Rather than take up space on another’s comments area, I’ve brought a debate over here. I’ll post Seth’s post, and in comments, I’ll put my response.
After a discussion here, this is Seth’s reply to my comment (the italicized bits are parts of my comment):
“What awesome, thought-provoking questions! I’ll be intentionally brief, so clarifying follow-ups are welcome 🙂
If you would, tell me what was your reason to be a Christian?
In short, I became convinced by personal experience (and somewhat by academic study) that God exists and that Jesus is whom He claimed to be. I’ve posted a very short version of my story on my blog: http://weighingevidence.com/2015/01/22/my-testimony/
Could you also tell me what sect you are…?
I’m non-denominational Protestant. I believe in the Nicene Creed and the authority of Scripture. OT laws are in effect insomuch as Christ’s work on the cross did not legitimately overturn them; examples of such laws that are no longer in effect would include ritual law (like performing animal sacrifices and refraining from shellfish, Acts 10) and civil law (such as laws regulating slavery and stoning for civil offenses, Romans 13); the third section of the law (the moral law) is still in as much effect now as then. I believe in the spiritual gifts (miracles, healing, prophesy, etc.). I believe in a literal heaven and hell. Haven’t quite made up my mind on young earth vs. old earth — leaning toward the latter, since the science is convincing and seems compatible with a conservative reading of Genesis. Happy to answer any other specific questions if you would like a clearer picture 🙂
If religious experience isn’t entire conclusive when comparing one religion to another, what would you suggest using?
These kinds of questions, I think, is what got me interested in apologetics — I wanted to compare Christianity to other religions in arenas such as history, archaeology, philosophy, etc. For example, I don’t think I could be a Muslim because I think their take on who Jesus was is historically false; I reject Hinduism, in part, because I think their cosmology doesn’t line up with what we know of the origins of the universe; I don’t believe in Mormonism because nothing in their historical sacred text seems backed up by archaeology; etc. I actually was a Hindu (sort of) for awhile, when I left the church for awhile and was experimenting with other spiritualities, and there were experiential differences as well that helped further convince me that there was something special about Christianity.
How can someone say that someone else is mistaken to the cause of an experience?
This occurs even within my own religion. For instance, though our church doesn’t make a big deal out of the spiritual gift of tongues, we believe it can be a legitimate expression of God’s love. I’ve heard people admit that they would do things like speak in tongues in order to be a part of what other people are experiencing. They didn’t necessarily recognize at the time that they were doing these things on their own (psychology is tricky that way), but later on, after experiencing what it’s supposed to feel like, they were able to admit that the experience they were having wasn’t something from God, but it was something from their own desire to “fit in”.
I see that you believe that your god can touch people of other religions. How does it does this and why doesn’t it tell these people that Chrisitianity is the only right one, an idea which I would assume you believe if you believe that one can only be saved through Jesus Christ.
1) I believe He does do this, exactly. It seems that people in the Muslim world, for example, are coming to Christianity in pretty significant numbers because of visions or dreams of Jesus telling them where they can find missionaries who will tell them more about Him.
2) Believing that one can only be saved through Christ is not the same as saying one can only be saved through belief in Christ. I think there is Biblical support for the idea that God is more interested in our level of response to the revelation of Him that we have received than He is about what we say we believe on a creedal level. C. S. Lewis gave a nod to this idea in one of the Narnia books, where one of the “bad guys” ends up in Aslan’s Kingdom, much to his surprise and others’, since he technically served another deity — yes Aslan, seeing the sincerity of his heart and knowing that he had no opportunity to learn directly about Him, counted his worship for the other god as if he had done so for Aslan. John 10:16 comes to mind, but there are other passages as well.
You also claim that this god loves people, which would not be supported in the bible, from this god’s actions against those people who do not believe in it.
This statement seems to assume that sending unbelievers to hell is unloving. What makes you say this? If hell is just punishment, then it has nothing to do with love, it has to do with justice — it’s not “unloving” of society to send criminals to prison. Also, I think, in a way, hell in itself is a manifestation of God’s love for unbelievers, for He is honoring their decision not to be separate from Him. To force them to come into heaven and be with Him for eternity would be an even greater hell for such people, I think.
It is interesting that you believe in other supernatural entities. Do you believe that they are all “evil” since they are not of your god?
I believe the Biblical revelation about the existence of angels and demons, so they’re not all evil — just the ones that are trying to lead people astray and give “false” experiences and visions.
Can you do any of these things?
I am not the personal eyewitness to the sort of “mind-blowing” miracles spoken about in the New Testament, but I have seen quite a few “smaller” occurrences (some of which I had a hand in) that I would consider miraculous to convince me that such things do happen. I also know people who claim to be eyewitnesses to such things, and there’s also resources such as Keener’s book on miraculous healings that provide documented support that such things still occur.
Can you show any evidence for the essential events in the bible?
I probably don’t have much new for you in this arena — I have an interest in history, but I am no historian. I am a fan of Gary Habermas’ minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Christ, however — since, really, the only miracle that really makes-or-breaks my faith is the belief that Christ rose from the dead.
If someone claims that their god talked to them, or did a miracle, why would you not accept that it was the god they claimed, and not some other interpretation that you might put on it?
Because I have to reconcile such data that comes in with other evidences. For instance, I don’t believe in ghosts — and yet I believe that some poltergeist activity is legitimate. When someone claims to have had contact with a dead relative or something, I process that claim in light of other such experiences that, if allowed to continue, led to more demonic activity, where the “spirit guide” or whatever they thought it was would show its “true colors” at a certain point. I believe along the same lines when it comes to things like UFO sightings and alien abductions — I believe they can be legitimate experiences, but I don’t believe aliens are actually making contact with us, for the data seems to better indicate a demonic trick.
What would make someone’s philosophy “well-rounded” and “mature” to you as opposed to something that wasn’t either of those things to you?
It’s sort of a vague question, but I think I get the gist — forgive/correct me if I’m wrong. I guess the reason why I use such language is because it seems to me that most errors in forming one’s worldview come from a myopic processing of data — i.e., giving one piece of truth more weight or significance than others. It’s the root of biases, in my opinion. I’ve often said that when it comes to most people I speak with on any subject, we can generally agree on most of the facts — we just weight their significance differently. It’s like ethics, I guess — less a discussion of “what is morality?” and more about a discussion about conflicting definitions of “the good”. I feel I am in danger of rambling, and I doubt I am answering the question well 😛 I guess it comes down to weighing all the evidence, not just the evidences that sound good, or that line up with our upbringing — going out there and seeking out the whole truth, and rather than ignoring data that doesn’t fit with our worldview, finding a way to incorporate such data into it. I hope that makes sense.
Same to you! Thanks for the discussion.”
Below, I’ll put my reply and we’ll keep discussing. Comments are welcome from observers. As always, support your claims with evidence.