The Skeptic’s Alternative to Jesus

While reading a debate from 1829 out of curiosity for the Christian Restoration Movement and skepticism before Darwin, the real choices between agnostic atheism and Christian faith stand apart. The debate is one between a Christian preacher, Alexander Campbell, and a skeptic, Robert Owen. Owen opposed all religion as false and Campbell defended Christianity. Each man was more than qualified to defend his position. Now, I may have more favorable points from this debate later, but for now, one point stands out in the context of the early spread of the Christian faith in contrast to opposing beliefs. Campbell’s words are revealing,

“On the one side superstition and the sword, the mitred hand and the sceptered arm combine; on the other, almighty truth alone pushes on the combat. Under these fearful odds the truth triumphs, and shall the advocates of such a cause fear the context now?

Yes, my fellow-citizens, not a king nor a priest smiled upon our faith until it won the day. It offered no lure to the ambitious; no reward to the avaricious. It offered no alliance with the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, nor the pride of life. It disdained such auxiliaries. It aimed not so low. It called for self-denial, humility, patience, and courage, on the part of all its advocates; and promised spiritual joys as an earnest of eternal bliss. By the excellency of its doctrine, the purity of its morals, the rationality of its arguments, the demonstration of the Holy Spirit, and the good example of its subjects, it triumphed on the ruins of Judaism and idolatry. The Christian volunteers found the yoke of Christ was easy and his burden light. Peace of mind, a heaven-born equanimity [composure], a good conscience, a pure heart, universal love, a triumphant joy, and a glorious hope of immortal bliss, were its reward in hand. An incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance in the presence of God, with the society of angels, principalities and powers, of the loftiest intelligence and most comprehensive knowledge, brighter than the sun, in the glories of light and love eternal, are its rewards in future.

But now, let us ask, what boon [blessing], what honor, what reward have our opponents to offer for its renunciation? Yes, this is the question which the sequel must develop. To what would they convert us! What heaven have they to propose! What immorality to reveal! What sublime views of creation and a creator! What authentic record of the past! What prophetic hope of the future! What account of our origin! What high ultimatum of our destiny! What terrors have they to offer to stem the torrent of corruption! What balm and consolation to the sons and daughters of anguish! To these and a thousand kindred questions, they must, and they will answer, none; none at all. They promise to him that disbelieveth the Founder of the Christian religion; to him that neglects and the salvation of the gospel; to him who tramples underfoot the blood of the New Institution, and insults the Spirit of favor; to him who traduces [slanders] Moses, Daniel, and Job; to him who vilifies Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John; to him who devotes his soul to the lusts of the flesh; who disdains heaven; who defies his appetites; who degrades himself to a mere animal, and eulogizes philosophy; to this man they promise eternal sleep, and everlasting death. This is the faith, the hope, and joy, or which they labor with so much zeal, and care, and pain” (Campbell Owen Debate. Nashville: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1946.)

What really is the alternative to Christ? What are the great things that one looks unto apart from Christ? Even though “all that is in the world” appeals to my own desires, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life”. These do not appeal to my conscience with my thoughts accusing or even excusing me while Christ’s Law is written on my heart. I would rather have a pure conscience than satisfied flesh, eyes filled with pleasure, and all the power and possessions of the world, which I can never obtain for the desires of a body that will eventually turn to dust. “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The non-believer will try to extract some of God’s ideals, love and truth, from this world, but they will never strive to live apart from “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life”.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
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12 Responses to The Skeptic’s Alternative to Jesus

  1. Scott says:

    You don’t see the predictions and their fulfillment, because you do not want to, but they are there.

    What DNA cannot be sequenced? I said mapped. As in you an identify what genetics traits that you are looking at. The current DNA sequences may be seen, but these are not mapped so that you can understand the trillion bits of data for which the bases of DNA communicate. This is like looking at computer code and not knowing much of what it means.

    Christ redeeming sin is not possible in the Christian faith. Christ did give sin, so He cannot buy it back, take it back in any way. It is people that He purchases with His blood. It’s that simple. Do you know what it means to redeem something?

    Still again, you think that all sin is equal in punishment, which cannot be the case either according to Luke 12:47-48. There are different levels of punishment while the wages of sin is death. You just don’t understand Biblical Christianity.

    So you think that I meant that the OT was always symbolic. You make a faulty assumption from ignorance of the OT as a pattern to the NT. I did not say that the OT was symbolically kept, but that it is symbolic too. Anyone familiar with the Christian faith would know that the The OT was literally kept, and that “The laws that appear ridiculous in the OT were put there to be symbolic examples” or in other words, the OT is a “shadow and copy”, a “pattern” and, or “type” of the NT to come (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5, 9:23-24, 10:1). For instance, the Christ is the High Priest, Christians are priests, the Church is the temple, our good deeds are thanksgiving sacrifices, and Christ is also the sin sacrifice, the escape goat, and the passover lamb. This is the symbolism that I refer to. Read Hebrews.

    What does it mean to not wear mixed fiber clothing? On top of all this, these commands to not wear mixed fiber (Lev. 19:19, Deut. 22:11) was condemning the practice of idolatrous Zabian fire-worshippers in planting mixed seeds and wearing mixed fibers as a idolatrous religious practice. Such is addressed in the NT for those who are not to eat the meat of the temple if it tempts them to enter back into idolatry. Also, Zephaniah 1:8 says, “It will happen in the day of Yahweh`s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, the king`s sons, and all those who as are clothed with foreign clothing.” The symbolism from idolatry in the OT times is relevant even today in that idolatry also symbolized the basis of coveting and the sins thereof (Col. 3:5).


  2. Jens says:


    We’ve discussed these “fulfilled prophesies” in your past posts. I simply disagree that they are what you say they are. I apparently don’t see the vast evidence that you do. The fact that other religions can also claim similar fulfilled prophesies makes it awfully hard to say that Christianity is the correct religion.

    Microevolution can be contrasted with macroevolution, which is the occurrence of large-scale changes in gene frequencies in a population over a geological time period (i.e. consisting of extended microevolution). The difference is largely one of approach. Microevolution is reductionist, but macroevolution is holistic. Each approach offers different insights into the evolution process. Wikipedia

    I should have mentioned that yes, the words are used, but they are based on your viewpoint. It is an approach, not a definition.

    The E. coli research is far from simple adaptation. It invalidates nearly all of the creationist arguments including irreducible complexity and probability. The only reason why it is not considered speciation (or Macro-evolution if you must use the term that way) is that the defintion of species is hard to determine in bacteria.

    The E coli genome has been completely sequenced. Better catch up with the times. ( )

    You think all sin is equal.

    In fact I don’t and didn’t say that. Read what I wrote. I said that, in effect, all sins are equal because the punishment is the same for all of them, eternal hell-fire. I was specifically arguing that I do not agree that all sins are equal.

    That’s not nit picky. That’s crucial.

    No, it is only crucial if you believe the tortuosity of the argument. The end result is the same, sin is either gotten rid of or not, it does not matter whether the person or the sin is redeemed or not in terms of the end result.

    The laws that appear ridiculous in the OT were put there to be symbolic examples.

    So it is only symbolic that God wanted people to die for this. It is somehow not really real but just symbolic? I thought you were a biblical literalist, apparently not in this case. If the Bible is the unerring word of God, how can you interpret that these laws were symbolic. That would require you to be putting words in Gods mouth. There is no mention of their symbolism and no mention of them being somehow different than the otehr laws mentioned right along with them. Are you saying that noone died as a result of wearing mixed fibers? How do you know?


  3. Scott says:

    So, what are you going to do about those fulfilled predictions from Bible? You’re not going to even recognize them. That’s the willful ignorance at work. You’re also condemning Jesus to Hell for being angry. Are you the just judge?

    I appreciate your presentation of how skeptics err in logic and truth for their own desires and pride. You claim that there is no such thing as macro and micro evolution though the scientific world disagrees. You ignore all forms of evolution now relying upon the adaptation of E. coli. How strange is it that one of the simplest life forms does not have its DNA mapped? How strange is that though no animal is fully observed and understood in its processes of life that those scraping for evidence for their imaginative conjectures.

    Why are you attacking Protestant theology with me? Why are you addressing Protestant theology in the context of Alexander Campbell’s statements above? Campbell believes that baptism is necessary. Which Protestant theology are you trying to refute: the Baptists, the Mennonites, the Methodists? Shouldn’t you go address them? This doesn’t change the fact that you don’t understand Biblical Christianity nor what you’re arguing against.

    You think all sin is equal. I don’t even think that is a Protestant belief. It isn’t in the Bible. You still have no concept of the condemnation of sin. Don’t you know that God is not hate or murder? How can we be in His eternal presence with such guilt? Do you think unrepentant hateful people will be in Heaven? You don’t make much sense. On another point, as you saw your error, Christ redeems sinners and not the sin. That’s not nit picky. That’s crucial.

    Oh, the torture of wearing mixed fiber clothes and not hating people! The instructions of the OT were govern the people, keep health for those serving, present types for the NT, and most important bring in the New Law. The laws that appear ridiculous in the OT were put there to be symbolic examples.

    As for the rest of your errors, these are still refuted above. I see nothing further to comment on. Honestly, if you weren’t addressing me openly, I wouldn’t have carried these thoughts on more than you’re own personal interest in obeying the Gospel.


  4. Jens says:

    You are certainly ignorant of the Christian theology. You believe that sin is redeemed.

    I can’t let this one go. It makes no sense. Christ is “the Redeemer”, no? Are you trying to pick nits here or do you really think what I’m saying is so off base.

    From Websters:

    Redeem def: to free from the consequences of sin
    Forgive def: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
    Absolve def: to set free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt
    2 : to remit (a sin) by absolution

    So, Jesus’ death does not free believers from the consequences of sin? Does it rather give up resentment of or claim to requital of sin? Or possibly set free from the obligation or consequence of sin? Or, remit sins?

    Unless you have a big suprise up your sleeve you are picking theological nits here and you need to re-examine your arguments. If I put “Jesus redeemer” into Google the first page is a treatise on how Jesus pays our debts to God for sinning and thus redeems our sins. ( )

    Are you arguing that sin is not redeemed, rather people are redeeemed? That’s nitpicking as well. Does it matter to my argument to what noun the verb redeem is applied? In this context it doesn’t matter.

    Please save the theological nitpicking and tortuosity for arguments in which it matters.


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