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QUESTION: How do we know that humans are not deceived by the beyond human imagination reality of nature into accepting the existence of the supernatural?

ANSWER: Quite frankly because the truths of Christianity are so different from what we would expect.

When you look at the pagan gods, you find they are really little more than human beings with super powers.  They are just like us in terms of morality, sin, etc.  They just have super powers.  They fight with each other, they are arbitrary, etc.  One account has the pagan gods wiping out humanity because the gods were angry that the humans were partying all night and keeping the gods awake!

When you look at Christianity and in particularity the Christian God, you find that he is nothing like us--and he defines the concept of power very differently than what humans would expect of a god.  

Jesus is God and though had the power to stop not only his suffering, but the suffering of the entire universe with a mere word, nevertheless allowed himself to be crucified.  Jesus then explains that this is power and he tells his followers to live and love as he did. What human being could imagine that?

Jesus tells his followers that real power is in loving their enemies and praying for those who want to do them harm.  What human being could imagine that?

Jesus tells his followers, in essence that the real enemy isn't suffering, but Sin.  When Jesus does miracles, unlike the pagan gods or prophets, he does not need to do complicated rituals.  He simply speaks and it happens.  If he does some ritual (like spitting on the ground to heal the blind man) there is a reason for it.  What human being would make this up?

I am only getting started.  The idea that Mary his mother is sinless and a perpetual virgin despite the fact that she is married.  Who would imagine such a thing--especially given our propensity to worship our sexuality, in particular sex.  

How about his closest followers?  They aren't exactly presented as hero's in the Bible and yet they are the foundation of the Church. One would expect the hero's of the Faith to be presented as hero's in the Bible--not people who were wimps and ran away and hid when things got tough.  What is more: they all (save John) went to their deaths for their Faith after the Resurrection.

Before you say "So?  All Faiths have their martyrs" let me reply that in this case the apostles weren't simply martyrs, they all willingly went to their deaths for a story that originated with them.  In other words---I would think at least one of them would not be willing to die for a lie that they themselves made up.  

Let's look at the Resurrection itself.  Jesus does not simply come back to life--he is totally transformed and yet has the marks of his suffering.  Who could imagine that?  Not only that--Jesus does not appear before all those who doubted him and show them up.  Who would imagine that?  If a human being were making this up I would think they would have Jesus appearing before all his doubters, and I would also think they would not have the marks of his suffering on a glorified body.  

Also, Jesus own friends do not recognize him right away.  If a human being made that up, you would think his closest followers would know him.  

I have not provided an exhaustive list as to why I think the Christian religion is not of human origin, but I think I have provided enough examples that you get the point.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Isn't it possible the gospel stories of Jesus were just naturally embellished accidentally with good intentions as time past in the oral tradition before they became THE STORIES controlled by literates. Which even here seem to grow. There is quit a difference between the earlier apocalyptical Jesus with its demons in Mark to the later Jesus of John who raises lazarus, who has never been mentioned earlier. Jesus is friendly to women as portrayed by Mary and Martha, who pop up here in John also, and indulges in longer conversations. On the cross Jesus has a lot more to say in the gospel of John than in the gospel of Mark. I think you under estimate human creativity sparked by good intentions in story telling. Not to mention the boundaries of art which humans can create. For certainly the gospels are theological works of art created to inspire faith from events that are selectively remembered from the past. The human mind by nature is always selective and forgetful.

ANSWER: Of course it is possible that the gospel stories of Jesus were naturally embellished with good intentions, etc.

But those who assert that need to provide evidence. As I explained in my previous response---the gospels do not suggest characteristics of embellishment. If anything, the gospels suggest the person writing it is telling the Truth.  This is due to a number of factors which I already mentioned but will repost:

1) The brutal honesty with which the gospel writers portray the hero's of the Faith.  Our nation of America is only 200 years old.  Look at the legend that developed surrounding the hero's of our nation.  Their real lives were whitewashed and their imperfections ignored while legendary stories developed surrounding them, like George Washington and the Cherry Tree.  We don't see this characteristic with the Apostles.  Who they are, what they did, their behavior, etc, is all presented.  Instead of being glamorized, they are presented as slow of mind and wit, selfish, cowardly, etc.  

The point is: where is the embellishment? There is none--where the Apostles are concerned!

2) With regard to Jesus---where is the embellishment? His own closest followers when they discovered the empty tomb concluded someone had stolen the body! They didn't believe the resurrection accounts! Even when Jesus appeared DIRECTLY BEFORE THEM IN HIS GLORY they DOUBT!  Read the end of Matthew's Gospel.  Again, where is the embellishment? At one point, Jesus goes to great lengthens to try to convince them he is not a figment of their imagination or a ghost.  He eats a piece of fish right in front of them. (Luke 24:42) Is this what we would expect if someone were making this up and imagining it? NO!

3) Jesus has a lot more to say on the cross in the Gospel of John, than the Gospel of Mark?  So?  The Gospel accounts were written by different eyewitnesses.  They are going to report and record those things that Jesus said or did that resonated with them the most and the communities they were writing. No one Gospel gives the complete picture, you need them all for the complete picture.  Each Gospel is like a picture of Jesus--but seen from different angles.

Remember the Titanic? Some witnesses reported that the ship broke apart above water, other witnesses didn't mention that.  Some contradicted those reports and said the ship simply sank quietly into the water in once piece. Some witnesses said the ship was at a nearly 90 degree angle (upright) in the water before it sank, other witnesses contradicted those accounts.  Was the last song played by the band Nearer my God to thee?  Some witnesses claim yes, others the last hymn was "Autumn."

We now know that the ship was never at more than a 30 degree angle in the water.  Why would witnesses claim otherwise? Because ship was so big and the impellers were sticking out of the water making the Titanic appear to be at a steeper angel to the water than it was to some people.  We also now know that the ship did in fact break apart before it sank and that it broke apart from the bottom up, not the top down UNDER the water.  Some witnesses would therefore not have noticed the break up--as it didn't happen the way the movie portrayed.  As for the last hymn: we will never really know what the band played due to the conflicting accounts--but research has shown light on to why there were conflicting accounts. Apparently there were three different musical versions of the hymn "Nearer my God to Thee."  The hymn "Autumn" sounds closest to the British version of the hymn "Nearer my God to Thee."  This explains why some would say the last hymn as "Nearer my God to Thee" even though it is more probably that what they really heard was "Autumn."  

My point: when different people are recounting an incident, it is fully expected that their accounts will to some degree show some discrepancies.  If all accounts agree on every detail, then it might suggest collusion.  The fact that the Gospel accounts give different pictures of Jesus and even have some discrepancies on some details (of relatively minor importance) suggests each writer is writing form their own unique perspective as a witness.  Research and study will eventually uncover why there are conflicting accounts.  

Here is just one example.  Did the women go to the tomb before the sun was up, or when it was light?  One gospel has them going before the sun came up, another when it was still dark.  Which is it? Well, could it be that one of the Gospel writers emphasized the time they left (which it would have been still dark) and the emphasizes their journey to the tomb, or even arrival?  (Then it would have been light.)

Indeed--it is always possible that the Gospels were embellished and imagined.  I think it unlikely, however given what I have said above.  There are certain characteristics we would expect to see if there was embellishment or imagination and we don't see those characteristics--in fact we see the exact opposite of what one would expect.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I disagree with you. I do not see the opposite of what I suspect, or expect either.
I think there are more than minor discrepancies in the gospels. I am not convinced the faith of the disciples does not contain symbolism of a pre-Christian's doubt to a converted Christian with faith. Friends are allowed to disagree and still respect each other differences. My wife and I were crazy about each other. Yet there were differences in our amount of faith. Our love and making each other happy came first. I think you will agree having love for another person is what Christianity is all about.

Answer
First, if you already had your mind made up, why did you ask me?  Give evidence of your claim.  What "major" discrepancies are you talking about?  I want to admit there might be some that I hadn't heard of before or considered.  That, however does not disprove the Bible, it only proves that I don't know everything. Quite frankly the thought that I don't know everything is scandalous enough. To date the only mistake I have made is the time I thought I was mistaken.

You think a "major discrepancy" is the fact that the Gospel of John has Jesus saying more from the cross that Mark?  Why is that a "major discrepancy?"  Why can't it just be that Mark recorded for his community what he thought important and John did likewise? Again, witnesses will tend to notice and report what caught THEIR attention, not what is necessarily important to the person they are reporting to.  I am an organist.  One of the questions I always ask my friends when they visit another Church is "What was the organ like?"  I get frustrated every time as they tell me every detail about the statues and stained glass (who cares?) but tell me they didn't notice the organ. Well, that makes sense doesn't it?  The organ isn't important to them the artwork is, so it makes sense why they would report every detail about the artwork but not notice the organ.  Now I am the opposite.  The first thing I notice when I walk into a Church is the organ, because that is what I am most interested in.  The artwork, statues, architecture isn't as important to me.  Hence if I were to report to my friends about the Church I would tell them about the organ, not the artwork or architecture.  

The things Jesus said that John reported, Mark may not have thought noteworthy.  That is why we have four Gospels and not just one.  The simplest explanation seems the more probable one here?  Why complicate things with redactors and people making up fairy tails when a simple explanation suffices--namely that Mark choose to record what struck him, whereas John records more material?

What is known now and is admitted (even by the most liberal of scholars) is that the Gospels were all written within the life times of the Apostles.  The Gospel of John was the latest Gospel written at 90-100 AD, but John the Apostle lived to be an old man and was still living at that time.  Don't you think he could have corrected any "legends" or "fairy tales" that crept in? Don't you think the fact that the Apostles (save John) all went to their deaths proclaiming the Christian Faith says something?

The Bible is God's Holy and Inerrant Word. I grant that not every single question has been answered about the Bible, or every single critic answered.  However, for me, enough HAS been answered that I am not bothered by what has not yet been answered sufficiently.  (Though I note for one who does not want to believe, no amount of evidence will convince.  Look at the abortion proponents.  Evidence time and again has been presented as to what abortion really is--yet they close their eyes to it because they don't want to see it. They continue to tell themselves the issue is "choice" and "women's rights." Deep down they know what the real issue is---God's law is written on our heart. They just don't want to believe it, so they ignore the evidence.)

Second, no.  I do not agree at all that Christianity is about having love for another person. Certainly love is central to Christianity, but if we do not know the correct identity of the one we love and serve, that is problematic. If we don't have right the identity of Jesus--everything else is wrong. If Jesus isn't God, then he was man.  If Jesus was a man, his teachings have no more weight than any other man who walked the face of the Earth.  If Jesus was just a man, his teachings are opinions and not binding.  No one has the right to bind someone to those teachings. The teachings of Christ are worth no more, and no less than any other teacher.  We can accept or reject them as we see fit.  

More to the point: if Jesus is just a man, then he is a liar and not worth my love and devotion anyway.  Jesus claimed in more ways than one to be God.  If he is just a man, why did he claim to be God and why did his followers go to their deaths willingly proclaiming that and refusing to be silenced? What is your answer to the institution of the Catholic Church?  How did the Church survive this long in one piece?  We survived persecutions, attacks, schisms, sex scandals, moral corruption, wars, etc.  Yet here we are--as strong and as alive as ever.  If Jesus isn't God, the Church is a mere human organisation and thus her authority is no more, no less binding that the authority or any other human organization.  If Jesus was just a man, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of books about the history of the Jewish people and some guy that taught things and claimed to be Jewish--but was rejected.

When Attila the Hun was about to sack Rome, he was met by Pope Leo.  Attila told him he was about to destroy the Church.  Pope Leo replied "Good luck.  If we haven't been able to destroy the Church by now, what makes you think you have a chance?"

Christianity is first and foremost about Christ, in particular his identity as the only Son of the Father who is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. If one does not believe this before all else, one is not Christian.  Love is necessary, but it isn't just about love.  EVERYTHING, and I Do mean EVERYTHING in Christianity depends on the fact that Jesus Christ is who he said he was.

I admit what I am about to say isn't logic speaking, but emotion--but I will say it anyway: I didn't give my live over to a mere man and good teacher.  I am not living my life for the sake of some dead teacher and prophet.  I gave my life to Jesus, and he is GOD--in the Old Testament sense of the term--(Divine name) Jesus is alive and well, Jesus is risen, Jesus vanquished death.  He is my master, Lord and King.  He is my savior.  I live my life for Him. If Jesus isn't God, than I am wasting my life--and so is every one who claims to be Christian. You should pity us if this is the case because we have bought one of the biggest lies in history.  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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