Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – room for another debate

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are in effect insomuch as Christ’s work on the cross did not legitimately overturn them; examples of such laws that are no longer in effect would include ritual law (like performing animal sacrifices and refraining from shellfish, Acts 10) and civil law (such as laws regulating slavery and stoning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.

Two things:
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.

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17 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – room for another debate

  1. Nice that you took the time to reply to Arkh. The debate about original sin is interesting. I do find your “origin story” to be a little odd since at one point you say that you came to think that your questions did have reasonable answers, and then you claim that you didn’t come to Christianity through a reasoned process and that you didn’t know the term apologetics, despite having supposedly been a person who went to church in order to disprove their claims. My innate skepticism also always makes me wonder when someone claims a dramatic childhood when they claim to have come to Jesus. It also makes me wonder why this Jesus doesn’t intervene earlier than it supposedly does.

    I also wonder what your answer would be to me, someone who was losing her faith, praying, reading her bible and this god doing nothing to stop the process, and to those who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps with no need for any god at all, and to people who do put their trust in Jesus and who end up dead by their own hand. I have “dared” this god and I have got nothing. It seems that your recipe for conversion doesn’t work just like every other recipe I’ve been told.
    From what I have read, it seems you found people you like and decided that since you liked them, they were right. That happens all of the time, and is why people join religions/cults.

    There are a lot of folks who call themselves non-denominational Protestants (I have a particularly odd one as the mother of my sister-in-law). My church became that when they got kicked out of the Presbytery (long story). What I have noted in my interaction with them is that they have come up with their own version of Christianity, or at least different enough than the denominations to have split with them. The Nicene Creed was a couple of centuries after any supposed messiah, and there were a lot of other Christianities during that time. Even Paul was complaining about those other teachers and cursing them. The creed changed as time went by (the Wikipedia entry on it is very fascinating), adding the virgin mother part, which seems to accept a mistranslation of the OT as the truth. It is pretty much what I define a Christian as, though some Christians seem to differ from this in various ways. Are you sola scriptura?

    I find that there is nothing in the NT that says that certain parts of the god given laws were over turned. I’m curious what parts you think do this (I find that fulfill is more likely to mean interpret correct rather than revoke). I do see that Peter in Acts 10 says that he now believes that this god has changed its mind and doesn’t require dietary laws. Why would a constant god change its mind here? I find it more believable that it was much easier to declare God has changed its mind and now people don’t have to follow the restrictive god-given laws of the Jews to get new converts. If dietary laws were so important that Jesus said that the laws of his father are to be followed, and those who follow them will be the greatest in heaven, it seems fishy that suddenly they change. I also think that Romans 13 is another change of God’s mind done by belivers because it’s very helpful to say that the current government that is in power is in power by the will of your god. Then it keeps the rebellion to a minimum. Unfortunately, such a broad claim as Romans 13 makes for uncomfortable believers when this claim can be applied to any ruler, even the ones that they don’t like.

    I saw one of the most odd things I’ve seen a religious leader say in the paper today. Rabbi Gellman of the God Squad was perhaps unintentionally honest when he said “All religions alter supposedly unalterable laws to help people more easily find God in their lives.” That certainly seems to be the opposite I was taught.
    In the OT, there is no distinction between ritual, civil and moral law. When a Christian picks and chooses, trying to separate them into categories, it always appears that they are cherry picking. For example, we have Christians who think that homosexuals should be killed. They cite the OT as their evidence, as does the bible, when Paul goes through his diatribe about who deserves to die. But they merrily ignore all of the other laws that this god says to obey. In the OT laws, it’s as bad to have sex with a partner of the same sex as it is to plant a field with two kinds of seed as it is to lie (Leviticus 18-20). It is as important to not wear fabric of two fibers as it is to love you neighbor as youself. In Exodus, murder is just as unlawful as is ascending the altar on steps because people might see your genitals.

    If there are spiritual gifts, that your savior said anyone who was baptized and believed in him would receive, why can no self-professed Christian do anything like those things? I know quite a few VA and children’s hospitals who could use them. I have had Christians say that the healing is only for “spiritual” illness but that’s not what the bible says. You say that you believe in a literal heaven and hell. Do you also believe that only 144,000 will get into heaven? What do you think of a hell of eternal torture for those who have committed finite “sins”? Do you think I deserve to be tortured for eternity for saying that this god doesn’t exist and if it did, I will would not worship it?

    If you find scientific evidence is convincing for an old earth, why do you ignore that there is scientific evidence against the other essential claims of your bible, the noah flood and the resurrection as examples? As I have noted before, it seems that Christians pick and choose when to favor science and when to decry it, entirely dependent on if they think it supports their myths or not. It seems that you are arguing, as paidiske has, that other Christians are not reading the bible “correctly” and that you are. If you disagree with them, and have evidence, and I disagree with you, and have evidence, why should someone accept your version of Christianity?

    The Islamic take on Jesus is that he was another prophet, he did miracles, was born of a virgin. The only thing it differs on is that it only appeared that JC was cruxified and he was taken up to heaven bodily like other prophets. Jesus does evidently die at some point and is raised again, per sura 19. It does disagree that Jesus is part of the trinity, and the bible itself has some question on that (the Johanine comma, for example and early versions of Christianity). In that there is no historical evidence for Jesus, either version, I find a claim that one or the other is historically false to be misleading. They both have no evidence for their claims.

    Hinduism has a couple of different creation stories, one is an egg that was the beginning of everything. Could these not be as “metaphoric” as the Christian one which also does not line up with what we know of the origins of the universe? I agree, nothing in Mormonism lines up with archaeology, etc and you have the same problem with Christianity, none of the essential events of the bible have any evidence to support them. A common Christian response is that the bible mentions some real people and places, but so do the Roman/Greek mythologies, the Egyptian mythologies, and for that matter, the Spiderman comic books. What were these experiential differences you mention that convinced you that there was something “special” about Christianity? I would wager that the same things have been claimed by other theists.

    I agree, there are plenty of times that Christians will claim things to support their religion and those things are not true, like speaking in tongues. Since we have no evidence that there is a god or a spirit that does anything, and evidence it is psychology or intentional deception, there is little reason to believe that any instance of speaking in tongues, etc is divine, just like I have no reason to believe that a voudoun is being ridden by one of the loa. This is why I do not believe such claims. None of you can say that anyone else is wrong or right because no one can say what it is “supposed” to feel like. We have no idea if the people who claim to know this still aren’t lying or being again deceived by their own psychology or physics for that matter (see the effects of magnetic on the brain.)
    You claim that people in the Muslim world are becoming Christian in “pretty significant numbers.” I have not seen this at all, nor that they are being contacted magically. Your source?

    Believing and saying one can only be saved through Jesus Christ is the same thing. Saying it is just putting into words what Christians apparently believe (I did as a Christian). John 3 is pretty direct. I know that some Christians are universalists and want to believe that anyone can get into their god’s good graces, but that doesn’t seem very well supported. If I take care of my fellow man, but say that this god is nonsense and the holy spirit is a silly belief, then I’m pretty much damned per the bible. That, of course, also ignores that this bible also says that some people will never believe, so this god already knows our “level of response” to it since it supposedly made us the way we are. John 10:16 is a good one to use as a possibility of universality, but again, the context has it depends on those “sheep” accepting the shepherd, not just being decent human beings. You can’t enter this “kingdom” except through the “gate”, Jesus. Nothing else matters, just like in John 3. I’m guessing you mean Emeth in the Narnia books. I read those an age ago and even then, I thought it was a little presumptuous of Aslan to declare that he’s the font of all good, no matter who does it. There is no reason for a believer of another faith couldn’t say with as much validity “Hey, it was my god that you were *really” worshipping, since all good comes from him.” How would we figure which theist was the right one, if either? Would you accept this claim from another theist who wasn’t a Christian? I certainly have no interest in accepting this claim as the reason why I do good from any religion. I find that this kind of claim from a theist is a greedy attempt to claim everyone good as “really” on their team.

    Yes, I do think that torturing people for eternity for choosing not to worship you, or being unable per JC when he says why he uses parables, and in Romans 9 where God says he uses some people to be damned, is unloving. It reminds me of an abusive parent who uses threats to get love. Let me ask you this: would you accept such an action from a human as loving? If not, then your argument becomes might equals right. You seem to be assuming a hell that is just “separation” from this god, which is impossible if this god is omnipresent as the bible claims. If the bible is wrong, then? The hell your bible describes is fire and pain, eternal thirst and worms. I would find the heaven as described in the bible as ridiculous, limited to 144,000 Jewish virgins. Constant praising of a being? Why would it need such a thing? I have also been told by Christians that your god needs evil so we know what good is. Then is there evil in heaven or the kingdom of heaven on earth(where people will really go if we are to believe Revelation) so we know what it is?

    You answered my question concerning your belief about supernatural entities with angels and demons. What of other gods? Your god says that there other gods (Exodus 20). If they say that they are the true gods, are they lying or are they telling the truth? If they say that your god is false, who are we to believe? For instance, you say your god reached out and touched you. How do you know it’s the “right” one? Because you liked what it “said”?

    Just like me, it seems that you have not seen any Christian do a miracle like Jesus promised you could. Even you can’t do those miracles though you claim your god touched you and you are a Christian. What were these other “smaller occurrences”? Could these have been from any other cause? It seems to me that this god has been reduced to coincidence and parlor tricks, from having been supposedly able to kill thousands and heal the blind.

    There is no evidence to support any of Keener’s claims. I’ve read his book and his documentation consists of anecdotes. No medical records, no actual investigation. One of my favorite of Keener’s attempt to dodge the problems he has with no evidence is that we should not expect this god to equally heal diseases and injuries. This god can do all sorts of healing of things that no one can see, but it sure does have a lot of problems with healing amputations, which never can be shown to occur.(I know he mentions some but again, no evidence presented.) Studies about prayer repeatedly have shown that prayer is ineffective for anything but making someone “feel” better. I have also been told by other Christians that miracles don’t occur and how dare I expect one. Again, who should I believe?

    It does not surprise me that you have nothing new for evidence for the essential events in the bible. I find Habermas less than convincing, as I do Craig. To claim that there was an “empty tomb” requires a tomb. Where is the tomb? Christians can’t agree on this, ostensibly the most important physical location on earth for their religion.

    We cannot show that Jesus Christ existed, much less was crucified (there might have been some rabbi that legends coalesced around but I find even that unlikely and unneeded.). Habermas says that Jesus appeared to various people. The bible books claim this, no other source does. There is also the claim that Jesus did so much after he came back to life that not all of the books in the world could contain those acts (John 21). Surely someone else would have noticed, correct? Other religions claim visions of their particular god, are they wrong? Were they fooled by another entity? How can you support that? Habermas says that since people died for their beliefs, then Jesus has to have existed. If this were the case, then the deaths of the followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult are evidence that there really were aliens behind the comet. The deaths of the believers in David Koresh is evidence that he really was the messiah and every suicide bomber shows that Allah is god and Mohammed is his servant. Habermas says that since the stories have that people suddenly converted, this means that Jesus exists. No evidence that these stories are true and aren’t convenient propaganda. Even if they were true, a sudden conversion is still not evidence only one god.

    You say that you consider the claims of spirit guides and aliens in the light of other things you believe, which seems to be demons. Evidence for these demons? Every time I have had a Christian claim that such things exist, they cannot provide any evidence at all. Perhaps you can? You mention “data”. What data indicates that alien abductions aren’t aliens but “demons”, rather than false claims or delusions? What data says that the spirit guides of another type of theist are “demons” rather than what the theist believes in? Again, how can you show me you are right and they are wrong?

    Considering that it was you who claimed that your philosophy was “well-rounded” and “mature”as opposed to others, it strikes me as amusing that you find the question I have posed using your words “vague”. “I think a well-rounded, mature philosophy is one that may not take such experiences at face value, but at least take them seriously enough to look at them closely and, if rejecting them, have good, applicable reasons for doing so.”

    I find that if there are facts to be had, it isn’t hard o give them equal weight. What I do find is that theists wish their unsupported claims to be considered facts and to be given equal weight when there is little reason to do so. That is what I get from your use of the word “myopic”, that you think I should consider your claims possible or probable, but I have no reason to do so. I have no more reason to believe your claims than I do of another theist. I find that getting the data and following where it goes, rather than either ignoring it or forcing it into an established worldview, is the way to go. Rather than starting with an a priori assumption “There must be my god and everything must be in line with that.”, I would start with “Why is this?”

    • Whew! Chipping away at this, almost done — I’m trying to find a way to break up my response into categories so I can comment in bite-size chunks.

      I’m curious, though, from a discussion standpoint, whether this format is a sustainable one for me. As much as I love detailed discussion, and as I have every intention to touch upon at least most of your points, I can’t help but feel a little bombarded by this style of debate — one that covers such a wide array of topics and looks to have no clearly-defined endgame. I want to share my thoughts to your objections, but if this back-and-forth continues in this manner I’m afraid my schedule simply won’t allow me to keep up. Some of these issues I will probably mark down as good topics for my blog, and will have to answer them down the road in a more universal and thorough format.

      So, I think I’ll post the responses I have, and continue working on the other stuff I’m not quite satisfied yet. Just so you know I’m not trying to give you the dodge or wimping out 😉

      And thanks again for the discussion!

      • Very good idea to break things up. I find that the end game is pretty obvious and simple, support your claims. If you’d like to narrow things down to a single point or two or whatever, that’s fine. I also have less time than I had to write, having gotten a new full-time job.

        I do find that it is hard to keep talks on these topics narrowed down since religion is dependent on so many things and one feeds off another. But I am game to try if you’d like to focus on a topic. I shall address your posts, but again, I am aware that things can get long, so tell me what you wish to do from here.

      • thanks. Finally back into full time and benefits. Alas, the job won’t be much of a challenge. I need to find a new hobby or just sit my butt down and do the fiction writing that I enjoy.

      • I think I can empathize with the position. I’m thinking of going back to school, pursuing a different career. Here’s hoping you find fulfillment, stability, and inspiration 🙂

  2. I could not help but notice this persons answers were riddled with the words think, and believe.

    A bit like an Ancient Aliens episode.

    The only “know” I saw was used in the context of knowing someone.

      • Thoughts and beliefs are fine and dandy. When the conversation turns to things a little more reality based I’d be more inclined to participate.

        Let me know when the things you know, become things we can all agree actually exist. Till then we might as well be discussing Bigfoot. Or unicorns.

        I think, and I believe, are words necessary to an investigation. The results of an investigation are the things we know. You clearly have more work to do. Which is ok. Thats what outspoken atheists are good at. Helping people overcome beliefs with facts.

        Some people will get it, some maintain forever that wide eyed five year old mentality, where they want to believe any bullshit story they hear. Look for the facts. They will speak for themselves. Take your time.

  3. PERSONAL ISSUES

    I do find your “origin story” to be a little odd since at one point you say that you came to think that your questions did have reasonable answers, and then you claim that you didn’t come to Christianity through a reasoned process and that you didn’t know the term apologetics, despite having supposedly been a person who went to church in order to disprove their claims.

    I probably didn’t explain it well — I think whenever someone dramatically changes their beliefs, there are a lot of moving parts, and it can get kind of complicated. The way I think of it, I was asking questions trying to get to the root of Christianity so that I could find its fatal flaw and thus feel justified in walking away forever. Some of my questions received what I would consider good, thorough, rational answers — though most did not. They were reasonable answers, and they were self-consistent within the premise system of Christianity — but they weren’t really convincing or air-tight to someone who didn’t believe. However, since I was looking for that “Gotcha!” moment, I couldn’t settle for something that might have been true, I was looking for something that was definitely false or inconsistent.

    That’s what was happening in the rational realm, but in the relational/emotional realm, I believe that God was softening my heart. The questioning process kept me interested, kept me coming to church — and while I was there, God was working on me, until one day I realized that though my objections were not altogether gone, I had seen enough to become convinced that God existed. The decision to keep going to church was an intellectual decision — the decision to follow Christ was of a different kind altogether. Hopefully this clears things up 🙂

    I think this also somewhat answers your question about the timing of Jesus’ intervention — I think it took a long time for me because I had a lot of roadblocks up against believing in Him that needed to be knocked down. There was never a huge “come to Jesus” moment for me, it was more of a slow attrition of my biases and defense mechanisms, and this sort of work takes time regardless of who is doing it.

    I have “dared” this god and I have got nothing. It seems that your recipe for conversion doesn’t work just like every other recipe I’ve been told.

    This is no surprise to me, because everyone is different. If I were there when you were struggling with your faith, I really don’t know what I would have said — the Holy Spirit usually helps in situations like that. I am utterly useless as a sole agent to bring people to Christ, which is why I don’t believe apologetics are a good way to “get somebody saved”. However, looking at my own story, the whole reason I continued to stick around so that God could work on me was because someone was taking the time to engage with me and answer my objections — so if there are people like me out there whose walls are keeping them from faith, I am happy to engage with them intellectually and hope that God can work on them on His end. I don’t expect to convince anyone with rational answers alone, since that didn’t work for me — but I enjoy discussion, and getting to know people.

    From what I have read, it seems you found people you like and decided that since you liked them, they were right. That happens all of the time, and is why people join religions/cults.

    There might be an element of that in it, but I’m not so sure — I liked them alright, but what really got my attention was their stories, how God moved in their lives, not so much their personalities and my desire to be friends with them. I’m a pretty extreme introvert, and I was happy with my friends at the time, and the thought that I stuck with Christianity because I liked Christians doesn’t really seem to fit with my temperament.

    Are you sola scriptura?

    Yes, if I understand what you mean. Interesting article about the Nicene Creed — though, it appears it changed once at the second council, rather than “over time”, which connotes a gradual attrition.

    What were these experiential differences you mention that convinced you that there was something “special” about Christianity? I would wager that the same things have been claimed by other theists.

    Probably. I’m only answerable, however, for my own experiences.

    I have troube describing it, but when I left the Christian church to pursue Eastern mysticism (fully convinced that I could still follow God without Christ), the whole experience (forgive the vagueness of the language) was just empty. Whenever I go to another Christian church, I can meet God even if the worship band sucks, or the music isn’t my style, or even if the preaching turns out to be heretical — but here, it’s like God wasn’t even in the room. What I took from that is that Christ, as He said, is central to a relationship with God. I’m being intentionally brief, but that in a nutshell is the most striking experience of mine that answers this question.

    What were these other “smaller occurrences”? Could these have been from any other cause?

    The most convincing miracle for me was the healing of my emotional wounds — and if there was another cause, I’m at a loss to speculate. I had been trying to “fix myself” for years and years — if this ability was lying dormant in my brain and needed religion to “unlock” it, then it’s beyond my understanding of psychology. The short amount of time it took was also striking — if it had been a gradual change, then I would be more likely I think to attribute it to the natural passing of time, or becoming more mature.

    But, really, I don’t need to see miracles with my own eyes to maintain my belief — there’s evidence that such things occur, regardless of whether I’ve witnessed them or not. I don’t need to have met Abraham Lincoln personally in order to believe that he existed.

    • It’s interesting that you mention god “softening” your heart. This would track with this god hardening others’ hearts and would also destroy any concept of free will in religion. It also seems that you were looking for a reason to accept the religion of people you liked, for if you relied solely on feelings, then there is no way to say that your faith is rational. Answers that are “self-consistent” doesn’t hold much water if they are not consistent with reality. I can point to many definitely false claims in the bible. For instance, did you consider that the flood has no evidence for it, and thus the bible is wrong? Or did you tell yourself that the part about the flood was only “metaphor” to allow the lack of evidence to not matter? Same with the creation story, the murderous god in the bible, etc.

      If a being is omnipotent, then “roadblocks” should pose no more problem to it than a doorway covered with tissue paper would cause a problem for me.

      It should surprise you that I have got no answer from your god since your god is supposedly unalterable and omnipotent. One would think it would have a certain modus operandi and it certainly would have the power to do anything it wants. You claim that the holy spirit would help you tell me what was wrong back then. Why can’t it “help” you know and tell me the answer now? I have asked this question to Christians (and Muslims) who have made similar claims of what the formula is to find Jesus. They suddenly deny being able to tell anyone about how to become a Christian when what they presented hasn’t worked. I’ve been debating with Christians and other theists for a little over 20 years now, so again, a claim that interacting with Christians will make one a Christian seems to be a little hard to believe. If this doesn’t work, and if your god doesn’t do anything, it seems like we are left with three choices, this god has intentionally hardened my heart and is leaving it that way, this god doesn’t exist, or this god is on my side.

      I have a question: so if people told you stories about how Krishna moved in their lives, would you have accepted Hinduism? I am guessing you grew up in/are still living in a majority Christian country. If someone tells a story about how they were rewarded for believing in something, I can see that it is very tempting to want that for yourself and want to believe that they were telling the truth. It’s a very potent thing, to believe that you know secrets to the universe, and that you have a omnipotent being that will take care of you.

      If you are sola scriptura, then what allows you to determine what the bible means? For example, Christians all differ in what they claims is literal and what is metaphor in the bible. Many of them are sola scriptura. The Nicene Creed was officially changed at one date. We have no real idea when it changed materially or why. We do know that early Christianity was not just one set of beliefs. It was quite political.

      There are plenty of people who follow the bible god without Christ. They can’t agree on how to do it either. What were you expecting in “eastern mysticism” and what is EM to you? Most EM certainly doesn’t have the group of people cheering you along. Many EM religions and practices require individual striving for enlightenment and effort. Christianity doesn’t. It has a character that says that it’s the only way to get to this god and all you have to do is believe. Do you believe that your god only is accessible in church? When I was a Christian, I was sure that it wasn’t.

      It doesn’t surprise me that you have presented an entirely subjective occurrence as evidence for your god. You can fix yourself if you think someone else is there to support you, as you have said your congregation was. I fixed myself by knowing that the man who became my husband was there for me. No god needed. You would not recognize me if you had only seen me before I had met him. I am a bit confused, you claim that your coming to Jesus was slow and that now you claim that the healing was so fast.

      Again, I ask you what evidence is there that “such thing occur”? You have presented one subjective experience, one close enough to mine to know that it could have been other than divine intervention. Do you believe that the gods of Hinduism also cause miracles? That Wicca can do spells? We have plenty of evidence for Abraham Lincoln, we have photographs, contemporary accounts(favorable and hostile), locks of his hair, stains of his blood and brain matter on the dress of the woman who cradled his head as he died, his own writings, etc. Since we have none of that for the essential events of the bible, trying to compare them does not work.

  4. OLD TESTAMENT LAW

    I find that there is nothing in the NT that says that certain parts of the god given laws were over turned…. Why would a constant god change its mind here?

    I don’t think God changed His mind (though there are examples of when this did happen, with Moses). Such instances must be understood in light of what Christ did on the cross. As an illustration: Say you have a huge amount of debt, college loans or something. It’s a rule that so long as you have debt, you must pay interest. Then, someone comes along and pays your entire debt for you, so that you no longer have to pay interest. Did the rule change? No, not really — people who have debts still have to pay interest. However, the rule no longer applies to you, because your debt has been paid.

    This is why I somewhat agree with you that the OT laws haven’t really been overturned or changed — I think they’ve been recontextualized in light of Christ’s finished work on the Cross. For instance, there’s a bunch of laws detailing the importance of animal sacrifices for sin in the OT — but if Christ is our ultimate Passover Lamb, who gave up His life once and for all for all sin, then animal sacrifices become entirely inappropriate. Did the law change? Not really — blood sacrifice must still be given in remission of sin. However, does it apply to us in this new age? No, because Jesus’ blood is sufficient, and we no longer need animals.

    In the OT, there is no distinction between ritual, civil and moral law. When a Christian picks and chooses, trying to separate them into categories, it always appears that they are cherry picking.

    I see what you mean — there’s no part of the OT Law that says, “Now we will discuss the ritual laws.” The distinction comes afterwards, again in light of Christ’s work on the Cross. It’s abundantly clear, for instance, that animal sacrifices are no longer necessary, simply from an understanding of the purpose of such sacrifices and the finality of Christ’s sacrifice — so the question must be asked, “How does Christ’s sacrifice affect the other laws?” This requires a thorough understanding of what each law was meant to signify, and a comparison to Christ’s saving work. I don’t think it’s cherry-picking, because one must have valid reasons as to why Christ’s sacrifice rendered each particular law null and void — it’s not a matter of which ones “feel bad.” In a way, Christ’s new commandments are harder to follow than the old ones: For example, under the old law, all I had to do was keep from sleeping with another woman to avoid the adultery charge — now, if I even leer after another woman, it’s as if I had already slept with her. There are times when I wish I were an OT Jew — I would have made a great legalist 🙂

    • If your god said that following the laws would be how one is to be his chosen, and an unknown time later said, that one had to believe that he came to earth as a human and needed to have himself tortured to death to save everyone from the original sin that he decreed, this would certainly be considered changing his mind. The very concrete evidence of this fact is we still have Jews, who are quite certain that Jesus is not the messiah and he didn’t fulfill the law or the prophecies.
      God does change its mind in the bible, so when the bible says that this god is unchangeable, should we believe it? (Numbers 23, Malachi 3, James 1) Indeed, how does an omniscient being change its mind?
      Jesus did not say that the laws do not have to be followed. He said that they should be followed and that those who follow them get the best seats in heaven. Christians differ on what they think JC’s sacrifice to himself did. Did it just get rid of original sin and you still have to walk the straight and narrow? Does his sacrifice mean you can do whatever you want, once saved always saved?

      Jesus uses the law itself to call the Pharisees hypocrites when they do not kill children who dishonor their parents as long as the children give what should have been given to help their parents to the temple (Mark 7, Matt 15). He indicates that if they do not follow it, then they are not doing what this god said to do. We have throughout the NT the advocating of the same laws that enable slavery in the OT, that slaves should only obey. Jesus said that one must still keep the Sabbath but circumcisions and healing can be done then.

      There are a bunch of laws that about animal sacrifice. As I understand it, the reason that the Jews don’t do it any more is because there is no temple and that it would be resume as soon as the temple is rebuilt. It also underlines that JC isn’t the messiah prophesied about. JC didn’t give his life once and for all. He resurrected three days later. If it was only blood to be sacrificed, that is one thing. If it is a life, that is another.

      If the commandments are to be followed, and there is nothing saying that the first ten are anything special, then they can all be ignored or they should all be followed. It is not “abundantly clear” that sacrifice is not needed, it is what Christianity has claimed is the new truth. This is also what Christians do when they claim that they and they alone “thoroughly understand” the bible, and its relationships between its passages. Again, we have Christians picking and choosing what laws they want to follow/force on everyone and the ones they wish to ignore. Each Christian claims to have “valid reasons” and each has no more evidence than the next. It is this constant disagreement that indicates that there is no reason to believe that any Christian (or other theist for that matter) has any truth at all.

      As soon as any of you can do the miracles promised, and you have evidence for your version, I’d be pleased to consider it, but as it stands, all I see are people who make Christianity into an image of themselves.

      You might now be worried about the threat of punishment in some possible hell for looking at a woman, but back in the day, you would be murdered which is a lot more immediate threat. To get back to my point here: which OT laws does one follow? Should we honor our fathers and mothers? And if someone doesn’t, can we kill them? Jesus Christ said you could (Mark 7 and Matt 15). Should one not engage in work on the Sabbath (whenever it is)? And should one murder those who do? This isn’t about ritual or sacrifice. Do you follow the laws and commands of this god or not? I can understand why you would not; you’d end up in prison. But if one is truly a believer, I wouldn’t think that would be a problem. Surely any sacrifice is worth obeying this god and gaining heaven or at least the kingdom of heaven on earth.

  5. POINTS OF DOCTRINE

    If there are spiritual gifts, that your savior said anyone who was baptized and believed in him would receive, why can no self-professed Christian do anything like those things?

    I don’t think Jesus made such a promise, at least not unconditionally. In fact, the account at the opening of Acts 19 shows that someone can be saved without being baptized by the Holy Spirit at all. Also, if your indictment is valid against Christians, then the same should be said of Christ, who in Matthew 13:58 did not do many signs because of the people’s attitude — so it seems that there’s more to the situation than just one’s “ability” to perform signs. Signs seem to be way more rare in the West than in other parts of the world — maybe it’s because of our prevailing cultural attitude.

    You say that you believe in a literal heaven and hell. Do you also believe that only 144,000 will get into heaven?

    No, I’ll leave that to the Jehovah’s Witnesses 😉

    What do you think of a hell of eternal torture for those who have committed finite “sins”? Do you think I deserve to be tortured for eternity for saying that this god doesn’t exist and if it did, I will would not worship it?

    Frankly, no, I don’t — but I’m not the judge, and like most other people I tend to minimize the seriousness of sin and fail to have a grasp on perfect justice. If God exists as I believe Him to, then He is just, and we need not worry about the punishment exceeding the crime; if I’m wrong and He doesn’t, then it’s a moot point anyway 🙂

    And might I point out that even in earthly justice, the length of the sentence has nothing to do with the length of the crime — it’s the seriousness of the crime that matters. Murder may take only an instant, but we lock up murderers for life and even kill them in some jurisdictions.

    Then is there evil in heaven or the kingdom of heaven on earth(where people will really go if we are to believe Revelation) so we know what it is?

    I’m not sure what to make of this whole paragraph, really — you seem to be comparing what the Bible says about heaven and hell against the possibility that the Bible is false to begin with. There’s no point, really, to approaching the issue in this manner — if the Bible is false, then heaven and hell probably don’t exist, so there’s nothing to talk about. If one is going to discuss points of Christian doctrine, it must be done within the context of the Christian worldview — it doesn’t go to mix in naturalistic doubts when entertaining possibilities are are entirely dependent on a supernatural worldview.

    To answer this question above, no, I don’t believe there will be evil in heaven, because evil is not a “thing” — it is an absence. Just as shadow is an absence of light — it doesn’t have any substance in itself, and only “exists” where there is no light. In Heaven, God’s presence will be perfectly manifest everywhere — so there’s no “room” for evil, because there’s no absence or lack of Him.

    What of other gods?

    Well, depends on how you define “gods”. The Bible is clear that there is one true God — there’s only one omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Creator. If there are other gods, then they were created by Him for His purposes, and I don’t know anything about that. They certainly wouldn’t deny God’s existence, unless they were fallen (1 John 4).

    • Jesus did make the promise that anyone who believed in him and was baptized would be able to do the miracles like he did and more. There were no conditions on it: “16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

      The story in Acts 19 is interesting but it does not answer what I asked. I did not ask how someone is saved, I asked if someone has been baptized and who believes in Jesus can do the miracles as promised. The story in Acts 19 says that one can be baptized for repentence and then baptized in JC’s name which is the real “saved” one and the HS does get involved.

      There is quite a difference between doing a few miracles and being able to do none at all. I have always chuckled at that story from Matthew 13, because it’s the classic excuse of any charlatan. You can’t fool the people you supposedly grew up with so easily. That is maybe the one line that makes me think that there could have been some nugget of fact to the whole Jesus story, a man who wandered around and claimed great miracles, but at home couldn’t pull the charade off. I’ve known Wicca who make the same excuses, all claims of being able to affect reality but when put on the spot, it’s the disbeliever’s fault that they can’t make a light flicker.

      It’s well and good that you will leave it to the JW’s but the bible says that word for word. Do you think the bible is wrong in this claim it makes in Revelations?

      I always find it interesting when a Christian tries to excuse their acceptance in a belief of a hell of eternal torture by saying essentially that “It’s not my fault, I’m just following orders.” If you don’t think I deserve it, and if humans understand good and evil as well as this god (Genesis 3), then why do I deserve it? Why don’t the morals we expect humans to have apply to your god? If there were perfect justice, then the punishment would fit the crime, yes? Then we would have a finite punishment for a finite crime. According to your myths, we do not. There is no reason to think it “perfect” at all. Especially since your god changes its mind. It is not a moot point, it is a point where you can decide if you are for a god that requires an infinite punishment for a finite sin, that punishes people for the crimes of others, or if you find this unfair and unjust.

      To try to compare what we humans do with what this god supposedly does runs into problems. Humans aren’ t supposed omnipotent, omniscient beings. I will agree with you, the seriousness of the crime is part of the punishment. Your god has the exact same punishment for eating shrimp as it does for building an idol. Unless you’d like to believe in a Dantean version of hell (one of my favorites) which is not biblical either.

      I am comparing what the bible says about heaven and hell with the claims of some Christians that evil is necessary to know what good is. Is it? Then heaven must have evil in it. If it does not, then some Christians are wrong The point of this is to show that Christians cannot agree on what is their “truth” which does indeed show that there is no reason to believe that the bible is true. There is no universal Christian “worldview”.

      If evil is not a thing, then what is Satan? How is “good” a thing if “evil” is not? One can define good the same way as you defined evil – an absence of “something” . The bible claims that God is omnipotent and omnipresent. If this is so, then there is no absence or lack of this god anywhere, so by your definition, everywhere is heaven. IF this world is not a perfect manifestation of this god’s will, why not? Omniscient, it knows who will accept it/who it created to accept it. We could go straight to heaven/kingdom of heaven on earth, without this other nonsense. It seems your definition relies on the circular one “God is Good is God is Good….”. There is no evidence of this either. You may make an argument might equals right, but I don’t think much of a morality derived from that.

      The bible claims that there is one true god. There is no evidence of this. I define god as the various religions do, and many of them make the same claims as Christianity. Polytheistic ones spread the power around. Pantheistic ones make an vague entity. Still no evidence for any of them. In the bible, this god is speaking to other gods, who are equals to him (Genesis 3), jealous of other gods (odd for a supposedly omnipotent singular one), etc. 1 John 4 is a bit of a strange chapter. It seems like Paul has no idea about the demons that JC cast out in where the demons did indeed acknowledge him. Does this mean that the demons were from this god of yours? For the rest of it, any religion will make this claim that any religion that they don’t agree with is somehow evil and demonic. They must since the “other” is evidence that they may not have the truth they claim.

  6. EVIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANITY

    As I have noted before, it seems that Christians pick and choose when to favor science and when to decry it, entirely dependent on if they think it supports their myths or not.

    I may be guilty of this, I admit — I have always been more drawn to philosophy than science, and I remain ignorant of many nuances of the various fields of modern scientific study. I continually try to keep learning, though, and though I don’t know much about what scientific evidence we could expect from Noah’s flood, I’m having trouble imagining what scientific evidence you are referencing that would disprove the resurrection of Christ.

    If you disagree with them, and have evidence, and I disagree with you, and have evidence, why should someone accept your version of Christianity?

    Who says they should? I think I have a valid case for interpreting the Scriptures the way I do, and I’m happy to “duke it out” with anyone who disagrees and is willing to discuss such things 🙂 That’s what people do when they disagree, they debate it out — I refuse to throw in the towel simply because other people think they have good reasons for believing contrary to myself. Obviously, one of us is wrong, and is either misinterpreting evidence or disregarding evidence. Or both. Or we’re both doing that to some degree (probably). I’m not going to wait for everyone to agree before I take a positive stance on what I believe to be true, and I believe that in any disagreement there is a “better” position.

    In that there is no historical evidence for Jesus…

    You lost me here. Frankly, when it comes to historical evidence, I’m more apt to trust the experts; if Bart Ehrman believes that Jesus truly existed, that’s good enough for me.

    You claim that people in the Muslim world are becoming Christian in “pretty significant numbers.” I have not seen this at all, nor that they are being contacted magically. Your source?

    Here’s an article I found from a brief Google search. It mentions visions and dreams as a significant part of conversion in the Muslim world. http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/onlinediscipleship/understandingislam/visions.aspx

    How would we figure which theist was the right one, if either? Would you accept this claim from another theist who wasn’t a Christian?

    I guess we’ll have to wait until the end of the world to see for sure 😉

    To claim that there was an “empty tomb” requires a tomb. Where is the tomb?

    I want to do a blog post dedicated to this someday. But for now, the point of historicity is that there was consensus among contemporaries as to its existence and location, and that no recorded effort was made to discount the Gospel claims by simply going to the tomb and pointing to Jesus’ body. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know where it is now.

    The bible books claim this, no other source does.

    Because the books that had the authority to make this claim all were canonized into the Bible. If there were another source with the credentials to make this claim, it would probably be in the Bible too 😉

    Other religions claim visions of their particular god, are they wrong? Were they fooled by another entity? How can you support that?

    I support it because I believe I have good reasons for believing Christianity is true — and one of the implications of Christianity being true is that the devil and his demons are trying their darndest to keep people from believing in the true God. Also, I find it interesting that such “spirit guides,” when confronted, always seem to respond in very negative ways to the name of Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel — regardless, even, of whether or not the “host” has heard of or has any belief in Christianity, it seems.

    Habermas says that since people died for their beliefs, then Jesus has to have existed. If this were the case, then the deaths of the followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult are evidence that there really were aliens behind the comet.

    I find this argument is commonly misunderstood. I think I’ll write my next blog post about it 🙂

    Evidence for these demons?

    This would probably have to be another blog post someday — I need to compile my experience and research.

    What I do find is that theists wish their unsupported claims to be considered facts and to be given equal weight when there is little reason to do so.

    I think all claims should be equally considered — just because someone makes a claim that I don’t agree with doesn’t make me feel justified to write them off without looking into the evidence of what they’re saying. That’s all I ask when it comes to myself, really, and it’s nothing more than what I expect of myself when it comes to others.

    • Well, Seth, I’m a geologist and I can tell you all sorts of evidence we can expect to find from a flood like the bible describes. Floods leave deposits. These deposits hydraulically sort by size of particle in them. So we should have one meters thick layer of sediment sorted coarse/heavy at the bottom and fine/light at the top. If dinosaurs existed with modern humans, then their bones would be mixed together. We find none of this. What we do find is many layer of sediment, each layered as above within each one. We find fossils separated by complexity, not size. You can see how this works here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5ElhX38w3Q And this isn’t all the evidence against a bible flood.

      No evidence that we came from two humans, genetics tell us that and if you enjoy modern antibiotics, modern foods, etc, you accept that genetics works as advertised. If no Adam and Eve, no need for Jesus Christ.

      The science that disproves the resurrection is that people don’t resurrect after being cold and dead. There is no reason to think magic made one do this and made many more do this per the claims of Matthew 27.
      Every Christian thinks that they have a valid case for interpreting the bible as they do. None of you have any evidence your version is right. You present a false choice. The problem is not which believer is right, but that there is no reason to think any believer in the supernatural is right.

      If you’d like to accuse me of misinterpreting or disregarding evidence, I do ask you to support that claim that I’m “probably” doing this to “some degree”. You will also have to support that you are interpreting evidence correctly. If there is no evidence to interpret, that does present a problem.

      There is no historical evidence for Jesus. Now, I think the problem we have here is that I’m talking about Jesus Christ, the purported son of God and one would think you would be to since that’s the one you believe in. However, it seems like you are agreeing with Ehrman who believes that there was a human rabbi who claimed to be the messiah running around and who wasn’t the son of your god at all. Which do you believe in? As it stands, we have no historical evidence for Jesus Christ, the son of God. If you’d like to present some, please do.

      Sorry, I don’t believe anything that the Christian Broadcasting Network says. I’m guessing that there is no other source you can produce. CBN is notorious for the nonsense and outright lies it broadcasts. I’m somewhat surprised you would think that would be considered an acceptable source.

      It seems that you are trying to dodge my questions. Again, “Would you accept this claim from another theist who wasn’t a Christian?” The claim being “There is no reason for a believer of another faith couldn’t say with as much validity “Hey, it was my god that you were *really” worshipping, since all good comes from him.” It seems that you would not. I don’t know why it is hard for you to just say this, other than you may understand that your claim is essentially worthless.
      You may do a blog post on the tomb but as it stands, there is no evidence at all for it. Where is this contemporary consensus to its location? There may have been a consensus among early Christians, but that again is meaningless since they believed what others told them. You mention another one of those supposed great arguments by apologists, that since there is no recorded effort to go to the tomb and point to the body, the body must have vanished. Another answer is that there was no cruxifiction, there was no body and there was no tomb to go to. It does indeed matter that we have no idea where it is now since some Christians do claim that they know where it is and they have no evidence that it is the right one or if there was a right one at all. For it not being important, Israel rakes in a lot of tourist dollars from true believers. It does matter because the arguments of Habermas, Craig and you hinge on its existence. No tomb, no Christ.

      Again, the bible book*s* claim that JC appeared to hundreds of people and did so many works that there are not enough books in the world to contain them. We know that the books were put together by politics. If this JC was wandering around doing so many miracles, one would think that someone would have noticed. They didn’t. They didn’t even notice the special events before he supposedly died, and two of those supposedly consisted of a legion’s worth of men (plus women and children) gathering outside of a Roman occupied city. If there were other sources, then they could be hostile sources and their credentials don’t need to be from some “god” or claims of some god. There are none. Not one scrap of anyone noticing any of the essential events in the bible, no one acting on the aftermath of these events. Nothing.

      It seems that you cannot show that your god exists or that demons exist. I’ve known a half dozen or more people who claim to have spirit guides. Never once saw any reaction at all to the name of Jesus Christ. Now, I don’t believe in spirit guides either, only people who are seeking attention or mentally ill. Funny how “demons” react to modern medicine. I’ll also note that most people who get possessed by “demons” are Christians. Again, not one instance of “possessions” have been shown true. If this “demon” can interact with the physical, then it shouldn’t need a human being. It should be able to damage and destroy things if it can move a human body. No evidence of that happening. You do seem a little credulous, Seth, accepting any baseless story as long as it supports your beliefs, and you don’t seem inclined to question them at all.

      Again, if people died for a belief, that doesn’t mean it’s true. I look forward to your blog post on it. Let me know when it is up.

      More blog posts, hmmm? I do hope you write them. If you do have evidence, there should be no problem in providing it.

      I have no reason to equally consider the claims of the supernatural since no one has presented evidence of it for thousands of years. There is no reason to think it will come true now as there is no reason to think that all of the air in this room will suddenly shift to the other side, leaving me in a vacuum as could *possibly* happen (per quantum theory). However, I love the idea that something improbably will and can happen and I do not write off claims without considering them. I do consider them, and if they fail and can provide no evidence for their claims, *then* I trash them.

      I am looking forward to any evidence that you can give for the Jesus Christ you worship.

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