For more information, see: Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Richard Carrier
THE incarnation of an infinite God is a shocking absurdity, and an infinite impossibility. We ask in all solemn earnestness, and in the name of the intuitive monitions of an unshackled reason and an unbiased conscience, can, any man in his sober senses, who has been in the habit of reflecting before he believes, entertain for a moment the monstrous absurdity that the Almighty and Infinite Maker of the universe was once reduced to a little wailing infant, lying in senseless and helpless weakness on the lap of its mother, unable to walk a step, or lisp a word, or do aught but cry with pain or for nourishment stored in the mother’s breast? What! Almighty God fallen from his burnished, dazzling throne in the lofty heavens, and reduced to helpless, senseless babyhood! Omnipotence shorn of all power but to breathe, and cry, and smile! What! that Omniscient Being, who “leads one world by day, and ten thousand more by night,” becoming suddenly transformed into a human bantling, which knows no higher enjoyment than that of being “pleased with a rattle, and tickled with a straw!” Who can believe it? Ay, who dare believe it, if he would escape the charge of blasphemy? Then say not that “the man Christ Jesus,” though standing at the top of the ladder of moral manhood, and high above the common plane of humanity, was yet a God — “the Infinite Ruler of the infinite universe.” Who can believe that that Being, whose existence stretches to an eternity beyond human conception, yea, whom “the heaven of heavens cannot contain,” was ever cooped up in a human body, reduced so near to nothing in dimensions as to be susceptible (as was Jesus) of being weighed in scales, and measured with a yardstick?
We ask again, Who, from the deepest depths of his inmost, enlightened consciousness, can believe such revolting, such atheistical doctrine as this? Or who will venture to descend still lower, and conceive of an Almighty, Omnipresent Being, who fills all space above, around, and beneath, “from infinity below to yon fixed star above,” and millions upon millions of miles beyond it, sinking and dwindling to that mere mite, speck, or monad state and condition comprehended in the initiatory step of embryonic existence? And then think of the Almighty, Omnipotent Creator of the universe lying in a manger with four-footed beasts and creeping things, sleeping with oxen and asses in a stable. Next he is seen an urchin on the street playing with marbles and jack-knives, absorbed and forgetful of the world around him. Who can believe that awfully majestic Being, who is represented by his own inspired book as being so transcendently grand and awe-inspiring that “no man can see him and live” (Ex. xxxiii. 20), was not only daily seen by hundreds and thousands, but was on such familiar terms with men, that they regarded him as their companion, and equal, and even sometimes coolly reprimanded him for supposed misdemeanors and errors? Could they believe this to be Almighty God? Impossible! Impossible! And then who can believe that that infinite Being, whom we have been taught to regard as absolutely and eternally unchangeable, could become subject to hunger and thirst (as did Jesus)? Or who can believe that the eternally and unceasingly watchful Omnipotent Deity, whose eye, we are told, “never slumbers,” could sink into unconscious sleep, become “to dumb forgetfulness a prey,” night after night, for thirty years, oblivious, and unconscious of the world around him? Think of a being of incomprehensible majesty, dignity, and power, able to “shake the heavens and the earth also,” being unable to protect himself from insult, and was therefore derided and “spit upon,” and finally overcome by his enemies, as is related of Jesus. Can any man believe, who has not made shipwreck of his senses, or banished Reason from her courts, that God Almighty, who comprehends in himself the most absolute and boundless perfection of goodness and wisdom, was tempted by demons, devils, and crawling serpents? Who can believe that the Lord, who owns “the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 1. 10), and the countless host of worlds besides, that wheel their course through infinite space, had not “where to lay his head”? Who can believe that that was the all-wise, omnipotent, and omnipresent God, possessing all power in heaven above and the earth beneath, who was betrayed by weak, finite mortals? What! the Almighty Creator betrayed by a puny being of his own creation into the hands of his disobedient and rebellious children? Why could he not, if possessing “power to lay down his life, and take it up again” (John x. 17), cause that all these children of his (as we must assume they were, if he was Almighty God, and hence the Father of all) should love him, instead of hating him? Can any man believe that Jesus was possessed with omnipotent power while standing to be whipped (scourged) by Pontius Pilate, or that he possessed a power above that of finite mortals while in the act of praying, with such extreme ardor that the sweat dropped from his face, that the cup of death might pass from his lips, or while calling for an angel to support him in the hour of his mortal dissolution? or that He, “by whom all things exist,” could cease himself to exist, by dying upon the cross between malefactors? Think of this, reader! and think of the eternal Creator, the infinite Deity, the omnipotent Jehovah, the Maker of worlds as numberless as the sands upon the sea-shore for multitude, fainting, bleeding, dying, and pouring out his own blood to appease his own wrath; dying an ignominious death to satisfy an implacable revenge! Away with such insulting mockery, such blasphemous flummery! It can only find place in the dark chambers of an unenlightened mind.
Well has Watts said of Locke’s skepticism, —
“Reason could scarcely sustain to see,
Or bear the infant Deity:
A ransomed world, a bleeding God,
And heaven appeased by flowing blood,
Were themes too painful to be understood.”
Yes, and too painful to be believed, too, Mr. Watts! Here we have a “bleeding God,” an “infant Deity,” and a vengeful God, appeased by murder and streams of “flowing blood.” Gracious heavens! Whose reason does not revolt at such a picture? Whose soul does not sicken at the thought, and who would not prefer, infinitely prefer, to sink to annihilation, if not to perdition itself, to being thus saved by navigating a river of blood? Dr. South hits off some of the absurdities involved in the Christian doctrine of the incarnation so forcibly and so lucidly, that we cannot resist the temptation to subjoin here a few extracts from his sermon on the subject. “But now,” says this Christian clergyman, “was there ever any wonder comparable to this, to behold the Lord (Jesus Christ) thus clothed in flesh, the Creator of all things, humbled, not only to the company, but also to the cognation, of his creatures? It is as if one should imagine the whole world not only represented upon, but also contained in, one of our own artificial globes, or the body of the sun enveloped in a cloud as big as a man’s hand, all of which would be looked upon as astonishing impossibilities, and yet is as short of the other as the finite is of the infinite, between which the disparity is immeasurable. It is, as it were, to cancel the essential distances of things, to remove the bounds of nature, to bring heaven and earth, and what is more, both ends of the contradiction, together. Men cannot persuade themselves that a Deity and infinity should lie within so narrow a compass as the dimensions of a human body; that omnipotence, omnipresence should ever be wrapped in swaddling clothes, and debased to the homely usages of a stable and a manger; that the glorious Artificer of the whole universe, who spread out the heaven like a curtain, and laid the foundations of the earth, could ever turn carpenter, and exercise an inglorious trade in a little cell. They cannot imagine that He who once created and at present governs the world, and shall hereafter judge the world, should be abased in all his concerns and relations, be scourged, spit upon, mocked and at last crucified. All which are passages which lie extremely close to the notions of conceptions which reason has made to itself of that high and impossible perfection that resided in the divine Creator.” (Sermon, 1665.) Dr. South, it will be observed, admits that the doctrine of the divine incarnation involves many palpable absurdities and contradictions, and lies directly across the path of reason. Fatal admission to the doctrine of the deityship of Christ, but true, as his own elucidation of the subject demonstrates. To the author, since he first subjected the question to a logical scrutiny, and looked at it with an unbiased mind, it presents difficulties insurmountable, and absurdities innumerable. He can imagine. nothing more transcendently shocking, revolting, and dwarfing to the mind, both morally and intellectually, than the thought of believing that a being born of and suckled by a woman, and possessing the mere form and dimensions of a man, can be regarded as the great Almighty and Omnipotent God, the Creator of unnumbered worlds, millions of which are larger than this planet, on which Jesus was born.
And then, reader, look for a moment at some of the many childish incongruities and logical difficulties this giant absurdity drags with it. It represents Almighty God as coming into the world through the hands of a midwife, as passing through the process of gestation and parturition. It insults our reason with the idea that the great, infinite Jehovah could be molded into the human form — a thought that is shocking to the moral sense, and withering, cramping, and dwarfing to the intellectual mind, imposing upon it a heavy drag-chain which checks its expansion, and forbids its onward progress. Christians tell us that the human and the divine were united in “the man Christ Jesus.” But this is a Monstrous absurdity, which no truly rational and unbiased mind can accept for an instant — that of hitching, splicing, tying, or dovetailing together finite man with the infinite Jehovah, that of amalgamating and commingling human foibles with divine perfection. Think of wedding mortal weakness to omnipotent power, local man with the omnipresent Deity I Think of compounding the creature and the Creator in one and the same being! Think of the omnipresent “I AM,” whose illimitable existence stretches far away throughout the expansive arena of a boundless universe, occupying a dwelling within the narrow confines of the human temple! As well essay to crowd the universe into your pocket, or the Himalayas Mountains into a thimble. On the other hand, think of a small compound of flesh, blood, and bones, a few feet in dimensions, and weighing perhaps not more than one hundred and fifty pounds avoirdupois, containing that infinite, omnipresent Being, whom, we are told (we repeat the quotation), “the heaven of heavens cannot contain”! And more than all, kind reader, I ask you if you can accept for a moment, without the immolation of your common sense, and the trampling of your reason beneath you feet, the monstrous thought that that mighty and almighty Architect who created the countless myriads upon myriads of ponderous worlds, which now roll in majestic order and eternal rotation along the great cerulean causeway of heaven, that mighty Architect who, from time beyond human computation, has been rolling out orb after orb, world after world, if not myriads at a time, ten thousand times, ten thousand of which would dwindle our little pygmy, Lilliputian planet into insignificance, if compared with it in size.
I ask, and drive home the query to your inward consciousness, and the inmost temples of your sacred reason, Can you believe, after a moment’s reflection, that a Being who is too vast, infinitely too vast in power and ubiquity to be grasped by the human understanding, did become (as did the finite and humble Jesus) a helpless, senseless, unconscious, human infant; a suckling, crying, squalling babe, powerless of speech, and unable to walk? Ay, worse, more startling still, we are shocked with the thought that this mighty World-builder, this infinite, omnipotent Creator, was reduced so near to the verge of nonentity, so near to the last glimmering spark or speck of existence, and the world so near without a God, as to become an inanimate foetus — a monad in the matrix of a human virgin? Shocking the thought! Blasphemous the doctrine! Believe it who will; believe it who can! We cannot; we would not; we are infinitely beyond it. Such a belief may be deposited by educational tradition in the affections, but to enter the temple of Reason, it never did, it never can. She never unbarred her doors to admit such monstrous, such enormous incongruities. And all these logical absurdities, and a thousand more, grow legitimately out of the doctrine of the divine incarnation, — out of the postulate which would (following in the line of the pagan superstitions) elevate the finite, humble, mortal Jesus to the throne of heaven, the exclusive prerogative of Almighty God. Come away, my Christian friends, from such disparaging, such dishonorable views of the Deity, such blasphemous caricatures of Almighty God. Come away from such morally darkening and such intellectually dwarfing superstitions, the moldering relics of oriental mythology, the expiring embers of childish credulity and tradition, which originated far back in the dark cradle of human existence, in the infancy of an undeveloped age, ruled by ignorance, superstition, and priestcraft. Yet millions of people laying claim to sense and intelligence, even now profess to believe it! Talk not to me of infidelity or blasphemy for denying the divinity or Godhead of Jesus Christ. The blasphemy lies in the other direction. The infidelity is with the opposite party. It is with those who thus make the dignity and character of Deity the sport of childish baubles, the game of priestly tawdryism. And be assured, dear friends, one and all, that coming generations will mark the man who now worships “the man Christ Jesus” as being “very God” as an idolater, if not a blasphemer — for worshipping a finite man for an infinite God, even though the motives for such worship may be as pure as the pearly stream that issues forth from the golden fount which rolls and sparkles beneath the throne of Almighty God.
NOTE. The words Creator, Maker, &c., are used from a Christian standpoint. Science knows no Creator.