghossian’s dialogue with someone about “feelings” from Jesus (112f) are pretty much a waste of time, since I see much of that as nothing but an invention of Joel Osteen sorts of people. (Come to think of it, it would be pretty funny to watch Boghossian dialogue with Osteen, and see which one drove the other crazy first.) The same goes for the exchange which has Boghossian’s counterpart saying their faith brings them comfort (117) and makes them feel good (120).  Boghossian seems very comfortable picking the low hanging fruit, at any rate.

The third dialogue someone revolves around Jesus being “clever” in effecting atonement. Whatever anthill that argument came from, probably needs to be fumigated, and Boghossian at that point was picking fruit off the ground. (121)

The fourth dialogue is Boghossian discussing the “first cause” argument with a security guard. Now he’s digging fruit out of holes in the ground. Next week: Boghossian proudly discusses how he beats up old ladies with sledgehammers.

Chapter 5 is advice on how to be nice to people you’ve deconverted. Arguments: Essentially, 0.

Chapter 6 finally gets back on the argument track, sort of. Actually what Boghossian engages are slogans (“My faith is true for me”), not arguments. Most involve definitions of “faith” that are as accurate renditions as the Greek word pistis as the English word “salami” would be. Most of what else passes as argument involve theistic proofs I don’t deal in, but there’s a real howler of a section on the religious beliefs of Hitler (174-6) which reads like a collection of arguments refuted in Hitler’s Christianity – complete with the most asinine of them all, “German troops wore ‘God With Us’ belt buckles.”

Oh well. We can finish this catastrophe off next time the circle of masochism makes its rounds.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Salvation of the Jews: A Biblical Response


For today, longtime guest poster W. R. Miller has an item for us in response to someone he met online.

***

            During his last Passover meal, Jesus of Nazareth told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  It’s a monumental claim, but one substantiated when Jesus proved He had the authority to make that claim, through the fulfillment of prophecies, the miracles He performed, the doctrine He preached, the love that He expressed, and his death, burial, and resurrection on the cross.

            Some believe they know better than Jesus, claiming there is more than one way for salvation.  Such a fellow I encountered on a social networking site, one who says he was familiar with Christian traditions but decided to embrace Judaism.  I refer to him as the Judaist, for such as he is according to Merriam-Webster’s definition; I will not use his real name to preserve his identity.  It is likely others believe as he does, and so I post a response.  This will be through Scripture, which is its own authority.  The Bible will speak for itself

            First, the Judaist believes John 14:6 contradicts the Tanakh, otherwise known as the Old Testament.

            Jesus said,

Matthew 5:17-18

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

            The Judaist believes the contradiction exists because the Jews are God’s chosen people, as indeed they are God’s chosen people.

John 4:22-23

22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.


Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.


And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’

            The Judaist repeats, “obviously Jesus is not the only way to Heaven, otherwise Jews wouldn't be the chosen people and the entire Old Testament was a pointless exercise in futility.” How the Judaist overrides the authority of Jesus, he does not say. 

Acts 3:18-26
18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[a]
24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[b] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Galatians 3:7-21
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
John 14:6-7

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 8:12

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”


            The Judaist claims Christians at the time were instead called “Wayist, being that Christ essentially distilled Judaism down to its core elements as a "Way" for Gentiles to enjoy the gates of Heaven.”  He acknowledges that Christ was literally “The Way.”

            But what does Scripture say?  Were they not called Christians?

Acts 11:25-26

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.


However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

            Were they also referred to as “the Way”?  Yes.  The Apostle Paul testified as such before Governor Felix, but note what he says:

Acts 24:13-14

13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.

            The Judaist believes 1 Corinthians 7:18 reinforces his point.

1 Corinthians 7:18

18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.”

            To the Judaist, this implies, “if you're Jewish be Jewish, and if you're a Wayist, be a Wayist.”

            But what does the next verse say?

1 Corinthians 7:19

19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

Galatians 3:27-29

27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Romans 3:1-8
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:
“So that you may be proved right when you speak
    and prevail when you judge.”
But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

            The Judaist believes three covenants separate Jews from Christians:  the covenants of Abraham, Moses and Christ.

            Are Abraham and Moses greater than Jesus Christ?

            The Pharisees asked Jesus:

John 8:53-58

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

            As for Moses:

Hebrews 3:1-4

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.

            The covenant of Christ was foretold in the Tanakh:

Jeremiah 31:31-34
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”
Luke 22-19-20

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Hebrews 8:1-13
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said (citing Jeremiah 31:31-34):
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”[c]
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 9:1-5
1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

            Then the Judaist brings up the Crusades and the Inquisitions as an example of taking “creative license” with “the earlier books of the Bible.”

            Once again, he disregards

John 14:6-7
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[a] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
            and

Acts 4:11-12
11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.’ (Psalm 118:22)
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
            Where in the Bible is it said salvation to be found in sinful men?  Is it to be found in those who disregard the commands of God?  No.  It is to be found in Jesus Christ.

            Regardless, the Judaist choses to embrace the “old tradition.”  “Not to deny Yeshua,” he says, “but to follow a path that makes sense to me and speaks to the truth that G-d places upon all our hearts.”

1 John 2:22-24
22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.


And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 16:24-25

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.


When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.


Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

            The Judaist says he doesn’t completely discount the New Testament, “but it is not the covenant I follow.”

            Whereas Jesus said,


Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

            Says the Judaist, “I believe that any person, Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Hindu, etc., etc., etc....who lives a good life, accepts that they are flawed, yet makes an effort to live a righteous life in spite of that will have a place for them in the after-life.”

Psalm 14:1-3
The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Psalm 53:1-3
The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Psalm 5:9
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
Isaiah 59:2
But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear.
Ecclesiastes 7:20

20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.

Romans 3:10-11
10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
Romans 3:23
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Ephesians 2:3
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Acts 4:12
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
1 Peter 2:24
24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Galatians 2:21
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
John 3:16-18

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.


            The Judaist says, “Hell is for the wicked, and that's where they will go; but I cannot accept that good people will be punished for living good lives. That is not G-d speaking, those sound like the words of Man.”

2 Peter 1:20-21

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 51:4
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge
.
Psalm 36:1
I have a message from God in my heart
    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:[b]
There is no fear of God
    before their eyes.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Romans 3:9-31
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”[b]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”[c]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
John 3:1-21
1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
            The words of Jesus Christ are claims the Judaist—indeed, everyone—should consider.