Apologetics for the Masses #415: I Had a Question for GotQuestions.org re: John 6:51 (cont'd)

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The Protestant website - GotQuestions.org - and John 6:51 (Part 2)


     Okay, in the last newsletter I talked about a question regarding John 6:51 that I had sent to the Protestant website, gotquestions.org.  I presented the question, included their answer to my question, and then my follow up question, and their answer to my follow up question, along with a few comments.  You can read all about that here: https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/593-apologetics-for-the-masses-414-i-had-a-question-for-gotquestions-org-re-john-6-51.

     I also gave you guys a two-part homework assignment.  I received a number of emails from folks who decided to give the assignment a shot.  The homework assignment asked: 1) What was the problem with the 2nd answer from gotquestions.org vis-a-vis their first answer? and 2) What would be the next question you asked them?

     In this issue, I'll answer the first question and then give you the next question that I asked them.  Compare those answers to what you sent me.  I'll announce the winner(s) of the Blue Collar Apologetics book or DVD series at the end of this newsletter. 


Homework Question #1

     What is the problem with his 2nd answer (by the way, it was the same person answering both times) vis-a-vis his 1st answer?


My Answer

     In his first answer to my question: "When did Jesus give His flesh for the life of the world?" "AB" says the following: "Jesus three times identifies Himself as that spiritual bread (John 6:35, 48, 51)."  He specifically refers to John 6:51 as Jesus identifying Himself as "spiritual" bread.  And, he refers to John 6:51 again when he says: "Having established His metaphor (and the fact that He is speaking of faith in Him), Jesus presses the symbolism even further: 'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.'"  According to AB, then, John 6:51 is speaking metaphorically of "spiritual" bread. 

     Yet, when I once again asked the question as to when Jesus gave His flesh for the life of the world, AB had this to say: "Yes, the passage is referring to Jesus dying on the cross and giving His body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus refers to the real role of the Messiah: to suffer and die for the people. The offering which will grant eternal life to those who believe is Jesus' body: His flesh."

     So the problem with his two answers is that he contradicts himself.  First answer - John 6:51 is referring to Jesus as "spiritual" bread and is a "metaphor".  Second answer - John 6:51 is referring to Jesus' flesh on the Cross, which I guarantee AB does not believe is a metaphor or that it was Jesus' "spiritual" flesh on the Cross. 


Homework Question #2

     Given these two answers, how would you word your next question to GotQuestions.org?  Oh, and one of the rules of GotQuestions.org is that they will not engage in debate, they exist only to answer questions.  So, you have to ask questions and ask them in such a way that you can't be accused of "debating". 


My Answer

     Here is the next question I asked.  And please note that I am not saying that my question is THE only way or the absolute best way (or any such thing) to follow up with AB question.  My question is one of the ways you could have done it and after I give you my next question I'll explain why I worded it as I did:

     "I greatly appreciate your answers to my question, but after re-reading the two answers now a couple of weeks later, it actually prompted another question, or maybe the need for a clarification. In your 1st answer, you say the bread being spoken of in John 6:51 is referring, metaphorically, to "spiritual bread" - i.e., faith in Christ. However, in your 2nd answer, you stated that the bread being referred to in John 6:51 is the flesh Jesus gave on the cross for the sins of the world - "Yes, the passage is referring to Jesus dying on the cross and giving His body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world...The offering which will grant eternal life to those who believe is Jesus' body: His flesh."

     "So, in one answer, John 6:51 is talking metaphorically, but in the other answer, John 6:51 is talking about the actual physical flesh of Christ which was given as a sacrifice on the cross. So, in John 6:51, Jesus says He's going to give us this bread to eat, and the bread that He is going to give us to eat is the flesh that He will give for the life of the world - which you said is the flesh that He gave on the cross. So, and this is where I need some clarification, if Jesus' flesh on the cross was real, which we both agree it was, then isn't John 6:51 telling us that the "bread" He wants us to eat is His real flesh that He gave on the cross?"


My Comments

     Remembering that GotQuestions.org doesn't allow for "debate," I wanted to ask the question in as non-threatening a manner as possible.  A number of you wrote in and, as good students who have paid attention to what you have learned from my talks/newsletters, said the next question you would ask is: "Was Jesus' flesh on the Cross real, or symbolic?"  I indeed asked that question, but I phrased it in a more roundabout way so as to try to avoid setting off any alarm bells at GotQuestions.org.  Didn't want them to feel "cornered," so to speak.  Is that a better way to get an answer to my question, or to plant a seed, as opposed to just going straight in with "real or symbolic"?  God alone knows.  I chose the less direct way in this instance.  Could have just as easily gone for the direct hit.  Which, given their response to this question (which is below), might have been better, but again, you just never know.  You go with what your gut tells you and pray that God uses it to accomplish His purposes.

     There were also several people who said their next question would have been to essentially ask, "If Jesus giving His flesh for the life of the world was the offering which will grant eternal life to those who believe, then how can you say that John 6:63 is talking about Jesus' flesh when it says the flesh counts for nothing?"  That is a reasonable question.  I didn't go in that direction because I wanted to stay focused on John 6:51.  In a normal conversation, or dialogue, I would probably get into John 6:63 very shortly in this conversation. 

     And, there were some of you who said you would ask questions about the Mass, about how does Jesus give us His flesh throughout time, what is the connection between the Mass and the Last Supper, about the passages in 1 Cor 10 and 1 Cor 11 regarding the Eucharist, why didn't Jesus correct the disciples misunderstanding, and so on.  All questions that are relevant to a discussion of the Eucharist.  However, in this instance it would complicate the line of argumentation you are already on.  Keep your arguments very tight, folks.  Keep them consistent.  Stay on point.  There may be a place farther down the line in the discussion where you can get into some of these other particulars, but you've caught this guy in a contradiction here.  Literal or metaphorical?  Real flesh or spiritual bread?  Stay on that point.  Don't distract yourself or give him an easy way out of the contradiction by introducing a new aspect to your arguments or questions.  No need to pile on new arguments or new questions, no matter how relevant they may be, if he is having trouble with the argument, or question, you've already asked.  

     Here is how GotQuestions responded to my question:


Answer from GotQuestions.org

     In John 6, we see Jesus explaining the feeding of the 5,000, the manna God gave the Israelites, and later He will do the same with the Passover meal by saying HE is the bread of life. From these passages we see that Jesus is using symbolism to connect things in the disciples' minds. Jesus had begun speaking in parables so His true disciples would seek and understand and the Pharisees would not because although they claimed to want to know spiritual truth, they wanted it to fit in their paradigm, not God's. Jesus uses PHYSICAL elements to show the deeper SPIRITUAL truth. 

     This contrast between physical food and spiritual food sets the stage for Jesus’ statement that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Jesus explains that it is not physical bread that the world needs, but spiritual bread. Jesus three times identifies Himself as that spiritual bread (John 6:35, 48, 51). In verse 51 particularly, we see Jesus say, " I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." In the context of this verse we see He is not talking about them actually eating His flesh like bread....it's a spiritual truth. Had He not given His flesh to be sacrificed, our sins would never be forgiven. Twice in John 6 Jesus also emphasizes faith (a spiritual action) as the key to salvation: “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” (verse 40); and “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life” (verse 47). The disciples were also chastised at a later time for LITERALLY trying to understand Jesus's words, when He was speaking to them about spiritual truths. Ironically, in this context it was also about bread.

     In Matthew 16:5-8 we read:

     "When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 'Be careful,' Jesus said to them. 'Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'  They discussed this among themselves and said, 'It is because we didn’t bring any bread.'  Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

     When Jesus said we must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (John 6:53), He spoke, as He often did, in parabolic terms. We must receive Him by faith (John 1:12). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). We understand that we need physical food and drink; Jesus wants us to understand that we also need spiritual food and drink—and that is what His sacrifice provides.


My Comments

     Again, he didn't answer my question.  Could that be because I wasn't direct enough with him?  Maybe.  Or, it could be that his theology just cannot allow him to even for a second contemplate the possible implications of my question or, rather, the implications of his contradictory answers, and so he goes on autopilot and essentially repeats what he said in his first answer about "spiritual" bread?  I.e., he avoids any idea, thought, or possibility that he could have even remotely contradicted himself. 

     The question now for me is, can I come back at him, one more time, with the same question and still get a response from him?  We'll see.  Here is the next question I have sent in:

     "Thank you so much for that last answer!  I hope you don't mind, but if I could maybe be a little bit like Abraham with the Lord when he was trying to negotiate for the folks in Sodom - I still need a little more help.  I shared your answers with some Catholic friends, and they're saying that there is a contradiction in the answers.  That your first answer states that John 6:51 was speaking metaphorically about Jesus' flesh being "spiritual" bread, but in the second answer you specifically state that John 6:51 is speaking of the flesh that Jesus gave on the cross for the sins of the world - which they assume you believe was real, not metaphorical.  So John 6:51 is metaphorical flesh in one answer, real flesh in the next answer.  Here's the question one of my Catholic friends posed to me: "In John 6:51, Jesus says the bread that He is going to give us to eat is the flesh that He will give for the life of the world.  We are all agreed that He gave His flesh for the life of the world on the cross.  So, was His flesh on the cross real or metaphorical?"  If you could help me respond to him I would greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!"

     So, we'll see what happens.  Hopefully he won't do an internet search on biblechristiansociety.com and realize that he has a much bigger audience than he thought. 

Closing Comments

     I hope all of you have a great week!  Please keep me in your prayers on Wednesday as I will be having surgery on one of my eyes to remove a cataract.  They said the actual surgery will only take about 10 minutes or so and I'll be going home the same day and driving the next day.  So, if you could pray that all of that holds true, I would appreciate it!


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Apologetics for the Masses