Believers more childish than childlike

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by Neil Godfrey

Professor of New Testament Craig Keener writes very long and very detailed scholarly books about Jesus. He also presents himself as having converted from atheism to Christianity. Do a web search on Keener and atheist and you’ll find many sites likewise presenting him as a poster-boy for how atheism stood no chance against the intellectual inquiries of Keener into the Christian faith. But then you read Keener’s own testimony about his “atheism” and conversion and you learn he became an atheist at the ripe age of nine and converted to Christianity at the mature age of fifteen. A lost soul in search of a home?

Keener addresses the “problem of evil” for believers in God in Where was God when tragedy happened?—Exodus 1:22. He begins by reciting the most common of religious mantras: goodness and justice will always win in the end. Every child is taught this to be true in order to protect them from the traumatic reality of the real world.

Keener’s conclusion is the saddest of all, the fantasies of childhood have never left the adult:

God does not always prevent tragedy—but he does ensure his plan for the future of his people and for ultimate justice.

Indeed, Exodus resounds with the recognition that God, while not always stopping human wickedness, does not look the other way:

Adult view: God looks at the suffering of people having their children murdered now but can think only of his “long-term plan” so watches them suffer and die. Don’t worry, you Jews dying in Auschwitz; some of those responsible will be hanged at Nuremberg! Comforting — except that God won’t even tell them that much!

Consider how God would return against the next generation of Egyptians what Pharaoh had done. Pharaoh drowned Israel’s babies in the Nile (1:22); the first plague would turn the Nile to blood (7:20).

Lovely. “Next generation” who were not responsible for the suffering he had just witnessed get to be punished, not to mention the killing of entire species of Nile-dwelling creatures. A professor of New Testament seriously writes that this is the beginning of “God’s justice”!

Pharaoh drowned Israel’s babies in the Nile (1:22); the last plague would strike Egypt’s firstborn children (12:29).

Of course. Kill the sons, whether infants or mature adults, of the generation who bore no responsibility for the earlier crime against humanity. Kill the innocent, even adult first-born. Rob the innocent parents of their firstborn children.

And a mature adult who writes serious books about the historical Jesus teaches fellow-believers that this is God’s justice.

Pharaoh drowned Israel’s babies in the Nile (1:22); God would drown Egypt’s army in a sea of reeds (14:28).

Only a child could imagine this as “justice”.

Though long-delayed, justice would come. As we often say in the African-American church, “God doesn’t always come when you want Him to, but He’s always right on time.”

“Always comes right on time” — like, a generation after the cruel deaths and pain inflicted on an entire race, so late that he finds he has only innocents left to kill. “Always comes right on time”.

Thus are the teachings of a serious adult professor of New Testament and author of academic works.

A soul having found a home remains protected from the realities of life by means of the perpetuation of childish fantasies.



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Neil Godfrey

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27 thoughts on “Believers more childish than childlike”

  1. When you are in the grip of a delusion, reason doesn`t enter into it. At least, in opposition to Pick n Choose (TM) Christians, he embraces ALL of the OT.

  2. I think though, that some of the more intellectual believing scholars, are often on the edge of atheism. If only we could help them.

    Are there any single arguments that are particularly compelling, when arguing with believers? Reminding believers that there are no physical miracles seems somewhat helpful. But then you sometimes get bogged down talking about spirituality.

    Reminding them that at least some scholars have seriously questioned probably every single element of the Bible, Jesus, is somewhat useful too. Indeed, most biblical scholars are quietly contributing to that partly Mythicist project, all the time. They just don’t want to face, or make explicit, the final implications of all that.

    Some say scholars mostly know better. But they suggest that scholars feel that the everyday people need their myths. Or else they would become too violent and uncontrolled.

  3. James T. We are talking about people in one of the most deep-seated delusions that infest the human mind. The only cure is recognition of their obsession. Maybe psychiatrists can break the hold, but i doubt our pointing out of their contradictions will do the trick.

    1. As someone who has come out of the delusion I think that we just need to try interacting with believers with respect to their situation. Neuroscience makes it plain that probably the majority of belivers are victims of evolution. I suggest keep pointing out there inconstistencies and sowing seeds of critical thinking. For myself the delusion broke by reading an article by Mark Goodacre on Editorial Fatigue in the Gospels….who would predict that!

  4. So where can we read Keener’s insightful atheist writings from when he was nine? Ten? Eleven? Twelve? Thirteen? Fourteen? Surely he can support his testimony.

    1. Some people reach the age of 9 without being indoctrinated at all (e.g., myself and my siblings – the only ‘Santa’ we ever saw, was known to be Uncle Kevin in a fat-suit; we had no Easter Bunny or other such lies, either).

      What smacks of the typical believer-lie (Augustine-like) false narrative is the conversion back – at 15 – to believing puerile primitive nonsense.

      Belief in Iron Age tribal foundation myths is a lot like smoking: unless you’re indoctrinated before the age of 13 or 14, you’re hors jeu for ever (absent a brain injury or a trauma that you can’t cope with using your native intelligence: that’s right, I’m sayin’ it… only dummies are Born Again).

    1. Afterlife is a totally distinct question. Belief in God does not logically imply belief in an afterlife, and belief in an afterlife does not logically require belief in God.

    1. Funny, I was talking to God too, and he was wondering who made him and if he had any purpose in life. I suggested that he get out more and go out on more dates, stop being on the internet so much. That seemed to cheer him up.

  5. When I became a man I put away childish things. For me, the wager became untenable. For others, the taking of every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, is the only way to fool-proof one’s life.

  6. To imagine one’s Naturally occurring isolate subjective “pain” amidst All this Space and Time is unique and finite… is the sweetest innocence.
    This is Hell, and we have a de facto Eternity to endure all of its exquisite agonies.
    Of course, in “my” next life I won’t have a clue.
    That is why I prostrate myself before my gods and burn incense to my idols.

  7. Maybe instead of being “childish” he’s still an atbeist pretending to have converted so he can attack God from the inside with his chillingly bad “theodicy”.

  8. How do you break free?

    I’m a former Jehovahs Witness and still can’t seem to break free of all the fears and doubts that plague me (18 years removed).

    How to refute Jesus’s Prophecies of the last days and of the proclamation of his name unto all the inhabitants of planet earth as a witness? They seem like true Prophecies to me.

    How did you guys do it? I feel like I’m at the end of my rope! This fear of being wrong and of cosmic judgement are the only holds Christianity has on me!

    Thank you

    1. Apparently you are still holding on to the notion that this is a rational belief. If I were you, I would investigate the matter fully until I decided once and for all if it is reasonable to hold these beliefs and if not, say goodbye to them and be done with it. And if you still think they are true you can go back to knocking on doors and handing out tracts. Just don’t knock on mine please.

    2. P.S. to my own reply….

      In regards to how you refute Jesus’s Prophecies of the last days, you do realize you are reading a blog where the authors don’t even believe that Jesus existed, don’t you?

      But if you are going to really take him at his word then I believe those prophecies easily refute themselves. In the gospels He was obviously preaching that the kingdom of God was imminent even going so far as to say that it was going to happen in his own generation. And it’s pretty obvious his followers thought the same. You can take all of those sayings and “spiritualize” them in some way just as the Jehovah’s witnesses have been doing since their founding but can’t you see there is no end to doing this? At what point do you stop and conclude that someone is simply selling snake oil and get off the treadmill and on with your real life on planet earth?

      1. Jack,

        I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me. I get what you’re saying-shit or get off the pot. That’s at least how I understood you and that’s exactly what I needed to hear.

        1. You’re welcome. Been there, done that, BTW. Not JW but something just as crazy.

          Was trying to say that reason is the only antidote I know of for the kind of cognitive dissonance you are dealing with but “shit or get off the pot” is also a good way of putting it.

    3. Jason,

      I think I know what you are going through and I agree with Jack that you need to determine what is rational….in my opinion you should study your Bible and evaluate using reason what you have been told by the Witnesses….then you will realize that your fears and doubts are unfounded.

      I don’t know which prophecies you are talking about specifically but I would recommend taking a step back and evaluating the OT prophecies about Jesus….do they stand up?….if not then Jesus’s words about end times as purported in the Gospels aren’t worth losing sleep over.

      I suggest you read Robert J Millers book Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy.

      All the best in you quest.


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