Rejecting the Obvious Truth of the Gospel

August 21, 2007 at 6:57 am 97 comments

Have I not written to you excellent things Of counsels and knowledge,That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth,That you may answer words of truthTo those who send to you?-Proverbs 22:20-21

Lately, I have been considering the point and purpose of Christian apologetics. As a Christian, I felt persuaded to ‘defend the faith’ against the humanistic attacks of my friends at work. Our Thursday night Bible studies at church emphasized apologetic studies, and I devoured each teaching with great enthusiasm. I bought countless tapes from the back catalogue of Bible studies, and listened to them at home, and sometimes, to the great annoyance of my friends, at work. And of course, I prayed constantly for my dad who had converted to Mormonism, because he was deceived from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:20-21

RejectAs I witnessed to friends and family, I was astonished how they could so easily reject the Truth. The Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was just so obvious and self-evident to any honest person that I felt they really were truly without excuse. Nature speaks to the reality of God. The Gospels speak of the work and teaching of Christ. The epistles describe our desperate separation from God, our hopelessness in sin, and our need for a Savior, who is found only in Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament anticipates models, foretells and predicts the coming and future glory of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And most importantly, the Gospels describe in detail, the death and resurrection of our Lord, how the temple veil was torn, and how we can now have fellowship with God Almighty if we only choose to do so.

How anyone could stare this truth in the face and willfully reject it was beyond me. As a friend of mine once said, it is like watching Jesus Christ nailed to the cross before you, and spitting in his face.

Now that I am no longer a Christian, I am just as amazed that I felt this way about non-believers. I had always assumed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was an axiom of reality, and that the whole of nature testified to that truth. It was unavoidable. It was self-evident. And because of that reality, sinful man was truly without excuse before a Holy and Just God.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6).

This is what I believed about nonbelievers, and I know that most of my friends believed the same thing. People who rejected Christianity did so, not as a matter of logic, but as a matter of will. They refused to believe, even with the Truth staring them in the face. Thus, my pastor, and many other pastors could rightfully use the popular cliché, “God does not send people to Hell, people decide to go Hell and send themselves there!”

Or the even better, and more arrogant cliché, “How can a loving God not send people to Hell?”, which only makes sense, if we choose to reject a righteous God.

My question, then, is this: Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all obvious to you? Is it clear that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, and we are only rejecting that truth as a matter of will because we naturally hate all things of God? It is not at all obvious to me. I am open to it, and if it happened I have no choice but to accept it. But I personally see no good reason to believe any of it.

By saying this, am I choosing to go to hell on my own volition? I don’t think so. I am choosing nothing but what seems to make the most sense to me. I am not willfully rejecting anything.

Which brings me back to the question of apologetics. If Christians truly believe that the World, meaning all people of all non-Christian faiths and religions, are willfully rejecting the obvious truth of Jesus Christ, then what is the point of trying to formulate arguments and gather evidences to convince us otherwise? If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so self-evident that I can make a conscious decision to reject its truth, then apologetic arguments seem pointless. Why convince others of a truth that they already know?

Or does the salvation of souls sit squarely on the shoulders of the evangelist and apologist? Is God deciding who wins salvation based on how quick a debate team he has gathered into the Body of Christ? I used to think that I was just using apologetics with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to convict a person of their own sin. But again, this assumes that the sinner knows the truth deep down, and the apologetics are just used as a reminder that they must confront their sinful nature, and the Holy Spirit convicts and draws that person closer to the bosom of the Savior for forgiveness. I don’t see how a Christian apologist can avoid feeling tremendous pressure to win converts to Christ if the defense of the faith is their responsibility. You may give credit to the Holy Spirit, but ultimately, my salvation is in your hands. All you have to do is convince me.

So which is it? Is the truth of the Gospel obvious and my rejection of it willful disobedience? Or does eternal salvation come by trusting the apologist with the better argument and snappiest rhetoric? Neither choice makes much sense to me.

I guess this is why I weary of debate on this website. I never intended to debate when I started blogging about my apostasy in the first place, but sometimes it seems unavoidable in a forum like this. Grinding through apologetic arguments seem like running in a hamster wheel. Christian, if this is what you think of the nonbeliever, that the Mormon like my dad, or the Jehovah Witness, or the Muslim, or the Jew or the Atheist, or anybody else who does not share your Christian belief, is because they are consciously staring Truth in the face, spitting on the Cross of Jesus and pridefully following their own path, you are woefully mistaken. Thinking back on my own Christian life, I think this was the biggest misconception that I had toward non-believers. I have since learned that there are many, many reasons to believe, or not to believe, and it has nothing to do with willful rejection of Truth.

- HeIsSailing

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

The Vagueness of “Divine Guidance” My Fall From Grace (Jehovah’s Witnesses)

97 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The de-Convert  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:57 am

    HIS,

    This is a bit off-topic but your post triggered this question for me.

    You described two distinct world views where the “other side” makes no sense to either group.

    As a Christian, I felt exactly as you did and as I discuss these topics with Christians today, I know where they’re coming from.

    Do you believe there has to be a ‘crisis’ (not sure if that’s the right word) in order for a Christian to remove the what we would now refer to as “blinders” but what a Christian would view as “obvious truth?”

    In other words, how does one move from one world view to another?

    Paul

  • 2. Zoe  |  August 21, 2007 at 8:04 am

    A great post HIS.

  • 3. Heather  |  August 21, 2007 at 8:14 am

    People who rejected Christianity did so, not as a matter of logic, but as a matter of will. They refused to believe, even with the Truth staring them in the face.

    This is an ironic statement, because Christianity is presented as a religion full of forgiveness and compassion — both of which require the ability to understand and listen. Yet if the Christian holds that the person knows the truth and yet willfully rejects it, is the Christian actually listening to the non-Christian?

    However, I do thank you for this post, as it gives me a better understanding as to why my friends have used the argument of people willfully send themselves to hell. From their perspective, people do because they feel people know the truth, they simply reject that truth. Whereas from my perspective, it’s not the truth, so how can I willfully send myself to hell if I don’t know it as the truth? But this is very convenient, because it’s assuming that everyone knows the truth, and only a few act on that truth. And thus, by sending one to hell, God is in fact giving that person their heart’s desire. Which also absolves God of being a monster or of any responsiblity for the person’s final destination.

    But I’m wondering if Christians need perspectives like this, in order to keep their faith and worldview. After all, if you’re convinced that a person knows the truth but simply rejects it, things are a lot simpler. If you start trying to see why another person honestly and logically believes that your worldview is faulty, that can lead to cracks. So to answer Paul’s question, in order to move from one worldview to another, I think you have to be willing to honestly see if there are any flaws/faults in your own worldview, first.

  • 4. writerdd  |  August 21, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Great post, thanks. I am always amazed that so many Christians are interested in apologetics for the very reasons that you explain. I was not saved because of apologetics and I didn’t leave my faith behind because of anti-apologetics. I grew up as a Christian, with assumptions about the universe and humanity that were all colored with Biblical glasses. I quit high school because I thought it was so much more important to further my spiritual eductaion, and I went to Bible school in stead of college, so my academic education was cut short.

    My understanding of the universe and of humanity changed drastically when I read a bunch of books about cosmology and cognitive science, and I realized that the God I had believed in for all of my life was nowhere near big enough to have created the universe in it’s vastness, and that the human psyche, or soul, did not require a supernatural existence or source for its explanation.

    One day I just realized I was no longer a believer, no longer a Christian. But it wasn’t logical arguments about the Bible or Christianity that convinced me either way.

  • 5. Epiphanist  |  August 21, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for a very mature post. The level of energy which is needed to sustain some versions of faith is clearly not sustainable and people inevitably burn out. An old, jaded Christian like me is not interested in snappy rhetoric or tedious debate either. I haven’t found much obvious truth in the Gospels, it is more like I am gently led and sustained by them. I like to read what atheists have to say about faith because it challenges my preconceptions. Blind faith seems unnecessary and pointless.

  • 6. masechaba  |  August 21, 2007 at 8:54 am

    1Corinthians2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

  • 7. Shannon Lewis  |  August 21, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Very good post.

    As a ‘Reformed Christian’ I’ve always found that the traditional models of apologetics – though occasionally helpful – seemed to ignore some pretty significant Biblical concepts, such as the fact that the Gospel – apart from a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit – is nonsense to non-believers.

    I believe that God ‘saves’ – that though He uses ‘means’, that the work of saving the lost is not ultimately mine. The Christian witnesses to what he/she believes by their life and actions, and when necessary, words, but the weight of saving another sole rest soley on God. This seems not only Biblical to me, but means that I can live like a sane person, and not live every moment like a used-car salesman, hassling non-believers into the kingdom.

    I can imagine the weight of that responsibility was unbearable.

    Thanks for the post.

  • 8. Robert  |  August 21, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Which brings me back to the question of apologetics. If Christians truly believe that the World, meaning all people of all non-Christian faiths and religions, are willfully rejecting the obvious truth of Jesus Christ, then what is the point of trying to formulate arguments and gather evidences to convince us otherwise?

    My view of the apologist is a bit different. Their role is to insulate the believer in her belief, not to act as its advocate to unbelievers. Apologists are there to make any sort of argument or explanation for difficulties in the doctrine, to “shore up” belief, and to ridicule opposing belief-systems. In other words, the apologist creates a bubble around the believer with a veneer of rationality, helping that believer sustain her faith in the face of discomforting evidence or questions.

  • 9. Jim  |  August 21, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Hi HelsSailing,

    Yeah. I am a Christian, and big on some apologetics. But I feel and sympathize with the heaviness I think I perceive of your writing. Sometimes I feel about apologetics what someone once said about politics in an RFK biography: “It can busy idle hands, but it doesn’t help the heart.” The quote isn’t exact, but you catch my drift.

    Before I get much further, let me say this: I love what you’ve written, and your writing in general. Very sound. Refreshingly honest. Quite profound. Thank you for widening my perspective. You really did do that.

    Apologetics (defense of the faith) is largely spurred on by 1 Peter 3:15, among other verses: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that Christians too often emphasize the first part (give a defense) without catching that second part (with gentleness and respect!). Guilty as charged. It does so much harm when one is done without the other. You no doubt understand this better than I do.

    I’ve been told with respect to my faith that apologetics is one tool in the toolbox, and there are others. I like that analogy on some levels. A lot of Christians probably use that tool way too often. Fewer use it not enough. But as Jesus taught, the Christian life should center on a) loving God, and b) loving people. That should be the tool we reach for the most.

    I’ve personally found that apologetics does help some instances. I’m really not the personality type to evangelize to strangers, I’d rather have a beer with them and listen to them talk about their life, job and families. But when I’ve found myself in discussions regarding apologetics with non-believers who are questioning me, I notice that those apologetic questions are the surface stuff. Their actual problems with the faith, Jesus or Christians (moreso the latter, it seems) are more often heart issues, the soft, messy and complicated stuff. At those times, apologetics is NOT the answer. Talking about Calvin doesn’t help the person who’s struggling through college, or a divorce. I wish more Christians knew that, and I hope that I never forget it.

    You said: “So which is it? Is the truth of the Gospel obvious and my rejection of it willful disobedience? Or does eternal salvation come by trusting the apologist with the better argument and snappiest rhetoric? Neither choice makes much sense to me.”

    My hopefully humble response would be that I’m not sure these are the only two options to choose from. Also, I’m not certain those two options are mutually exclusive. They could be, but I’m just not sure of that. I’ll try to think more about it though.

    But then you said something else: “I have since learned that there are many, many reasons to believe, or not to believe, and it has nothing to do with willful rejection of Truth.”

    I agree with you. I do. I would add that there are may be some out there who willfully reject truth, but for many many more people, it’s not that cut and dry. These are individual people! Nothing about our lives is that cut and dry, it’s a lot more complicated.

    Apologetics has its place in the faith. It’s probably too high of a priority here in America, where we argue about everything. But there are people who try to dispute the validity of what Jesus said and other aspects of Christianity. But apologetics is a defense by definition. Meaning, it should primarily be in response, and always always with gentleness and respect. Ready if needed, but probably not as needed as we think.

    Loving God. Loving People. That’s needed a whole lot more.

    Again, thank you for writing. I’ll be chewing on this for awhile. I hope this finds you doing well.

  • 10. HeIsSailing  |  August 21, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Jim sez:

    I’ve personally found that apologetics does help some instances…

    Oh yeah, I understand what you are talking about. A sound defense of your beliefs is not what I am talking about in this article. Don’t worry, I am not trying to take that away from Christians! Rather, I don’t understand the Christian rationale for using apologetics as an evangelistic tool. I also did it as a Christian, but looking back from the other side, I really don’t see much sense in it. I do believe that it is best, Christian or not, to know exactly why you have the beliefs that you do, and to discuss them if somebody asks about them.

    And yes, I meant what I said about reasons for belief. Even as an apostate Christian who completely rejects the reliability of that Faith System, I still maintain that there are plenty of good reasons to believe in Christianity, but I extend that to most any Faith System for that matter. It just depends on the experience and exposure of the person involved. What is it that makes it sensible for some people to believe in Jesus and not to others? Blast, I have no idea! But I cannot imagine a God who judges us based on which belief system we happen to choose in life, because the Truth, in the sense of the Gospel, is not at all evident or axiomatic. The Bible is dead wrong about that. We are all individuals, after all. And God, if there is one, made us that way.

    Their actual problems with the faith, Jesus or Christians (moreso the latter, it seems) are more often heart issues, the soft, messy and complicated stuff. At those times, apologetics is NOT the answer.

    I think you are right here. From what I have observed, conversions into Christianity are highly emotional affairs, usually by a person who has hit rock bottom in their life. You know, the highly charged alter calls we see so often in tent revivals and what have you. Of the few de-conversions that I am really familiar with, at least that in my own case, it is from examining their faith, their Scriptures, if they make any sense and if they have any relevance in their own world. They are both very different processes from each other.

    You said: “So which is it? Is the truth of the Gospel obvious and my rejection of it willful disobedience? Or does eternal salvation come by trusting the apologist with the better argument and snappiest rhetoric? Neither choice makes much sense to me.” My hopefully humble response would be that I’m not sure these are the only two options to choose from. Also, I’m not certain those two options are mutually exclusive.

    I don’t know, I have thought about this pretty hard, and those two seem like the only options available, although you are right about them not being mutually exclusive. If you have any other options which may apply, then fill me in. But I think Scripture is pretty clear in this regard, based in part on passages I have quoted in this article, and your own reference to 1 Peter.

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  August 21, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Robert says:

    In other words, the apologist creates a bubble around the believer with a veneer of rationality, helping that believer sustain her faith in the face of discomforting evidence or questions.

    I just finished telling Jim that it is a good thing to be able to defend one’s beliefs, no matter what they are, but I have to take exception to your comment, Robert. I do not think it is a good idea to insulate, or bubble off one’s faith in the ‘face of discomforting evidence or questions’. Although I have no doubt you are correct, I do not think this is wise.

    Thinking Ape made the comment recently – something to the effect of only reading one’s favorite scholar, or only reading stuff that fits into a pet doctrinal view. Huh? The Ape is absolutely correct here, whether we are talking religion, politics, or Christian apologetics. You cannot insulate yourself from opposing viewpoints and only read stuff that you know you will agree with. You cannot learn that way, you cannot grow that way – at least i don’t see how.

    I am referring specifically to Christian apologetics here. If a Christian only reads McDowell, Missler, Zacharias, Lewis, Stroubel and the like, that Christian will be insulated for sure, but will never really learn anything. Go ahead and read opposing viewpoints! If you don’t agree, formulate reasons why, and your faith will be that much stronger. If you find the opposing arguments persuasive, then don’t be afraid to investigate further and learn from it – it is a win-win proposition that many are afraid to take on!

    And by the way, this applies to non-Christians as well…..

  • 12. Jon Featherstone  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    You write “I guess this is why I weary of debate on this website”

    I can so relate to that. I feel like I spent years going and around and around and around the same old christian circles again and again and after a while you just get sick of it. One day all the lights came on and I just decided it was time to move on! In my case, the next step is to explore the Trilogy “Conversations with God” (which is a new age-type teaching). Others choose Athiesm. My point is, there comes a point when it is better to just stop flogging a dead horse and move on!
    Jon

  • 13. Jim  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    HelsSailing,

    Hey. Thank you for clarifying your point in your original post, though you probably didn’t need to clarify, I just needed to read it a little slower. As I re-consider the 1 Peter 3:15 passage, the ‘gentleness’ and ‘respect’ issue stops me cold every time. As well it should. Apologetics without that, I would say, becomes a cold manner of evangelism, and often much worse. Sort of like driving to drive a car in the snow with huge gloves on. Good luck not getting into an accident.

    I agree with you, I’ve seen some highly emotional “conversions” to Christianity. I’ve seen others that didn’t fit that description at all as well.

    I think I want to take a stumbling shot at one of your questions, now that I’ve considered it further. (here goes!) You asked: “Or does eternal salvation come by trusting the apologist with the better argument and snappiest rhetoric?”

    I would say no, that is not how eternal salvation comes. Gosh, I hope not.

    I have much to learn on this, but I base this answer on what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. He seems set on reorienting their thinking of how much they value rhetoric. They thought too highly of a lot of things, namely themselves. He doesn’t find rhetoric as impressive as they do.

    1:17. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

    In case they didn’t get the hint, he retreads the same path in chapter 2:1-4

    Anyway, does this match much of the church today? No way. We depend way too much on rhetoric, to sad results. It’s no good.

    Man, I hope that helps some? I guess I identified the ideal in the Bible, and confirmed that the church is from the ideal. But I have a sneaky suspicion that I just used some apologetics! Damn it. But I swear (literally) it wasn’t to evangelize, but to hopefully provide some background of why I answered the way I did.

    As for your first question … whew. I need to continue to think about it. It’s pretty steep, and deserving of more time.

    BTW, I liked what you had to say regarding reading opposing viewpoints.

    Thank you for replying to my comment.

  • 14. HeIsSailing  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Jon Featherstone sez:

    the next step is to explore the Trilogy “Conversations with God” (which is a new age-type teaching).

    No way! My wife wants me to read one of those books. She doesn’t buy the New Agey stuff, but says there is in fact wisdom to be gleaned from it, and she enjoyed them. What the heck, I’ll give it a go!!

  • 15. Heather  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Random thought –

    a Christian only reads McDowell, Missler, Zacharias, Lewis, Stroubel and the like, that Christian will be insulated for sure, but will never really learn anything.

    I do agree that it’s important to read all sides. I think the only catch would be to make sure that the arguments from both sides are … well, for lack of a better word, intelligent and demonstrate a clear understanding of the opposing side.

  • 16. HeIsSailing  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Jim sez:

    But I have a sneaky suspicion that I just used some apologetics! Damn it. But I swear (literally) it wasn’t to evangelize, but to hopefully provide some background of why I answered the way I did.

    HaHa – it’s okay. Don’t sweat it, dude. ;-)

  • 17. HeIsSailing  |  August 21, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Heather sez:

    I do agree that it’s important to read all sides. I think the only catch would be to make sure that the arguments from both sides are … well, for lack of a better word, intelligent and demonstrate a clear understanding of the opposing side.

    Oh yeah, absolutely. You would be surprised how many Christians *cough* *Chuck* *cough* *Missler* *cough cough** teach garbage from the pulpit inspired by such shucksters and unreliable sources as Ivan Panin, Emmanuel Velikovsky and Charles Berlitz.

  • 18. Jon Featherstone  |  August 21, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    HeIsSailing,
    I don’t buy most of the new-agey stuff either! But I do think there is some neat “big-picture” stuff in the “Conversations with God” books that are a great catalyst to helping you move forward in your thinking rather than just spinning your wheels in the same old mud.
    Jon

  • 19. Heather  |  August 22, 2007 at 11:33 am

    HIS,

    You would be surprised how many Christians *cough* *Chuck* *cough* *Missler* *cough cough** teach garbage from the pulpit inspired by such shucksters and unreliable sources as Ivan Panin, Emmanuel Velikovsky and Charles Berlitz.

    You want to know the sad part? I don’t think I would be surprised. I mean, even if I take a look at theists who post here. Maybe I have blinders on, but it seems the majority who post use shallow arguments, such as McDowell, compared to those who actually demonstrate an understanding of all theological sides, as well as a sense of the history behind Christianity.

  • 20. Mike  |  August 22, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Heather, could you give an example of a shallow argument? If I have been guilty of that I would want to know so that I could make an effort to go deeper.

    Also, do you think this is purely a Christian/theist problem? I dont think you are saying that it is, but from reading your response it is possible to get that impression.

  • 21. Heather  |  August 22, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Mike,

    I find shallow arguments along a few lines. One is “Drive by Quoting,” in which there will be some random person who provides a biblical quote as to why we don’t get the Bible, and only provides the quote. The person also never comments again. This would be a quote as to we don’t have the spirit of God, so the Bible is nonsense/we don’t get it.

    Another is the we’re all going to hell, if we don’t repent right now. Some of these people also express enjoyment at seeing the lot of us in hell, and will rejoice on that day. It’s alos the same people who say we’re prideful and willfully rebelling against God — that’s shallow because it doesn’t show any understanding for why we think the way we do. It also gives the impression that we all wake up and go, “Gosh, how can I rebel against God today?”

    Another is using McDowell or Stroubel, and saying that if we only read those books, we’ll be convinced. Their books seem to be, and I don’t mean this to be insulting, but almost pre-school Christianity. It’s written for those who already believe, and kind of simplistic at that. so when someone says that we should read those books, I have a really hard time taking that person seriously. I know Stroubel interviewed people such as William Lane Craig, but he also only presented one side of the discussion, and didn’t let the opposing side say why they believed what they did. He was interpreting those arguments, instead.

    I’d also include Ravi Zacharias in this category, to some extent, but that’s more of a personal preference. Zacharias was listed as an editor on a book I saw that dealt with Christian “cults” (as in, those that went against orthodox Christianity). I’m very familiar with one of the religions in that book, and the section on that religion was flat-out incorrect in places. The author himself took information or quotes out of context, and didn’t really demonstrate an understanding of why the religion believed the way it did. Now, Zacharias didn’t write that, but his name was associated with it, and so I have a difficult time taking him seriously. But like I said, it’s a personal preference.

    Another example I have of shallow arguments is a bit tricky. Now, this example isn’t meant to be insulting to Brad nor saying that his input was shallow It’s just the most recent one I have. But in regards to the first five books of the Tanakh, and whether Moses wrote them. If someone says that there’s clear evidence that Moses did write them, I would find that shallow under one particular circumstance: if the person stating this had no knowledge of the other side, or why scholars say it wasn’t written in the same time frame. If someone just says we know Moses wrote these books because the Bible says so, that’s shallow. If someone says Moses wrote it because this scholar says so, I kind of find that shallow. If someone says we know Moses wrote this based on this evidence and this evidence and this evidence, then it demonstrates knowledge (which can also be because a scholar says so — but the difference is someone investigated why the scholar says what s/he said, followed the evidence and didn’t just take it on the scholar’s say-so). But as I said, this one can be tricky, because someone could say Moses wrote the Torah because their pastor told them, or say it because of an in-depth study of all sides. So the shallowness would depend on the context here. And again, I’m not saying that Brad introduced a shallow argument, just that without proper background, statements such as that can come across as shallow.

    I hope this answers your question.

    do you think this is purely a Christian/theist problem? I dont think you are saying that it is, but from reading your response it is possible to get that impression.

    In thinking about this, I find that to be an interesting question. We could get the impression that I’m only referring to Christianity because that’s what I’m most familiar with, in terms of upbringing and most of the people I know. Some of my good friends are evangelicals, so it’s something I’m exposed to a lot.

    However, I think the shallow argument is something we can find in all systems, from theist to atheist. Some atheists are atheists “just because.” I’d probably focus more on theisim though, because with some there are eternal consequences with not following them, as opposed to atheism.

  • 22. Brad  |  August 22, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    “And again, I’m not saying that Brad introduced a shallow argument, just that without proper background, statements such as that can come across as shallow.”

    Oh no problem… I’ll just… take… that dagger… out of my… back….

    AHHH…. much better! (Totally kidding, trying to introduce humor, no offense taken)

    Anyway… You raise a good point. Having an informed opinion is very much the difference between an engaging argument and a shallow “drive by quoting” as you put it.

    It saddens me to see fellow Christians take “evangelism” in this way. I just wrote a post about how wrong this is here:

    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/08/15/what-in-the-world-does-missional-even-mean/

    … so I won’t go into huge detail. (And I think you would really appreciate it considering the path this conversation has taken)

    I have heard that the problem with this kind of “evangelism” is due to the Church’s wholesale adoption of Modernity (purely objective communication of the Gospel, and what has been popularly called “Fundamentalist” Christianity), with nary a critical eye to the negative aspects of that cultural trend (I really wish I could remember where I heard this… may have been one of my professors). Which is why the postmodern style in churches are so attractive to the younger generations: it renews emphasis on personal relationship and experience, which is how the gospel was meant to be communicated.

    There are a lot of positive things that can be gleaned from modernity’s influence in the church (appreciation for science, for example), but this is NOT one of them. Christians need to be critical (discerning) of culture and sort through what is helpful and what can be harmful.

    And I was looking in the Bible… and I couldn’t find a single place where Jesus handed out tracts… nuts.

  • 23. Yueheng  |  August 22, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    Speaking of Ravi Zacharias, I saw him deliver a lecture during my undergraduate years at the National University of Singapore. It was during a time when I was giving Christianity a last shot and at the risk of offending any Ravi Zacharias fans here, he sounded pompous and condesceding, especially during the Q and A session. I left the talk feeling disillusioned. If this man represents Christianity, I wanted to have nothing to do with it.

    Years later, as a Buddhist, I purchased Zacharias’ book “The Lotus And The Cross”, which was supposed to be an imaginary conversation between Christ and Buddha. It was awful. The Buddha was made to sound like a caricature of a narrow-minded and self-absorbed ascetic and the author demonstrated a misunderstanding of some of the basic teachings of Buddhism. One part of the dialogue has Christ and Buddha meeting a HIV-infected prostitute and Jesus is presented as the all-loving son of God while the Buddha was made to say that it was because of the prostitute’s karma that she was afflicted with HIV and she basically got what she deserved. Jesus quoted tons of scripture while I don’t remember seeing any references from Buddhist sutras.

    It was a shallow argument in the form of a book.

  • 24. HeIsSailing  |  August 22, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Yueheng sez:

    as a Buddhist, I purchased Zacharias’ book “The Lotus And The Cross”, …….

    No kidding! In other words, it sounds like Ravi wrote a book Jesus and Buddha specifically for Christians who knew nothing about Buddhism. Wow. What is the point of that?? Very interersting and also telling that he would not quote any of the sutras, isn’t it?

    In fairness though, I know next to nothing about about Ravi other than when I heard him speak, he was a little condescending to non-believers. But it was really pretty mild. My biggest beefs are with J Vernon McGee, Gene Scott and Walter Martin – but I guess I am showing my age since all three of them are dead. They still infuriate me when I listen to old cassettes though, and Gene Scott I think can still be found on late night TV.

    In leau of them though, I need to write an article about my thoughts on the man who gives me the worst case of hives this side of Dave Hunt – I am speaking about *cough* Chuck Missler *cough* of Peanut Butter evolution fame. He has hundreds of his messages available online through his website and blueletterbible.org, and I have listened to quite a few of them. whoa. That man has to be the biggest con-job in Evangelical Christianity today.

  • 25. karen  |  August 22, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    My biggest beefs are with J Vernon McGee, Gene Scott and Walter Martin – but I guess I am showing my age since all three of them are dead. They still infuriate me when I listen to old cassettes though, and Gene Scott I think can still be found on late night TV.

    Oh boy, those names bring back memories! Walter Martin – wasn’t he the Bible Answer Man? Or was that McGee? One of them wrote “Kingdom of the Cults” and was forever warning about the dangers of Mormonism, JWs, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.

    Gene Scott is still on cable here in Southern California just about every night, spouting nonsense and smoking his big old stogies. :-)

    In leau of them though, I need to write an article about my thoughts on the man who gives me the worst case of hives this side of Dave Hunt – I am speaking about *cough* Chuck Missler *cough* of Peanut Butter evolution fame. He has hundreds of his messages available online through his website and blueletterbible.org, and I have listened to quite a few of them. whoa. That man has to be the biggest con-job in Evangelical Christianity today.

    I believe Chuck was at Big Calvary when I was there. I don’t remember him much, but I think he lead a popular weeknight Bible Study group.

  • 26. HeIsSailing  |  August 22, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Karen waxes nostalgic:

    Walter Martin – wasn’t he the Bible Answer Man? Or was that McGee?

    Walter Martin was the Bible answer man. He also wrote Kingdom of the Cults, a book which explained why everybody outside of his immediate family was in a cult that sacrificed chidren to Behemot. Which reminds me, I also used to get a kick out of Bob Larson when he did live exorcisms on his radio show, but he was more hilarious than infuriating. J Vernon McGee had a 15 minute radio program where you “Board the Bible Bus’ and go through the Bible with him. The original show went through the Bible in 5 years worth of broadcasts, but it is still playing in re-runs over 100 years after our Bible Bus driver kicked the bucket. And I am not surprised Scott is still on TV after he died a few years back. Last I heard, his porn star wife began dressing in an ecumenical habit, began claiming she could speak 10 ancient languages and took over the Gene Scott teaching ministry. I have not seen her on TV, but I can’t imagine she can stare in the camera, cigar clamped in her teeth and yell, “NOW GET ONNA PHONE!!” the way the old man did.

    I believe Chuck was at Big Calvary when I was there. I don’t remember him much, but I think he lead a popular weeknight Bible Study group.

    Chuck Missler… chuck chuck chuck… oh my.. .what a piece of work that guy is. We go back a long way, Chuck and I. He used to visit our Calvary Chapel too. I have seen him perhaps a dozen times over the years – the last time about 10 years ago. The thing that infuriates me about him is that I bought his shpiel. Yup – hook line and sinker. Don’t worry, it is not like I got caught up in a cult program or anything, but.. he is definitely a charismatic and persuasive teacher. Fool me once though, right? I think I have to write an article about that guy, and get that skeleton out of my closet.

  • 27. joshm  |  August 22, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    “If Christians truly believe that the World, meaning all people of all non-Christian faiths and religions, are willfully rejecting the obvious truth of Jesus Christ, then what is the point of trying to formulate arguments and gather evidences to convince us otherwise?”

    “You may give credit to the Holy Spirit, but ultimately, my salvation is in your hands.”

    I like these two pieces because they encapsulate the problem with many Christian approaches to apologetics, and Christian approaches to non-Christians. I have run into so many people who were fighting for Christianity, knew all the “right answers” from listening to apologetic mp3s, but eventually realized that none of it was real to them.

    I’m not sure Jesus Christ is obvious as much as there being a God. Paul calls the cross a stubbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. I think the obvious is more in the ontological existence of God, and there are apologests who take this into consideration (like Cornelius Van Til and John Frame).

    “Christian, if this is what you think of the nonbeliever, that the Mormon like my dad, or the Jehovah Witness, or the Muslim, or the Jew or the Atheist, or anybody else who does not share your Christian belief, is because they are consciously staring Truth in the face, spitting on the Cross of Jesus and pridefully following their own path, you are woefully mistaken.”

    As a Christian, I do not believe most non-Christians are staring at the explicite gospel and spiting on it. Common grace does not contain a full understanding of what it means to be a Christian. What Paul is getting at in Romans is that everyone has an understanding- yes that God exists- but moreso in the context of moral law.

  • 28. HeIsSailing  |  August 23, 2007 at 12:41 am

    joshm sez:

    Paul calls the cross a stubbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.

    Josh, you are right, and I think this is one of those places where the Bible gives mixed messages. Most of Romans 9 basically says that God will have mercy on whom he pleases, and the Jews disbelive out of ignorance. At the same time, chapter 10:18ff seems to indicate that, quoting Deut, the Law did in fact travel throught the world, yet people heard that message and still did not believe. So it seems to me you can read it either way. THen again, it IS past my bedtime and I am not thinking too clearly.

    When Paul says the Jews stumbled over a block (Romans 9:32), what do you suppose he is referring to?

  • 29. joshm  |  August 24, 2007 at 1:41 am

    I’m not sure the Jews “disbelieve out of ignorance,” as much as they disbelieve because the messiah did not look like what they had hoped (a political savior).

    I believe the stumbling block refered to in Romans 9 is the cross. The cross is something the Jews who did not believe could not get over.

  • 30. chuck  |  August 26, 2007 at 3:21 am

    I’m a Christian, and I think McGee was ridiculous. His voice alone drives me nuts! But Martin? He’s a lot better then his successor.
    I found the critique of Zacharias because there was incorrect info in a book he edited a bit shallow. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t like a lot of what he says, but I enjoy thinking through his presentations.

    I think one of the misdeeds of evangelicalism, particularly of the Americanized flavor, has been to warp the conceptions of sin and salvation. Growing up, I always assumed that hell was the necessary consequence of rejecting the Gospel; hence, the basis of condemnation is solely that rejection. I’m not certain that this is the case. The Gospel message is framed in such a way that is deliverance from both the power and penalty of sin. This ‘power’ and ‘penalty’ are inseparable. All people are under the penalty because they are under the power. This is clear as mud, but bear with me for a moment. Hell is the necessary punishment for all sin, of which rejecting Christ is but one. It is of utmost importance, yes; but it must be seen as one of many.
    What does this have to do with the thread? I think that passages such as Romans 1 make much more sense when approached this way (at least they do to me). When Paul begins speaking God’s eternal attributes, goodness, etc., he is stating that in the most general things of God humanity is sinful and thus deserving of His wrath. So I don’t believe that every non-Christian sees the Gospel clearly and rejects it as much as every person from birth, no matter what religion they espouse (even, unfortunately, many ‘Christians’) or what they claim they believe, has denied those things that actually are clear. Before the (more) specific details of the Gospel are even unfolded the train is derailed.
    Of course, much of my thoughts on this hinge on my stance on faith/knowing/belief, etc.

  • 31. karen  |  August 26, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Walter Martin was the Bible answer man. He also wrote Kingdom of the Cults, a book which explained why everybody outside of his immediate family was in a cult that sacrificed chidren to Behemot.

    ROTFLMAO!!! Oh, ain’t that the truth. My gosh… ;-)

    And old man Scott, what a con man that guy was. I briefly attended a church that had the misfortune of getting into a legal battle with him over a real estate deal. Wow. He pulled every delaying tactic and dirty trick in the book in order to make a financial killing on that one. So much for “unity” among believers.

    At least he was consistently entertaining, we can say that much about him: He used to pull out the racing forum and make calls to his bookie to place bets (probably illegal) during his show! :-) Hmmm … he must’ve been one of those “carnal” Christians we got so many warnings about.

    I’d love to hear more about Chuck Missler. As I said, I know the name but never actually attended his bible studies or met him in person. I was more a fan of Greg Laurie and Jim … somebody (can’t recall his last name) who put on a great weeknight bible study at Calvary during the 80s but never became a “household name” like Missler did.

  • 32. Why do Christians reject other gods? « de-conversion  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:08 am

    [...] 29, 2007 In response to my previous post “Rejecting the Obvious Truth of the Gospel,” pj11 said: Words such as “believe,” “submit,” and “bow” indicate to me that an [...]

  • 33. Dale Husband  |  September 14, 2007 at 1:36 am

    As a former Christian as well, I too was brainwashed into thinking that anything written by a Christian either had to be true or that the Christian was being sincere in his statements. Now that I have freed myself from that misconception, I have nothing but contempt for anyone who would “defend” the faith the way most apologists do, by all sorts of lying and philosophical nitpicking. They are either idiots, corrupt, or just plain ignorant. Why trust such people in any way?

  • 34. HeIsSailing  |  September 14, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Dale says:

    Now that I have freed myself from that misconception, I have nothing but contempt for anyone who would “defend” the faith the way most apologists do, by all sorts of lying and philosophical nitpicking.

    I have to admit, that as I get further away from my own Christian beliefs, I have to wonder just how much of the apologist rhetoric that we hear from the pulpit comes from honest ignorance of the facts, or if at least some of it is willful deception.

    I hate to say it, but in the case of my arch-nemesis Chuck Missler, I think some of it is willfull deception. I guess my cynicism towards these shenanigans is growing.

    Peanut Butter evolution? Cmon, he is smarter than that…

  • 35. heatlight  |  October 22, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Maybe you’re familiar with a different sect of Buddhism that the one Ravi addressed – to research for ‘the Lotus and the Cross’ he actually lived with a group of Buddhist monks in China for several months, engaging in regular conversations, from which came the ‘Buddhist’ side of those imaginary conversations in that book.

    As far as Ravi being arrogant, my experience has been QUITE the opposite: I’ve seen him multiple times in debate situations (one time, in particular, was with Massimo Pigliucci (I think?) and he was so kind and generous – and his opponent NOT – that afterwards many of the Atheists present admitted to me that they were embarrassed by their side of the debate, even thought they hadn’t changed their minds.

  • 36. JackD  |  April 28, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    In reading the various comments, I definitely identify with several of the thoughts as a person attempting to follow Christ. One is that other’s conversions to Christ will somehow come from being out-reasoned or out-thought so they will give in to the amazing obvious truth of the Gospel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen in reality – though someone may appreciate there being some foundation to the Gospel historically, it usually isn’t the real reason they “come to Christ”. Instead, it is actually due to purposelessness, hopelessness, unrealized life expectations, fear of death (though I think perhaps rare outside the battle field), etc. The Apostle Paul certainly had no one “convincing” him, but his was all about being confronted by the One he was trying to eradicate from people’s minds.

    So – if someone doesn’t either purposely pursue and actually find that reality of relationship with Christ or if they don’t get knocked off their saddle by the presence of Christ – there really isn’t much of an experiential reality to their Christian faith. Like folks writing on this site, I’m sure we have met people like this. For them, their faith lacks the passion of authentic relationship. The troubling part for people like myself who want others to experience what I have in Christ is that I can’t control that at all. It is something God has to do completely outside of my abilities. The authors and speakers mentioned above, I fear ARE trying to control that from their truth (or pseudo-truth) bully pulpits – and sometimes (and perhaps even worse) some try to fake if from their emotion-packed “worship” services. This is sad, because it creates a whole version of Christian experience that is built on something other than an authentic personal encounter with the living, loving God of the universe.

    For the apostates in the group – I’m curious – and I’m sure you’ll set me “straight” – what other choice is there? I’ve read most of the other religious choices and they just don’t have much substance to them. I’d have to create a cafeteria plan religion or philosophy to suit my needs, but I’d know that I made it up. I just don’t see any other choices but in what Jesus is all about. I have many investment options for my retirement plan here on earth – but at some point I have to actually put my money on the stock I think has the best results. There have been lots of Christian fakes out there, there are enough great results in my life personally and in many of those around me who are Christians that I have to say that it represents my best eternal investment. Peter was quoted as saying, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Where else is there, really? Someone above quoted Buddha – what version of Buddha? He didn’t seem to give that reason for his life work – except for life enlightenment for temporal living. Someone might say Mohammed – but he was just a politician trying to unite his country (quite effective in doing so as a result, until these days). Any thoughts?

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 28, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    JackD:

    Some responses to what you brought up.

    The Apostle Paul certainly had no one “convincing” him, but his was all about being confronted by the One he was trying to eradicate from people’s minds.

    A confrontation the like of which I would very much want. A real God who tells one in no uncertain terms, who he is and what he wants, and backs it up with a 3-day blindness followed by a miraculous healing.

    For them, their faith lacks the passion of authentic relationship. …. a whole version of Christian experience that is built on something other than an authentic personal encounter with the living, loving God of the universe.

    Look in the archives for the article “A Personal Relationship with Jesus?”

    some try to fake if from their emotion-packed “worship” services.

    Yep. Seen that. Made me wanna vomit.

    I’d have to create a cafeteria plan religion or philosophy to suit my needs, but I’d know that I made it up.

    So? You have a cafeteria plan religion anyway. With 30,000 christian denominations to choose from, and even more doctrines and combinations of doctrines, (all from the Bible) a cafeteria religion is all you can ever get. Unless perhaps you get a booming voice on a mountain, or an angelic visit, or knocked off your donkey and told what’s what directly.

    I just don’t see any other choices but in what Jesus is all about.

    Which is? I can give you a lot of answers. All of them held with fervor by people who go to church and read their Bibles, and many of which are diametrically contradictory.

    there are enough great results in my life personally and in many of those around me who are Christians.

    Look in the archives for “Reasons I can no longer believe: Unchanged lives”. You cite some changed lives, I’ll cite 110 times as many unchanged ones. Looks like the weight of evidence is on my side. (Of course you’ll then tell me that ALL the unchanged folks “don’t really know/have a relationship with Jesus”, thus generating a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.)

    Peter was quoted as saying, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Where else is there, really?

    As a former Christian, I know how horrible this sounds to you from your current viewpoint but the answer is, “only temporal life”.

    what version of Buddha?

    What version of Jesus?

    Mohammed – but he was just a politician trying to unite his country

    Try telling that to a Muslim and see if he agrees with you. Don’t surprised if he starts quoting a bunch of verses from his holy book and tells you your holy book is corrupt.

  • 38. JackD  |  April 29, 2008 at 9:53 am

    LeoPardus,

    I agree that there is a cafeteria plan possibility in Christendom to those who want to follow someone else’s teaching. However, I’ve had many people in just a simple reading and discussing format of Bible investigation not of the same denomination (Catholic, Episcople, etc.) and not of any Christian background and I’m constantly amazed at how they agree with the consistency of concepts in the Bible. They seem to see more clearly than churched folks do. I don’t feel compelled to have everyone agree with everything, or especially me (what do I really know for sure except that man blew it, God sent His Son and He actually rose from the grave and is alive today). All that to say that in most cases, there is an obvious reading to most coherent people of the core issues in the Bible. I have had a few cases for whom it wasn’t obvious – but that was true for those folks whether you were reading the Bible or the newspaper. The rest is stuff no one should be have ever been divisive about – but then, that’s not really about God, it’s just using God as an excuse to get unbridled needs met of passion, power and pleasure. Those agendas comes by way of many vehicles – religion, politics, business, etc. I don’t feel the need to apologize to others for the base nature of people.

    On changed lives… please excuse my brevity in this area – as what I meant by this was not that my character is now wonderful and happy and holy – ain’t so, actually. However, I have to say that I’ve seen enough answered prayer, “circumstances” working out and odd turns of events to know that God is at work and with a direct correlation to my requests – and that gives me huge hope and a patience for people due to understanding my own frail and, too many times, weak character. I don’t get a lot of my prayers answered – but there is enough, in such a way that I have to say I know too much to ever renounce God’s work. Do I want more – you bet! Do I deserve it in some way? Nope. Do I even have an inkling of what is really best for me in the long run? Nope. I’ll let God run the universe. By the way, I’m not going to be so weird as to say that people not of my faith don’t experience things coming together in odd ways for them – but I think this is God’s love as reminders that He is there for them.

    Have you read the Koran? I’ll assume you have – don’t you think it reads like a diatribe against Judaism and Christianity and advocating for a unity of faith with some unifying principles for the culture of the time? I like some of the thoughts in the Koran as I appreciate what Mohammad had to do and why he did it. My point is that it was meant to be a religion for that country, so I agree – Islamic folks would come at me with some verses from their book. By the way, they would indeed tell me the Bible is corrupt, because they are now armed with the late 1900′s to present versions of things coming out of so-called Christian seminaries. This is a joke – as if you keep up with these articles (I try to keep up with only some – who has that kind of time?), they are all based on speculation and extended arguments from some degree of speculation. This is an area I do agree with Josh McDowell on – that if you start with the assumption God will never intervene personally into human affairs, you’ll find all kinds of speculations to create. Islam has wonderfully woven those speculations together to argue against Christianity… a brilliant tactic.

    By the way, what if God did push you off your horse? Or your Chevy (or whatever you drive) – would you want to hear whatever He had for you to do? Do you think we’re (myself included) so immune to this type of event that we’d dismiss it over time? What would it really take? I ask this question honestly in terms of other directions in my own life.
    Am I really willing to absorb what happens should there be a this type of intimate and powerful encounter with God? Just interested in your thoughts. Perhaps we’ve so many Star Trek and Star Wars, etc movies that we’d think we’d encountered an alien!

    If you want to start another thought line – what is it that will hold civilization together, if not the quest for God and the moral fiber that creates? The world experimented with atheism and that was a dismal failure. The U.S. has generally been able to pull off pluralism, with some outbreaks, but surely not on the order of Islamic or Communist countries. We had to grow through some blinded thinking (slavery), but we’re moving out of that one – though that was an economic issue, again, using religion (though many saw through that one at the time). I’ll share a fear I have – you tell me whether it is legit – that there will be a spiritual vacuum created by non-religion (not atheists, not really anti-Christian – just undecideds) that will be filled by Islam due to how it is “sold” in the beginning stages. Then the legalistic noose will tighten – but unlike any legalism Christianity has imposed. Could that happen? Could the masses go for it in the U.S. as they are world-wide? Ok, I’m not trying to me a Islamic basher, but no one can avoid seeing what is happening in the rest of the world without being concerned.

    Thanks,
    -Jack

  • 39. Slapdash  |  April 29, 2008 at 10:53 am

    JackD: “I have to say that I’ve seen enough answered prayer…”

    Later in the same paragraph: “I don’t get a lot of my prayers answered -”

    Which is it?

    For me, the issue of (unanswered) prayer was the first, primary, and most important thing that unraveled my faith.

    Christianity is completely schizophrenic when it comes to prayer. On the one hand you have loads of scriptures inviting us to pray – to pray about everything, to pray without ceasing, to pray boldly, to pray specifically, to pray with the faith of a mustard seed – and our prayers will be answered.

    On the other hand, based as far as I can tell only on the Lord’s prayer, Christians insist that you add “not my will be done, but yours” to every prayer, thus effectively giving God an ‘out’ any and every time your original desire doesn’t come to pass.

    Therefore Christians can always claim that God answered their prayer – just sometimes not in the way they wanted! heh heh, God’s so much wiser, he didn’t give me any of the jobs I prayed for, instead he had me on unemployment for five months so I could learn more reliance on him. Praise God for answering prayer!!!

    The more sophisticated Christians I’ve known have started saying that prayer is primarily a discipline for our own edification/learning – prayer’s not for God, it’s for us, and the outcomes of our prayers are much less important than the fact that it brings us into communion with God.

    That’s an elegant way to explain away the many scriptures in the new testament that command us to pray, and promise that we can move mountains if we do.

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  April 29, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Jack D:

    there is a cafeteria plan possibility in Christendom

    That’s an understatement. There’s no possibility of anything else. Everyone chooses which doctrines and details they want. That’s why you have 30,000+ denominations, plus independents and house churches.

    I’m constantly amazed at how they agree with the consistency of concepts in the Bible.

    Depends on what concepts. I’m constantly amazed at the ability of people to pretend that there is some sort of “invisibly unified church” in the face of universal disagreement.

    answered prayer, “circumstances” working out and odd turns of events to know that God is at work and with a direct correlation to my requests

    You’re playing the game I call “Where’ Goddo?” If you want to see it, and if you are selective in how you view things, and if you buy into the “sometime Gods says yes/no/maybe” silliness, then you can convince yourself. But if you honestly look at the fact that praying to God gives you the same results as praying to a pet hamster, you get a different conclusion. Sorry man, but “circumstances” and “odd turns of events” happen to everyone.

    My years as a Christian, and my new perspective, allow me to clearly see how everyone is making it up as they go along; and to see how much the desire for what you want to be true warps your ability to see reality for what it is.

    I’m not going to be so weird as to say that people not of my faith don’t experience things coming together in odd ways for them – but I think this is God’s love as reminders that He is there for them.

    You have to deal with the flip side of this; the experience of thing NOT coming together. To use your logic this is God’s reminding them that He’s ….. not there for them? ….. still pissed at them for their sins? ….. capricious? …..

    Re the Koran: It reads like a product of a male dominated, warlike people, and an apologetic for unitarianism. Rather entirely like the OT.

    And the Muslims have been saying the Bible is corrupt long before the 19th century. They’ve been saying it since the 7th.

    On your query re God pushing me off my horse: I imagine that an all-knowing, all-powerful being can effortlessly come up with a way to get through to me unequivocally. And an omnibenevolent being should want to do so.

    what is it that will hold civilization together, if not the quest for God and the moral fiber that creates?

    I think that religions have contributed to morality. Sometimes negatively, sometimes positively. I can’t begin to calculate how the balance of those two comes out.

    The world experimented with atheism and that was a dismal failure.

    Uhmmmm…. Huh? The USSR was the world? Even if we stick with the USSR, you have to deal with the reality that they based their system not only in atheism, but also based their whole economy in an essentially flawed ideology. In the end, the USSR fell apart due to economic failure.

    a fear I have – you tell me whether it is legit – that there will be a spiritual vacuum created by non-religion (not atheists, not really anti-Christian – just undecideds)

    Not likely. Religion will be around forever. Will it’s influence diminish? I don’t think so, but it has diminished in a lot of European countries, so maybe.

    that will be filled by Islam due to how it is “sold” in the beginning stages.

    Islam? I don’t think so. It’s such a misogynistic religion and the western world has made too much progress in equal rights. I don’t think enough people would put up with the oppression again.

    Then the legalistic noose will tighten – but unlike any legalism Christianity has imposed.

    Why would it be unlike? Both have similar records for legalism, both have similar records for consigning women to third-class citizenship, etc. Heck they both come from the same region of the world, and the same background religion.

  • 41. Slapdash  |  April 29, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    “Islam? I don’t think so. It’s such a misogynistic religion and the western world has made too much progress in equal rights. I don’t think enough people would put up with the oppression again.”

    I think you underestimate Islam. Wahhabi Muslims are prostheletizing big time in sub-saharan Africa. I lived in Cameroon one summer and did research in a mixed Muslim & Christian community. The big conflict wasn’t between Christians & Muslims – they got along fine. The big conflict was between the fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabis and the more moderate local Muslims. The Wahhabis were new to the area and were busy buying/bribing their way into the community, and then telling all the other Muslims how wrong (ie. not fundamentalist) their worship practices were. From what I heard at the time, Wahhabis were (and presumably still are) busy building mosques all over Africa.

    I think the economic downtrodden are especially vulnerable to religious prostheletizing. It’s a message of hope, and who doesn’t like hope? The World Bank estimated, using 2001 data, that 1.1 billion people live on $1 a day or less and that another 2.7 billion live on $2 or less per day. That’s 3.8 billion people. I therefore think there’s quite fertile ground for Christians – or Muslims – to cultivate followers.

  • 42. JackD  |  April 30, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I do think you’re way underestimating what is going on with Islam and how a critical mass can develop, and is developing, that can cause the agnostic/atheist/Christian/other great pain. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened in the Christian political world in the past. Islam is would have taken over Europe had it not been for the economic revival in the West (the Crusades wore them down a bit, but were not as effective as the west’s economic advances – a good model for defeating any terrorists as well??). At any rate, no one would expect that London would become a place of such great Islamic expansion, but they are.

    On your concept of “Where’s Goddo” – I can see where you’re coming from on that and it is certainly almost impossible to site non-refutable instances of God’s handiwork, as there is always a flip-side argument of “it just was random chance”. My take on that is that sometimes I’ve thought that too – as I’m a huge skeptic at heart… but no, for too many specific instances that just doesn’t line up with a form of reason outside of willful decisions to declare it ain’t so. Chance occurrence isn’t reasonable for too many cases. But I do understand the logic, and I also understand there is faith on both sides – for one, “Praise God!”, for the other, “Isn’t that amazing the way things work out [so randomly]!” The experience of seeing things come to pass, together with the historical evidences, together with the truths about life are what help me see the hand of God in my history and the history of the world. But, all three are important – and all three depend on some type of experience which starts the process where one gives God the benefit of the doubt vs mere chance.

    That leads me back to the Paul experience – perhaps God will knock you off your Chevy, blind you and then heal you. As you know – and as you would anticipate my saying – you don’t deserve God’s attention that way. BUT, if that’s what you need, I think that’s what you’ll get. I’d put some glue on my saddle from here on in perhaps:)

    On the failure of atheism and the need for a reason to be good – I think both the USSR and China are indeed good examples. I doubt you can dismiss the failures as due to just political and ecomomic issues either, as there is a relationship between those political processes and atheism (world-view) that caused those systems to falter where morality is so bad even now that bribery is a way of life (just visit Russia for a couple of weeks and you’ll discover a whole new way of bartering for even the stuff you already own).

    Legalism – Christian legalism doesn’t even begin to compare with that of Islam. Islam’s legalism is grounded at it’s root – right in it’s scriptures. That is not true for Christianity – someone has to avoid Galatians and Romans and make up some interpretive rules about the rest to arrive at where the Church of England and the Catholic church and various conservative cult type churches are today. Hey, I’m probably on your side on this one – although I may care for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, I definitely am in huge disagreement with anyone who tries to set up a type of New Testament law (outside of the law of love). It just doesn’t square with the whole thing. The instances where the Apostle Paul laid out “rules” for the church were where he didn’t want them to far ahead of their culture, so as to negate the spread of the Gospel through confusing it with politics. However, when culture changes, that should be an opportunity for Christians to re-evaluate the next step to see where freedom and grace can expand. Too bad the latter usually come so far after the fact. That has been a very bad thing through the years – women’s rights, slavery, evolution, etc – although in all those instances it was Christians who started the movements (yes, for even evolution) and Christians who bitterly opposed them – ah, some of us just don’t want to think about change.

    Ok, sorry for rambling on – I know this forum looks quite positive in it’s overall writing, so I hope I haven’t been preachy or negative sounding.

  • 43. Slapdash  |  April 30, 2008 at 9:21 am

    “On the failure of atheism and the need for a reason to be good – I think both the USSR and China are indeed good examples.”

    I don’t know whether they’re good examples or not, but a data pool of 2 doesn’t prove your point. If you look up the ranked list of corrupt countries in the world (see Transparency International) I doubt you could correlate level of corruption with the level of atheism. In fact, 3 of the 10 least corrupt countries in 2007 were Finland, Sweden, and Denmark – all fairly a-religious countries as far as I understand it. There, does that now prove the opposite? :-P

  • 44. Slapdash  |  April 30, 2008 at 9:27 am

    “That leads me back to the Paul experience – perhaps God will knock you off your Chevy, blind you and then heal you. As you know – and as you would anticipate my saying – you don’t deserve God’s attention that way. BUT, if that’s what you need, I think that’s what you’ll get. I’d put some glue on my saddle from here on in perhaps.”

    What faith you have! The thing is, I highly doubt you believe God will literally knock Leo off his Chevy, blind him, and then heal him. Let’s say that’s exactly what Leo asks God to do. I would bet a lot of money that the Chevy thing never happens, but in a close examination of Leo’s life, some other unrelated set of events will be interpreted by you, or others sharing your perspective, as being the “Chevy event” and therefore proving God’s existence.

    Why Christians keep insisting that God acts only in mysterious ways, pretty much only through natural physical events and human relationships, and rarely in direct, exact correlation to what we’ve asked for – and yet they never see how frail and non-evidentiary that is to those who really need explicit, direct, miraculous answers – is a continuing mystery to *me*.

    I have needed, and asked for, my version of the “Chevy event”. And God didn’t show up.

  • 45. karen  |  April 30, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    If you look up the ranked list of corrupt countries in the world (see Transparency International) I doubt you could correlate level of corruption with the level of atheism.

    Not hardly. For instance, see Mexico and Central America. Highly religious countries – mostly Catholic and Pentecostal protestants – and highly corrupt, unjust systems in place.

    I have needed, and asked for, my version of the “Chevy event”. And God didn’t show up.

    All I wanted was an unambiguous confirmation of god’s presence – a whisper, an obvious answer to prayer, heck – even an undeniable feeling would have done it for me. Didn’t happen, despite prayers and tears and anguish on my part.

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  April 30, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    USSR and China are indeed good examples. I doubt you can dismiss the failures as due to just political and ecomomic issues either, as there is a relationship between those political processes and atheism (world-view) that caused those systems to falter

    Actually I can rack their failures up to largely economic stupidity. Of course they had/have a complex set of economic, moral, and ideological bankruptcies. Frankly I’ve always been amazed that the Soviet system lasted as long as it did. But overall, I give economics the biggest part in their downfall. It’s a well known facet of human nature that folks will put up with almost anything if they have full pocketbooks, and with almost nothing, if their pocketbooks are hurting.

    Christian legalism doesn’t even begin to compare with that of Islam. Islam’s legalism is grounded at it’s root – right in it’s scriptures.

    “As in all the churches, I do not permit a woman to speak”
    “Do not suffer a witch to live”
    “With such a man do not even eat”
    There are beaucoup verses to cite showing a great basis for legalism in the Bible.
    And there are verses expressing graciousness in the Koran.
    I won’t even try to figure out which one comes out more/less gracious/legalistic.

    The instances where the Apostle Paul laid out “rules” for the church were where he didn’t want them to far ahead of their culture, so as to negate the spread of the Gospel through confusing it with politics. However, when culture changes, that should be an opportunity for Christians to re-evaluate the next step to see where freedom and grace can expand.

    The eternal truth has to adapt to earthly cultures???

    Interesting and novel interpretations. But interpretations none the less. Which is all you can ever get. Too bad there isn’t a god who could communicate clearly and unequivocally.

    BTW, I won’t be knocked off my Chevy. I drive a Honda. :)

  • 47. Cthulhu  |  April 30, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    BTW, I won’t be knocked off my Chevy. I drive a Honda.

    Ha! Me too… :-)

  • 48. JackD  |  May 2, 2008 at 10:16 am

    The Transparency International site is actually quite interesting, I haven’t seen that one before – isn’t it interesting that the post or on the outside edge of near-post Christian countries are all in some degree of red? On Denmark – most of the population, over 80% has ties to the official state Luthern church – they may not be immersed in their faith, but they are living on the Christian side of the post-Christian era in that country. Sweden is in a similar situation, as is the US and Canada, by the way. Other countries are further down the road and their lower marks reflect that as their leaders stray from godliness themselves. Indeed, considering the yellow countries on their Barometer, it does prove my point quite well.

    On countries like Mexico and Central America – don’t get confused between religious countries and something I call godly counties – huge difference. In Columbia it is quite acceptable to many to have another woman outside of marriage. That is their cultural, ungodly, practice. It is an area where godlessness has grown through the absence of personal faith in a God who calls them to truly love their wives. A good example of the leavening process. Their passions rule as a result – which is what happens in the void of godlessness. Everybody struggles with their silly passions, but should be held in check by a larger purpose – God. All other reasons are temporal, so the thinking person can find excuses around them.

    On the following:
    “As in all the churches, I do not permit a woman to speak”
    “Do not suffer a witch to live”
    “With such a man do not even eat”
    There are beaucoup verses to cite showing a great basis for legalism in the Bible.
    And there are verses expressing graciousness in the Koran.
    I won’t even try to figure out which one comes out more/less gracious/legalistic.

    I agree with you, that you can extract these verses wholesale and use them against society as some type of legalism. However, I don’t care what others may be doing, I have to look at what the Scriptures say and what the intent is, which I have already stated. The Apostle Paul would be horrified by how these have come forward into a very different world, where grace CAN abound. The exception is “with such a man do not even eat” – actually, to be honest, I’ve tried to figure that one out – at what point is someone so bad that you should dis-associate with him or her? Well, actually, it’s the same with your friends – if they choose to do drugs and hurt themselves and try to lure you into that trap what do you do? You put some distance between them and you – though you still love your friend (which is what the apostle said to do).

    Eternal truth adapting to different cultures – this is not a realistic statement – there is a difference between universal principles and local applications. That’s the job of the thinker – you and me – to figure out which is which. That’s the reason the word “consider” is used repeatedly in the NT. But there is a difference between them. Righteousness, justice and love are eternal truths – wearing veils is obviously not. As you know, people make a choice to not think. That will be true for all belief and political systems – unfortunately it gets all of us on this globe in all kinds of jams.

    God working in mysterious ways. I’m not advocating that God’s working in mysterious ways – I’m advocating that someone get knocked off their Honda seat. That is not mysterious. However, that may not be the issue here. There may be a much deeper issue that God will deal with in a person’s life – like rebellion against God, versus rebellion against some form of religion/church. My point is this – and I think we agree – when God nudges/pushes/shoves – it will be obvious to that person. Others may wonder why that is so obvious – but it is somehow obvious to that person. For that person to describe why would be like trying to describe the color blue to a person born blind. God’s ways are indeed overall unfathomable – if I could figure them out I’d be a god – but when He deals with the individual, no, not mysterious, obvious to him/her. So why do so many long for that obvious gesture by God and not see it? I really wish I had an answer for all here – I suppose it was like Simeon waiting for the Messiah (Luke 2) – he waited for a looooong time. Or Israel waiting for freedom from bondage (that was a long 400 years – I mean people died in bondage). I’ve waited for years for things from God too. Do I get disappointed? YES! I can understand your disappoint too – been there and sometimes go back there. But, again, I do have too much to look back on and too many things that do happen not to recognize another hand in my little pie. Karen, I don’t know you or your situation at all – I don’t even know if I can provide any answers to why you didn’t experience anything as yet, at your great consternation. But I can say that if a person opens themselves up to God and just accepts His love and grace for them as a “given” and leaves expectations behind (extremely important) – I would say things do happen. I guess it’s like when I was young and my dad would go for one of his many-hour Sunday drives. We didn’t know where we’d end up, but we looked forward to even the possibility of discovery. Every now and then we’d find an unexpected gem of a placed, but usually in a place we’d never anticipate. Personnally, I think this should be done on an inward and intimate basis – stay away from other formal Christian systems. I’d have to say, probably with the rest of you, that they would be faith-killers by imposing their little axioms and expectations. I’m not against churches (well, maybe many – but not all) – but, for most thinking people, they have to be approached AFTER thinking, experiencing, deciding. Many, unfortunately, are down-right dangerous places to be from the perspective of faith and intellect. No apologies are needed for them – they’s just people and I, unfortunately also have my own stupidities (of which I’m sure folks here can attest already).

    -Jack

  • 49. LeoPardus  |  May 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

    On Denmark – most of the population, over 80% has ties to the official state Luthern church – they may not be immersed in their faith, but they are living on the Christian side of the post-Christian era in that country. Sweden is in a similar situation, as is the US and Canada, by the way.

    Uhm Jack, in Denmark you are registered with the state church when you’re born unless your parents take specific steps to avoid it. You can unregister with the state church later in life if you want to. Most people just don’t care. Church attendance there is between 5%-15% depending on just where in the country you look. Sweden has the same situation. The countries are only “Christian” in a “background culture” sense. Forstaad du mig?

    don’t get confused between religious countries and something I call godly counties

    Any country happen to fit into that latter category?

    You seem to be quite immersed in international misinformation. You read about the 80% in Denmark but had zero knowledge of what it actually meant. You read that a lot of Columbians keep mistresses, but don’t know the economic qualifiers that accompany the statement. You’ve got a lot of the isolated, misinformed, conservative, religious American thing going there.

    I have to look at what the Scriptures say and what the intent is, which I have already stated

    In other words, you have to look at what it plainly says, and try to figure out if you want to take it literally, figuratively, or ignore it. And if someone else takes it differently, you have no leg to stand on.

    I’ve tried to figure that one out – at what point is someone so bad that you should dis-associate with him or her

    Well fer cryin’ out loud, how tough can it be? Here it is:
    I Cor 5:11 – “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”

    That’s bloody simple.
    Are they screwing around? Shun them.
    Do they get drunk? Shun them.
    And so on. Glad I could clear that incredibly clear command up for you. Now start obeying the WORD OF GOD!

    there is a difference between universal principles and local applications. That’s the job of the thinker – you and me – to figure out which is which.

    And what of the poor simpleton? How’s he gonna figure this out? Does he just have to hope that some “thinker” will explain it for him? And hope that “thinker” isn’t me, ’cause I’d tell him it’s just a fantasy piece?

    About your “me only” approach to scripture, truth, etc. Once again, you need to obey scripture. You can’t stay away from church, and the church is there to give you truth, and it gave you the Bible, and you’re supposed to obey it. Voila les scriptures:

    “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” Ephesians 3:10
    “But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
    “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2
    “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

    So there you are; off on your own; choosing your own way (did you know that the Greek root ‘heraticos’ means “to make one’s own choice”?); out of sync with THE WORD.

    You need to get in line before GOD gets mad.
    Fortunately for you there is no such being, and the Bible is just a collection of myths written by primitive people.

  • 50. JackD  |  May 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I can tell you folks are going to miss me someday – you’re having too much fun.

    I’m going to work up on this note –

    First – on staying away from church. I’m not being out of synch – I’m saying that in today’s culture, for the non- or new-believer, it can be a dangerous place. It will suck them in to their vortex of activity and perhaps legalism. Hopefully, they’ll have someone to help them through this process, but if not, they need a Paul experience when he went to Arabia to put it all together (of course, for most, 13 years would be quite excessive). Leo, I’m afraid you’ve been steeped in a church culture from your past. At the very least, the person should choose a “church” (that is an assembly of Christians, not the meaning of what church is in many minds today (a building, a large mass of people listening to a man/woman up front).

    Ok, don’t be shallow on the issue of when to stay away from a Christian in sin. How deep do they need to be in it? If a person is a new Christian and dealing with his/her past, how long do you wait until you practice dis-association? How do you know there’s not a deeper issue than what the surface portrays? Is it rebellion or that deeper issue? Guess why this isn’t practiced much these days? Because people don’t want to have to get involved enough to answer these questions at an intimate level. Or, even worse, they want to practice them as some type of rule – and I’ve already discussed where I stand on those types of rule-practices (as in, there is NO New Testament law).

    That “where’s goddo” thing again – come on, I can have 200 unanswered prayers and one that is so obvious that it completely overshadows all others. Let’s be honest, we have no clue what is best for us. We have no clue where we fit in the scheme of things. We have no clue how a sinful world and a holy God interact with each other in the realm of events and circumstances. That is, what do I need to accept on the basis of a world steeped in sin versus what can I have hope in that God will shield or otherwise sidestep me from enduring consequences of my own behavior, that of others or just plain “nature”? I have never seen anyone answer those questions clearly. So, we pray, knowing we don’t have those questions, seeking God in the process and (as you mentioned about someone’s opinion of prayer which is only partly correct) using prayer to keep our focus on the One who is sovereign “somehow” in the world. HOWEVER, we are indeed to pray expectantly, expecting God to work in EITHER us or the circumstances. We have to be content with either possibility. What’s the option, everyone gets what they want or gets it their way? That would be ridiculous, and even harmful to one another. Kind of a prayer anarchy.

    On those countries – didn’t your read what I said? They are benefiting from their generational ties to their past religious underpinnings – just as the U.S. is today. They are in the humanitarian stage of life thought and practice, just as we are – but it won’t last long, because people’s quest for passion and power at the leadership level is too strong to be held back by false religion (Christian versions or other philosophies).

    No country fits into the latter category of “godly”, but some leaders do. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily successful. Jimmy Carter, I think, is a godly man. A very close relative worked with him – he was regarded by his associates as an incredibly honest and good person… which got him in all kinds of political pickles. I don’t know about the rest, as I don’t have those contacts with them. Suffice to say, there have been, through the years, godly people leading countries, either directly or indirectly by influence (William Wilberforce is a great example from as a subject of a contemporary movie).

    On interpretation of the Scriptures – let’s see, what mainline Christian denomination doesn’t believe the Scriptures the same in regards to: Man blew it, God sent His Son to die for it, and Jesus rose from the grave to help us live through it, and to bring us to heaven through much trial and difficulty.

    The rest is up for grabs, though I agree, some place such emphasis on the trivial that it gets so wildly blown out of proportion (like church politics – Catholics with the Pope, Evangelicals with their Elders/Deacons, etc.). No where is form commanded in the New Testament – though function (via principles) is talked about a lot. Some do disagree that Christians should have wealth and no difficulty – but those are ludicrous church branches so I won’t even put them in the category of the Christian mainstream.

    Columbia immorality guided by economics? What? I have a friend very influential in that country – it is guided by passion, period.

    Mis-information about countries – I guess I have to plead guilty to not knowing everything, but I’ve traveled extensively and seen it personally. I will plead quite guilty about Islamic countries though – I’ve never visited any of the Near East countries. You can verbally assault me there as much as you want – I just know that extremely few Americans or Europeans are traveling over there as illegal immigrants because they want to be a part of their political and economic systems. Hmmm, maybe that should tell us something about how well they are actually “playing together” under Islam and the rest of their cultural/political structures?

    What about the simpleton – simple… God makes wise the foolish. I’ve seen it happen and you probably have as well, whether at church, work or wherever. If you’re talking about a truly mentally challenged person (like, from birth issue) – they need assistance no matter what the topic.

    On heresy…the Apostle Paul was called a heretic by the Jews. Martin Luther was a heretic according to the Catholic church. Gee, I guess you can’t just throw the term around to mean that someone shouldn’t take the time to work through the Scriptures themselves. As a matter of fact, we are each told to “consider” what is being said – that is our responsibility. A heretic is someone who says they are a Christian who denies Christ came in the flesh and died for sin and rose again bodily. That is a denial of the clear New Testament message. The word was most recently widely used in the Catholic church and church of England to denote anyone straying from their doctrine – which was really meant to keep people under their power structures. As a result, that’s the caricature attached to that word. I would have to say, you simply responded based upon that caricature.

    Have to go now – thought of a verse for you on this site…

    From David… “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant…” After a beautiful Psalm displaying the benefits of God’s word, this is so unexpected. It seems like David also needed more assurance that God was there for him, even after he seemed to see some amazing events transpire in his life. The reality is, unless God does reveal Himself at some level to us as individuals that truly communicates His reality, then yes, we are left with an overwhelming room full of question marks and disappointments.

    I don’t want to be pain for folks here – would you rather I move on?

    -Jack

  • 51. Cthulhu  |  May 5, 2008 at 10:46 am

    JackD,

    As long as your discourses are civil and you accept constructive critique – I see now reason for you to leave. Stick around, but be careful – some of this might rub off on you :-)

  • 52. JackD  |  May 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Ok – and yes, you are rubbing off on me in a positive way. Let me give an example. The issue of prayer. In considering this, two thoughts came to mind of late – still thinking them through, but here’s the non-fully digested version.

    One – in the U.S. we have some obviously strange concepts about prayer and expectations. I asked my family the other day what would Christians pray for in the earlier centuries? Most wouldn’t pray for castles, carriages, cuties, cash, commerce (our equivalents of cars, cash, cuties, careers – though we also now add computers and cell phones). I think they would pray to make it through the day in peace and to have their basic supplies met. I’m looking forward to going back into Scripture and really digging into context for verses like “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – Jn 16:24. The reality is, God probably doesn’t care so much about, for example, what career we choose, but who we are in it. However, asking for a job because we need money to support our family – basic needs. So many times Christians ask God what to do next and He’s asking them back, “What do you want to do? (I’ll be with you and strengthen you through that pursuit.” Peace in the midst of conflict, courage in the midst of fear, strength in the midst of weakness – that’s the core of life, and what the early church actually experienced through their persecution and daily life struggles. That was their reality – and what Christ shared they would experience, not things like, should I buy a Honda or a Nissan? They needed hope more than anything – not a tangible – because their lives were so tenuous. Jesus may not give me much cash, but He certainly provides hope.

    Some here probably will say a false hope, due to issues with the “facts” of the evidence – but the evidence is appropriate for what we could know 2000 years later from the events. Of course, today’s current theatrical version of research (aka things like The Da Vinci Code) completely distort any ground in reality for way too many people.

    Secondly, on the concept of “where’s goddo” – actually, that is exactly what we want to do, but not finding God in some supernatural event. The separation between the supernatural and the natural is artificial. We should indeed look for God in the daily life processes. If a person is looking, they see God, but they are looking from the inside out. If a person is searching, they are looking from the outside in – they want circumstance that will help them see God. Not bad to to do, but shouldn’t be the focus. If a person is mad at God, or the concept thereof, they are looking for reasons not to see, but still searching for peace and courage and strength. Actually, Jesus warned about Gentiles seeking wisdom and Jews seeking signs.

    Another area – by the way, though Islam cast their arguments against the Bible all the back to actually, the Koran, the major changes to that debate came with the advent of so-called “higher criticism” and the works of those who attempted to apply scientific theory to the Scriptures, reducing them to mere shards of thought, not cohesive works. Whatever one may say about that effort, it gave the Islamic world all the ammo it needed to back up their claims that the Koran is the accurate document, since the Bible was in their view so error prone. I’d have to say, that was indeed a pretty smart move on their part – they found a way to throw our own book at us.

  • 53. Slapdash  |  May 7, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    “The separation between the supernatural and the natural is artificial.”

    How so? The Bible is full of stories showing how God is so completely “Other” than us, and that the spiritual realm is completely different from, separate, from the physical realm. If anything makes a separation between the two, the Bible does.

    “We should indeed look for God in the daily life processes.”

    Are you saying we should NOT look for God, expect God, in the supernatural? If not, I don’t see why I should believe God exists at all. If God is indistinguishable from natural life processes, what’s the point? Might as well say that we should look for the flying spaghetti monster in daily life processes.

    “If a person is looking, they see God, but they are looking from the inside out. If a person is searching, they are looking from the outside in – they want circumstance that will help them see God.”

    I don’t understand this.

  • 54. LeoPardus  |  May 7, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Jack:

    You are steeped in an anti-church culture from your past and present. What makes you think your steeping is superior to anyone else’s?

    Like I said, the Greek root ‘heraticos’ means “to make one’s own choice”. You’re just one more guy, running around making his own choices. You have nothing to back you but your own opinion of what God is like, or what the Bible means. You have nowhere to turn and no leg to stand on if someone else interprets the Bible to mean something diametrically opposed to your interpretation.

    Why should anyone listen to some guy spouting nothing but his opinions? Why should you even listen to yourself? ……. I know, I know; you’re listening to God and so should we. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re just listening to yourself. That thing you refer to as God is just a creation of your own imagination.

    BTW you still haven’t even tried to deal with those Bible verses I handed you that say the Church is authoritative and expounds the word of God to the world. You’re gonna have to get around those, and deal with the fact that the overwhelming majority of Christians on Earth would take them to mean just what they seem to mean on first reading.

    Oh and you’re also going to have to deal with the reality of the first few centuries of the Church. When there was no scripture. The books were around, but any given, local body might have almost any odd collection of “scriptures”. There was no 66 books in a binding. And then most folks couldn’t read anyway. So how were they going to do what you think is “the only way”? They had to learn from authorities.

  • 55. LeoPardus  |  May 7, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Jack:

    on the issue of when to stay away from a Christian in sin. How deep do they need to be in it?

    Bah. You’re just trying to avoid doing what the WORD tells you to do. If they sin, don’t associate with them. And there’s a specific list of sins too. So for example, if they did adultery, shun them. It’s really simple. And it won’t take long before you have a perfect church; or an empty one. But then that’s what you’ve got right? A church of one. The first, and only, independent, church of Jack D.

  • 56. The Apostate  |  May 7, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    JackD,

    On those countries – didn’t your read what I said? They are benefiting from their generational ties to their past religious underpinnings – just as the U.S. is today. They are in the humanitarian stage of life thought and practice, just as we are – but it won’t last long, because people’s quest for passion and power at the leadership level is too strong to be held back by false religion (Christian versions or other philosophies).

    I really wish I had the time to reply to your the entirety of your responses, as I do think you bring some solid discussion to the table. As someone who is deeply concerned, both when I was an evangelical and now that I am an apostate, about the influence of religion on the state, I must question some of the assumptions and claims in the above cited passage.

    Don’t you think it is somewhat presumptuous to state that secularized European states are “benefiting from their generational ties to their past religious underpinnings – just as the U.S. is today”? Taking this at face value, this doesn’t mean much to me. Looking at the reality of the “religious underpinnings” in Europe does not seem to fair much better – in fact, I think history works against this statement. But then again, it all depends what “religious underpinnings” we are speaking of. Is this the thousand years of Roman Catholic rule or the two to three hundred years of Protestant turmoil that followed? Do we include the burning of witches and Anabaptists, or do we set that aside? Do we look for our “family values” in the Scriptures – or do we ignore the teachings of Jesus and focus on the tense history of the institution of the family within Christendom? I simply ask for some clarification, because I find it erroneous to credit the horrendous history of Christendom with today’s relative humanitarianism.

    The second half of the cited statement seems to imply that people in power have not always had a corruptible tendency. Could you name the good Christian leaders of the past that were so wholesome? Is there a history of Christian leadership that was so benevolent? Granted, we are all human and bound for failures, but the record of Christian, Muslim, and Pagan leaders are all pretty much the same throughout history. We whine and complain about our political leaders, but at least nowadays we take it to be an abomination when someone wipes out whole villages in the name of political power. Now at least they have to lie about their intentions.

    Any historian or lover of history can tell you that their field is not so black and white. It does fall into nice little eras and groupings of certain sorts of years. Such concepts are fragments of the religionists imagination. Sure, history may have cycles, as everything that happens is a response to something else, but history does not fall into tidy little packages of “the humanitarian stage” or any such nonsense.

  • 57. JackD  |  May 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Been away for awhile – lots to discuss it looks like.

    First, to answer LeoPardis:

    On the Bible verses:
    “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” Ephesians 3:10 – The “church” always means “congregation” in the scriptures – it doesn’t say the overseer or some pope or ruler – it is the assembly. This passage speaks more to each person interpreting and bouncing off interpretations with others. Does it get confusing? Yes. Do weird interpretations come out of groups? Yes. Sorry no good answers on those questions yet. One would help that common sense and a keen sense of the overarching truths (grace, etc.) would win, but that’s just not the case… and it doesn’t matter whether it is the organizational church or any organization.

    “But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15 When you read the word “church” here you are interpreting a whole hierarchy that didn’t exist back then. See note on above verse. To interpret this as the church with a small “c” is ridiculous (versus the Church universal – that is, all believers everywhere). To interpret it as a big organizational structure is equally ridiculous, since that didn’t exist in Paul’s day. What did exist was the church in Jerusalem and later in Antioch, hardly very organized until much later. The only real remnant we have from all that are the Scriptures – and yes, we must each interpret those for ourselves. Any other authority is self-made in itself – that is, they have to claim authority for truth from some “word from God” or apostolic succession or something. Those are both paths used in the past but are obviously cult-like in their claims. That puts the church in quite a difficult situation doesn’t it? It’s messy, but all of life is messy – that’s why Paul said he wouldn’t be judged by any man, or even to judge himself… he had to wait to see if he had authentically followed the truth. My little opinion on the matter is that God embraced him because he chose to work through issues to be godly, not for the godliness itself.

    “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2 This is borne out of the apostle’s concern that the Gospel spread beyond political boundaries – that is, that rebellion against the government didn’t become the reason for persecution and the message get lost in the process. It states a truth and a response to that truth.

    “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 Yup, that’s true, but who are my leaders these days? This verse speaks to those mentors I put myself under (and it could be to an organization’s elders) – but it speaks to morality, not just doing what they say I should do with my life. Once again, you seem to be taking some hierarchical picture of the church – though it more seems like some legalistic form of the church where leaders boss others around and tell them what to believe.

    On anti-church – I’ve never said I was anti-church and as an active former deacon, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. However, it goes back to what is “church” – that could be a mentor for a point of time, a small group or a large congregation. I’m simply suggesting it is safer to start with a person one trusts to dialog with before entering an assembly where a whole host of their cultural expectations will bombard the person and may ultimately hurt their growth.

    On the early church – yup, they had to learn from the authorities, which were the apostles and their direct offspring. I wish I had them to tell me what to believe in person. Since then, we have the Scriptures. Did that process take place immediately, no – it is the reason the Canon of Scripture came into being, so there could be an authority. Yes, the illiterate do need to hear the Scriptures – that’s different from what some did (and I offer no excuses for them) – that they told people what to believer, right or wrong. What did Paul tell Timothy – to be faithful to READ the letters and the Old Testament publicly. Just maybe, so they could get it first-hand. Actually, definitely.

    You side-stepped the heart of my issue with dealing with sin among believers – that it isn’t cut and dry. If a person puts their faith in Christ and is involved in an immoral relationship, does another Christian come in and deal with it to shun them. What if they have a habit of pornography, or exaggeration, or anger? No, the whole process takes a lot of thought and discretion – not just pointing to a verse about shunning and exercising it indiscriminately. Probably been done, but not using, as the Bible requests, “wisdom”.

    To The Apostate…
    Europe is post-Christian – mostly third, or more, generation un-churched. However, like the countries discussed, they still hold onto some degree of moral basis. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what that real basis is anymore, except some type of humanitarianism. Some would say they behave reasonably moral due to a community morality – that is, whatever helps people get along and survive in the world is generally the “right” thing to do. Different locations are in various places on that continuum of morality. There are many contributors to that – but I’m saying that one of those is how close the location still draws from their Christian ethics underpinnings.

    Now – about the history of atrocities – I think that is an entirely different discussion than the above. That is about power and passion and the use of religion to justify it. The Catholic church and the Protestant church have had their share of it, I agree. No one can look at Scripture honestly and justify killing another person over doctrine. Not that it doesn’t happen – but c’mon – did Jesus or Paul or any of the apostles kill people who didn’t agree with the Gospel? They definitely taught against it. To use these examples against Christ is like saying that because my cell phone customer rep doesn’t know how to answer my questions their whole network stinks. It doesn’t (at least where I am) – but the rep didn’t know what he was talking about and almost canceled my service.

    Everyone in power has a corruptible tendency – I definitely would not be implying that (my apologies if I did). On Christian history and good examples of leaders – I’d say there were people who really tried (for us, like Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan). But, whatever examples I’d find, they still are in leadership for power and they are still grossly imperfect (together with all of us) to some even small degree, so their reign will reflect all of those factors.

    I didn’t say history falls into “humanitarian stages” – people and cultures do – how much they do as a result is what we see as history. Since it is about people and cultures, everyone is on a different place in the continuum – but I think you can say that we are currently, along with most of Europe, on a humanitarian basis for morality which, whether people accept it or not, is based on the concept that people are important and that it is actually important to continue to propagate ourselves – which is based on some notion of Someone’s giving us that importance (God). I would disagree wholeheartedly that there isn’t a stage in a culture’s ethics. In fact, many historians agree that we in the U.S. are indeed entering a post-Christian era (i.e. “stage”), which loosely translates into a humanitarian era. Where to next in the U.S. and Europe and the like? We’ve never been here before – but I don’t think it will go well for us (obviously, entirely my perspective).

    I’d like to reiterate one thing – I am not going to defend the history of the Christian church, and I don’t mean to castigate other religious histories to compare them with some fictional rainbow era of Christendom. My complaint against Islam, since we’ve all discussed it, is that at it’s core it is, by example of its founder, and by it’s scriptures, a militant religion. In the New Testament, there is no militancy either done or taught. You might say, but what about the Old Testament? Definitely, in the formation of Israel and their combination of campaigns and cultural influence (depending on where the “battles” took place), but they needed a place to settle as a practical matter. I definitely don’t know why God didn’t choose to have them find a place where they didn’t need to wipe some cities out to get there – but those were hostile times – people groups who simply didn’t tolerate any large group just passing through peacefully or camping out in a nearby plain. Again, why God didn’t just open up a path for them through all that I will never know. I can complain about it – but I have to look at the culmination of all that came in the Redeemer and look back to Him alone for how I live my life. His way is not by force, by immorality or by manipulation, but the overarching theme is to promote grace and holiness for each of His followers. The road is narrow though, as He said – which means it won’t be easy, whether physically, mentally or spiritually. To think the Christian life is “abundant” in terms of pleasure is counter to all Jesus said, but not in terms of joy – if there is an appreciation of what He accomplished at the individual and world level (i.e. not politically, but the gift of eternal life for all worldwide who place their faith in Him).

  • 58. The Apostate  |  May 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    JackD,

    To tell you the truth, I don’t know what that real basis is anymore, except some type of humanitarianism.

    Did pre-Christian have morality?
    Do non-Christians have morality? Do non-Christians throughout history, not affected at all by Christendom, have morality? Of course they did. Morality is as much a biological construct as it is a social one. If morality had anything whatsoever to do with the Holy Spirit or any sort of adherence to the Christian trinity of gods, you would logically see, after two thousand years, a vast difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. This has proven not to be the case.

    Now – about the history of atrocities – I think that is an entirely different discussion than the above.

    No, it isn’t entirely different because of what I wrote above. I don’t blame every Christian for the atrocities committed in the Christian name – I’m not that simple. Nor am I blaming Christianity. You were the one saying that post-Christian nations are benefiting from their good ol’ Christian days. I reject that notion because they never existed.

    No one can look at Scripture honestly and justify killing another person over doctrine. Not that it doesn’t happen – but c’mon – did Jesus or Paul or any of the apostles kill people who didn’t agree with the Gospel?

    First, Jesus needed to be sacrificed, ultimately because his “Father” “needed” him to for the salvation of his flawed creation. Maybe that one isn’t black and white, but I am sure you have heard of the story of Ananias and Sapphira. As far as tradition goes, Peter still holds a primary authority over Paul and yet still murdered using the power of Christ. Since one of the largest parts of the original gospel was giving up one’s possessions (doing as Jesus and his disciples did), this was a direct rejection of the gospel (as most Christians do today, but don’t die for it).

    Everyone in power has a corruptible tendency – I definitely would not be implying that (my apologies if I did).

    And the most powerful being is God…

    As for the argument concerning pseudo-historical scholarship, I won’t bother since it will only distract from the topic at hand. America has proven to be more fervently “Christian” than any other time in history – but all this means is that what it means to be “Christian” continues to evolve with every generation, century, era, millennium, etc. In reality, “post-Christian” is everything after Jesus’ original followers. Paul was the fist “post-Christian.”

    In the New Testament, there is no militancy either done or taught.

    Apart from various interpretation of Revelation, I will grant you this. So what is taught? It ain’t all love, faith, and grace.

  • 59. JackD  |  May 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Apostate,

    Of course others than Christians have morality – that is not what we’re talking about, but the basis for it… actually, the very concept of shared moral elements between civilizations is a contributing argument for there being a “God”, as even biologists now are saying that we have a part of our brain devoted to morals (a built in “compass”, put there by ???). Not that they are going to say there are absolutes, that would be too drastic in today’s culture in America at least (though I think there are definitely absolutes). The issue is the basis for morality… outside of Christian or other religions, the only basis is a social construct, whatever it takes to play together well. This degrades easily – and (as it does even if there are beliefs in absolutes) due to our fallen state of desiring passion and power. I definitely disagree with your statement “proven to be the case” – proven in what direction? It has indeed been proven by history that, when society degrades it’s adherence to absolutes, or relies on purely social constructs, that it quickly degrades. Good examples: Rome, Russia, China, etc., etc., etc. The stupid things done in the name of religion – aren’t they indeed the result of that degradation in belief? Look at the Ireland/British territorial squabbles, or the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades – they aren’t truly religious battles, they are the quest for land and power – either retaining it or gobbling it up. Of course, in the case of the Crusades, we can now be thankful they slowed the progress of Islam until economics stopped them (that is, Europe’s prosperity through technological developments). Otherwise, we’d likely all be Islamic, and what of their countries would I ever want to grow up in?

    Post Christian countries are indeed benefiting from pre-Christian days – otherwise they would be in the same condition as Russia and Rome – they are just not there yet – but, if you or I could live long enough, they most certainly will get there, without some type of religious revival. You can’t write off the positive nature of Christian moral basis due to punctuated bad decisions/involvements/events by a nation. The U.S. is a good example. We’ve done some really stupid things, but overall, there is a good reason why we have people wanting to come to this country. The values that we were founded on (whether Christian or Christian-theistic) have formed the basis of a free and open society. Obviously, they didn’t translate all at once, but they still are being worked out- we’ve worked through the issues of slavery, women’s rights, etc. on that basis. When I say “that basis” what I mean is on the basis of the dignity of man given by the Creator – people are so important to God that they do indeed have inalienable rights. Take God out of the picture and there is no dignity of man, there is not importance, just pure survival and pleasure. Can you blame Christianity for slowing that progress at times – no – but you can blame some people trying to use it as an excuse to do so.

    On the issue of murder – your example of the Father killing the Son is a strange one. The fact is that Jesus offered Himself up for a sacrifice in accordance with the overall love of God for you and me (God, as in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The murder was strictly our issue. On Ananias and Sapphira, this was done not by the hand of Peter, but by the power of God. No, I don’t pretend to understand it – it seemed quite harsh to me as well, but it was indeed a totally isolated event in the New Testament – and it definitely speaks to the holiness of God – He doesn’t mess around with sin. In that regard, it certainly communicated this holiness to the people around that event. Giving up one’s possessions was not a part of the Gospel of the day – it was something done so others could have their needs met. In fact, people are noted to continue to retain lands, houses, etc – but they gave up that which they didn’t need as needs arose. It is not part of the Gospel, but was part of the Gospel community at that time (an important distinction). Too bad that has been lost – though the church in even all it’s strange forms is still one of the largest contributors to societal needs (outside of taxation, that is).

    Yes, the Gospel is all about grace and love and faith and truth. There ain’t anything else to add except how to practically live it out in a changing world – which was what the NT is mostly about.

    Here’s the bottom line – outside of Christ, there is no other person that gives eternal life as a gift, by grace. If you can name one, I’d like to know. Islam doesn’t, Buddhism doesn’t (unless you might ascribe to later adaptations), etc, etc. Certainly, humanism doesn’t. This is why Christianity does well in the battle trenches – because Jesus provides hope where there isn’t any. Some can live without that hope and are satisfied with life as being such for the number of years we’re here. My soul, as a non-Christian, was not satisfied with that – and most can’t be. For those who are – what if you’re wrong? That makes for a very costly error. Seems to me it is better to look for reasons TO believe than not to believe. Once a person starts to look for those reasons, he or she will find them, though we’ll all remain skeptics at heart. That’s ok, that keeps us from being intellectually honest, though we must fully realize that our intellect will never be fully satisfied. If it were, we ourselves would be God, since we’d know everything. Of course, that was man’s original downfall – he wanted to indulge in the tree of knowledge and be like God.

    Gotta go – thanks for the discussion.

  • 60. JackD  |  May 21, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Sorry, correction on the last paragraph – it keeps us being intellectually honest, not “from being”. By the way, in this discussion, what is the biggest reasons people here “de-converted”? Lack of experience with God’s presence: e.g. lack of answers to prayer, church hypocrisy, ill-informed answers from Christian sources, desire to do your own thing, etc, etc. – or all the above?.

  • 61. LeoPardus  |  May 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Jack D:

    Regarding your question in post 60, look in the archives for articles with the word “Reasons” in the title. There are at least half a dozen of them and they should provide you with a number of reasons why people hereabouts left the faith.

  • 62. The Apostate  |  May 22, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    JackD,

    … actually, the very concept of shared moral elements between civilizations is a contributing argument for there being a “God”, as even biologists now are saying that we have a part of our brain devoted to morals (a built in “compass”, put there by ???).

    Could you elaborate on why you believe that shared human morality is at all a compelling argument for a “god.” Why should our morality be any different from any other animal development? It has long been noted that many species within the animal kingdom share different aspects of what we might call “morality” or even “ethics.” Simply adding a god to the equation only creates more difficulties than attributing morality to the process of evolution, due to our “flawed” nature, if you will.

    The issue is the basis for morality… outside of Christian or other religions, the only basis is a social construct, whatever it takes to play together well. This degrades easily – and (as it does even if there are beliefs in absolutes) due to our fallen state of desiring passion and power.

    You speak of this degradation often and with authority. If our morality has degraded, as you continue to say it does, than this implies that previously our morality was greater than it is now, correct? So I must ask you again, when was this fabled golden age of morality? You seem to imply that this may be cyclical among various empires – is this your understanding?

    I definitely disagree with your statement “proven to be the case” – proven in what direction? It has indeed been proven by history that, when society degrades it’s adherence to absolutes, or relies on purely social constructs, that it quickly degrades

    The proven to be a case statement was made in reference to the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, be it the individual or the society. But you seem like the type to play word games with what it means to be a “Christian” or a “Christian nation.” Again, you are speaking about this degradation of society – could you elaborate on what this means?

    Good examples: Rome, Russia, China, etc., etc., etc.

    Look at the history of Rome, Russia, and China and take off your Hollywood blinders. When were these ever nations of great moral standing? When were they nations of moral relativism? Or absolutism? They, like any other, were nations of one absolute: power. Religion is used as any other institution is used by government, no matter what “stage” of their history.

    Look at the Ireland/British territorial squabbles, or the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades – they aren’t truly religious battles, they are the quest for land and power – either retaining it or gobbling it up

    Denial seems to be your greatest proponent in this statement. Simply because you don’t want it to be the truth doesn’t make it true. Let us take our favourite example as an archetype: the crusades. You say they weren’t truely religious. Maybe this is true for the power-hungry popes and kings – but what about the people actually, physically, trouncing off to war and blood-soaked fields who are following the orders of the pope – their religious father? These wars were nothing BUT religious. What does the poor farmer from southern France gain from the re-capturing of Jerusalem? If you can answer that without the use of religious fervour, I congratulate you. The people that believe are the enablers of corrupt war, and it is with use of the immoral Book that they read from which they gain justification for it – for the Moslems were simply the new Canaanites and Amalekites from which we may rape and pillage.

    Of course, in the case of the Crusades, we can now be thankful they slowed the progress of Islam until economics stopped them (that is, Europe’s prosperity through technological developments). Otherwise, we’d likely all be Islamic, and what of their countries would I ever want to grow up in?

    You have a very stagnant, uncultured, and perverted history of Islamic history – I would encourage you to read up on the golden ages of the people whose culture you fear so much – you might learn why Islam is the way it is today.

    ost Christian countries are indeed benefiting from pre-Christian days – otherwise they would be in the same condition as Russia and Rome…

    Could you clarify what you mean by this. I am under the impression that post-Christian countries benefiting from being exactly that: post-Christian, because they certainly didn’t benefit from being “Christian.”

    You can’t write off the positive nature of Christian moral basis due to punctuated bad decisions/involvements/events by a nation.

    What moral basis? Before we were talking about the moral basis instilled by a “god” of some sort, dismissing my issues with the Judeo-Christian god, but now we are back to a “Christian moral basis” that doesn’t really exist. The only positive features within Christianity are the same humanistic values found within all cultural systems which, again, can be explained by evolutionary development.

    The U.S. is a good example. We’ve done some really stupid things, but overall, there is a good reason why we have people wanting to come to this country.

    This could tell us is that it is better to be in the empire rather than be its victims.

    The values that we were founded on (whether Christian or Christian-theistic) have formed the basis of a free and open society.

    The United States of America was built on humanistic principles by people that were more deistic than theistic, people with knowledge that the god of the Judeo-Christian Bible did not care much for democracy or political freedom, much less a pronouncement against slavery or the objectification of women. To think otherwise is utter denial of what is found in the scriptures and Christian history.

    When I say “that basis” what I mean is on the basis of the dignity of man given by the Creator – people are so important to God that they do indeed have inalienable rights.

    The greatest reason Christianity survives is because you can claim to opposing facts as the Absolute Truth. A Christian can say at the same time that we are “so important” and have so much value in God’s eyes while at the same time speaking about deeply corrupt and depraved nature. I don’t buy that anymore.

    . Take God out of the picture and there is no dignity of man, there is not importance, just pure survival and pleasure.

    You obviously are no humanist, nor do you have any understanding of over 2500 years of western ethical philosophy, or the many non-theistic eastern philosophical pseudo-religions. I can just as well as say that one you take God out of the picture, we actually have our own intrinsic value. What value does God give us when we are created solely for HIS pleasure? If you really want to know what I think about your erroneous judgment, see my “The Meaning of Life” parts one and two with the following discussions.

    Can you blame Christianity for slowing that progress at times – no

    Why not?

    On the issue of murder – your example of the Father killing the Son is a strange one. The fact is that Jesus offered Himself up for a sacrifice in accordance with the overall love of God for you and me

    Since getting into a theology debate at this point is futile, let me just say that it isn’t that strange when you look at the human condition through an ex-Christian perspective. God supposedly created a potentially flawed species, knowing full well the course of their actions and the course of history, and sends or allows his son to have to redeem them all through a blood sacrifice. You can call it whatever you want. The supposedly reality is a hundred times stranger than me calling it “murder.”

    On Ananias and Sapphira…it was indeed a totally isolated event in the New Testament… it definitely speaks to the holiness of God – He doesn’t mess around with sin

    Ah, back to the god of the old and the god of the new. All it shows it that god is still willing to kill (or was… ) if it suits him. Why, may I ask, does god not strike down all the heathens today who lie about what they give to god? Hmmm… I don’t think there would be very many people left in church. It is still interesting, however, that you are still willing to excuse god for murdering someone that cheated on the books. Who do you really think is more corrupt in this situation – God or Ananias?

    Giving up one’s possessions was not a part of the Gospel of the day – it was something done so others could have their needs met.

    Sir, read your Bible and get back to me on that. Paul was not a follower of Jesus, the one called Christ. He was not a disciple and he was left out of every instance where he could have been later called an Apostle. Read your gospel. Read the words of Jesus and tell me that his followers were not, under any circumstance, to give up their possessions. Stop reading it through the perverted history of materialist Christianity.

    Yes, the Gospel is all about grace and love and faith and truth. There ain’t anything else to add except how to practically live it out in a changing world – which was what the NT is mostly about.

    You can say it, but you can’t prove it. I’ve read every book in the Bible inside and out, studied it, and at times loved and cherished it. I know what you say about it, but it simply does not ring an ounce of truth.

    Here’s the bottom line – outside of Christ, there is no other person that gives eternal life as a gift, by grace.

    No. Here is the bottom line – there is no person that gives eternal life as a gift. The addition of eternal life to any philosophical system only not only gives false delusional hope, but it cheapens the life we now have (the only one we actually know exists).

    This is why Christianity does well in the battle trenches – because Jesus provides hope where there isn’t any.

    This is like saying this is why casinos do well in Las Vegas. Offer someone a chance, no matter the reality of the probabilities, to win a million dollars, they take it. The case for modern day Christianity is easy: there is actually very little sacrifice, which is why contemporary Christians have such avid persecution complexes – they must make up the problems to which their religion solves.

    Some can live without that hope and are satisfied with life as being such for the number of years we’re here.

    No one lives with no hope. Unless of course, you speak for every humanist (which must be difficult since you are not one, nor does it appear that you have any knowledge of any).

    My soul, as a non-Christian, was not satisfied with that – and most can’t be.

    I can’t speak with your “soul” (or your emotional state of being or whatever you want to call it). My “soul” is satisfied with my life as a former evangelical, humanist, scientific-existentionalist, father of two and husband of a beautiful wife. I can’t ask for more, much less the blood of a wise Jewish teacher who lived two thousand years before me.

    For those who are – what if you’re wrong? That makes for a very costly error. Seems to me it is better to look for reasons TO believe than not to believe.

    What if you’re wrong? What if Paul’s Christ mythology only makes you look like an idiot and not only that – you missed salvation because you did not become a Judaizer? Or what if you did not sacrifice the right animal on the right day to a bloodthirsty god? You appear to be in just as bad shape as I am. The fact is, there is no more reason to believe in your god as it is the next, along with all their wrathful judgments.

    Seems to me it is better to look for reasons TO believe than not to believe.

    Sure, look back to the gambling issue. I can justify spending thousands of dollars in the casino because I just “know” I will eventually win that million dollars. Or I could be realistic and look at the probabilities and know that gaming is a hobby in which is meant for fun and not a way of making money. I chose not to believe otherwise because it is simple mathematical truths. The obvious truth of the vague god and his vague mode of being and his vague salvation with his contradictory collection of vague books simply does not warrant must reason to simply believe because it is easy to do so.

    That’s ok, that keeps us from being intellectually honest, though we must fully realize that our intellect will never be fully satisfied. If it were, we ourselves would be God, since we’d know everything. Of course, that was man’s original downfall – he wanted to indulge in the tree of knowledge and be like God.

    Umm… who said that our intellect will ever be satisfied? Who is trying to be a god? That is somewhat ironic coming from someone who aims to be “Christ-like” or a “person of God” (or if you are a Pentecostal of sorts – “little godlings”).
    Don’t even get me started with man’s downfall – such a story gives so much credibility to the corrupt Yahweh of the Gnostics it is unbelievable that today’s Christians cannot see the mischievousness of their so-called Alpha and Omega.

  • 63. The Apostate  |  May 22, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    By the way, in this discussion, what is the biggest reasons people here “de-converted”? Lack of experience with God’s presence: e.g. lack of answers to prayer, church hypocrisy, ill-informed answers from Christian sources, desire to do your own thing, etc, etc. – or all the above?.

    See Leopardus’ comment above.
    I only speak for myself – the inability for the Christian scriptures to be internally reconciled with its various theologies and contradictions. I could no longer consider myself both a person of integrity and a Christian.

  • 64. JackD  |  June 6, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Looks like you enjoy casting my thoughts based on some Christian stereotype you enjoy – oh well, that’s the problem with this type of forum, it allows anyone to do that.

    I’ll try to deal with some of this…

    No ,there was not a golden age, but yes, morality has declined in the U.S.- divorce rates, abortions, addictions, pornography, productivity declines due to integrity and work ethic issues. Those thoughts aren’t coming from Christian circles – they are written about in the major media publications.

    One of the big ten (depending on whose list you use) reasons for Rome’s fall – decline of morals. I’m not talking about the political people, I’m talking about the general population and their commitment to behaving responsibly and having a good work ethic. Whether it came from the top-down (politically and academically) or from the bottom up (general population) is up for grabs (maybe it was the media – all that Roman TV). Russia’s decline among the population? Definitely – that’s why they are inviting Bible teachers to come and teach the Scriptures in their schools. China – they are early on in the process – but moving quickly – their past reliance on family-religion values is decreasing. Do all of these countries have issues with doing evil (including us) throughout their history, yes. But, in the general population there are movements to of from moral/ ethical behavior. I’m thinking of the past 100 years and the decline we can understand from their current cultures. Of course, not everything can be considered in this process. Women’s rights is an example. Prejudice and women’s rights and such have definitely improved. Why was it that these were eradicated from the beginning of U.S. history I can never understand – there are no excuses for our behavior, whether humanist, deist or Christian. William Wilberforce and many fine Christian and non-Christian people took up great causes in these areas. They did it because they knew people have value, which is a decidedly religions notion (see notes below on this)

    On my stagnant view of Islam. You’ve got to be kidding. This is a case where people can be blinded by goodness, even though the root is not good. They have had their golden age and some beautiful rulers. But they are, at heart, a militaristic religion founded by someone who sought to unify a people and used religion to do it. The same could be said about Moses, but it would be a ludicrous argument, since the whole direction of Moses mission was based on freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt and finding and clearing a place to host the nation. After that, Israel’s military mission was over and it’s spiritual mission began. Jesus, was not about violence at all. Islam’s book is about taking over the world either from a spiritual stance or a violent one. It is overtly exclusive – which is why none of us would want to be citizens in their countries. Yes, Christianity has been played out in various times to be overtly exclusive – but that is not true about it’s source, where it is about Islam’s. Islamic countries have many, many reasons why they are the way they are today. Bad behavior by so-called Christian nations (I define such as those nations influenced by New Testament values and beliefs, not whether their rulers are wonderful Christians) are but one cause.

    On the Crusades – the fear was that Islam would take over Europe. Whether that was based on reality or not (they had invaded Spain and other areas, so it was based on some reality to that ficticious Knight you mentioned in France). However, the church’s stated rationale that was taught to those who would fight can’t be defended. It is not even an issue in this discussion actually, except to say, as mentioned before, that the actual reasons for Christian nations or other religious nations, going to war have , aside from areas of self-defense, been about greed and politics and could not be rationalized on Christian grounds. Some have said that the Crusades were a response toward defending Europe and/or the Jews. Defense of a people would certainly be a ground for fighting – but even if that was the case certainly a lot more came into play in that case – the hatred for the Islamic people was profoundly not Christian. Personally, I may not agree with or respect the Islamic scriptures as such (though I do take to heart some of the thoughts as good life teachings), but I am asked to love the Islamic people, especially including those God has put in my life’s path.

    It’s easy to get off target here – I’m not trying to defend Christian nations vs non-Christian nations. My point is simply that nations influenced by Christian values and beliefs (like the importance of every individual and other values – which even Gandhi picked up from Christ) are places where I would rather live and that where the rest of the world seems to want to be as well. Without those foundation beliefs we open ourselves up for many destructive self-centered tendencies. I maintain that secular humanism without Christianity will lead to difficult times.

    America founded by humanists and deists and such… Yup, but always with Christian foundational beliefs and ethics. Did they necessarily believe Jesus is the way of salvation? Nope. But they did believe in the attributes of God Jesus represented. Yes.

    The intrinsic value of the individual? Contrary to your abusive statement – I have read much on humanism. This argument that we have intrinsic value is simply based on nothing. We have intrinsic value to our parents, but to everyone else we have value for their personal pleasure (relationships, productivity, boosting their esteem, sex, etc.). If we can’t or won’t fulfill that, it is amazing how easy it is to “dis” them or subject them or to annihilate them. Secular humanism (versus Christian humanism) has great sayings and many beautiful adherents who have and are doing great things, but the more I read the more it doesn’t stack up rationally. That’s ok with me though – as their irrationality makes our world still a safer place than otherwise. I will give you this though – I simjply haven’t had time to read volumes of books on humanism (sometimes stuff from the New Humanist) but that’s because what I do read simply doesn’t gel with me. Many will say Christianity doesn’t make sense, like the Trinity, but at least I can chalk that up partly to the fact that God is simply not to be fully understood – but, that’s not my goal, except for the parts He’s given us to understand (“For My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways”. (Isa. 55:8) – “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are reveled belong to us and our children forever (Dt. 29:29). If a person can’t except that there are secret things, then they will never be able to sustain a faith. To a secular humanist, it shouldn’t matter one way or another – what difference does it really make if mankind progresses? I ask that of you, what difference does it make… why leave any legacy behind… why propagate the race or humankind? It’s not like the humanist is ever going to see the people they leave their messes to? Christians will answer to God for those messes, and there will be tears when it suddenly, in the presence of God, all dawns on them what their lives truly reflected. God will wipe those tears away, but there will be tears, because suddenly they will realize what they were truly about and what great opportunities were missed, but chose to miss them anyway. Even so, the fight to get and do better is well worth it. Why is there any fight to do better in a secular humanistic philosophy that makes sense to you? I’d like to hear your answer. I hope it is better than the statement that we have some sort of intrinsic value, please.

    Though you say you’ve studied the Bible, your comments about God’s plan of salvation and giving away possessions by the early Christians are obviously all about how indeed YOU want to complain about the Scriptures. If you really studied them, you know the context and you also know that it is obvious that Christians, and especially the mature disciples, did not give away all their possessions. To use even a small example – it is mentioned several times about going to, or meeting in, various people’s homes. That would not have been possible had they given away their homes. But overall, the giving away of one’s possessions was not part of the Gospel. The Gospel was simply repent and believe or, as succinctly stated in 1 Cor. 15:3-5, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” We are to give and to share. Jesus did have a tough conversation with the rich young ruler – to sell all he had and give to the poor. He knew exactly what this guy needed to be willing to do in order to deal authentically with Jesus. Would the ruler have needed to sell everything if he was then willing? We’ll never hear the rest of the story, but Jesus knew the issue. The man wanted Jesus AND his life as it was. Should more people go this route? I don’t know – but I suspect so. I’ve had to at times do the same thing in my own areas of life as things had become treasures getting in the way. I have to admit, some I want back at times, but for all the wrong reasons. “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God”. Each person has to honestly assess what it means for them to look back, but that is between him/her and God. But that is following Christ, and that isn’t ever dictated in the Scriptures as meaning for all to sell all possessions.

    Your comments on Glod striking down the couple in Acts – I’m going to chalk that one up as something you hadn’t quite thought through or had adequate time to write about as they didn’t have anything to do with the context of the piece of Scripture. Aside from that, no one understands this fully – as a matter of fact, few Christians are comfortable about this piece of Scripture. Here’s part of why – we all want to see the hand of God move in our lives very actively and obviously… UNLESS it is in dealing with our wrong-doing. So, we see that God dealt directly with this couple’s lie to the whole congregation, but we don’t want God to deal with our lies/facades/etc. – but we do want the “miracles” of healing and deliverance, etc.

    The humanists hope is in what exactly?

    Faith linked with a gamble – only to those who reject it. That’s an interesting argument, though your discussion of probabilities is kind of bogus. The fact is that probability is not a useful analogy, since they can’t be ascertained at all. They can be pre-determined, as they have been in your own mind, but that is just you making it up for argument sake. So that leaves it with you saying they are close to zero and me saying they are 100%. Why – both based on reason and experience. You say I’m unreasonable (and i agree in some respects because I can’t reason through God and His ways because I can only see what He has given me to see and that which I percieve clearly is only a smaller portion still). I say you’re unreasonable, because you have an active bias based on your unique (along with many on this site) non-experience with God’s presence in your life which has colored all your arguments. That lack of experience is definitely not true for me, though I’ve had times of great sorrow and loneliness where God seems sooo distant. So…

    It seems to come down to one thing – and let’s interact on this one especially…Experience. If you knew that you met God personally and had obvious answered prayer and wisdom/understanding beyond your means or experienced obvious God-miracles – would the rest of these discussions be superfluous to your faith… nice to know and want to know, but not faith-impacting? I mean, would it really matter if there was hypocrisy and crazy so-called “church history”? If you were certain of God’s presence, power and love for you and all that means, could you wait until heaven to get all the rest answered?

    The question then is how do I get that experience with God? This is especially considering that perhaps you’ve asked before and He hasn’t come through, so He must either be absent or not care or be so distant or distorted that He can’t be known and why be so deeply disappointed by any hope or expectation again.

    It was interesting reading through LeoPardus “testimony” – I know you probably hate this statement as seemingly condescending, but it really isn’t… my heart is sincerely wrenched by your thoughts there. I don’t like much of the church’s history, there’s a lot to be ashamed of, speaking as part of the problem. There is also a lot to be proud of, but that is not what people remember when assessing the faith. There are also so many deep frustrations in trying to reason my way through all of the Scriptures. I will be the last one to say you can, and I definitely don’t care for some of the more popular so-called theologians who come across as having all the answers. Personally, I want all the answers, but I’m also ok in my understanding that God has the answers and that will have to be good enough. There is enough there that does make sense and does line up with reality (as long as I don’t try to wed this with some other views of reality, like Wicca or New Age or something. The part that is gut wrenching is the part about your not seeing God at work directly in your life or the world around you. You said you still periodically ask for that – I will too.

    -Jack

  • 65. Jonathan B. Hobbs  |  June 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    The Lord’s Gospel: A Message Forgotten By Today’s Pulpit.

    Are you interested in a comprehensive narrative of the genuine gospel story of “Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ?” You don’t have to flip back and forth between the four gospels or use a concordance. Everything is right here at your fingertips. Imagine hearing the gospel accounts, for the first time in “surround sound,” as details from multiple writers provide a fuller, richer telling of this amazing story. While many stories in the synoptic gospels are similar, each man writes from his own perspective and to a different audience. (Matthew, a former tax collector, focused on the Gentiles, Luke works from Paul, a missionary’s point of view, Mark worked from Peter’s perspective, a view from Jesus’ inner circle and Christian Gate-keeper and finally, John was the great revelator and closes friend of the Lord, wrote from Jesus’ divinity.) Hearing all four voices in one reading brings a new, more complete understanding of the life and times of Christ. A must read for all spiritual leaders, this easy read 278-page paperback is perfectly suitable for Youth Ministries, teens, college students and adults. It encourages anyone to become a biblical scholars of the full gospel of Jesus Christ. Chapter illustrations and headings, such as “A Withered Right Hand,” keep the reader focused on Christ’s life and message. Whether one has recently come to faith or is preparing to embark on missionary service, this marvelous teaching guide is a valuable resource. Suitable for any teenager or college student, it combines the King James gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into a single narrative. It is also especially suited for the needs of those newly converted to the Christian faith. Nearly 120 Old Testament references are embedded throughout the body of the text for scriptural validation of the gospel, proving without a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. A portion of this wonderful gift of “Bible Notes” can be previewed at no cost by going to http://www.jesuslittleflock.com/biblenotes.htm. If your church organization wishes to place an order, please contact http://www.CSNbooks.com and select “Book Store” or call 1 (866) 484-6184, 9-5pm (PST).

    May God continue to bless you,

    Brother: Jonathan B. Hobbs
    JBHobbs77a@aol.com

  • 66. orDover  |  June 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Christian spam!

  • 67. LeoPardus  |  June 29, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    The temptation to spam his ass to hell and gone is tremendous. :D

  • 68. Joe  |  June 30, 2009 at 11:14 am

    I hadn’t seen this thread before—I guess because it is from 2007. But I would say that as a Christian I do not look at people as “willfully rejecting” the truth. The only persons I see as “willfully rejecting” the truth ones like the author of this article who can quote scripture quite freely which offers salvation through Grace and reject it.

    The majority of the world–Muslims, Buddhists, etc. have not clearly heard the Gospel. They are not “willfully” rejecting it—and to be honest I have no idea how God will judge the world. The greatest judgement in the Bible is against those who have known the way of the truth and then rejected it, or twisted it to make money, etc. (see 2 Peter and Jude)—these are people who can actually tell you how to be saved while they themselves reject that very message. Those are the “willful” rejecters of the Gospel, and according to the Bible their judgment will be great (Heb. 10:29).

    What happens to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. I have no idea. We preach the Gospel to them, but what happens to them who have not heard I leave with God. What is important is HAVE I HEARD THE GOSPEL? WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH IT? Have I accepted it or rejected it? Everyone has to ask themselves that question.

  • 69. paleale  |  June 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Have I heard it?

    Yes

    What have I done with it?

    I initially accepted it at the enlightened age of 5 and lived my life by it for almost 30 years after which I finally realized that it’s all bunk and promptly rejected it.

  • 70. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    The only persons I see as “willfully rejecting” the truth ones like the author of this article who can quote scripture quite freely which offers salvation through Grace and reject it.

    You realize that’s exactly what the author’s talking about? The whole point of the article is that people can hear the Gospel and reject it without “rejecting what they know is really true.”

  • 71. Joe  |  July 1, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    “You realize that’s exactly what the author’s talking about? The whole point of the article is that people can hear the Gospel and reject it without “rejecting what they know is really true.” #70

    Snuggly–

    The article is actually a bit confusing. The are “non-believers” who have never heard, and others who misunderstand the Gospel. I do not believe they are “willfully” rejecting it. But there are others who FULLY UNDERSTAND it, enough that they can actually preach it, and then reject it. See #69 just above your post. This person says they “came to realize it was all bunk”—but that is THEIR opinion isn’t it? They have come to rejecting what they once accepted—that is a huge difference from never hearing it, or not understanding it.

    Entirely from a Biblical perspective post #69 is “willful rejection” and is referred to in 2 Peter and in Heb. 10:29. 2 Peter says it was “better if they had never known the path of righteousness and then turned away from it”. But there are millions and millions who one cannot put into that category at all.

  • 72. paleale  |  July 1, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    See #69 just above your post. This person says they “came to realize it was all bunk”—but that is THEIR opinion isn’t it?

    Yes, Joe. It is my opinion. However, it is quite an educated opinion– one that was reached over the course of years, due to many contributing factors all pointing towards one conclusion.

    And regarding your scripture reference, I agree that it would have been better if I had never known the “path of righteousness”– at least the one purported by the author of 2 Peter, whoever he was. De-conversion sucks, Joe. It is not a willful process by which we all thumb our noses at God and walk away with an evil smirk. It is a painful awakening to the reality that all those years of service to God, all the missions work, all the hours spent in worship and prayer– it was all directed towards the ancient Hebrews’ equivalent of Zeus and with the same effect.

    It felt good to do most of the time, and often made me feel good about myself when I wasn’t wrought with guilt over some ‘sin’. But it’s not real. It’s no different than all those other religions which you reject so flippantly and with such confidence. I think whoever wrote 2 Peter was more correct than he knew. At least then, I and others like me would not have had to experience the gut-wrenching disillusionment of de-conversion.

  • 73. HeIsSailing  |  July 2, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Joe says:

    But there are others who FULLY UNDERSTAND it…

    Hey Joe. I wrote this article a very long time ago, but let me try and clear up your confusion.

    Yes, having been a Christian until I left the faith at ~43 years of age, I am confident that I FULLY UNDERSTAND what Christian salvation is all about. This article is about Christian apologists who claim that us apostates are willingly rejecting the *obvious truth* of the Gospel.

    I hear this from apologists because they are actively defending their faith – and to them, the Christian Gospel is so obviously true, that they feel us apostates must see the Gospel as the truth, yet are willfully rejecting it *while simultaneously seeing it as the truth*!

    I hope you understand the distinction that I am making. I reject the Christian Gospel, not because I see it as the truth, and am acting through sinful defiance, rather I reject it for the same reason you reject, let’s say Islam. You may understand the demands that Islam places on their adherents as the only way to salvation. Do you see Islam as an obvious truth that you must reject? NO! Chances are, you reject it because you do not believe the claims Islam makes about the nature of reality. And I reject Christianity for the same reason – in that it makes certain claims that I find to be untrue – and NOT because of willful defiance.

    I cannot tell you how many times I hear Christian pastors claim this about non-believers – that we hear the Gospel message, then the only reason we can reject it because of our hard hearts and sinful nature. Therefore they claim that we are “willfully rejecting the obvious truth of the Gospel” Conversely, you will NEVER hear a Christian pastor say, “They heard the Gospel message, and investigated the claims and found them lacking – and that is why they reject.” Never mind that this reason accounts for most of us apostates being in this position, because the fact is you will never hear that message from the pulpit. Instead these pastors and apologists spin-doctor the story so that we are not Christians because we reject what we know is true, we want to be defiant towards God and live our sinful lifestyles in denial of certain and ultimate divine justice.

    Christians apologists see their Gospel as axiomatic TRUTH, and they insist that everyone who is presented with the Gospel message must also see it as TRUTH. The facts are, that it just ain’t that simple…

    I hope that clears up the point of this article just a bit

  • 74. LeoPardus  |  July 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

    De-conversion sucks, Joe.

    It’s this message that I would wish Joe could get. Really. I don’t expect him to, but if he would, it would do him some good.

  • 75. Joe  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    HelSailing—-

    Thank you for the explanation—-what your article was about makes a lot more sense to me now. Thanks.

    paleale—-

    What is difficult about deconversion for me is you say you reached an educated opinion after reaching conclusions that all pointed in one direction. I have been a Christian for 36 years–and during that time I have come to realize that there is a huge difference between intelligence and wisdom.

    The opposite of intelligence is stupidity, while the opposite of wisdom is foolishness. You will note that the Bible does not say “the stupid person has said in his heart there is no God”—it says “the fool has said in his heart there is no God”.

    This is because a genius can be a fool—–and a very uneducated person can be very wise. If one uses intelligence alone to come to conclusions, it may all “sound” very logical, and point in one direction. But when one considers the experiences of life, the paradoxes, the confusion, etc. we realize that intelligence (pure head knowledge) should not be our only source of determining what is real.

    An extreme genius can make one “unwise” decision with his money, or due to physical needs, and destroy his life and career. This “genius” may have sounded so logical, so “right on”, that we can’t believe he would make such a decision. But that is because he was being “foolish”, which is far different than just being plain stupid. Unfortunately, many times our “intelligence” can lead us to make “unwise conclusions” about things we do not understand.

  • 76. SnugglyBuffalo  |  July 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Joe,

    As HIS pointed out, I think you’re confusing “willful rejection” with “willful rejection of obvious truth.”

    I would agree that I willfully reject the Bible. I do so because, after examination, I don’t believe it is true, rather than rejecting it in spite of believing it to be true.

  • 77. paleale  |  July 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Joe

    I’m pretty sure you meant to say that there’s a difference between ‘knowledge’ and wisdom vs ‘intelligence’ and wisdom. At least, I hope that’s what you meant. You see the difference, do you not? I’m re-reading your post and replacing one word with the other.

    But when one considers the experiences of life, the paradoxes, the confusion, etc.

    This is precisely what leads many believers to begin to question the ‘wisdom’ of the Christian faith (or any other religion, for that matter). It’s this supposed wisdom that leads people to ignore common sense. Parents refusing medical treatment for sick children in comes to mind. Insisting on a 6,000 year old earth in spite of mountains (literally) of evidence to the contrary is another example. If belief in God produces wisdom then where do those two examples fit in? That is the real paradox.

    Let me ask you a few questions. Is a belief in your god prerequisite for wisdom or can faith in Allah or Vishnu also produce wisdom? Do you think that it’s possible for people to be wise without a belief in your god? What of people like Ghandi? Do you think that Abraham Lincoln was a fool? Do you dismiss the non-Christian philosophers which shaped western thinking?

  • 78. ...  |  January 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

    See

    http://www.yadayahweh.com

    For the TRUTH you seek.

  • 79. Tidus  |  January 12, 2010 at 6:49 am

    More than anecdote than a comment. As I remember…
    There is a story which tells of the mathematician named GH Hardy who was giving a lecture. He pointed to the board and announced to the class ” It is clear that…” and then trailed off suddenly deep in thought. Without a word he left the lecture hall and was absent for about 15 minutes. He returned with a smile on his face and continued with the lecture,”Yes, it is definitely clear that…”

    What I find amusing about this story is that sometimes the same sort of things occur in my own lectures. I recall a particular lecturer, who was also found of using the phrase or the form of the phrase “It is clear that…” Once he asked a student to complete a calculation on the board. The student looked at the board for a while and began,” It is clear that…” and went on with the calculation. The lecturer replied,” No,it is definitely not clear that…”

    To this day I still don’t know what is clear and what is not clear :-)

  • 80. Joshua  |  January 13, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I’m incessantly amused with the distinction religious believers make between truth and TRUTH, as if they are tacitly confessing that some truth only exists in their minds and you can only access it by some special, privileged method – like unquestioning faith.

    That ever-so-subtle Notion that capitalizing a word or holding it up amidst adorning ethereal tiles embossed with reverence would somehow market their idea to the masses in a way that would help them see its TRUTH is itself somewhat cliche. As if TRUTH needed to be TRUE. And, in unison, you can hear them say – I can still recall the many voices – but Josh, its the TRUTH! I fear that many men worship not God but their own brand of Truth that they bought with their lives from the snake oil man on the corner who himself has fallen for its charms.

    It’s subtle, like subliminal messaging, but effective.

    Unless you’ve figured it out.

  • 81. ...  |  January 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Joshua,

    Obviously you could not have read over 2,000 pages of very well researched material.
    I assume you were responding to my post because I capitalized “Truth”

    After you’ve spent the time to read and cross reference, I’d be happy to hear your opinion. Until then, it’s just blather.

    peace

  • 82. Blue  |  January 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Ah the Courtier’s Reply. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php

  • 83. Quester  |  January 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I assure you, …, Joshua has read well over 2,000 pages of very well researched material. By not squandering our time clicking on links posted on this forum by every nutcase with delusions of competency, we have time to be rather well-read around here.

  • 84. ...  |  January 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Quester?
    What are you talking about?
    I’m talking about the over 2,000 pages of material in http://www.yadayahweh.com

    P.S. I’m not ‘religious’ at all, but if you’d read any of the work I linked to, you’d already know that.

    What a snarky crowd. Ignore as you will. So be it.

  • 85. Quester  |  January 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Nobody called you religious. Just a nutcase. The two terms are not mutually dependent. But thanks for graciously permitting us to ignore your 2,000 some page “accurate translation” of the scriptures of one more imaginary god.

  • 86. billy  |  June 4, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I want gas to be at 10.00 a gallon then maye amricunts will stop using sooooo much!!!!!!!!!

  • 87. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Paul / Deconvert wrote in comment 1:

    Do you believe there has to be a ‘crisis’ (not sure if that’s the right word) in order for a Christian to remove the what we would now refer to as “blinders” but what a Christian would view as “obvious truth?”

    I was recently struck by the phrase which I read in “The Christian Delusion” that it’s nearly impossible to reason someone out of belief in God because they were very rarely reasoned into it. Think about your own faith experience. You might have had lots of good reasons for remaining a believer, but your actual conversion had nothing to do with reason. Mine sure didn’t. (And again, I never would have admitted it as a believer – so believers, save your breath in denying it, since I already agree with you that you’re going to deny it.)

    So I think, yes. A “crisis” of some sort is necessary to undo a conversion which had nothing to do with rational thought.

    It seems funny replying to this 3 year old message, but I didn’t see any answers and didn’t know where else to comment.

  • 88. HeIsSailing  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thomas, I am the author of this 3 year old article, and I don’t mind you dredging it up from the grave. I did not de-convert due to a crisis – it was just years of developing my critical thinking skill, then finally applying them to my beliefs. When I was in the process of de-converting, I was told by my fellow church-goers that I was undergoing a ‘mid-life’ crisis, but I am not sure that is the same thing.

  • 89. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    No crisis? Really? Then you were never Truly Saved.

  • 90. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    whoops, I wrote “kidding kidding” in angular brackets in that last post but the words didn’t get posted.

  • 91. Quester  |  June 6, 2010 at 2:21 am

    For me, the “crisis” was becoming responsible to teach my faith to others. When I started studying my faith from the point of view of a student it was new to and who might have questions, I found many more questions than answers. The more I researched and thought about what I found, the more everything fell apart.

  • 92. Thomas  |  June 6, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Quester and HIS, I’m going to have to see if I can find your deconversion stories. I’m very curious about this idea that people are not reasoned into faith and cannot be reasoned out of it. It sounds like you’re both claiming to be exceptions which prove the rule is bunk.

  • 93. HeIsSailing  |  June 6, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Thomas,
    Thanks for your interest, but I never wrote an “official” de-conversion story. You will have to piece together what you can from the various articles that I have written here.

  • 94. Thomas  |  June 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    What I haven’t been able to find is why you became a Christian in the first place. My speculation is that the rule of thumb is generally true. If you are like most people I know, you became a Christian through social contacts with believers and not because of “critical thinking” about its message compared to other religions. I’m sure it’s presumptuous of me to say that you weren’t “reasoned out” of belief either – as much as you began to identify with non-Christian activists who are more “Christian” than you even aspire to be.

    Perhaps “crisis” is too strong a word, but I do know for me that I needed something stronger than a contradiction staring me in the face.

  • 95. Quester  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Thomas,

    For me, there were a few things happening around the same time, but the main one was going to seminary and realizing that I wasn’t sure what the salvation message was. Are all saved, or only some? If only some, then how are those some chosen? Answers I had gotten to this question before had all contradicted each other, but if I was going to be a pastor, I wanted to be clear on this central point. So, I prayed, studied, and conversed.

    Hmm.. while “crisis” just doesn’t feel like an appropriate word, maybe we’re not really disagreeing here. I did have *something* that caused me to look at my faith again, with fresh eyes.

  • 96. HeIsSailing  |  June 7, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Thomas says:
    “What I haven’t been able to find is why you became a Christian in the first place…”

    Thomas, I became a Christian because I was raised in a commune of generally loving, peaceful and very good hearted hippie Jesus Freaks who were convinced the world was going to end at any time.

    I never left the faith, but I wandered from it when I joined the military (as many young men do). I served one term, and began drinking, partying, squandering my money. Yup, the stereotypical backslider..!! But if you were to ask me then if I believed, I would have said, “Believe? Darn right I believe!”

    I returned (in a BIG way) in roughly 1988 after re-dedicating my life to Jesus. I became a devout Christian again because I was young (I was 25 at the time), broke, and sick of partying and laying waste to my life – I knew I was the Prodigal Son, and I wanted to return to my Savior who I knew was waiting for me with open and loving arms.

    I drifted away again around 1996 when I enrolled in university (majoring in physics). I drifted because a few mission trips through Calvary Chapel and Samaritan’s Purse turned my stomach, and I also began to see the hypocrisy of my fellow church-goers. I needed a break, and I was sick of dead-end jobs, so I buried myself in college work. I was a fairly old college freshman of 32. But if you were to ask me then if I believed, I would have said, “Believe? Darn right I believe!”

    I returned to my devout Christian beliefs around 2004 when I got married. I had just turned 41, and wed for the first time wth a young and devout wife. I desperately wanted to be a good husband. My university disciplines in science taught me much about the world, but I knew that to be a good and moral husband was the domain of religion, at least this is what I was told all my life, so I returned to the Faith for that reason. We got involved with missions with our church, held home Bible studies, and I tried to re-learn my Christian lessons – simply because I wanted to be a good husband.

    I hope that helps.

  • 97. mazvikq  |  May 25, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Finance freedom :

    http://wall-street.uni.me/?post-be.html

    saving money greens real estate victoria wyoming health insurance royal bank of scotland, chicago trix board you tube

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

Twitter

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 1,964,112 hits since March 2007

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 183 other followers