Is He Live or is He Memorex?

March 23, 2008 at 9:43 am 40 comments

Jesus at the ResurrectionThe following post was written on April 7th, 2007:

Last year about this time, I celebrated Easter as a committed believer of the Risen and Living Savior. I have done so every Easter I can remember except for a rebellious stint I had while in my 20s (we all have those, no?). The one thing I knew for certain was that it was impossible to be a true Christian without this conviction.

.…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. - 1 Cor 15:17-19 (NASB)

Of course I believed in the Resurrection. It is a foundational belief. It is essential. As C.S. Lewis would say, it is part of “Mere Christianity”.

I have always been an avid reader, and I always saw books in the library or store that had titles that just screamed, “Open my cover and browse my pages if you dare. For we are here to challenge your Christian beliefs!” My church pastors had words for authors of books like this: Pseudo-Intellectuals, who “professing themselves to be wise, they had become fools” (Rom 1:22). They were likely angry apostates, out on an agenda to debunk The Word of God, the Anvil that has worn our many Hammers. It was easy to pass by these books left on the shelf without thinking another thought.

Upon entering graduate school, I was introduced to the Internet, and I was soon a little overwhelmed with the ease that I could obtain information. More than I few times, before I knew better, I had accidentally hit a porn site while in the school computer lab, and I would be furiously clicking the “close” button before an administrator noticed! The power of the Internet, the Information Superhighway, where articles and opinions were shoved in your face before you had a chance to see what was on the cover.

While working in the lab late one night all those years ago, I stumbled onto this site, an article by Dan Barker, self-proclaimed minister turned atheist, which challenged the reader to take what he called the Resurrection Challenge. The Resurrection Challenge was a challenge to harmonize the accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Four Gospels, and the one in 1 Corinthians 15 to remove the (apparent) contradictions. Dan Barker was a Christian minister who became an atheist simply because, he claimed, he found Christianity to be unbelievable. Another angry apostate! I read a few paragraphs of the article, but did not finish it. Of course the Gospels could be harmonized – we are only talking about the inerrant Word of God here! Sure the angels appear in different places in Jesus’ tomb, sure they said different things, but those details are so minor, so trivial, when considering he entire overarching theme of the Resurrection. The funny thing is, I never took it upon myself to at see if the Resurrection accounts could be harmonized. I knew they could, and that settled it. I clicked the browser window closed and did not give the Resurrection Challenge another thought.

Until last year – I was hosting our small group Bible Study, and the seeds of doubt had begun in my own faith. I was still a Christian, a believer in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was scrounging around the Internet looking for some resources, until I again stumbled on, you guess it, the long forgotten Resurrection Challenge. This time, I read the entire article. Then I grabbed a steno pad, pencil with sturdy eraser, and attempted the Resurrection Challenge.

I admitted defeat in about 5 minutes.

Undaunted, I itemized most of the discrepancies that I found in the Resurrection Accounts just to see how many there were. Some of the contradictions are listed in the original article, but I had to check for myself. I was stunned at how divergent the accounts were. Not only were they contradictory in nature, they were practically completely different stories! This was not a case of several different eyewitness getting the story details slightly different, this was wholesale opposition. The truth of one Gospel account had to imply the falsehood of the other.

I listed the portions of the Resurrection accounts which diverged from the other accounts, and gave up after a couple hours. It really rattled me. If God wants us to believe in the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, why are all these accounts so different? If God wants us to believe, why did he make his recording of events so inconsistent with each other? If these were separate Police reports of the same event, would they even be considered? What truth could be gleaned from them?

Take the Resurrection Challenge. What do you draw from your conclusions?

A list of some of the contradictions is at the end of Barker’s article. But he did not list one that I found, one that I consider perhaps the most troublesome and baffling contradiction in the entire Bible. It concerns whether Christ rose in the Flesh, or rose in the Spirit. Here I list two accounts from the Resurrection narratives:

Account 1 -
In 1 Cor 15, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the dead, following the example of the resurrected Christ. He makes this remark that states Jesus was risen with a Spiritual, and most emphatically not Physical body.

So also is the resurrection of the dead It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – 1 Cor 15:42-44 (NASB) – but read the whole chapter for good context.

Account 2 -
The resurrected Jesus has just disappeared from Emmaus, and has appeared to the eleven remaining disciples in Jerusalem. He mentions that he has a Physical, and most emphatically not Spiritual body.

While they (the eleven disciples) were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. - Luke 24:36-43 (NASB)

The only way I have seen these two passages reconciled is with the tried and true Harmonization by Omission tactic. I have heard the theory that Jesus could have risen as spirit, ascended to heaven while nobody was around, then came back to Earth as flesh. I won’t even entertain that idea here, because to give it credibility is to be desperate to even include sheer brute force to make this issue harmonize.

Some Christians concede that while the details of particular passages may differ, the essence remains consistent. I don’t see a consistent essence in this case. Everything differs except the amorphous detail that Jesus rose. What message he left, who he saw, what form he took and what he did remains unknown, because not a single detail can be reconciled.

The essence of Jesus life through the Gospels seems to be consistent, at least through the Synoptics. He taught similar things, he performed similar miracles, and events can be harmonized with a little ironing over rough details. Why do the events diverge so greatly after the crucifixion? There is general agreement that Mark is the first Gospel to be written, and many scholars agree that there is not much of a Resurrection story in that Gospel. Many scholars agree that the Gospel ends at Mark 16:8, with the women fleeing the sepulcher in fear. The End. If that is true, could it be that when Matthew and Luke were independently compiling their Gospels from Mark, and left with a paucity of Resurrection material, had to elaborate their own accounts from Oral Tradition and legend? What about John? Perhaps he had to derive things independently as well, thus four wildly divergent Resurrection accounts.

That is the only thing that makes sense to me. Is the Resurrection of our Savior Myth and Legend?

Tomorrow I will go to mass with my wife and celebrate Easter with her. I want to believe, I truly do, but what am I to hold my faith on? I am convinced that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is incorrect, so do I have nothing to go on but 2000 year-old hear-say? I want to believe because I am afraid to discard a belief I have held my entire life. I want to believe for the sake of my family, and the sake of my wife.

I am afraid to say it. But I must admit it. This will be the first Easter that I celebrate as a non-believer.

- HeIsSailing

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Creating Our Own Purpose Driven Life Experiencing The Wonders Of Nature Post De-Conversion

40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  March 23, 2008 at 11:45 am

    WoW – The de-Convert decided to re-print this blast from the past from my old website. Thanks de-Convert.

    At the time I wrote this article, I still considered myself a Christian of sorts, but I was really struggling to hang on – really trying my best to figure out what exactly it was that I was supposed to believe. My wife could see the torment and pain that I was going through, and it really confused her. We talked often about faith, Christianity, God and Jesus, but coming from a conservative Catholic culture, she did not understand the importance I placed in Scripture, or why things like I typed in this article bothered me so much.

    I just re-read this old article. It brought back some interesting memories, not all of them pleasant ones. When I wrote this article, ‘Is He Live or is he Memorex?’, I was in real confusion about my faith. I had no idea what I was going to do, or what I was supposed to believe. I had my small – group Bible study that met at my house every week – how was I going to deal with them?? How was my wife going to handle this?

    It was a difficult time.

    Here is an update: Today is the first Easter that I can remember, in fact probably my first Easter ever, that I slept in. My wife, who also has never missed an Easter, did not even bother to go to mass this morning. We did attend a passion play a few nights ago for Black Friday, but it is undeniable that we influence each other in our Spiritual lives. Over this last year, my wife is attaching less and less importance to ritual and ceremony. So we slept in this morning rather than attend mass. My wife believes in God, and is confident that her faith makes her a better person. Sometimes I think I am atheist, sometimes I think there might be a god after all, sometimes I still cling to that Christian tradition and culture that I know so well, yet do not believe. In no way do I share the Christian faith anymore. I do attend mass with my wife, but will not partake of the eucharist.

    For all practical purposes, there is no god. There is no sin. There is no guilt, no redemption, no justification and no glorification. There is no heaven and there is no hell. There is just no good reason for me to believe any of that stuff anymore. I am no longer in torment and fear over my lost faith. I no longer feel compelled to search for God or cry out for his saving faith. I no longer have nightmares about the torments of hell.

    This day, this Easter, this first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, is just another day with no more importance than any other. I don’t have to celebrate the resurrection of a man who died and rotted 2000 years ago. I no longer have to force myself to believe the unbelievable.

    I slept in this morning, and I am guilt-free. I am no longer afraid. My wife and I are at peace. Life is good.

  • 2. The de-Convert  |  March 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    HIS,

    This was one of my favorite articles from the old blog. In fact, I think it was the first piece I read by you.

    It is hard to believe that it’s been a year. I too, was struggling with letting go a year ago. However, there’s no longer that struggle. I do not believe for one second that there’s even a slight possibility that there’s any reality to the “god” beliefs of Judaism/Christianity including the resurrection.

    …and I couldn’t be more content with life…

    Paul

  • 3. karen  |  March 23, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I slept in this morning, and I am guilt-free. I am no longer afraid. My wife and I are at peace. Life is good.

    How wonderful. :-) I’m so glad for you and Rosemary, and you too, Paul.

    It’s interesting how wrenching and difficult that first year or so of deconversion are (for many people anyway) and then how reasonably quickly the adjustment to agnosticism or atheism gets made and how at ease one can feel without religion.

    When Christians ask me why I don’t give church another try, or maybe try a more liberal denomination or even a different religion, I have to honestly say, “I don’t miss it.” Aside from occasionally feeling like I’d love to have a “fail safe” to whisper prayers to when something tough is happening, I just don’t miss religion or any of its trappings.

    In fact, I’m a lot happier without it, which I’m sure is difficult for those still steeped in it to understand.

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  March 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Heh heh. I get a different perspective yet. The EOC is still in the middle of the Great Lenten Fast. Easter is still 5 weeks away. (More if anyone wants to know. Like I keep saying the EOC is like life from another planet to most Protestants.)

    But I don’t have to fast for 7 weeks. I’ll admit there are some good side benefits to doing so, but I like not having the obligation. And Easter will still come in 5 weeks, and I’ll get up and go, because the music and the service are beautiful, and the feast afterward is great. It really is totally different from any other Sunday.

    But in one way it will be like any other Sunday. I know it’s all just make believe. I’m just there because it’s a lovely service and the people are nice.

    Oh and one other thing that will be nice. The Easter sermon is the same every year (and has been for many centuries). So I won’t have to put up with the priest’s drivel.

  • 5. OneSmallStep  |  March 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I remember when HIS first posted the resurrection challenge on his blog. The comments were very interesting. There were some, like me, who undertook the challenge and concluded that the accounts could not be harmonized. It wasn’t even so much getting the accounts to align, but what happened when you read the accounts individually again, and the “pauses” you had to insert due to the harmonizations. It really detracted from the seperate accounts.

    But the fascinating thing about this is that there were some who said the resurrection challenge was no big deal, and easily solved, and yet didn’t actually post an attempt. What they did was answer the questions individually, and even after that was pointed out to them, still claimed they had answered the objections — even though they didn’t post an attempt of cominbing all five accounts.

    I think there was only one person who attempted a sincere harmonization and posted it — either here, or in HIS blog. And there was another person who initially said it was easy and we were making a mountain of a molehill. And then apologized after she actually attempted the challenge, and said that she’d work on it, and looked forward to what God would reveal through her efforts.

  • 6. Rachel  |  March 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Just watch the History Channel sometime when they have the Kennedy assassination on and see how many different accounts you hear. And somebody got THAT on film!

  • 7. The de-Convert  |  March 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Rachel,

    Fair enough. If you view the gospel writers no different that someone viewing the Kennedy assassination, then you make an excellent point. In fact, since they were not present at these events and writing much later in the 1st century, I would even cut them a bit more slack than an actual observer.

    However, if you view them as writing THE inspired Word of God, then you’d expect them all to at least agree. After all, their writings were “God breathed.” He should be omniscient enough to “inspire” them to not contradict each other.

    Paul

  • 8. Rachel  |  March 23, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Hey Paul,

    You’re right; your conclusions on this issue will depend on what you mean by “inspiration.” I see the Bible as infallible in its witness to Christ, but not “inerrant” in that it contains no factual error. So I guess I don’t see the gospel writers as any different from the people that witnessed the Kennedy assassination, or 9/11, or any other historical event for that matter.

    The Bible is about God working in history through real people. So a Christian really should view the Bible differently than a Muslim views the Koran, since the Koran is seen as verbally inspired and written down by one person. When you have real people, multiple people, writing about the same thing, there are going to be discrepancies; that’s just how it goes. If a few contradictions didn’t bother the thousands of Christians who died because they believed Jesus was alive, then they don’t bother me either. The problem comes only when you have a fundamentalist, inerrantist view of scripture.

  • 9. The Apostate  |  March 24, 2008 at 1:42 am

    If a few contradictions didn’t bother the thousands of Christians who died because they believed Jesus was alive, then they don’t bother me either.

    Rachel, I don’t think most people are even aware of the contradictions, and those who are either quickly shove them aside or purposely dismiss them, leaving very little room for any real discussion. The problem is that these “few contradictions” are not limited to trivial numbers and subtle discrepancies. How about the Trinitarian model of the Godhead? How about Christ’s divinity? How about the way of salvation or the place of faith and works? What about the teachings of Jesus versus the teachings of Paul? As more and more people are realizing, as they actually read their Bibles with critical eyes, there is very little that is central to Christianity that is not debatable, much less coherent within the scriptures themselves.

  • 10. acwfloreat  |  March 24, 2008 at 6:59 am

    To me the problem is seeing the Bible as ‘history’ whereas it seems likely that the writers had no concept, as we now have, of accurate, factual accounts of events.
    One of their aims was to vindicate Jesus as the Christ predicted in the Old Testament, and so they bring in many confirming references. The stories of the passion told in each gospel therefor probably depended on the learning and viewpoint of the writer(s) far more than on a precise portrayal of events which had occured probably over a century in the past. Paul’s writings are probably those closest in time to the events.
    AN Wilson’s book Jesus has interesting and pertinent discussions on all this.
    Personally I find this hangup on ‘historical veracity’ somewhat besides the point – the message of Christ is not vitiated by questions of this sort to me. Teachings that love is the only thing that works for humans are endorsed by all major religions (I think) And I have been amazed at the close similarities of Christ’s and the Buddah’s reported words. ps I went to church yesterday, but missed the early one due to own confusion as to BST.

  • 11. Carlton Figg  |  March 24, 2008 at 8:38 am

    The question regarding the “Resurrection” has been raised by me time and again. This is because I am uncomfortable with the words of Simon Peter when (in 1Peter 3:18) he says that Jesus was put to death in the body and that He “was raised in the spirit”. This point of view clashes with the biblical scenes in and around the tomb of Jesus after the reported “resurrection”. Unfortunately. whenever I refer to this verse, I am diverted from the topic by the very people who ought to be explaining Peter’s version to me. On one occasion, a pastor went to the extent of saying that it was a misprint which should have stated that Jesus was “raised by the Spirit”. A misprint ? And that, too, in a book inspired by God himself ? Okay — then whey did God overlook the fact that the misprint ought to have been corrected before millions of copies were put into circulation ?

    The most amazing (and distressing ) aspect of all this is the hemming-and-hawing that goes on when the question is raised. Even a well-known theologist looked at me (as if he were looking at a worm in his apple! ), cleared his throat (quite meaningfully) and then spun around and walked away in the manner of a man in one hell of a huff !!

    All this leaves me quite upset and very unhappy. Parts of the Holy Book puzzles me — nay, distresses me — and there is nobody ready to explain those parts to me. In fact, they look at me as if to say : “Et Tu, Brute ?!!”

  • 12. Notabarbie  |  March 24, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Hey HIS-
    I remember reading that post! Wow, time sure flies! I remember the state I was in at the time too. I was pretty distressed and conflicted. That post made so much sense to me, and helped me tremendously, as all of your posts have. A wise friend, who will remain nameless, (Zoe) told me over a year ago now, that things would get better. She was right…as she always is :-) I didn’t sleep in this Easter because we all got up early and went to Monterey and I put my feet in the sand for the first time this year…it was great! I did receive an early morning email from an old friend reminding me to have a great Easter, but to remember to, “Worship our risen lord, Jesus Christ,” etc, etc. I wrote her back and cheerfully told her that we did have a wonderful Easter Sunday and told her how thankful I was for the beautiful weather. The best part of all, was that I felt zero guilt…zero. Easter was so far from my mind that I almost forgot to buy my kids their chocolate bunnies…Thank god we didn’t have to haul out the old “resurrection eggs!”

  • 13. karen  |  March 24, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Thank god we didn’t have to haul out the old “resurrection eggs!”

    AH- hahahaha! Dear god – I bet I still have those things around. What a trip… some of mine included such toddler-appropriate discussion items as nails and little tombstone erasers. Ugh.

    I got mine from MOPS. How about you?

  • 14. Jennifer  |  March 24, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Your problem with the ressurrection accounts is that there were 3 separate appearances of Christ on Ressurrection Sunday, not just one appearance. I would suggest, if you really want the truth, Dr. Harold Wilmington’s “Guide to the Bible” in the chapter “His 72 steps from Glory to Glory” steps 63-66 where he puts each step of the 3 appearances in chronological order, and it does make perfectly logical sense. You don’t have to check your brain at the door in order to be a Christian. I wish that I could write it here for you, but it is quite lengthy, as it does not leave anything out. These were real people writing about these events, as with any news account, would you not expect them to contain different details? If the gospels said exactly the same thing, you’d say it was a lie because they must have just copied from each other, otherwise how could they all be identical? An excuse to not believe can be found by anyone who chooses to find one. For those of you who did not celebrate easter this year and are relieved to have “not felt guilty”-of course you’ve come to that point over time. First of all, Satan is alive and well, he wants you to feel “comfortable”, and he will assist you in doing so. It is also purely human nature to want to do whatever we want to do at the moment (instant gratification) with no thought for the future. The fact is you are going to die someday, as we all are, and what good will instant gratification do you when you are 80 lying on your death bed? You will be scared out of your minds, and rightfully so.
    I don’t know what your experiences as Christians were, but apparently you never experienced a true personal relationship with the Savior who loves you to death (literally) or there is no
    way you could turn your back on Him. Look to Jesus, not to other Christians (who are sinners, too) or to any particular church (which is a group of Christians, who are only sinners).
    Look to Jesus alone, as people are always going to be a disappointment, and often will not have the answer you seek. Keep seeking, nonetheless. I am sorry on behalf of all Christians for whatever we may have done to fail you or turn you away. The anger and resentment you all have is very clear, and is very sad. I hope you will turn back someday to He who loves you.

  • 15. M.B.  |  March 24, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    “The anger and resentment you all have is very clear, and is very sad.” Jennifer, you seem to believe that anyone who turns away from Christianity *must* be angry. This assumption is incredibly wrong; didn’y you read the other comments ? HelsSailing says he and his wife are at peace even though they are slowly detaching from the Christian faith.

    One may feel anger and sadness when they realize that the “holy” book they believed in for years is just a pile of old Hebrew legends written by ignorants 2000 years ago. However, not believing anymore that Hell exists is likely to bring a feeling of peace; and stopping to believe that mankind is under the domination of a jealous and vengeful God must give quite a rush of freedom. I cannot speak for those who once believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, since I have never considered that possible even when I was a child, but my impression is that most de-conversions bring peace and rest, not anger and resentment.

  • 16. societyvs  |  March 24, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    “How about the Trinitarian model of the Godhead? How about Christ’s divinity? How about the way of salvation or the place of faith and works? What about the teachings of Jesus versus the teachings of Paul? As more and more people are realizing, as they actually read their Bibles with critical eyes, there is very little that is central to Christianity that is not debatable, much less coherent within the scriptures themselves.” (Apostate)

    Good point – all of these ideas I also wrestle with from a basic reading of the passages and seeing the books as all unique. I raise these issues with church doctrine also – it seems many of that list was solidifed in councils way after the fact and not during the 1st century so much.

  • 17. the chaplain  |  March 24, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    HIS:
    Thanks for a thoughtful, open examination of this critical period in your life. I know your wife supported you wonderfully through your struggles. I’m glad to see that she is finding her own peace, in a different spiritual place than yours, but nevertheless thinking, learning alongside of you. It’s good to see that, even though your journeys are not identical, they are nevertheless compatible.

  • 18. Randy Jones  |  March 25, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I wish to address the “best the most troubling and baffling contradictions” that he refered to in the first article. Dealing with 1 Cor 15:42-44 & Luke 24:36-43 and the controversary over whether or not the ressurected body is spirit or flesh.

    God the Creator of all things is spiritual, but works with the flesh or the natural all the time. The answer to this quandry is understanding that the mystery is, the ressurected body is both flesh and spirit. Look at another passage that deals with the same time as Luke 24, I direct you to John 20:19-22. In Luke 24 it says they were startled when Jesus spoke. Why? see in John 20:19. They were in a locked room. If someone spoke in a locked room to me, I would be startled. Then in John 20:20 Jesus invited them to examine His hands and side. The spiritual qualities of this body is how Jesus got through the walls into the locked room. The physical qualities of the body is how they examined Him. God is so much bigger than us I think it is OK to have some mysteries left for us to discover as we enter eternity with Him.

    That we would need a body for eternity that is both spirit and flesh would seem expected to me. A strictly flesh body would wear out as our current ones do. But we can not be purely spiritual either. Our identities are tied up in our body. If God did not give us a body we would not know how to interact with anything. The way we experience and move is all based upon having a body to sense things through.

    Jennifer makes a good point by touching on the fact that there are multiple ressurection appearances.

    The empty tomb is some of the strongest evidence for the ressurection. Nobody could produce at the time a good explaination of where the body went. Nobody argued that the body was still there. So I throw that out there.

    I appreciate good discussions and it is in that spirit that I submit this. One of my favorite quotes is this:

    “We can not pander to a man’s intellectual arrogance, but we must cater to his intellectual integrity” John Stott

  • 19. The Apostate  |  March 25, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Re: Resurrection discussion

    I’m not too sure whether the resurrection gives us any huge holes in the narrative. The earliest Christians were as confused as todays are as to how God’s “presence” manifested in the one called Jesus. Paul and the Gospels are witness to that – each has a different story for how God came into Jesus. Paul, Mark, Matthew/Luke, and John all offer didn’t explanations. The resurrection stories were all written among the early docetic controversies and should reflect that.
    Randy Jones comes with the stock answer of centuries and concludes with:

    The empty tomb is some of the strongest evidence for the ressurection. Nobody could produce at the time a good explaination of where the body went. Nobody argued that the body was still there. So I throw that out there.

    Randy, I would grant you that the empty tomb would be some strong evidence – but what is your evidence for this empty tomb? Your evidence is not the empty tomb, but one third-person source speaking of an empty tomb, with additional sources built on top of that first one. There were claims of empty tombs and risen bodies much before Jesus, and there have been many since – why should we not believe those? You must first give evidence for the historical accuracy of the supernatural stories found in the Bible before utilizing them for evidence. I am sure that even you don’t believe everything you read.

  • […] of the articles on this site, including the recently reposted Easter special “Is He Live or Is He Memorex” by HeIsSailing, deal with what happens when some Christians start to question their […]

  • 21. notabarbie  |  March 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Apostate – my thoughts exactly–great comment.

    As I read some of the explanations from the Christians here, I thought (like I did so many times, as a believer), man, why so complicated? It’s like scary instructions on how to assemble something, “first you take tab b and insert it into slot a, but not before you disconnect the dohicky and tie it in a square knot…” If our eternity depends on it, why the dog and pony show to understand it?

    Oh and Karen – I got mine for…ahem…Focus on the Family…
    I probably have them somewhere too. I knew someone would know what I was talking about :-)

  • 22. karen  |  March 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Oh and Karen – I got mine for…ahem…Focus on the Family…
    I probably have them somewhere too. I knew someone would know what I was talking about :-)

    Oh yeah. ;-) Bring up most kitschy fundy family items and I probably had them or knew someone who did. I bet the MOPS craft coordinator probably got the idea from FOTF.

  • 23. mewho  |  March 25, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    My argument against believing in the supernatural claim of the Resurrection is that it’s only proof is that it’s written in a book. A BOOK! What kind of supernatural communication is this, anyway? Is God really Dr. Seuss? Out of all the ways God could have chosen to tell me He loves me, He writes me a “Dear John” letter? I think a phone call would be more appropriate… “Hi! This is God and I love you. Now listen closely and I’ll reveal the secret password…”

    The whole idea that the Great Communication, the Unlocking of the Secrets of the Universe, the Unveiling of the Great Design, the Answer to End All Riddles, the Mystery Spoken was through a BOOK! How Stone Age… How Unimpressive…How Man-made…a Yawner… a Pin Drop where there should have been a THUNDERCRASH!

    Why not do personal visitations? What’s wrong with clear, powerful signs? Why can’t God incarnate Himself for all people everywhere at every age, and not just once in the history of the world, before Video Equipment? Just think how the discovered footage of all these amazing miracles would be! They could be on old Beta Tapes in someones attic, and could authenticate what Christians have been saying REALLY DID HAPPEN! I think that Black and White photos could be helpful, too. Maybe some scratchy voice recordings, or a really, really, really old man who could be radio-carbon dated to be 2000 years old and swears up and down that he WAS THERE!

    When all is said and done, God isn’t asking us to believe anything. PEOPLE are asking us to believe something. Like oiled-up salesmen, briefcase in tow, they knock on your door and hand you a brochure. They even have a MEMORIZED SALESPITCH! Usually there’s a big smile, and after they get their foot in the door, you find yourself a volunteer at a bake sale ten years later raising money for YOUTH CAMP.

    God isn’t behind the Resurrection. He’s not behind miracles. He isn’t even on his throne looking down. He doesn’t expect us to believe because there’s nothing to believe. These stories are just that. If there was a God He certainly wouldn’t write books. That ISN’T how a God would do it, but you can bet that’s how a human would do it. And do it again (Koran), and again (Book of Mormon), and again (Sikh Texts), and again (Bhagavad Gita), and again (Enuma Elish), and again (Buddhists Texts), and again (Egyptian Book of the Dead), etc. etc. The list is pretty long, and NO GOD wrote any of these.

    I will sum it up by saying YOU ARE ALL FREE! RUN! PLAY! ENJOY LIFE! YOU ARE NO LONGER ENSLAVED BY ANCIENT, BACKWATER HUMAN FEARS! YOU HAVE A LIFE! I NOW COMMNAND YOU TO GO AND LIVE!

  • 24. Dangie  |  March 25, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I’m new here, so I’d be grateful if you’d bear with me. I’ve de-converted myself, but really in a different way. I still consider myself a passionate follower of Jesus. Why throw him away? Why through away the faith? I find that many of the de-conversion stories are just that – “oh, it isn’t true, so I’m no longer a Christian and I’m sleeping in on Easter Sunday” (yeah, I slept in on Easter Sunday too). I still find the way of Jesus to be the most unique way, so beautiful, so powerful, so subversive. So we’ve all discovered that the Bible is actually real literature, and was written by real people, each with their own perspective and context and maybe some agendas too, and that there’s mistakes in it. So? Sure, the initial shock once you figure this out is a lot to get over… but after some time one can come to accept the uncertainty, doubt, and the feelings of I-can’t-believe-I-was-a-fundamentalist eventually fade. Is there no one here who relates to this perspective and still holds on to their (re-framed) passion for Jesus? Maybe Marcus Borg would an author I could point to who embodies this perspective.

    For all of us ex-fundamentalists, our values, our morals, our perspectives have all been shaped by how we were brought up. Even today, atheists and skeptics who were once Christians still hold on to many morals and values that were formed under their Christian beliefs. Without that foundation, they might (I said might) be very different people.

    So my point is, I believe that following Jesus is still completely worth it. What else are you going to follow? TV? (most Christians I know actually do follow TV by the looks of how they live their lives when all along they profess that they follow Jesus). Sure, I really don’t like to be around most Christians…. I mean, they are really nice people and they think they are following Jesus but they are really following a folk-religion of sorts which I refer to as “churchianity” which is more like a social club with many ways that provide people with the social status that they need and crave.

    So, that is my question – why completely throw away your belief? Why not re-frame it with your new found and still developing knowledge? And of course, I bring this question up because it is a question that I deal with – why hold on? Why not throw it away? Why not take an approach like Marcus Borg that allows you to follow the person who has been your passion for so many years and keep your intelligence too? Maybe Jesus literally raised from the dead, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was just a man with an incredible link with the Spiritual. I just don’t know. But Jesus’ transforming message and his way is still life changing. Comments please. Thanks.

  • 25. Quester  |  March 25, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Dangie asked:

    I’ve de-converted myself, but really in a different way. I still consider myself a passionate follower of Jesus. Why throw him away? Why through away the faith?

    Because I can’t find a Jesus to hold on to. I can’t find a coherent, consistent message or way I can call Jesus’ without picking and choosing and re-interpreting, and if I’m going to do that anyway, I might as well open myself up to more choices to pick and choose between.

    Maybe Jesus literally raised from the dead, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was just a man with an incredible link with the Spiritual.

    And maybe he was a literary construct who never really existed.

    Why not re-frame [your belief] with your new found and still developing knowledge?

    The recent articles:
    I might have become and atheist and Why I am not a liberal Christian and the comments to those articles might address your question.

  • 26. karen  |  March 25, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    They could be on old Beta Tapes in someones attic, and could authenticate what Christians have been saying REALLY DID HAPPEN! I think that Black and White photos could be helpful, too. Maybe some scratchy voice recordings, or a really, really, really old man who could be radio-carbon dated to be 2000 years old and swears up and down that he WAS THERE!

    Now THAT would be cool! And definitely worthy of further investigation.

    Like oiled-up salesmen, briefcase in tow, they knock on your door and hand you a brochure. They even have a MEMORIZED SALESPITCH! Usually there’s a big smile, and after they get their foot in the door, you find yourself a volunteer at a bake sale ten years later raising money for YOUTH CAMP.

    LOL – ain’t that the truth! :-)

    So, that is my question – why completely throw away your belief? Why not re-frame it with your new found and still developing knowledge? And of course, I bring this question up because it is a question that I deal with – why hold on? Why not throw it away? Why not take an approach like Marcus Borg that allows you to follow the person who has been your passion for so many years and keep your intelligence too?

    There are a couple responses I have to this.

    One is that while Jesus said and did some great things, he also introduced some really awful concepts – like eternal punishment for not believing in him, for instance. There was no hell belief in Judaism – we can lay that little egg on Jesus, which isn’t so appealing to me.

    Another is why limit it to Jesus? The teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism and some of the other Eastern religious concepts are far more sophisticated and beautiful (as far as I can grasp them) than Christianity. If you want to remain “spiritual” why not fashion a philosophy of life that incorporates the best of all the religions, rather than stay in the narrow rut of Christianity that is 2,000 years out of date and less and less relevant to today’s world?

    Finally, there’s the supernatural aspect of theism, and the question of where is the evidence that there’s a super-intelligent being intervening in human life? I look around and see poverty, suffering, cruelty, terrible violence – and I don’t see much in the way of that “invisible hand” of an omnibenevolent, omniscient god. The apologetics of free will, which attempts to explain this shocking lack of evidence, does not hold water for me.

    So, no evidence for an intervening god (theism), no evidence for or against a non-intervening god (deism), and no compelling reason to arrange my life around either one.

  • 27. Martin Gamble  |  March 25, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Hi everyone,
    Didn’t some ancient rabbis talk about eternal punishment? See Alfred Edersheim, LIfe and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix 19, available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

  • 28. Quester  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Martin asked,

    Didn’t some ancient rabbis talk about eternal punishment?

    If so, then what?

  • 29. The Apostate  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Jesus only perpetuated a contorted belief in hell that had developed from the much earlier Sheol – similar to the Greek underworld. Jesus hardly introduced it, it was a heated debate among Jewish intellectuals and laymen alike during Babylonian and Roman captivities.

  • 30. Martin Gamble  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Sorry, I should be clearer. If so, then did Jesus introduce the idea of eternal punishment?

  • 31. Quester  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Martin, it looks like TA gave the response you were looking for, while you were still writing your question.

  • 32. Martin Gamble  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Yes, a response before a question! LOL!

  • 33. Randy Jones  |  March 26, 2008 at 1:02 am

    I was asked about the evidence for the empty tomb. First if we are to look at the Scriptures as any other historical document, lets do so.

    (after writing, this is off the top of my head, I am sorry it has gotten so long, but this is an important and legitimate question. I hope you read through)

    1) Tomb was guarded by Roman Centurians approved by Pontious Pilate at the request of Jewish leadership the Pharisees. (That Pontious Pilate was a govenor at that time over that provence is confirmed in many historical documents outside of the Bible. )

    The reason I view this as important is because of the rise of the early church. Based on the claims of the empty tomb, from the point of view of the Pharisees and Romans it was a rebelion that threatened their power. If they could have produced a body from the tomb that they were watching they would have to put a stop to the lies.

    2) The presence of the Roman Guards, death was the common punishment for failure of duties. It is unlikely that an ordinary event would have caused them to lose the body. Theft is not a good explanation, they would have had to subdue the roman guards and get the large stone out of the way. The locatin of the tomb was well known. Many would have gone to see the empty tomb for themselves. There is no document in the roman or jewish records that indicates any controversy over whether or not the tomb was empty.

    3) In terms of historical reliability, the use of woman as the first witnesses of record. Not to disparage woman in any way but in that day and culture womens testimony did not carry much weight. If you were trying to convince people of a story that was made up, they would have certainly used the more (what they percieved as ) reliabel and convincing testimony of men. This show honesty in reporting.

    4) The Sanhedrin was desperate to convince people that the resurrection did not occur. Again if they could have produced the body they would have. Instead they tried to lie about it Matt 28:12-15. People must have seen through the ploy or the movement would have stopped.

    5) An arguement that Jesus was not dead, just passed out. Does not make sense. a) The Roman Guards in charge of crucifixion were good at the business of death b) Records shows that Jesus was additionally pierce through the side after death on the cross c) The appearance of a badly beaten and broken body would hardly have been an inspiring sight

    6) The resurected Jesus was witnessed by many. 1 Corinthians 15:6 records that at one time more than 500 saw Him. The record makes a point of indicating that some of them were still alive and could deny it if it was not true.

    7) The story of “doubting Thomas” in John 20:24-31 shows that Thomas did not believe the stories of his best friends and refused to belileve until he saw Jesus. When Jesus appeared to Him He did not rebuke Him for His lack of believe but simply showed the evidence. This to me exemplifies that Christian faith is not expected to be a blind faith, but a faith based on proof and reason.

    8) The changed lives of people. Recorded on the books of Acts we see major change. Before the cross and at the cross the followers of Jesus failed and abanded him miserably. They acted as cowards. Then in the book of Acts they were preaching in the same streets that killed Jesus boldly. The effects of their teaching and the impact on the world is still felt today. But WHY??? It would have made more sense for them to be stronger when Jesus was with them, yet they failed Him then. They must have had an experience that changed them to the core. Solidified their belief in Jesus in an awesome way. The only explanation I see for this change is an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ and seeing that all He taught was true. Same thing with Saul. He was among the greatest persecutors of the early church. Then something happened and he became the greatest champion of the early church. The only explanation for this reversal of character is an encounter with the risen Christ (as recorded in Acts 9)

    I still see the changing effect on people today. I have seen lives changed in ways that go beyond the power of positive thinking. God is still writing and doing miracles today, it is simply in the lives of people. In my own life. I was a good person by any standard. Then I had an experience with Jesus ministring in my life. There has been a change ever since. Since I did not desire it, it could not have come from within me.

    The impact around the world can not be denied. Something happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus is clearly not a myth. Every time you write a check, you write the approximate number of years since His life.

    I hope you have read to this point. Thank you for your attention and consideration.

  • 34. mewho  |  March 26, 2008 at 9:18 am

    My point about ignoring the “proofs” of the Resurrection is that it’s written in a book. This book has flaws (many of them). God is not going to deliver his message (the most important one, I might add) through perishable documents that have been destroyed, rewritten, lost, debated about, forged, plaguerized, mimiced and duplicated. It’s not convincing to me that there is an eternal message in the pages of ANY ancient text that WAS the INSPIRED word of the CREATOR.

    I don’t have my fingers in my ears, repeating the phrase “I’m not listening”, but I’ve simply gotten over the ability to believe ANY of these so-called religious texts. And for every “proof” that a Christian brings up, there is a counter that a skeptic can use against the proof. There are also “proofs” used by other religions, and they will try to convince you how their claims can be proven, too. You take it on faith alone, not “proof”, be it the Koran, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, etc.

    The impact around the world can not be denied. Something happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus is clearly not a myth. Every time you write a check, you write the approximate number of years since His life.

    Every time you look at the calendar you have Thursday, named after Thor. The almighty Thor still influences our world today…. and Mars, Venus, and Saturn, too.

    It isn’t an argument, because ANY religion can do it.

  • 35. Randy Jones  |  March 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

    God delivered His message in many ways. The Bible is the record of that. The OT records many activities of God performing supernatural interventions. Jesus never wrote a book. He did many things in the lives of people, performed many miracles. A few of them were recorded in the only media available in that day.

  • 36. Dangie  |  March 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

    A bit of a side issue but since it was raised…. Regarding the issue of “hell,” when any of us use this word from the modern English Bible we bring with it years of modern context that we’ve been raised in. Therefore I would propose that our modern understanding of Hell, and therefore what we think Jesus meant by it, is based on tradition and not Biblical understanding.

    It is fairly well documented that the word that Jesus often used that translates as “hell” in English is the Hebrew word “Gehenna” which was a literal place where garbage was dumped and burned outside of Jerusalem. There is also good cause to argue that Jesus was borrowing from the current language of the time, especially that used by the Pharisees against the “sinners” around them that they thought were the possible cause of Israel’s current occupation by Rome. And if you consider the politics of Jesus’ subversive message, his attacks on the powers that be (the religious leaders), and put this in the context of his typical way of turning things upside down, then we no longer need to blame Jesus for introducing the idea of eternal torment.

  • 37. karen  |  March 26, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    It is fairly well documented that the word that Jesus often used that translates as “hell” in English is the Hebrew word “Gehenna” which was a literal place where garbage was dumped and burned outside of Jerusalem. There is also good cause to argue that Jesus was borrowing from the current language of the time, especially that used by the Pharisees against the “sinners” around them that they thought were the possible cause of Israel’s current occupation by Rome. And if you consider the politics of Jesus’ subversive message, his attacks on the powers that be (the religious leaders), and put this in the context of his typical way of turning things upside down, then we no longer need to blame Jesus for introducing the idea of eternal torment.

    Yes, I’m familiar with this “work-around” and the myriad other, similar attempts that liberal believers make to interpret or contextualize away the darker teachings of the “Prince of Peace.”

    Simply put: I don’t buy them. If there’s an omnipotent, omniscient divinity who wants to reach out to humanity, he surely could do it in an unambiguous way that wouldn’t cause doctrinal wars, hatred, violence and confusion for thousands of years. Can you imagine the suffering and death that could have been avoided in our world if Jesus had made a radical, society-altering pronouncement against slavery during his ministry?

    It’s inconvenient and embarrassing today to attempt to follow an ancient text that endorses slavery, considers women property and condemns non-adherents of a narrow, complex philosophy to eternal torment. So I understand why it’s convenient to go back and explain away verses where Jesus talks about separating the sheep and the goats and sending people to eternal torment.

    But it just doesn’t feel honest to me to do so. In pop culture circles, these kinds of contortions are called “fan wanks”: Making huge efforts to reconcile bad writing with the overall premise and integrity of a particular television show, movie or novel so that the fan can stay engaged rather than get disgusted and go away.

    Maybe I would have to want to believe more than I do in order to accept those “modern interpretations,” and I just don’t have the desire any more.

  • 38. mewho  |  March 26, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    God delivered His message in many ways. The Bible is the record of that.

    You take this on faith ALONE. There isn’t any “proof”. Muslims claim the Koran is “His message”, too, but the record contradicts the Bible. The Mormons claim that the Book of Mormon is “the record” of ACTUAL FACTUAL CLAIMS! You assume the Bible is true, and that is your reference point. If you allow it for yourself, allow it for the Muslims, too, because that’s only fair.

    But this argument goes nowhere. “My book is from God.” “No, MY book is from God.” Both sides are in a bubble of belief. Yes, you DO need to prove your text, but it can’t be argued coherently. There are too many contradictions, mistakes, etc. for most skeptics to even BEGIN to believe that there’s even A SLIGHT chance that it was authored by God. And I make that claim for EVERY BOOK, because it’s a nauseating idea that God revealed Himself to us through a book. Yuck.

    If you then want to make the claim that God reveals Himself through revelation, then you have to allow it for the Muslims as well.

    If you want to make the claim that God reveals Himself through nature, then you have to allow it for the Muslims as well.

    You are at a STALEMATE with EVERY convinced believer of opposing faiths. There is a lack of evidence, therefore I am happy to say that I am free from the chains of ANCIENT SUPERSTITIONS. (And that includes ALL ancient texts.)

  • 39. The God Challenge « de-conversion  |  September 15, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    […] been set forth by both sides of the theistic debate. Dan Barker set forth his fairly well-known, “Resurrection Challenge”, Kent Hovind set forth his infamous “Evolution Challenge”, just recently ‘bigham’ set […]

  • 40. James McGrath  |  September 16, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I would be delighted if, at some point, you are able to take a look at my book The Burial of Jesus: History and Faith (BookSurge, 2008). In it, I take seriously the differences between the Gospels with regard to the burial of Jesus, and suggest that both what Mark says and what later Gospels try to obscure indicates that Jesus did not receive an honorable burial. I then go on to explore how this might affect our understanding of the rise of Christian faith in the resurrection.

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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.

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