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Dave McKeegan

Thanks for this, Tom. I think I can glean from this a few more bullet points which answer the question of why you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God.

One question before I go on: you mention "Numerous prophesies…some a bit vague, but others quite specific…..scientific facts presented in the Bible that were otherwise unknown at the time". I am unaware of these facts or prophesies. Could you please give examples?

By the way, I share your doubts regarding the point of debating such matters. I do not want to debate with you. I simply want to learn about you.

Thanks in advance.

tom sheepandgoats

I haven’t written much about prophesy yet. Even my own “prophesy” category is mostly either about fairly minor ones or our own miscues. But I’ll give you three:

1. The messiah was foretold to come from Bethlehem, an insignificant little town.

“And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite“….Micah 5:2

2. Jesus gave this counsel to his followers:

Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled….Luke 21:20-22

On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be very smart advise. One would think that by the time Jerusalem was surrounded by encamped armies, it would be too late to flee. But as it happened, in 66 CE, Roman armies did surround a rebellious Jerusalem, and went so far as to undermine the temple wall. Unexpectedly, they withdrew. Josephus (Jewish historian of the era) says “for no reason in the world.“ He further mentions that those of the new Christian sect did flee the city afterwards. In 70 CE Roman armies returned under a different general and demolished the city.

3. This one is more complex and finds fulfillment in more modern times:

http://tinyurl.com/9yjnuu

Victrix

If I may Tom, there are a couple of things that come to my mind straightaway that answer Dave's question.

For example the fact that the Bible tells us that the earth is round (from a Hebrew word meaning sphere) and hangs upon nothing. While the common view of the day was quite different.-Job 26:7 and Isaiah 40:22.

The Bible tells us about the water cycle long before it was discovered.-Ecclesiastes 1:7.

As for a very specific prophecy that no Bible writer could have simply predicted or even known about see Jeremiah 50:13. If you do some investigation about when that prophecy actually was fulfilled you will learn that it was long after Jesus' time. Long after Jeremiah wrote the prophecy.

Jehovah God asks Job to explain some marvelous scientific facts that were not known until recently, and some that are still not fully understood. For this see Job 38. There he asks Job if he understood how gravity affects the orbit of the earth, the way gravity holds the tides back, the turning of the earth on its axis, I really like this question of Jehovah: "Where, now, is the way to where light resides?" (see verse 19) Scientists today do not fully understand what gravity is, what light is.

"Have you come to know because at that time you were being born?"

He asks Job to explain how the water cycle works, or how snow is able to fall from the sky. Scientists today cannot answer these questions.

I ask you please read Job 38. It is a very humbling chapter. It is the God, the Creator of all things asking his creation to answer him back if you know the answer.

The scientific questions he asked of Job humbled him, and they do even the most intelligent of scientists today.

Here's a question:

“Can you tie fast the bonds of the Ki′mah constellation,
Or can you loosen the very cords of the Ke′sil constellation?” (verse 31.)

Kimah probably refers to the Pleiades (the seven sisters) and Kesil to Orion.

Scientists acknowledge that according to the amount of visible matter within a given galaxy there is not enough matter to keep the galaxy bonded to itself, that is the speed at which galaxies spin should be enough to throw all of the matter away (there should be no galaxies.) Because of this they have theorized the existence of dark matter that is something that is not visible but definitely is adding enough mass to the galaxy for gravity to hold it together. Scientists today cannot answer that question. It also reveals our puny insignificance in comparison to the God of the universe that not only made up the laws that bind the universe together, but can bind clusters of stars together with no effort, something man could never do.

Read the chapter. Understanding these facts should not make one arrogant, prideful, aloof, but humble.

Dave McKeegan

Thanks for the response, Tom (and Victrix). I'd be very interested to know how you feel about those prophecies - by which I mean, what emotion do they provoke when you contemplate them.

The reason I ask is that I would expect to feel amazement and wonder when presented with a genuine prophecy - in much the same way as I feel when shown a great magic trick. For this to happen, you need a genuine sense of mystery - the "how on EARTH does he do that?" response that a great magician can provoke.

But I'm not getting that from these prophecies - and I wonder if maybe I'm expecting too much? The magician's trick is utterly spoiled if you are given a reasonable explanation of how he does it ("the assistant scrunches up in the top half of the box, and the bottom half has fake feet protruding"). The fact that the Bethlehem prophecy (I'll just focus on this, your first and presumably therefore your best) has what appears to me to be an obvious explanation means it is simply impossible for me to be impressed: Matthew and/or Luke could simply have had a copy of Micah open in front of them when they were writing the birth narratives, and cited this prophecy in an effort to impress their readers.

Does the existence of such a blisteringly obvious and mundane explanation have any effect on how you regard this prophecy? It is hard to put this tactfully, but are you still genuinely amazed by it - or is there some other word that describes your emotion when thinking about it?

I know that the mere suggestion of a plausible explanation for a magician's trick considerably reduces my enjoyment of it. Does the same apply here?

Thanks once again for your patient responses.

Dave McKeegan

When I say "cited this prophecy in an effort to impress their readers" I mean, of course, that they could have made up the Bethlehem part of the story in order to fit the prophecy.

(Just in case that wasn't clear)

tom sheepandgoats

Dave:

I fear my answer will disappoint. Yes, with a great magician, possibly I would exclaim "how on EARTH does he do that?!" Humans aren't supposed to have such abilities. But I take it much more in stride when it is God. Prophesy has been described as history written in advance. Well, of course, God should be able to do that, I reason, and it does not produce much of those emotions in me that you suggest. Some, perhaps, but not too much. Mostly, it helps to persuade me that the Bible truly is a supernatural message, for as you can well imagine, believing God exists and believing that a given book represents him are two entirely different topics.

On the other hand, I am not an especially emotional person. Other JWs might answer your question differently.

As far as your explanation to the Bethlehem prophesy.....well, sure, it's always possible to shoot the messenger. But that's true with most history. What you look at, when there is no other corroborating evidence, is the qualities of the chronicler. Does he give evidence elsewhere of deceit, fraud, gullibility. The gospel writers come across as straightforward, modest, honest folk, not fanatical at all, (amidst a time when many religious persons WERE fanatics) of average intelligence, not schemers....the sort who have something extraordinary to relate, but show themselves free of "pushing an agenda." There are several minor contradictions among the gospel writers, just as there might be in newspapers covering the same event. If the writers were given to collusion, these places could have easily been cleaned up to make smooth reading, consistent in the smallest detail. In the above post, that verse of Luke references a half dozen or so historical figures, all of who existed and exercised the respective authority at the respective times that Luke reports. Accuracy of statement appears to be a prime concern.

Many prophesies of the Bible are remarkably detailed.....in Isaiah and Daniel, for example....so much so that critics insist they are actually history masquerading as prophesy....that is, they were written after the fact. But no other factor other than their disbelief of prophesy points to such a conclusion....the other evidence, both extant and of tradition, supports that they were written when are supposed to have been.

No, the Bethlehem prophesy is by no means the best example of prophesy, or even close. As prophesies go (to use your comparisons) it is somewhat of a clever card trick. I chose it because it was simple to relate and easy to grasp. The second example given is more complex, the third is more complex still.

Hope that helps.

Dave McKeegan

Thanks again, Tom. Not at all disappointed. On the contrary, it is interesting to know you take these prophecies in your stride. I suppose it makes sense - God is capable after all, so why should you be surprised when he gets it right?

Your pattern of thought is also interesting to me - it's a pattern I have come across before, and my last question to you will relate to it. You cite the prophecies as factors leading you to conclude the Bible is God's word, and the fact that they are God's word is why you aren't particularly amazed by their accuracy. Just as the "scientific facts" cited by Victrix are regarded as genuine insights - rather than generous interpretations of vague verses - because the Bible, being God's word, is bound to contain such insights.

To a dispassionate observer, these thought patterns appear circular - and it is easy to see how, once the committment to believe divine authorship is made, that they become self-reinforcing.

I have seen exactly the same patterns in my conversations with Muslims about the Koran. And that leads me to my question.

You and I can agree that there is a phenomenon - let's call it Holy Book Belief - which is very common among human beings. Christians of various denominations show it (according to their different interpretations), Muslims show it towards the Koran, Hindus to the Vedas, even Scientologists regard the writings of their genius leader as unquestionable (did you know L Ron Hubbard didn't die - he simply moved to a "higher level" in order to complete his researches?!). The HBB phenomenon results in the believer being absolutely convinced of the infallibility of their HB - to the point where they would often rather die (or, alas, sometimes kill) that relinquish it. To a dispassionate observer - as I'm sure you are, Tom, when it comes to observing Koran belief, Veda belief, or Hubbard belief - the circularity and self-reinforcing nature of the believers' thought patterns are obvious.

And one of the most telling symptoms of HBB is that the believer can easily diagnose it in others, but is blind to it in himself. If you want to observe this phenemenon in action, go to a Muslim, Hindu or Scientologist message board and start asking questions.

So, my question to you is: given that you know this phenomenon exists, and is endemic among humans, what do you think made you immune to it? Do you truly believe that all the Holy Bookers in the world except the Jehovah's Witnesses are suffering from it - even though such a belief is actually a symptom of it?

When I asked a Muslim convert this question, (I phrased it "What makes you think you are so special?") he shrugged and said "Mohammed *really is* God's prophet, and the Koran *really is* his final message to mankind".

I'd be interested to know if your answer is any different.

David McKeegan

Correction: what I actually asked the Muslim convert was "What makes you think you are exceptional?" (not "special")

(Sorry, I misremembered)

vargas

Mr. McKeegan,

Circular reasoning is common to all people, whatever their belief system might be. That includes so-called dispassionate observers.

I often see the same circular reasoning in those who see themselves as rational thinkers when it comes to scientific theories that either have very little evidence to recommend them (macro-evolution) or are just plain old science-fiction (M Theory, String Theory, Panspermia). The list of odd scientific theories that have no evidence to rest on goes on and on.

It usually goes like this: For those who have a commitment to metaphysical naturalism these unsupported ideas and other ideas like them are the only ones that make sense (to them anyway) since they are posited by scientists, regardless of the absurdities. It is enough that they are natural explanations. There couldn't possibly be a God who is responsible for what we see because God falls outside the realm of the natural world, even if the natural world and the universe itself points to design.

So how do they grapple with the design in the universe? By saying that the design is only apparent design, not actual design, because actual design might lead to God or other supernatural explanations and only natural explanations, no matter how outlandish, are allowed.

I've seen this kind of circular reasoning in most atheists and agnostics that I've talked to. You say that the Believer sees it in others but is blind to it in himself. Do you really believe that you are immune to it?

Tom Sheepandgoats

Dave:

I too, have addressed your question with the article I just posted:

http://tinyurl.com/8zfsxb

TJ

Just another one of Jehovah's Witnesses passing by...

I think, David, the "phenomenon" among humans that you are picking up on, which you call "Holy Book Belief", extends far, far beyond the bounds of religion and alleged sacred books. After all, these 'Holy Books' are really just collections of *ideas*. So, what you are talking about is really a phenomenon that is unique among mankind...all of mankind.

Humans have a need to understand the world around them. They seek purpose and meaning. In order to do this, we need a system to which we can turn that explains the world. Obviously, there are many different such systems, or worldviews, based on different ideas.

This not only explains why we see different religions, all claiming to be right, but also why we see different political parties, all claiming to have the answers. There are different worldviews underlying these forces.

I could take your question, "What makes you think you are exceptional?", to a conservative and to a liberal, or I could take it to a theist and an atheist. Which one is correct? Well, no one could *prove* they are correct to the other, but wouldn't they each attempt to explain how their worldview matches up better with reality than the rival worldview?

Essentially, unless a person is completely uncommitted to any worldview, in which case you have a very confused person, faith plays a role to some degree. Even scientists display faith when they pursue a hypothesis or theory.

What I'm trying to get across here is that faith is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is a necessary thing in order for a person to choose any worldview. The problem comes in when that faith causes one to overlook too many valid weaknesses and/or contradictions in their worldview so that it blinds them from a *better* one. So maintaining a healthy dose of modesty, honesty and open-mindedness is also important, but these are not altogether incompatible with strong faith.

So when you ask what makes us exceptional, I could explain the reasons why I view atheistic science as insufficient and contradicting, I could explain why I view the Bible as truly inspired over other alleged holy books, and I could explain why Jehovah's Witnesses have the best interpretation of the Bible.

Instead, I'll approach your question from another direction. I'll point to the *results* of our worldview. Does it makes us all perfect? Far from it. But our worldview, our faith in Jehovah God and his purpose for mankind, causes people with all kinds of barriers between them - geographical, political, economical, racial, cultural, language, etc., etc. - to transcend those boundaries so that they have become a truly international brotherhood. Isn't this the goal towards which most worldviews strive for?

The book _Holocaust Politics_ says: "If more people practiced versions of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach and practice, the Holocaust could have been prevented and genocide would scourge the world no more." This is just one simple reason that makes our faith exceptional.


TJ

Dave McKeegan

Vargas, there is a great deal to argue with - and a little bit to agree with - in your post, but as my question applied to the very specific, observable phenomenon of Holy Book Belief, and I do not wish the thread to be sidetracked, I hope you don't mind if I ignore it for now. (If you actually answer my question, I will of course respond - even if only to thank you)

cl

You said,

"And if I’m cruising down the highway at 60mph, I’m not sure why I should be overly concerned about the scientist on the radio telling me that my car doesn’t run."

So simple yet so brilliant.

Ed Hughes

Tom,

I would appear that God in His way of doing things made a number of errors in judgment, He created a man and then a woman from that man, and they did not obey Him so were booted out of Eden for that sin. Their offspring Cain and Able really started the first war with Able being an unwilling participant in that war. God approved of offerings to Him by Able and not the offerings of Cain. God chastised Cain and this made Cain angry, which caused him to slay his brother. It would appear to me that God played a large part in this first war as He could have said, your sacrifice is fine Cain. But He did not do that, and that action led to war between brothers. This lesson should teach us the eleventh commandment: Though shalt do as God sayth.

On another of the points about dying, I think that science pretty much has the answer to that. I am no scientist but it has to do with cells failing to replicate themselves effectively after a certain number of replications, and of course those replications depend on the body’s overall health.

Respectfully,
WMM

Tom Sheepandgoats

cl

You're blog looks interesting, too, with a combination of variety and depth one rarely encounters. (not to mention scateboarding!) I look forward to reading through some of it.

Tom Sheepandgoats

WMM:

".....as He could have said, your sacrifice is fine Cain."

Maybe it wasn't fine. Maybe for some reason it was unacceptable, or half-assed. There are times recorded when God has expressed displeasure with sacrifices offered him:

For example, here:

A son, for his part, honors a father; and a servant, his grand master. So if I am a father, where is the honor to me? And if I am a grand master, where is the fear of me?’ Jehovah of armies has said to you, O priests who are despising my name.
“‘And you have said: “In what way have we despised your name?”’
“‘[By] presenting upon my altar polluted bread.’
“‘And you have said: “In what way have we polluted you?”’
“‘By your saying: “The table of Jehovah is something to be despised.” And when you present a blind [animal] for sacrificing: “It is nothing bad.” And when you present a lame [animal] or a sick one: “It is nothing bad.”’”
“Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly?” Jehovah of armies has said. Mal 1:6-8


or here:

“Of what benefit to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” says Jehovah. “I have had enough of whole burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed animals; and in the blood of young bulls and male lambs and he-goats I have taken no delight. When you people keep coming in to see my face, who is it that has required this from your hand, to trample my courtyards? Stop bringing in any more valueless grain offerings. Incense—it is something detestable to me.....And when you spread out your palms, I hide my eyes from you. Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the badness of dealings from in front of my eyes; cease to do bad. Learn to do good; search for justice; set right the oppressor; render judgment for the fatherless boy; plead the cause of the widow.” Isaiah 1:11-17

Maybe Cain's bad attitude preceded God's counsel, rather than being triggered by it, as you suggest. I wasn't there & don't know.

And here is something on telemeres and cells failing to replicate after so many divisions: (all except cancer cells, which observe no such limits):

http://tinyurl.com/8duxnu

Screech

On dying...telomeres and cell replication do give us the mechanism with which we age and die, but they still do not give us the reason for such systems to exist.

An interesting Awake article posited that it is a legal issue, having to do with mankinds rebellion against God. However, that is not the point of this thread...

Everyone has their own Holy Book Belief system that is viewed as infallible. Yet many would debate that these HB's are as accurate today as the day that they were penned. I would submit that the exception is the Bible. There is ample archeological evidence that the translations we have today are as close to the original thoughts as possible. In addition, there is much imperical evidence to support that many of the books containing prophecy were written at about the time claimed, verifying their prophetic claims.

Tom Sheepandgoats

Screech: I suppose you could also say that

1. duplicating a living cell would seem to be a very hard thing to do.

2. but once you have done that, repeating the feat ought to be relatively easy, so

3. it could be seen as odd that having such a amazing system for preservation, it breaks down where it does.

Ed Hughes

Tom,

It would appear that God spent much of His time in instructing the first few generations of humans and they were a failure, or so it seems, maybe not a total failure because they were allowed by God to carry on in some fashion or another. It stymies my mind why an omnipotent God whose powers are unlimited would put up with such things as these folks not obeying His trivial demands. (Eat what you want it has all been provided for you, but do not eat from that one tree.) When they ate the apple the entire unborn generations of this earth inherited Eve and Adams sin. When He told Cain that his sacrifice was not worthy, causing Cain to slay his brother Able because God favored Able and Cain was evidently upset about that. Killing another human was evidently not that serious in those days, Cain was only marked and banished. the punishment did not fit the crime. God allowed this very bad person to continue with life. Some of Cain’s offspring also killed other humans and God did not put a put a stop to that conduct. Why do you suppose that God did not stop this type sinning immediately, rather than waiting a few hundred more years and then generating the great flood to destroy most people?

Some folks say that the Bible is the only true book, but when looked at by many, those many would disagree. There are many books that have the same stories of the creation of man, and what happened after that. The great flood is also brought out by the same books as are many other of the stories that the bible contains. Which is true and complete? All claim to be but they differ in their content in many places, so the only thing certain is that some of them are not true, and it could be that none are empirical as some might state.

Religion and faith in the Almighty is definitely a good thing, but man has a way of interpreting the Good Book, as people call it, in different ways, especially with the passage of time. The dogma that the Good Book can present has led to great conflict in the past; the earth, and not the sun, was once considered to be the center of our universe and you went to prison if you disagreed, one must be born again to go to Heaven, in some religions you can sin but if you confess you can be forgiven, even going to heaven is dogmatic - you are only looking out for yourself. Many religions say that you must bear witness to all to gain salvation. There are so many dogmatic beliefs in nearly every religion that it’s tough to believe that they are truly what they claim to be.

Respectfully,
WMM

Tom Sheepandgoats

Lots of Bible accounts don't appear to make too much sense by themselves, much like pieces of a puzzle. The appealing aspect of Jehovah's Witnesses for me was that they are able to assemble it into a satisfying picture that is consistent and makes sense. From time to time I write about some of it. Categories such as 'evil and suffering' and 'death and old age,' for instance, contain some of those elements. But you can't do everything in a blog, nor do I set myself up as having any special authority or smarts. That is the purpose of the Bible study arrangement Jehovah's Witnesses are known for. It takes little time, costs nothing, and given the importance of the questions it purports to answer, it's the most efficient use of time I can imagine.

http://tinyurl.com/86dwqj

Ed Hughes

Tom, of Ships and Boats,

I requested on my annual Christmas list that I would like to be given a copy of the very good film, Winged Migration, to review and observe the wonders of this biannual event that our winged friends go through during their entire lifetime. Santa brought me a copy of this film and the next day I previewed it again, one of the things that I was looking for was the ship that the geese landed on during their migration, you had said the ship was a frigate, and of course I said you are full of hooey, maybe not in so many words, but I find now that I must eat my words, the ship is probably a frigate of the French nation. Please accept my apology for my being so sure of myself and still being wrong.

I must put this in one of your latest blog entries to insure that you see it.

Respectfully,
WMM

Tom Sheepandgoats

WMM:

What you said was (in reply to my observation that the birds toasted themselves upon the heat grates of a frigate): "Do you know what a frigate is? A frigate would not have heat grates."

To which I replied: "I don’t know anything about ships other than they float. Nor did I know those were heat grates. But the birds were landing on grates of some sort."

But now i see that in spite of my ignorance, the Lord has once again prevented me from making a complete ass of myself. :) Thank you, WMM, for your followup.

BTW: If you liked Winged Migration, I can't imagine that you wouldn't also like Fly Away Home. Did you see it?

Of course, there is also the ridiculous discovery of our own staff scientist, Tom Tombaugh, whose only real credentials is that he claims to be a distant cousin of Clyde Tombaugh, founder of the disgraced former planet Pluto. He's sort of a B movie scientist, our guy, but he's all we can afford. Anyhow, he studied long and hard the phenomena that, in a vee of migrating geese, one arm will be longer than the other. After painstaking measurements and observation, he postulated the reason: there are more geese in the longer arm. It took the scientific world by storm, I can tell you. The idiot.

http://tinyurl.com/9bqxpy

Ed Hughes

Tom,

The grates that were mentioned are not grates at all, what they are is fabricated metal to reduce the weight and still have good rigidity and strength. The geese probably did not like the slippery tossing wet deck and the holes in the deck would give something for their feet to grip onto.

Yes, I have a copy of Fly Away Home, and it is required viewing for any of my Grandchildren. It is a good movie.

The power of observation by some of our scientists is really a thing to behold.

Respectfully,
WMM

Victrix

Dear Dave,

"Thanks for the response, Tom (and Victrix). I'd be very interested to know how you feel about those prophecies - by which I mean, what emotion do they provoke when you contemplate them."

Seeing how Bible prophecy always comes true gives me confidence in the God of the universe. This is not a quality of every person, this I realize.

If Tom wouldn't mind I would like to refer you to the "Empires at March" series I have been working on for some time now. This explains a very detailed prophecy in the Bible that has been unraveling for well over 2500 years, in Daniel chapter 11. Most of the information is taken from the "Daniel's Prophecy" book published by Jehovah's Witnesses. Also if you do check it out you can also view the video entitled "A New World," I think that explains beautifully my sentiments about the living God Jehovah.

Here is the link, again if Tom sees no objection to it:
http://www.youtube.com/user/XeloEspada

Tom Sheepandgoats

Vitrix:

You might want to contact Dave directly. I've no objection to your posting here....that's fine....but I think Dave is done with it.

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