Go ahead. Blow away my free will.

April 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm 188 comments

Blown away guy

Frequently, when I bring up the fact that God never does any revelation, vision, miracle, visitation, etc, to make his existence obvious, I encounter an apologetic for the do-nothing god that goes something like this.

“God can’t reveal himself with total clarity because it would violate our free will. If He revealed himself with total clarity, we could not possibly choose anything else. And God must respect our free will.”

Well this is just a load of rubbish from every angle. Let’s look at some angles.

First off there’s the whole issue of free will. Do we really have free will? That’s debatable, both from the Bible and from secular philosophies. And if you introduce a deity with perfect foreknowledge, then free will is definitely gone. [But despite this, I’ve actually heard Calvinists use the above apologetic. Go figure.] I’m not going to settle the free will issue for anyone, but an apologetic based on such a highly debated issue is hardly a slam-dunk.

Next we have the problem of “God can’t “. That’s a biggie. The all-powerful God “can’t”??? I suppose one could say that God chose that limit for himself. But how would anyone come up with that? It isn’t in the Bible.

Then we come to the statement that “we couldn’t choose anything else”. Huh? Says who? Clear revelation might force us to believe in the existence of a powerful deity, but it does not follow that we would have to worship him. The Bible even says that demons know God exists, but they don’t serve and worship him.

The fact is that miracles, visions, visitations, and the like would not in any way violate or remove our free will to follow/not follow or worship/not worship God. Such events would only provide proof that there is a God. They might even comprise undeniable evidence of his existence. But the choice to worship or not would remain. Only some sort of mind control, or perhaps physical force, would violate our free will. And that brings us to the issue of God violating or not violating our free will.

Simply enough, the statement, “God must respect our free will” is BOGUS!. I sometimes wonder if the people who come up with these apologetics even read their own Bible. Throughout the Bible God violates free will.
-God hardened Pharoah’s heart. (Talk about violation!)
-God apparently gave Namaan leprosy. And then hit Elijah’s servant with it.
-The free will of all the Baal worshipers didn’t get treated too gingerly in the famous Elijah vs the priests of Baal contest.
-God laid some serious smack down on Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road.
These and many others are clear violations of free will. According to the Bible, God does not have such an inviolable attitude toward man’s free will as some apologists seem to think.

Now we come to one more problem with the apologetic for a do-nothing god. A common addendum to it is something like, “You would obligate God to appear or do miracles for every person in the world, probably even daily.” To which I can only say, “Yeah? So? Is this a problem?” Come on now, think about it. Is this somehow a problem for an omnipotent, omnipresent deity? I mean the Internet is able to “be there” for millions. We can all ask Wikipedia or Google for answers. God is bigger than those isn’t he? So it really shouldn’t be any trouble at all for him to be as responsive as my laptop. And God is loving too isn’t he? And he doesn’t want people to go to hell does he? (Leastwise the Bible says he doesn’t.) So if God loves us, and wants us to know him, and doesn’t want us to end up in hell, would clear revelations or the like really be too much? Is one old collection of obscure writings and a very disjointed church all the more the almighty can do?

The Bible is simply full of incidences of God revealing himself in miraculous, unmistakable ways. What’s more, the Bible says of many of those miracles that they were done specifically to demonstrate God’s power, or to prove Jesus was divine, or to convert people.

And of course there are scads of reports in church history of miracles, including miraculous conversions. And how many times have any of us heard people giving their testimony about how God did some miracle to bring them to faith?

This all would indicate that miracles, and visions, are quite kosher, that they don’t violate free will, that they can indeed convince and convert. In short, the apologists for the do-nothing deity stand quite in opposition to the Bible, to church history, to the testimonies they love to say ‘Amen’ to, and to plain sense.

No folks. This whole line of apologetics is just another effort to cover up the fact that God NEVER shows up in any way for anyone, and to avoid the obvious question (and answer) that follows. Why does God never show up? The same reason elves, Santa, the tooth fairy, etc don’t show up. They all only exist in our imagination.

That’s a scary conclusion though. Acceding to it is distressing, as many of us de-cons can attest. In many ways I guess I’m not surprised that most people would prefer comforting fables and bad logic.

- LeoPardus

Entry filed under: LeoPardus. Tags: , , , , , .

Inconvenient categories: The real reasons de-cons leave the faith Why doesn’t God make things clearer?

188 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rachel  |  April 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Hey Leo,

    I’m not trying to be cheeky, but what kind of event would convince you beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists? Your mom’s cancer gets healed tomorrow? Rare, but medically possible. You pray for rain and it rains? Man, weird coincidence. You have some sort of vision? My guess is that you would be calling up your doc for an anti-psychotic.

  • 2. Slapdash  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    As for me? I don’t want more miracles. I want a flesh-and-blood, walk in the garden / on the beach / have a meal together *relationship* with God. Adam and Eve got to chill with God in Eden and a few lucky OT folks got to talk to God directly… why no longer?

    To me the whole “choice” argument that if we were face-to-face with God, we couldn’t choose otherwise is total bullcrap. Satan chose otherwise; EVE chose otherwise despite having a direct relationship with God.

  • 3. LeoPardus  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Rachel:

    Good question. My take on it is this: If an all knowing, all powerful being wants to convince me of something, it shouldn’t present him with any difficulty. And he can come up with the best way of doing it. So if there’s a god and he knows that healing my deaf ear and making sure the first thing I heard through it was, “I’m God and I did that, now worship me.” then let him do that. OTOH if he knows that wouldn’t convince me, then let him do whatever is best.

    So I’m not really telling God what to do (e.g., “God make me able to play the piano instantly”) I’m just saying, “If you’re there, let me know in a way that I can’t miss.”

  • 4. Stephen P  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    A common addendum to it is something like, “You would obligate God to appear or do miracles for every person in the world, probably even daily.” To which I can only say, “Yeah? So? Is this a problem?” Come on now, think about it. Is this somehow a problem for an omnipotent, omnipresent deity?

    Fair enough. Though actually I’d be fairly satisfied with evidence of a similar level of comprehensiveness to that provided for the existence of, say, Nicolas Sarkozy, Alfred Brendel or Michael Palin – to pick at random three people who I’ve never met and probably never will, but who nonetheless manage to exist fairly convincingly.

    Although if God is going to insist he created the universe, asking for a demonstration of making an extra planet or two ex nihilo probably isn’t excessive.

  • 5. Rachel  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    “If you’re there, let me know in a way that I can’t miss.”

    Well, ok. But from what I’ve read of yours, nothing would really convince you. You’re a scientist, right? You could come up with a natural explanation for just about anything.

  • 6. Quester  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Over and above what’s listed in your article, LeoP, I have a problem with the inconsistency built into the free will argument. After all, we are expected to offer our will to God (denying our free will) out of faith, but not ask for a miracle (ask God to take our free will) that e might have faith.

    It is right that we should want to give our will to God, but wrong that we should ask God to take it? Something is messed, here.

  • 7. Quester  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Well, ok. But from what I’ve read of yours, nothing would really convince you. You’re a scientist, right? You could come up with a natural explanation for just about anything.

    If God were to, for example, cure all forms of cancer today, AIDS tomorrow, Multiple Sclerosis the next day, and on and on until we actually have the healing and wholeness God claims is so important, while at the same time the stars in the sky spell out, “The management apologizes for your inconvenience” even the most skilled of scientists will be hard-pressed to come up with a natural explanation.

  • 8. herghost  |  April 9, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Rachel,
    whywontgodhealamputees.com
    might be a good place to start
    hg

  • 9. LeoPardus  |  April 9, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Rachel:

    I will maintain that an infinite being could convince me. If God can’t manage that, he’s not much of a all mighty one is he?

    And just for some example that I could not explain away:
    -Seeing an acquaintance of mine named John grow a whole hand (he’s just got stump now).
    -Seeing someone with Down Syndrome suddenly obtain normal intelligence (speech, comprehension, etc.)
    -Seeing someone (including myself) who has an intractable, medical condition suddenly healed of it.

    I imagine an all knowing deity could come up with a lot more.

  • 10. Andrea  |  April 9, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    For anyone to say “nothing would be good enough to convince you of God’s existence” is nothing short of either accusing God to be incapable of knowing a person’s heart and revealing the sign most sought after, or accusing that person to be insane and incapable of recognizing irrefutable evidence as such.

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  April 9, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Rachel says:
    “Well, ok. But from what I’ve read of yours, nothing would really convince you. You’re a scientist, right? You could come up with a natural explanation for just about anything.”

    Rachel, you are right. We have to make the natural explanation our first method of trying to understand a phenomena. As rational, educated humans, we *have* to.

    I am also a scientist – I am in optical physics, and spent many years before this in astrophysics. Our first line of reasoning must be naturalisic before we even delve into the supernatural. The reason is that if we posit a supernatural explanation for any phenomena, then we really learn nothing and have explaned nothing.

    I read in the news today that a two-faced baby was born in India, and the locals are convinced that this baby is a re-incarnation of a Hindu diety. If we accept that the supernatural is a valid line of reasoning how natural events occur in this world, then who is to say that these Hindus are wrong? Maybe they are correct! An explanation for this truly bizarre occurance of a baby born with two faces is that she is really Shiva, reborn into this world!! If you have ever seen depictions of Hindu dieties with multiple faces, you can see why this is a reasonable conclusion!

    But we cannot accept this as a logical explanation, simply because there are *no rules*. If the supernatural is what you are using to explain bizarre occurances, then it could be Jesus answering prayer. But it could also be Shiva re-incarnated. It could be that Mars is in retrograde. It could be Urim and Thummim were cast properly. It could be YHWH punishing the heathen Hindus for not converting to the one true faith.

    Who is to say? When invoking the supernatural, there are no rules to further explain what is occuring.

    Christians by and large do this too. Nobody will believe a person who said he re-grew his arm after prayer, not even the most faithful Christian. I know this from experience.

    Rachel, do you know how it is said that every person can be bought because ultimately, everybody has a price? Well, I similarly think that every person, even us scientists, has a certain faith threshold. I have truly thought long and hard about this – let me tell you mine.

    My wife and I had a friend who died about 2 years ago of stomach cancer. I was a Christian at the time. She was here in the US from the Philippines on a work visa as a school teacher. Her cancer came on so suddenly that it shocked everyone! We visied her in intensive care often. She prayed often to God, not for healing, but just to get well enough so that she could travel back to Philippines so that she could die at her home amongst family. She did not make it. Despite all our fervent prayers, she died at age 35 of stomach cancer leaving 2 orphans 7000 miles from home.

    if there had been a miraculous healing of our friend, I think I would still be a Christian today at some level. I mean a miraculous one. An instananeous healing straight out of the book of Acts. I truly think we can expect no less of an infinte God. Rachel, how much harder is it for God to perform the miraculous than the mundane? It should be just as trivial, yet since we never see the miraculous, what makes us think the mundane gets answered by this infinite God? Yet God is silent – every time. Every EVERY EVERY TIME.

    And we all know it. I am just not afraid any more to admit it.

    I have more to say, but the library here is closing.

  • 12. karen  |  April 9, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Excellent post, Leo!

    The free will argument has been debated by scholars and philosophers and theologians for centuries. I’ve read some of those debates and concluded that the free will argument simply doesn’t hold water. It’s a convenient, complex cover up for the “god who wasn’t/isn’t there.”

    Over and above what’s listed in your article, LeoP, I have a problem with the inconsistency built into the free will argument. After all, we are expected to offer our will to God (denying our free will) out of faith, but not ask for a miracle (ask God to take our free will) that e might have faith.

    Add another inconsistency: In heaven, we apparently have no free will. Although we will be “perfect” beings, we will also be robots with no choice but to worship the lamb 24/7.

    If free will is such a vaunted characteristic, why is it taken away from us in paradise?

  • 13. ned  |  April 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Rachel: About your post #5, I think it is very easy for God to demonstrate his existence to scientists. Science is possible because natural pheonomena are predictable. God only needs to suspend the law of gravity very briefly at irregular intervals to make scientists believers of supernatural powers.

    Or, God can write a passage from the bible on the surface of Mars. Or he can simply appears in the sky in a giant throne. Or he can send 1000 angels flying in earth’s orbit. Or he can carve the 10 commandments in the grand canyon… The possibilities are endless. It is absolutely trivial for God to leave an unambiguous message, but somehow he doesn’t do it. To me, that is a very good indication that he does not exist.

  • 14. lostgirlfound  |  April 10, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Here we go, playing “devil’s advocate”… if someone would have “faith” after seeing a miraculous healing, woul d it be faith at all? And if “God” is infinately all-knowing, wouldn’t it follow that we could trust his actions? Even if it meant horrible things in our lives? These are questions I wrestle with all the time. The attempt to reconcile them push me from side to side to side. “Faith” (as defined: the evidence of things not seen; the belief in things hoped for) is such a all-covering blanket. To “have faith” is to know/trust/think of things not explained by the “natural” mind, right?

    Why would an infinate God feel the “need” to reveal himself to us at all? Again, questions without answers … just continuing the discussion.

  • 15. Quester  |  April 10, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Lostgirlfound,

    I return your questions, with more questions. *grin*

    if someone would have “faith” after seeing a miraculous healing, would it be faith at all?

    If it isn’t, of what virtue is faith?

    And if “God” is infinately all-knowing, wouldn’t it follow that we could trust his actions?

    Why should we consider God to be infinitely all-knowing, if God persistently acts in ways we can’t trust are good?

    Why would an infinate God feel the “need” to reveal himself to us at all?

    An infinite God would not feel such a need, unless that God also wanted some sort of relationship with us.

  • 16. Quester  |  April 10, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I suppose that last one wasn’t a question.

  • 17. ned  |  April 10, 2008 at 12:59 am

    lostgirlfound: If God doesn’t feel the need to reveal to us, there wouldn’t be a religion called Christianity. The Bible is primarily about God communicating with us, isn’t it?

  • 18. Richard  |  April 10, 2008 at 1:08 am

    I think the problem with the whole ” nothing would convince you argument” – aside from the presumptuousness of mind-reading another — is, really, just a failure of imagination.

    Some Christians point to the miracles of the Bible and say, “well *that* didnt convince everyone, so whats the use?” As though pushing some water around is the best the the Almighty could do.

    Remember two things: One, this is *God* we’re talking about here. The guy who started the Big Bang. How about simultaneously appearing to every human being who has ever lived in a flash searing, cataclysmic, but-for-his-grace-unendurable Glory and pouring out the infinite reaches of his divine Love, moving each soul to a perfect knowledge and unshakable certainty — the kind only a Living God could provide — what the message of salvation is? How’d that be for a miracle?

    Two: All he has to do is convince you he exists and, generally, what the rules are. How hard is this for you? Every kid who starts a summer job at Dairy Queen comes to know (a) his manager exists and (b) what is expected of him.

    So: low standard, infinite God. Whats wrong with this picture?

  • 19. Richard  |  April 10, 2008 at 1:32 am

    A guy named J Schellenberg wrote a book on this issue, which usually goes by “divine hiddenness”, back in the 1990s. (I confess I haven’t read the book itself, though I am familiar with the sorts of arguments it has.) JS’s book apparently brought this whole topic to the forefront.

    My take on it is this: divine hiddenness is an effective argument against hell-based religions. I.e., there is no conceivable reason a good God might have to not make the rules clear if he intends on torturing us forever for not following them. Or, there might be reasons, but you wind up having to posit things like predestination and total depravity, and that way madness lies. So, since a good God both can make his message unmistakable and (to be good) would want to – and no such clear message seems to exist – therefore, God does not exist.

    For a liberal God, where there is no hell, I can accept that, God being God and us being us, perhaps he has his reasons for hiding himself. But, then, if there is no hell, what difference would it make? For my part, I will struggle to lead a good and honorable life using every resource I have and if, in the end, my *beliefs* happen to be wrong, then God can set me straight after I die. This points up the peculiarly Christian emphasis on *belief*, as though *belief* is the most important thing about you. What about how you live your life? I would rather be honestly wrong about God, and be good to my family and improve my community, than spend my finite time on earth trying to explain away Gods silence.

  • 20. xiangjin  |  April 10, 2008 at 4:22 am

    hi hi. i just want to say, all religions teach good. and what is important is to be happy. and create value, practise what ur religion teaches, for oneself and others.

    u might want to check out this website. http://www.ikedaquotes.org

    philosophy of life. open your mind, and seek whatever u want to find. i believe in the post “Mentor and disciple” @ http://www.happyangi.blogspot.com thats my other blog. u can read that up abt stuff that wud interest u. =) cheers!

  • 21. xiangjin  |  April 10, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Sunday, April 06, 2008, thats the date for the post. :)

  • 22. LeoPardus  |  April 10, 2008 at 9:02 am

    if someone would have “faith” after seeing a miraculous healing, woul d it be faith at all?

    Right. So all the disciples didn’t have faith at all. ‘Cause they all saw lots of miracles hanging with Jesus, then with the resurrection, then after Jesus left them.

    And Thomas was really out, ’cause he said he would not believe unless he saw the risen Christ.

    I stand with the apostle Thomas. :)

  • 23. LeoPardus  |  April 10, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Richard:

    You’re exceptionally right on m’man. Positively scintillating today.

    My small addition to a question you posited:
    Some Christians point to the miracles of the Bible and say, “well *that* didnt convince everyone, so what’s the use?

    As I’ve wondered before, do these apologists actually read their Bibles? [Answer: Yes. But they only remember the parts that suit them.] True not everyone was convinced by seeing miracles, BUT SOME WERE. It’s that latter part that gets conveniently shoved under the mental rug.

    I have to say that my time as an EOC Christian also showed me many other verses of the Bible that Protestants tend to “miss”. I had a number of times where I thought, “Criminy, I know I’ve read that verse, but it never registered before.”

  • 24. Mehmed Mustafa  |  April 10, 2008 at 9:37 am

    That’s what the life of this world is about. To know and adore God without seeing Him and His angels. No, we don’t need to see or speak with God directly to know that He indeed exists and is our creator. That stands to reason for reasons like because consciousness could emenate not ever from a meaningless, purposeless, unconscious universe but only from a purposeful and conscious originator of all things that exist.

    I am sorry that God does not have to listen to your views on the question of how to test humans. He just chose to test us without showing Himself to us although he chose to test the Devil after showing himself to him clearly. God surely has good reason for doing so no matter we comprehend those reasons or not.

    Regards from a Muslim

  • 25. Stephen P  |  April 10, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    No, we don’t need to see or speak with God directly to know that He indeed exists and is our creator.

    So tell us: how do you distinguish between “know” and “fantasise”? (In case you were wondering: this is a serious question.)

    That stands to reason for reasons like because consciousness could emenate not ever from a meaningless, purposeless, unconscious universe but only from a purposeful and conscious originator of all things that exist.

    So, to ask the question which is blindingly obvious to me but apparently has not occurred to you: where did your “purposeful and conscious originator” emanate from? If you think it highly improbable that human consciousness could have come into existence unaided, can you not see that it is vastly more improbable that your God could have come into existence unaided?

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  April 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Mehmed:

    consciousness could emenate not ever from a meaningless, purposeless, unconscious universe

    And where did this “law” come from? It’s pure, philosophical speculation. And of course if it is in fact true, then you’ve got the really big problem Stephen P just pointed out.

    You are right though that God is not obligated to anything. But he can’t have the descriptors “loving”, “good”, “worshipful”, and so on if he chooses to do nothing. The only descriptor he gets then is “we know not what”. It’s kinda hard to get behind that and follow it.

  • 27. prolepticlife  |  April 10, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Asking why God doesn’t just prove Himself to everyone is not really a new question. Jesus told a story that was recorded in Luke’s gospel chapter 16 that ended with an answer to that very question. In the story a man died and found himself in torment and recognizing that his fate was likely to be the fate of his siblings he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus, a man they knew who had also died, back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham’s response was that they had the Old Testament scriptures and that was enough. This man pleaded with Abraham, being sure that someone coming back from the dead would have a much more powerful and convincing impact.

    Abraham then said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

    Now, what this man was asking for is the same thing that you are saying we need if we are to believe that God exists. Some kind of unmistakably supernatural sign needs to be given to confirm a belief in God. Jesus, through the telling of this story, rejects that notion and states that the Scriptures are sufficient. Was Jesus right and why did he did he take this position? Doesn’t the New Testament itself tell of Jesus doing all kinds of supernatural acts and aren’t those the kinds of things you are asking for? Didn’t Jesus do these things to prove who He was?

    Jesus understood that if a person is predisposed and prejudiced toward unbelief than nothing, no matter how miraculous it is, is going to have any lasting effect. He knew that as soon as the crisis moment passed that person would simply go on as if nothing happened. They would soon come up with explanations for what happened, or it would simply fade into some sort of foggy memory that would give them no lasting basis for belief.

    Think of the person who goes to the doctor and finds out that their eating habits are going to lead to serious health issues. They leave somewhat shocked and also determined to do something different. For a while they eat better. More fruits and veggies. No more candy and ice cream. But time goes by they feel fine, no chest pains, they convince themselves that they are fine. Soon they are back on two Milky Way’s and a Coke a day.

    Does that mean God has left us in the dark? Not at all. Jesus points us to the Scriptures. Other’s point us to creation. Creation points to the existence of God. The Scriptures reveal the nature of God and His redemptive purposes in the world. So, according to Jesus, a person would be better served by putting their efforts into discovering what the Scriptures teach and find out whether or not those things can be believed, instead of setting conditions on God like the ones you propose here.

    Does this mean that God never gives any evidence of His existence outside of what we have in the Scriptures? Not at all. But it seems that he tends to give those experiences to people who are genuinely seeking to know the truth and who have limited or no access to the Scriptures. As an example, more recently there have been a large number of people in the Islamic world who are coming to faith in Isa (Jesus) and one of the primary reasons for these conversions is dreams in which Christ is appearing to these people. Generally, these are people who are sincerely seeking the truth and seeking to know God and praying heartfelt prayers for God to reveal himself to them. They, because of the nature of the governments they live under, don’t have access to Bibles, so God speaks more directly to them.

    I would never want to limit what God can or can’t do to reveal Himself to someone. But it seems to me that Jesus is right on the money with his analysis of the situation. People who are determined not to believe aren’t going to believe. There were many people in Jesus day that saw miraculous deeds done by Jesus and still refused to believe in Him. Why? Because believing in Him would cost them too much. There was something they didn’t want to give up. They would rather come up with some other explanation for what they saw and heard – He did it in the power of the devil, He didn’t do it the way He should have done it if He was God, He needed to do more, it wasn’t enough yet, He needed to do it repeatedly, etc, etc. They were able to come up with as many excuses as Paris Hilton has shoes.

    Even in your own argument you grant that people give testimony of God revealing himself in miraculous ways, yet you turn around and throw out their testimony because it didn’t happen to you in the way you want it to.

    Jesus said it this way in John 3:19 “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

    It seems to me that your developed this argument based upon your presupposition of disbelief and not a sincere desire for truth seeking.

  • 28. LeoPardus  |  April 10, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    prolepticlife:

    Did you even waste a moment reading about who we are on this blog?

    Here’s a quick quiz for you.

    We are a bunch of life-long atheists, who’ve never even opened a Bible. True or False?

    I’ve never even considered any of the points in your response. True or False?

    You pick from the Bible selectively to demonstrate what you want at any given moment and conveniently forget passages that directly contradict your tidy ideas. True or False?

    I cannot begin to convey to you how SICK I am of “christians” coming along with their nice, tidy, clean, little “answers”. No effort to read, listen, understand, think, pause, consider, learn….. Just quick drive-by “answers”. Apologies for a deity who is NEVER responsive.

    You want to find out who is here and why, and then interact? Great. You want to come in here and “set us on the straight and narrow”? Go back to your comfy, happy hole.

  • 29. Just Can't  |  April 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    You da man Leo! I couldn’t agree more. What a waste of typing for Mr.or Ms. Prolepticlife. Maybe the time would have been better spent reading and learning something other than apologetics.

  • 30. Paul S  |  April 10, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I stopped reading prolepticlife’s post on sentence #2: “Jesus told a story that was recorded…”

    Really? That story was recorded? By whom? The Book of Luke wasn’t even written until 80-90 AD!

    You’re gonna have to come to play with a lot more than that, prolepticlife.

  • 31. Paul S  |  April 10, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    And I love this line:

    prolepticlife said:

    It seems to me that your developed this argument based upon your presupposition of disbelief and not a sincere desire for truth seeking.

    A presupposition of disbelief of what, exactly? God? Allah? Vishnu? Buddha?

    You are guilty of the same presupposition of disbelief of other “gods” as the atheist. The atheist just takes it one “god” further.

    And you really show your “Christian” colors when you accuse someone you do not know of not having “…a sincere desire for truth seeking.” Your condescending, holier-than-thou comments are not going to help you on this blog.

  • 32. Rachel  |  April 10, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Really? That story was recorded? By whom? The Book of Luke wasn’t even written until 80-90 AD!

    You’re gonna have to come to play with a lot more than that, prolepticlife.

    And you’re going to have to come up with a better come-back than that, Paul. Something didn’t happen because it was written down 80 years after the fact? Guess we can’t read any more Bertrand Russell…

    Re: the comments here, I think that both sides are working with presuppositions if we’re being honest with ourselves. I understand your frustrations with Christians coming by and offering pat answers, but I think that prolepticlife has a point when it comes to the biblical narrative speaking to the human experience of questioning God. The psalmist questioned God, Job did too, and for pete’s sake, Christ himself even cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” A good example of the “criterion of embarrassment,” I think.

    But I still can’t answer your question directly. Why doesn’t God make himself ridiculously obvious? I don’t know. Happy? :)

  • 33. ned  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Rachel: you said “But I still can’t answer your question directly. Why doesn’t God make himself ridiculously obvious? I don’t know”. Why avoid the most obvious answer? He doesn’t exist. That’s why.

  • 34. Ubi Dubium  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Rachel – you said “But I still can’t answer your question directly. Why doesn’t God make himself ridiculously obvious? I don’t know. Happy?”

    Yes!! That “I don’t know” answer is one of the best answers I have heard from a christian posting on this website! So often, we have true believers here who are SO sure that they have the answers to everything. Thank you for your “I don’t know”.

  • 35. Just Can't  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Rachael said:

    “Re: the comments here, I think that both sides are working with presuppositions if we’re being honest with ourselves.”

    If we are being honest with ourselves? Honest? How is one being honest with his or herself when they are putting blind faith in something without evidence? Isn’t this the opposite of being honest with oneself? To march onward with your head down despite all evidence telling you to stop? I’ve got some swampland in Florida that I’d like to sell you.

    Even if you restate it a hundred times, the argument remains the same. I guess I am presupposing that there is no gorilla in my basement right now. And that there is no magic little elf living in my TV. It would be far more sad and dangerous — and yes, dishonest — should I believe that the gorilla and the elf were there, especially if there is no proof of either.

    The pot calling the kettle black. Again.

    It has been said before better by Paul S., but Rachael, if you are coming to play in this house you are going to need better game than that. That defense won’t get you out of the first round.

  • 36. Rachel  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    JC,

    You’re reading way too much into my comment. All I’m saying is that we’re all coming at the discussion with our own beliefs in mind; I believe in God, you don’t. I think we can all still learn from each other and be challenged.

    Speaking of presuppositions, why do you think that all Christians are marching forward with blind faith? Do you think that we never think critically or question our beliefs? I don’t like you assuming that about me, just as I’m sure you don’t like Christians assuming things about you.

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 10, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Rachel:

    Something didn’t happen because it was written down 80 years after the fact?

    Quite right. Temporal distance between an event and its first known recording does NOT equate to inaccuracy. It is certainly possible that the story was recorded very soon after Jesus told it.

    And you’re also right that both sides of these discussion tend to work with certain presuppositions. It’s not easy to set them down and try to take a fresh view of things.

    Nice job working the middle ground there. :)

  • 38. lostgirlfound  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Leo … as always, a good answer to “proli..” whatever. Those responses (from prolipt…) are exactly why so many of us have “issues” with Christians. Too many answers offered, presented with a “rote” script, that leaves little room for discussion. When you enter into certain arenas, you’re already the loser, because they have the questions. Anyway, I won’t start on my stock rant …
    If we could start from a fresh perspective … without preconceived notions … maybe we could get somewhere.

    Sidenote: I have had conversations with Christians who, after a discussion of this type, said to me: “2000 years of church history can’t be wrong. When I’m in doubt, I side with history.” I promptly told him the strong usually control history … which may be why some of the stories weren’t written down until Christianity became more widely accepted …

  • 39. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I promptly told him the strong usually control history …

    Umm…I thought that Christians spent the first years of the existence of Christianity hiding out in catacombs trying not to get used as living torches. Doesn’t sound like the strong writing history to me! But that did change with the Edict of Milan, I guess, so I’ll give you that. And I agree that that argument is fallicious…just because something is a time honored tradition (wife-beating for example) doesn’t make it right.

  • 40. Richard  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:58 am

    I think the reason prolepticlife and those like him are so infuriating is because they are not actually conversing with us.

    “It seems to me that your developed this argument based upon your presupposition of disbelief and not a sincere desire for truth seeking.”

    He displays exactly the sort of problem that we have been discussing — i.e., p-clife believes he knows better than we do what is in our own heads. He can deduce, merely by the fact of our disagreeing with him, that our seeking was not “sincere.” You see? This is not a dialogue for him, this is a monologue. And a monologue, of course, makes *us* actually unnecessary, because he is talking to himself. He can speak his part of the conversation *and* our part.

    This is part-and-parcel with the fundamentalist psyche. All that is excluded from the circle of their group-identity is just this big, lumpy, undifferentiated Not-Us. There is no need for them to understand or indeed even listen, because no one else has anything to say that they dont already know. We become transparent, one-dimensional cartoon characters.

    How could it be otherwise? For them to listen to us, and accept our own self-report — “yes, I did sincerely seek and yes, a miracle would indeed convince me” — cant be reconciled with their faith-commitments. p-clife thinks Jesus himself said no one would be convinced by miracles anyway. So why in the world would you need to actually go and ask any nonbelievers if this is true?

    I emphasize all this because I think it speaks to the heart of the fundamentalist conception of the Other: a rigid narcissistic idealization of the Self and demotion of all Nonself to the margins of existence. We are all persona non grata. And that’s why it makes us so angry. We are being talked at as though we don’t exist.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 1:52 am

    2000 years of church history can’t be wrong.

    So I guess that 1400 years of Muslim history can be. Or >2000 years of Confucian, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. history can be wrong…… but somehow 2000 years of Christian church history can’t be wrong. Even though that history is quite varied, full of wars of religion, demonstrates contradictions between church factions, etc, etc, etc.

  • 42. Mehmed Mustafa  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:46 am

    Where did the conscious originator emanate from, eh? Some form of existence must be at the start and it must have made all other things; otherwise nothing could exist.

    This form of existence cannot be the unconscious, meaningless, purposeless universe or an earlier form of the same thing because this unconsciousness and randomness is obviously not the thing in charge of this universe, especially in charge of all this life, consciousness, love and meaning that we humans have.

    This initial being is God, and not gods, as the singleness of the ultimate reality and the harmony of the universe point to one single source of all existence.

    And no, what I am saying is much more than philosophical speculation.

  • 43. Mehmed Mustafa  |  April 11, 2008 at 6:03 am

    By the way, to complete the meaning and purpose of this universe, the re-creation of the universe and the living beings, especially people of course, is imperative. No injustice, no evil committed will be gotten away with, thanks to God, who is the most objective and fair and merciful judge and is the greatest and original living, conscious being. Praise be to Allah/God and all the messengers that He sent to warn us about the results of our thoughts, beliefs and deeds.

  • 44. Quester  |  April 11, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Some form of existence must be at the start and it must have made all other things; otherwise nothing could exist.

    By that logic, something must have made that existence at the start, or else it could not exist.

    This form of existence cannot be the unconscious, meaningless, purposeless universe or an earlier form of the same thing because this unconsciousness and randomness is obviously not the thing in charge of this universe, especially in charge of all this life, consciousness, love and meaning that we humans have.

    1. I can make a delicious meal. That does not mean that I’m tasty.

    2. Nothing is “obviously” in charge of the universe.

    3. If something conscious and purposeful is needed because of the consciousness and purpose in the universe, why isn’t there more conscious life all over our solar system?

    This initial being is God, and not gods, as the singleness of the ultimate reality and the harmony of the universe point to one single source of all existence.

    What singleness and harmony would that be?

  • 45. Quester  |  April 11, 2008 at 6:26 am

    No injustice, no evil committed will be gotten away with, thanks to God, who is the most objective and fair and merciful judge and is the greatest and original living, conscious being.

    Too bad this Allah/God waits until it is too late to be of any help to anyone before bringing about justice.

  • 46. Gregg  |  April 11, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I wonder if I could raise a different angle on this free will discussion. For me, the main issue I take with evangelical Christian belief is that large portion of that group sides with a view opposite to the one that you have raised, Leo. In other words, following the thought of reformer John Calvin, many evangelicals hold that we are predestined by God to a certain relationship with God (whence the even nastier version arises, double predestination, where some are heaven-bound and some are damned).

    Thus it is not that they defend the notion that free will is essential, but that they deny that people have a choice in the face of God’s grace (or lack thereof).

    I realize, Leo, that this is not what you initially wrote on. Yet while I agree with some of the sentiments expressed here (regarding how Christians tend to use the “free will” argument as a hiding spot for a game of peek-a-boo with God), I am even more worried by Christians who seem to think that we can (and should) deny human choosing in relation to human existence.

  • 47. Paul S  |  April 11, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Rachel said:

    Something didn’t happen because it was written down 80 years after the fact? Guess we can’t read any more Bertrand Russell…

    The difference being of course that the writings done by Bertrand Russell were actually written by…(drum roll please)…Bertrand Russell!

    My point wasn’t that someone can’t write something down many years after it supposedly happened, but that the word “recorded” makes it sound like there was someone standing right beside Jesus with a scroll of papyrus and a quill pen taking down His every word.

    Rachel, can you tell me who actually wrote the Gospel of Luke?

  • 48. Just Can't  |  April 11, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Rachael Re: #36

    No, I really don’t think I was reading too much into your comment.

    As to why I think that you are marching forward in blind faith…. even if you have critically questioned your faith, you choose to disregard whatever critiques you summoned and continue on in blind faith. Since there is no proof for the god you believe in, you must just use faith. Blind faith. Despite everything you may critique it with, this blind faith remains at the end of the day. You march forward with it.

    You are right when you say that I do not believe, and it shows in my discourse. But this is not “belief”. It is “lack of belief”. It wasn’t always that way, but the critiques I summoned held water at the end of the day while the blind faith began gushing through all of its holes.

    I hope that clears it up for you. I didn’t mean to suggest that you’ve never had doubts, just that “faith” prohibits you from acting on them.

  • 49. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Mehmed Mustafa:

    Some form of existence must be at the start and it must have made all other things; otherwise nothing could exist.

    Once again you make an assertion just to make it. There’s no reason that what you say must be true. The universe might have no beginning. Or it might be cyclic (big bang, big crunch, big bang, big crunch, and so on).

    And you still haven’t dealt with your inherent contradiction. You said “consciousness could emenate not ever from a meaningless, purposeless, unconscious universe but only from a purposeful and conscious originator”. And yet you then want that “purposeful and conscious originator” to exist without a “purposeful and conscious originator”. Sorry dude but you can’t have it both ways.

    unconsciousness and randomness is obviously not the thing in charge of this universe

    It sure looks like it is. Random stuff happens.

    This initial being is God, and not gods

    Pure presuppositionalism. Your saying that, and insisting that it is true, just doesn’t MAKE it true.

    as the singleness of the ultimate reality and the harmony of the universe point to one single source of all existence.

    Again, pure presuppositionalism. You must learn to recognize your own preconceived notions and separate them from facts.

    And no, what I am saying is much more than philosophical speculation.

    Yes. That is exactly what it is. Again you must learn to distinguish your own wishes or opinions from facts.

  • 50. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    The universe might have no beginning. Or it might be cyclic (big bang, big crunch, big bang, big crunch, and so on).

    Oh, that’s interesting. I thought the going cosmogony was the Big Bang Theory. So if you say that the universe had no beginning, wouldn’t you then have to say that it is at least theoretically possible that God has always existed? Just a thought. I really don’t want to start a First Cause debate. :)

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Gregg:

    The whole of Calvinism is a monstrosity. I have long regarded John Calvin as one of the most evil influences in history.

    You know how at the end of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ you see Judas, Brutus, and Caius in the mouth of Satan? I figure that a newer writing of the poem would have to make room of Calvin.

  • 52. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Rachel:

    Big Bang/Big Crunch is one idea being tossed around. There are others. Intersecting dimensions, and so forth. Some have beginnings, some don’t. So whether you need a first cause or not depends on which model you choose to work with. And I don’t think any of them would exclude a supreme deity or intelligence.

  • 53. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Ok, gotcha.

    You’re awfully hard on John Calvin! My school is named after him-lol! Calvinism gets a bum rap in a lot of circles that it doesn’t entirely deserve. But it isn’t so good when it comes to theodicy, that’s for sure. My EOC professor calls it “Trinitarian Islam” because of the unitarian determinism that often seems to underlie a lot of hyper-Calvinist thought. I gag whenever I read John Piper.

  • 54. HeIsSailing  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Rachel:
    ” I thought the going cosmogony was the Big Bang Theory”

    The Big Bang theory could incorporate an oscillating model as Leopardus said. The Big Bang theory is not a something from nothing kind of argument – the fact is, we do not know, and we may never know, what happened before the Planck Time (if there was such a moment), and where our universe ultimately came from.

    Rachel:
    “So if you say that the universe had no beginning, wouldn’t you then have to say that it is at least theoretically possible that God has always existed? ”

    Can I quote from my earlier tirade, comment 11?
    “Our first line of reasoning must be naturalisic before we even delve into the supernatural. The reason is that if we posit a supernatural explanation for any phenomena, then we really learn nothing and have explaned nothing.”

    In other words, if you cannot equate a theoretical possiblity for God’s eternal existance with the universe’s eternal existance. One is a natural occurance – the other is a supernatural occurance, that is one outside our particular manifold of space-time. Our natural universe is in a manifold outside of which we can only speculate and never observe. That is why we cannot talk about alternate universes outside of the realm of science-fiction. God also lies in that category. Science simply cannot use God as a causal agent of natural forces, because God by almost any definition you want to use of God, lies outside that manifold.

    Then again, you could just ignore what I said and postulate the existance of a God as a viable theory. My wife thinks the universe exists, therefore God exists. OK, fine. But I don’t see how you can use the very existance of the Universe, or the Earth, or Life to explain who that god, or gods, or creative beings or ‘intelligent agents’ are, what their attributes or properties are, and what if anything they want from us.

    Postulating the existance of God as the answer to scientific problems tells us absolutely nothing about anything! It impedes all progress to knowledge and bettering ourselves! That is why, even if a god exists, we cannot include that being into discussions of science. Even my wife agrees on that part.

    Rachel:
    “Just a thought. I really don’t want to start a First Cause debate”

    Too late – you can’t expect to make comments like these with a physicist reading and expect to get away with it ;-)

  • 55. HeIsSailing  |  April 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Rachel:
    “You’re awfully hard on John Calvin! ”

    You do realize that if John Calvin were to live the life he did today in 2008, he would at the very least be serving a life sentence in the Federal Pen. Or he would be a member of the Taliban.

  • 56. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Rachel:

    My school is named after him

    You’re at Calvin college??!! I’m so sorry. …….. I used to live in MI, right in the heart of Calvinism central USA. That’s where I developed my strong dislike of it.

    My EOC professor calls it “Trinitarian Islam”

    LOL!! :D

    I gag whenever I read John Piper

    That is an appropriate and healthy gag reflex you have there. Bet you also do the same with Sproul or van Til.

  • 57. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    No kidding! Did you live in Grand Rapids?

    You don’t have to be sorry–I love Calvin! Rigorous academics and a variety of opinions. We actually don’t talk about John Calvin that much, but the adminstration is terribly fond of Abraham Kuyper. Probably ’cause he Dutch. Just kidding. ;)

  • 58. Rachel  |  April 11, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    HIS,

    Oh, I totally agree with you. My question was more toward people who would say that God couldn’t have existed forever. Well, clearly something has to have existed forever and it’s either God or the universe. :) But I guess that since whatever existed before the Big Bang technically existed before space and time, science can’t really answer that question. Right?

  • 59. LeoPardus  |  April 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve heard Calvin is a good school academically. Just a baaaadd choice of name/icon. ;) I was actually just down the road a piece in K’zoo. Been to GR a few times.

  • 60. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 9:18 am

    The general opinion out there seems to be that Calvin College is an oasis of intellectualism in the firmament of conservative Christianity, but I’ve read that they censure professors for doctrinal offenses, including daring to suggest that intelligent design isn’t based upon actual science.

    LeoPardus, I agree with you completely about Calvin. And I notice that the two young seminarians who comment frequently on this site, and who are not shy about displaying their Reformed credentials, are absent from this thread.

    Rachel – you’re absolutely right about Piper. An utterly dreadful man. Of course, he believes in predestination, and, twenty years ago, wrote the following:

    But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.

    In other words, if God created his children for the sole purpose of damning them, he’s okay with it. It doesn’t make God a bad guy. I’ve often wondered how his sons feel about this, and recently had a brief exchange with one of them at Friendly Atheist. Suffice it to say that the expected denial is firmly in place.

    The worst thing about Piper is that he isn’t the worst thing out there. There are Calvinists who dismiss him for being too soft! The entire belief system is an utter, thoroughgoing abomination which should no longer be tolerated.

  • 61. Rachel  |  April 12, 2008 at 10:15 am

    cipher,

    The Biology department is definitely not shy about expressing their dislike of ID! Here’s a bio prof blog if you want a sampling: http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/. He calls ID “folk science.” And a philosophy prof for good measure: http://holyskinandbone.blogspot.com/

    I’ve read that Piper quote too! It’s what made me dislike him, actually. I think that’s the monotheistic/absolute rule mindset that has gotten Christians into crap like the crusades. You have to redefine power when you’re talking about a triune God of grace. And so goes my journey to the East. :)

  • 62. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:19 am

    RAchel,

    Thank you for the links. I’ve taken a look through them. I can’t say that I’d spend much time there, as these fellows and I would agree on very little; however, I’m glad that the biologist dismisses ID (although I don’t understand why he seems to dislike PZ Meyers, as they are on the same page about that). I’m glad as well that the philosopher argues in favor of universalism; although, how he can embrace it, or even be willing to do so, and adhere to Reformed theology is beyond me.

    I did read an article within the past week about a certain bio prof at Calvin who was called onto the carpet for speaking disparagingly of ID. The article also stated that being interrogated over “doctrinal differences” isn’t an unusual state of affairs at Calvin. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link to give you. If I find it, and this thread is no longer active, I’ll post it at your blog.

    While searching for it, I did just stumble across this: http://www.calvin.edu/news/releases/1999_00/fss00.htm
    Apparently, Dembski taught a summer seminar on ID at Calvin eight years ago. Are they ordinarily open to this sort of thing, or has the climate there changed in recent years?

  • 63. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I just read an article by Prof. Corcoran in which he says that he hopes for universal salvation, but doesn’t actually believe in it. Typical. Even the Emergent folks can’t seem to get beyond that point, for the most part. Well, so much for that.

    http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dhn2mzpj_1fn2cnfcw

  • 64. CheezChoc  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Who is this Piper fellow? Sorry, couldn’t find his first name or a book title in the earlier posts and there are so many of them now.
    Just curious.

  • 65. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:47 am

    <i?Who is this Piper fellow?

    John Piper is a hyper-Calvinist who believes that God has created the vast majority of human beings for no other purpose than to torment them for all of eternity – and that this neither absolves us of the blame for it, nor does it impugn God’s character. He has a website called Desiring God (I can’t bring myself to link to it). My desire is for someone to bludgeon him with a blunt instrument.

  • 66. Steve Matheson  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Cipher writes:

    I did read an article within the past week about a certain bio prof at Calvin who was called onto the carpet for speaking disparagingly of ID. The article also stated that being interrogated over “doctrinal differences” isn’t an unusual state of affairs at Calvin. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link to give you.

    I’d love for you to find the citation so I can look at it. The most likely explanation for this is that you read about Howard Van Till, a physics & astronomy prof who was treated poorly in the late 80′s – early 90′s, unrelated to ID, a phrase not yet known at the time. Other explanations are that you were victimized by an April Fool’s hoax or that you stumbled onto a site containing delusions or lies. I’m a biology prof at Calvin, and I assure you that your claims are wholly false. You seem to have formed your opinions of the college under the influence of something other than fact. But isn’t that what the discussion is about? (Go Rachel.)

    Summer seminars on various topics bring scholars from elsewhere to discuss/study issues of interest to Christian Scholarship. The seminar occurred before I came to Calvin, so I don’t know much about it, but it would be quite foolish to assume that a 9-day summer seminar, in “point-counterpoint” format (with prominent critics such as Howard Van Till and Mike Ruse included as respondents) somehow points to a pro-ID “climate” at Calvin. (If Calvin somehow became “pro-ID”, or even hinted at censure of my anti-ID stance, I’d resign promptly.)

    Not sure why you think I don’t like PZ; I like him a lot, and have praised him as a superb science writer.

  • 67. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Professor,

    I don’t really have an opinion about it. As I said, it’s just what I’ve read. If it isn’t true, I’m glad to hear it. If I can find the article, I’ll send it to you.

    I’m not saying that there is a pro-ID climate at Calvin. That’s why I asked Rachel, “Are they ordinarily open to this sort of thing, or has the climate there changed in recent years?” I will say this, though – I’d assume that he wouldn’t be welcome at a secular university – at least not here in the godless Northeast!

    I thought you didn’t like PZ because of this remark in your post, “Diagnosed… at last (http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2008/04/diagnosedat-last.html)”:

    Via Pharyngula, a silly little blog written by one of the syndrome’s most severely-affected victims.

    Were you just being funny?

  • 68. Gregg  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Leo/Rachel (and others),

    I’d like to venture in with another comment, or rather, with another direction in which I think that these critiques might take us—to our profit, I think. I recently skimmed a book entitled Why I am not a Calvinist. The authors, Christian academicians, write: “Interestingly, the title of the article in which [John] Piper insists on adoring a God who might consign his sons to hell is ‘How does a Sovereign God Love?’ We believe Piper has the question backwards and that his article reflects the unfortunate subordination of love to will. . . . the question that we should be asking is how could a God of perfect love express sovereignty?” (p. 219).

    The subordination he refers to is observed by Christian theologian Colin Gunton, for whom “in Western theology since Augustine, ‘the theme of love becomes subordinate to that of will.’ ” (p. 218). And as many of Calvin’s views (particularly on predestination and the role of the will therein) are those of Augustine taken to their logical conclusion, it seems to me that this debate on free will very much depends on what we make of this tension between God’s sovereignty and God’s love.

    And this takes me back to Leo’s #1 point (waaay up at the top): God must show up. Somewhere, somehow. And this “coming on the scene” is not, respectfully to all, a matter of convincing me with miracles and signs, nor even is a matter of displaying a justice that rights all the wrongs of the earth. It is a matter, it seems to me, of showing up in a way that does for me what God claims to seek to do for all the world: to enable authentic relationship with me. This does not exclude others, but it makes it for me in a way that is neither selfish nor illusory, but is authentic, whole, and real. Paul Ricoeur’s comments on God and Job express this well:

    “The display of Being in the absence of personal concern was already implied in the revelation which ends the Book of Job: ‘Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said’—but what did he say? Nothing which could be considered an answer to the problem of human suffering and death, nothing which could be used as theodicy, as justification for God. . . . For Job the revelation of the whole is first not a sight but a voice. The Lord speaks; that is the essential. He does not speak of Job; he speaks to Job, and that is sufficient.” (Ricoeur, Religious Significance of Atheism, 89-90).

    Paraphrasing Martin Heidegger, if God came on the scene he would “close up shop,” but this would need to be a God before whom we can dance and sing. For me, such a God may be the God of love only when this God’s law is one “written on my heart” (Jer 31:33; also Gospels) as something dear to me; where “sin itself would be seen not as the transgression of prohibitions but as the antithesis of life and grace.” (Ricoeur, Atheism, 69) This does not mean that justice vanishes in wishy-wash sea of emotion, but that in addition to needing something that makes sense, I have to agree with Bono: I need something “that I can feel.”

    So in the end I think that the object of our quest is not thoughts/ demonstrations /proofs of God. Rather, it is genuine interactions with God. Because the problem, exactly opposite to ProlepticLife (#27), is that those who have left Christianity have done so because of a “sincere desire for truth.” And this desire has panned out! Because the truth that is found (truth-for-me, let’s call it) is that the Truth of Christianity is a lie. And where sovereignty is the main part of this truth—where one who has been scalded by life and Christianity’s hollowness realizes that God simply does not live up to expectations (as a friend put it, “God doesn’t reconcile with my lived experience), God will not possibly truly be God by being more sovereign. This is the way of theodicy; of the “our” God (the God of “us” that accuses every “them”), the God-in-my-back-pocket (that consoles and “forgives” me and mine).

    No, this God will not do, for this God could not do before. What is needed, if it can be had, is a God who does not speak of me but to me. What is needed is not Pascal’s wager, but Pascal’s memorial—something far dearer to Pascal than his wager and far more authentic. Found after his death, the memorial was a small piece of parchment found sewn into the lining of his jacket. Summarizing Pascal’s response to a mystical experience in 1654, it begins “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. Not of philosophers and scholars.”

    Given that Pascal is a philosopher and a scholar, the memorial seems to renounce all that Pascal is. Yet, on the one hand, he clearly remains a scientist (even during this experience he notes the date, the time, and the duration on the parchment). And, on the other hand, I do not think that renouncing is the point. The point is that Pascal came face to face with a God for whom Pascal the person was far more important than any achievement of Pascal the philosopher. This God does not love Pascal for his intelligence, but for who Pascal was in Pascal’s entirety.

    So while I respect this conversation, I must say that for my money (and my life) the matter does not come down to my will—free or otherwise. Or better, in the first instance it is not a question of will. What I want is not a God who makes sense as an idea, but a God who loves me in ways that make sense in (and through) my lived existence—a God before whom I can sing and dance, a God that I can adore the way that my children adore me: with joy. Because no matter how powerful, clearly understandable, and awe-inspiring this God may be, I won’t bow to a tyrant—I won’t worship a beast.

    To say it again, in the heel of the hunt God must show up. And so for me, if we are to find (and be found by) the God of the Bible this can only be so where the “it will be so” of God’s love is the realization, “here and now” of Christ’s offer of abundant life (John’s gospel). We need a God who answers not with words, but with God-self; who answers not just our cries (or criteria or critiques) but ourselves. Nothing less will do.

    I feel like saying “sorry for preaching,” but this is crucial for me. Nice to know what others think of this.

  • 69. Gregg  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Seems like my italics didn’t show up: sorry if this causes some confusion–italics make the preceding a lot clearer.

  • 70. Gregg  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Oops! Seems I’ve crossed two of Leo’s articles. The “1st point” that I refer to is that found in another article:

    Inconvenient categories: The really real reasons de-cons left the faith

    Sorry for the criss-cross.

  • 71. Steve Matheson  |  April 12, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Cipher–

    Re PZ: Yes, I was being funny (i.e., sarcastic), and PZ would get it.

    Re Calvin & ID: while I don’t think the “climate” at Calvin is notably different (on ID) now than it was in 2001 (when I came) I do think the air surrounding ID itself is different, and I for one would look quite unfavorably on a visit by Dembski in any forum that granted his ideas professional scientific respect. In this regard, I would mirror the situation you presume holds in your neighborhood, which is that Dembski would not be often invited to speak as a scholar on topics related to origins. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be invited to speak here, or at a secular university anywhere, in some other context. The seminar in 2000 is definitely “some other context.” Hope this makes things a little clearer.

    I doubt you’ll find any credible document that contains the claims you posted before, but please pass on anything you find.

  • 72. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    In Googling van Till, I came across a paper he presented to the Freethought Association of West Michigan, in which he described his experiences at Calvin. It sounds familiar; he might have been the professor in the article I read. You’re right; it wasn’t about ID per se, but they did go after him because of his (perceived) views on evolution – and they kept it up for three years.

    As I said, my memory is that the former article made the claim that it wasn’t an isolated incident. Again, if I can find it, I’ll email it to you.

  • 73. cipher  |  April 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    And I’m glad to hear you like PZ!

  • 74. karen  |  April 12, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Rachel – you’re absolutely right about Piper. An utterly dreadful man.

    My first – and only – exposure to Piper was when I came across an essay he wrote after the very tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota last summer. In putting his daughter to bed that night, he told her that god could have prevented the collapse, but didn’t want to. Instead, he told this little girl that god caused the deaths of innocents so that people would fear their own deaths, repent and become Christians.

    It was just chilling, and really made my skin crawl to think about a dad tucking a little girl into bed with her head full of that kind of “morality.” He’s one sick dude.

  • 75. LeoPardus  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Gregg:

    Sounds like we are on the same page.

    We need a God who answers not with words, but with God-self

    Words to that effect are just what I’m about.

    the matter does not come down to my will—free or otherwise. Or better, in the first instance it is not a question of will.

    Agreed. The whole free will bit is just a smoke screen to hide from the fact that no god shows up EVER. So will is indeed not the issue.

  • 76. LeoPardus  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Steve Matheson:

    Hail fellow biologist. Glad to know that Calvin College has real scientists working there.

  • 77. Rachel  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Whoa, I’ve been in Ann Arbor at a wedding shower all day and look what I’ve missed! Glad to see that you made it by, Steve.

    Karen-

    In putting his daughter to bed that night, he told her that god could have prevented the collapse, but didn’t want to. Instead, he told this little girl that god caused the deaths of innocents so that people would fear their own deaths, repent and become Christians.

    That is awful! Seriously.

  • 78. Zoe  |  April 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Oh my word Karen, that story about Piper and his daughter! I literally felt sick to my stomach. :-(

    Years ago, during a bout of serous illness, a Christian encouraged me to read some of Piper’s writing online. I did not experience a positive outcome.

  • 79. Kevin  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Cipher:

    Typical? What do you mean?

    I happen to be of the view that most if not all of our beliefs are largely out of our voluntary control, that we pretty much find ourselves with them, we don’t choose them. I believe there’s an external world, for example. I believe I have existed for some 40 years and wasn’t just created 3 seconds ago with loads of false memories programmed into my head. In fact, I couldn’t right now just choose to believethat there is no external world and that I was just created 3 seconds ago any more than I could choose to believe I’m lying on the beach in Florida when I’m sitting here in my living room in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    Many of the theological and philosophical views I have I hold rather believe. I choose to accept them, usually after weighing the different options and evidence. I take it on board my “noetic web” if you will and I’m prepared to defend them.

    Universalism is a theological view I hope is true. I think there are really good reasons for this hope, too. I guess you don’t like that b/c it’s “typical”. Whatever that means. Sorry to disappoint, Mr. or Ms. Cipher. But, hey, thanks for reading my article.

  • 80. Kevin  |  April 12, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Cipher:

    I just read a previous comment of yours and thought I should chime in here as a Calvin College professor. The article of mine on hell you read (I’m guessing it was the one in Books and Culture) was originally commissioned for a Calvin alumni publication. I was given the charge to “write a reflective and thoughtful piece on a difficult topic.” Having just returned from burying my best friend from college and a spiritual soul mate–he was Jewish by birth and spiritually more in tune with the East than the West–I was thinking a lot about heaven and hell. The article you read was what I came up with. Anyway, it having been commissioned by the magazine it was later rejected by the administration. They did not want it published in a Calvin venue. So, I published it in Books and Culture.

    I was never censured for this action. The president and I talked about it at graduation that year, but I was never called in and reprimanded. And last Easter, the local newspaper did an article on the resurrection of Jesus and (mis)quoted me at length, drawing on a book I published called <Rethinking Human Nature in which I defend a materialist view of human persons, denying that in the natural world there are immaterial souls.

    The letters in response to that article came in fast and furious, decrying to the administration my views and the fact that I teach at Calvin. Both my chair and the administration defended me at every turn.

    We may not be Brown, but I have never experienced a breach in academic freedom since I’ve been at Calvin and I hold views that are clearly out of sync with many. One almost wants to say that some of the views I hold are, well, atypical.

  • 81. Quester  |  April 13, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Gregg, I agree with quite a bit of your #68; vision, voice, miracle, whatever, I just want a God I can worship and adore. For that, I need a God who is present and active.

  • 82. CheezChoc  |  April 13, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Okay, I read some of the tenets of Calvinism at Piper’s website, and what he had written about it was so mind-bogglingly twisted that I could barely comprehend it–not because I’m stupid, but because it must have taken many months of tortured logic and standing on his head in order to produce it.
    Sheesh.

  • 83. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    it must have taken many months of tortured logic and standing on his head in order to produce it.

    I’ve long maintained that Calvinistic thinking does actual, physical damage to the brain. You just can’t abuse part of your body like that without consequences.

  • 84. Gregg  |  April 14, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Leo (#75) and Quester (#81),

    I’m glad that my thoughts and feelings (#68) resonated with you both. I think that one of the most important things to note is that, for me, departing from one’s faith commitments is an arduous and all-consuming task of truth-finding. More than simply doubting, rejecting puts us in the position of putting truth as we know it “in the dock” and requires us to re-examine everything. When we do so what we lose is Truth (the absolute variety), yet we gain truth (what I call truth-for-me): we have understood some things about God, the world, and ourselves better than we did before.

    This is why Paul Ricoeur speaks (and rightly so, I think) of atheism having a “religious significance,” whereby “atheism does not exhaust itself in the negation and destruction of religion; rather . . . atheism clears the ground for a new faith, a faith for the postreligious age.” (Religious Significance of Atheism, 61). Ricoeur identifies religion with accusation and consolation, what he calls (following Marx) the “rotten points of religion.” Faith, OTOH, is only possible after having left behind accusation and consolation.

    Accusation and consolation represent, for Ricoeur, the functions of taboo and shelter, whereby the “religious” express their fear of punishment (which they are nevertheless ready for their god to mete out to others) and their need for protection (wherein easy forgiveness of adherents and justification of god [via theodicy] mix).

    In order to examine accusation more closely Ricoeur makes us of the atheism of suspicion of Freud and Nietzsche, whom I have found to be indispensable. (Incidentally, Merold Westphal, taking his lead from Ricoeur, has written a helpful book on Freud, Mark, and Nietsche entitled Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism. The book begins: “Yes, you heard me right. I propose the serious and sustained reading of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche as a Lenten penance”).

    Recovering Faith means, amongst other things, recovering our “affirmative power of existing.” Following Spinoza (a guy I have to respect and reckon with—he rejected almost everything of his religious past), Ricoeur underscores the this recovery is a matter of rejecting obligation (the “I must” and “I should” of Kant [or of many biblical texts, taken in isolation]) in favour of desire.

    And for me that desire is ultimately the desire for my flourishing in, with, and through God’s presence as that which truly offers (and so confirms) “abundant life” in the “here and now.” The question is how one gets there.

  • 85. Jim B.  |  May 9, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Rachel et. al.

    You should really get your terminology straight. A Hyper-Calvinist is NOT someone who REALLY, REALLY believes in Calvinism. A Hyper-Calvinism is someone who believes the Church has no obligation to evangelize. In fact, they believe it is wrong to do so, as it threatens God’s sovereignty. Love him or hate him, John Piper is not a Hyper-Calvinist.

    Rachel,

    Do the atheist kudos for bashing John Piper (and, essentially, all Reformed Christians) ever give you pause? If the other team is rooting for you, maybe you’re shooting at the wrong basket?

  • 86. LeoPardus  |  May 9, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Jim B:

    You are right. Piper does not technically qualify as a hyper-Calvinist. He does hold to double predestination, which is an extra point beyond the typical five of TULIP. He also apparently adds a seventh point (“This is the best of all possible worlds”). Both of those add to making him an utterly deplorable person, but they do not make him a hyper-Calvinist. He’s definitely into evangelizing.

  • 87. Jim B.  |  May 9, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Good grief…

    Why is John Piper “an utterly deplorable person”? You (Leo) and I probably disagree on just about everything. Yet, I won’t presume you to be “a deplorable person”. Why the particular rage against Piper (or is it really Calvin)?

  • 88. Jim B.  |  May 9, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    And Piper is not a Hyper-Calvinist at all. Hyper-Calvinism refers to a particular theological view which Piper does not hold.

    Double-predestination is not universal, but quite common and uncontroversial among Reformed/Calvinist Christians.

  • 89. LeoPardus  |  May 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Jim B:

    See post 74 for an example of the deplorable views that Piper’s bankrupt theology leads him to. Of course Calvinism in all it’s ugly versions leads any adherent to similarly ugly views. It’s just a bankrupt theology.

    Why the particular rage against Piper (or is it really Calvin)?

    Funny phraseology. Normally it’s “rage against God” that is posited. Anyway, Piper or Calvin both have horrid worldviews. But one can’t be otherwise with a theological system that proposes predestination, utter depravity, limited atonement, etc. And of course forcing your mind to accept such an inherently contradictory set of premises will, over time, do real damage to the brain.

    Re post 88: Yes. I said Piper was not a hyper-Calvinist. Why are you repeating that?

  • 90. Jim B.  |  May 10, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Leo,

    Do you know any Calvinists? I attend Piper’s church in Minneapolis. Thousands of crazy Calvinists! We’re all pretty decent folk, really. And most of us actually understand what Calvinism is and isn’t. (So, we’re not decent in spite of our beliefs, or because we’re too stupid to REALLY understand them.)

    I guess I’m just disappointed in the tone of these comments. I haven’t been around here for a while, but I check out the blog from time to time, because you all tend to be relatively calm and reasonable in your conversations. The comments regarding Piper and Calvinism here are neither.

    Most of these comments spring, I think, from ignorance of what Calvinism (Reformed Theology) actually is. While I don’t expect to convert anyone here, there’s quite a bit of the Reformed tradition folks here would probably appreciate (e.g. a rigorously intellectual faith – as opposed to most modern-day evangelicalism).

    Either way, you’re not going to convince anyone that you represent dispassionate reason by ad hominem-ing your opponents.

    “Re post 88: Yes. I said Piper was not a hyper-Calvinist. Why are you repeating that?”

    Because you said Piper “does not technically qualify as a hyper-Calvinist”. This is incorrect. Piper is NOT a Hyper-Calvinist in any sense. This may seem like splitting hairs, but these terms have concrete meanings and it wouldn’t be fair (or honest) to label someone as something they are demonstrably not.

    God Bless

  • 91. LeoPardus  |  May 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Jim B:

    Living in SW Mich. for years assures that one will get to know Calvinists. And there’s a friend I communicate with often who is a very strong Calvinist (bordering on hyper). I’ve read bios of John Calvin, by Reformed people who adore him. I’ve heard the sermons, read the books and articles. I have another friend who was a member of Piper’s church in his college days, and still thinks Piper is the greatest thing since Calvin.

    I have to admit that the fact that people who believe Calvinism are not monsters amazes me. But then I chalk it up to the fact that everyone I know doesn’t really believe what they claim theologically. Rather I should say they don’t live consistently with it.

    In some ways I do agree with hyper-Calvinism. If everything is predestined, it makes no sense at all to evangelize. Of course then a Calvinist will bring up the need to be obedient. And I can’t help but think, “How can one be disobedient when an almighty being has already predetermined what you’re going to do?” And then we can proceed to argue around the circle if we like.

    I do know that Calvinism enjoys a reputation as being more rigorously intellectual than most modern-day evangelicalism, but so does Dr. Seuss. If you really want to meet the intellectuals of the Christian world, try the Eastern Orthodox.

    Re “ad homineming” Piper. Sorry, but I’ve never liked the man. Not even when I was trying to force my brain to accept Calvinism. Piper is good at marketing his “pop” ideas, but all he really has is the same, old monstrosity of a theology that John Calvin (well really Augustine) cursed the world with.

  • 92. Jim B.  |  May 10, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Well, I tried. :)

    “But then I chalk it up to the fact that everyone I know doesn’t really believe what they claim theologically. Rather I should say they don’t live consistently with it.”

    I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. Certainly, there are Reformed folk who don’t “really believe” or understand what they say they believe. And there are surely those who aren’t consistent. (Of course, no one is 100% consistent with anything.) But, there are plenty of folks (I think Augustine, Calvin and Piper would be good examples) who do/did really understand, really believe and consistently live out this faith. And yet, they are not monsters! Worse even, they tend to be pretty good chaps!

    And I guess this is my point: I don’t believe I’m going to convince you that Reformed Christianity is anything less than a fairytale. However, I do think there is room for some refining of your understanding of what it actually is. If none of the Reformed folk you know are horrid monsters, can you reasonably argue that all of them fail to really understand, believe, etc.? And if some of them do really understand/believe, then why aren’t they monsters?

    It seems your loathing of this particular faith has everything to do with its teachings and how you assume these teachings must logically pervert and distort the human mind/soul if they are truly and thoroughly embraced. Yet, I don’t think you can make the argument that it has actually done this for those who do really understand/believe.

    God Bless

  • 93. mec  |  May 11, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Didn’t Calvin burn his opponents at the stake?

  • 94. LeoPardus  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Jim B:

    I wrote a response, then wordpress went down for some maintenance. I’ll hack at it tomorrow if time permits.

  • 95. Jim B.  |  May 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Mec,

    This is emblematic of the antipathy and willful ignorance directed at Calvin.

    Calvin was the pastor of Geneva. Servetus was a heretic wanted by the Catholic Church (Rome would have burned him had they been given the opportunity) and the Protestants. Calvin risked his life many years before Servetus’ untimely demise to meet Servetus and attempt to dissuade him from promoting his heresy (anti-Trinitarianism). (Servetus stood Calvin up.) Servetus, in opposition to reason and sanity, came to Geneva and was arrested (by the city government – not by Calvin). Calvin visited Servetus in prison and again tried to convince him to recant his heresy. Servetus refused. Calvin petitioned the city to hang Servetus in lieu of burning him.

    Was Calvin guilty of the universal sin of that era (employing the power of government to discipline heretics)? Yes. Was Calvin some kind of unique monster of his time? No.

    God Bless

  • 96. LeoPardus  |  May 12, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Augustine, Calvin and Piper … tend to be pretty good chaps!

    Augustine on infants:
    “Consequently, if they are not baptized, they will have to rank amongst those who do not believe; and therefore they will not even have life, but “the wrath of God abideth on them,” inasmuch as “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him;” and they are under judgment, since “he that believeth not is condemned already;” and they shall be condemned.“
    Yeah. Great chap. Doncha just want a bloke like that at your next baby shower?

    And there’s that sweet bit from Piper that Rachel cited earlier. He’d be just super for writing children’s bedtime stories.

    I don’t believe I’m going to convince you that Reformed Christianity is anything less than a fairytale.

    Not likely by argumentation. You’d have to come up with an actual god to convince me that any Christianity (or Islam, or Shinto, etc) is more than wishful thinking. And likewise I’m not thinking I’m real likely to convince you that the god you talk about, sing about, pray to, etc is simply a figment of your imagination (albeit aided by the imaginations of others).

    If none of the Reformed folk you know are horrid monsters, can you reasonably argue that all of them fail to really understand, believe, etc.? And if some of them do really understand/believe, then why aren’t they monsters?

    When pushed with the incontrovertible conclusions to which Calvinism must take one, every Calvinist I’ve tried such a push with either affirms that is indeed how they ought to be and then proceeds to justify doing otherwise, or enters into standard Calvinistic circular reasoning. The latter is by far the more common. No surprise, given that almost all of Calvinism is circular illogic.

    My view of it is that the normal, human soul recoils at the conclusions that one must arrive at. So people create a cognitive dissonance in which they hold Calvinism as an article of faith, but then hold to a more practical, personal view that is human (as opposed to deplorable). But then the whole of Christianity (and most any theistic religion) is really a grand exercise in cognitive dissonance isn’t it? Prayers never get answered, but pray anyway. Everyone’s predestined, but witness anyway. God never shows up in any way, but believe he’s there anyway. Christians are in no way different from non-Christians, but insist that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit anyway. The Bible is full of contradiction and gets interpreted in a zillion mutually exclusive ways, but insist that it is the inspired word of the almighty anyway.

    It seems your loathing of this particular faith has everything to do with its teachings and how you assume these teachings must logically pervert and distort the human mind/soul

    Exactly. Precisely.

    Yet, I don’t think you can make the argument that it has actually done this for those who do really understand/believe.

    Generally no. Any decent human recoils from the ugliness of the inevitable conclusions that one reaches upon pushing Calvinism to its logical endpoints. There are some exceptions of various levels. “God let all those people die so others would get scared and start believing Him.”, is a dandy example of the sort of monstrous conclusions that can be reached.

  • 97. bobbi jo  |  May 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Leo, you wrote: “In some ways I do agree with hyper-Calvinism. If everything is predestined, it makes no sense at all to evangelize.” I would argue that if God predestined us, who are we to know who he predestined? For example, if my husband is not a “christian” and I evangelize to him, it might might start a seed but he might not believe in God because of me. and then another person comes along and eangelizes and he becomes a christian at this point. I don’t know if he or anyone is ever to become a christian,so I talk to everyone. the predestination is still left up to God, he just might use some of us to get others to that point. I think at this point free-will comes into play. You’ve said several times that God never answers prayers. here is an analogy for you (it’s really awful-bare with me). I can pray to God for vanilla ice-cream. He answers my prayer by sending me chocolate ice-cream. I thank him. it’s not what I origianlly asked for and I may not even like chocolate ice cream, but he did answer my prayer and it stayed His will being done in the process even though I had free will to ask for what ever flavor of ice cream i wanted. (I told you it was bad-not a scientist, I have to teach things to children that they can understand). i do have to say that i like this site because people actually discuss, rather than just agree with whatever the author originally wrote. I have found most “christian” blogs to be boring because of this. i do have a question, I don’t know much about aetheism, so i was wondering what you believe happens when you die (from this earth)?

  • 98. writerdd  |  May 13, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    so i was wondering what you believe happens when you die (from this earth)?

    Atheism just means you don’t believe in gods. So different atheists believe different things besides that one thing in common.

    Most believe that when you die, that’s it. There is no life or soul or spirit that exists separately from the body; there is no afterlife. When you die, you rot in the ground and that’s it. It’s no different than before you were born. You simply do not exist.

    I do know one or two atheists who believe in reincarnation.

  • 99. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I would argue that if God predestined us, who are we to know who he predestined? ……. I think at this point free-will comes into play.

    Sorry. You can’t have it both ways. That’s called “doublethink”. George Orwell coined the term in his novel “1984″. I know you’ll point to your ice cream analogy next. But look at it. Did you ever have the choice of vanilla? No. You only thought you did. I.e. it was an illusion of free-will. You never had any chance of getting anything but chocolate. In a deterministic world, free will can only be apparent, never actual.

    In the end it doesn’t matter if we know who God predestined. If they are predestined, you can talk to them, or shoot them in the kneecaps and it won’t make one whit of difference.

    Of course all the aforesaid assumes there is a god, which I don’t believe.

    i was wondering what you believe happens when you die?

    dd summed it up. I assume that you simply don’t exist anymore once you die.

  • 100. bobbi jo  |  May 13, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    sorry, i must have missed where dd summed that up. so, if you assume we don’t exist anymore, then why are we here in the first place? and how do you assume we got here? sorry if i sound like a child, but keep in mind I talk to children daily. I’m new to this site and still learning…

    “If they are predestined, you can talk to them, or shoot them in the kneecaps and it won’t make one whit of difference.”

    Maybe shooting them in the kneecaps is God’s way of getting them to turn to him and at that point they become a christian. I’m just saying that maybe it does make a difference what happens in your life to get you to the point where you believe/don’t believe. obviously, you got to that point. something must have prompted that. whether it was ‘crazy’ christians talking with you or maybe you’ve been shot, you’ve gotten to the point where you are “hard-hearted”. but I don’t know what God predestined for you, so maybe me or others talking to you would eventually soften your heart and you believe again. and maybe you don’t. the point is that only God knows, so I’m gonna keep trying. I say this because I grew up as a christian, then fell away for years, questioning everything I was taught. Then, last year, God brought me back to Him. (ironically, the topic of church that day was predestination) So, even though my heart was as hard as they get, I came back. It can happen. but I love that I went through that time period and struggled with my beliefs and questioned and researched and I’m still doing that. I don’t like “pat’ answers any more than you do. and I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I still have lots of questions, which is why I’m searching lots of sites, hence my being here. thanks for letting me get all that out.

  • 101. LeoPardus  |  May 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    bobbi jo:

    if you assume we don’t exist anymore, then why are we here in the first place?

    We are here because our parents successfully reproduced and we haven’t yet died.

    and how do you assume we got here?

    I assume by that you mean, how did human (rational) life get here on the planet?

    I would say it evolved.

    Maybe shooting them in the kneecaps is God’s way of getting them to turn to him and at that point they become a christian. I’m just saying that maybe it does make a difference what happens in your life to get you to the point where you believe/don’t believe.

    No it doesn’t make any difference if you believe in predestination. It’s all scripted. You have no choice. Whether you get knee-capped or not, you will believe or not. If you put a bullet in your own brain it doesn’t matter, because it’s all pre-scripted. If predestination is true, then we have no more “will” than a character in a novel.

    As to my coming back to faith, it really, really, really simple. All it requires in for God to show up in a clear, unmistakable way. Much like he supposedly did in the Bible. Remember Thomas the apostle? He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hand, and place my fingers in His side, I will not believe.” A couple days later Jesus beams in and says, “Thomas, here, check me out.” (paraphrased)

    Now if there is a God, I’ll settle for something like that as proof. People on the internet trying to explain why their god never shows up or does anything, or people playing “Where’s Goddo” are not going to get me to believe in their wishful delusions. They’re gonna have to come up with a real god.

  • 102. bobbi jo  |  May 13, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    “…because it’s all pre-scripted. If predestination is true, then we have no more “will” than a character in a novel. ”

    exactly. It’s God’s story and we are charactors in that story which he will use to “script” us for his glory. so my charactor may be a witnising christian freak and your charactor may be a science geek. ;) and there is charactor development in stories.

    “A couple days later Jesus beams in and says, “Thomas, here, check me out.” (paraphrased)”

    this made me laugh.

    “People on the internet trying to explain why their god never shows up or does anything”

    I’m trying to explain that MY God does stuff all the time for me. and I’m certainly not gonna apologize for that! just as I would expect you will not apologize for your beliefs.

    as far as the proof-factor, i’ll stick by the arguement that you may be too hard-hearted to see God. Although, sticking with that arguement (i’ll argue with myself here) why would God pre-destine you to be hard-hearted? That I can not answer. I do know it says (in scripture) that our minds can not even fathom what God’s mind can. But that may just be a “pat” answer that we both don’t like. But just cause I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t truth. i don’t like it cause it makes me uncomfortable, and goodness knows we “christians” hate to be uncomfortable, but christianity isn’t meant to be comfortable.

  • 103. karen  |  May 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    as far as the proof-factor, i’ll stick by the arguement that you may be too hard-hearted to see God.

    Bobbi Jo, you need to poke around on this site and read some of our testimonies.

    All of us were Christians once, most of us more involved and committed than the average “pew-sitter.” Many here were in the clergy, I was a lay leader, so were many others.

    The reason we don’t believe any longer is mostly for intellectual reasons, as Leo laid out. We do not have “hardened hearts” – that’s a Christian-ese phrase that’s virtually meaningless. Hearts pump blood, they are muscles, they are not the seat of emotions or intellect as people once thought in a pre-scientific era. So just by using that phrase you’re betraying an ignorance of how the mind/body works and of how we deconverts think and feel.

    Most decons will tell you we have reached this point because we have had to admit there simply is no good, hard evidence for god’s existence. (Evidence does not consist of anecdotes that may have happened in individual lives, by the way.) Every decon here will tell you we never chose this path. I bet every one of us wound up leaving religion behind after much, much pleading, crying, praying and resisting the obvious.

    Our minds are still open to evidence of god’s existence, our emotions are not closed off to god. That’s a convenient myth that Christians will spout off because they do not take the time or effort to understand where a deconvert is coming from. I hope you will take the time to listen and learn here, rather than deciding that you know better than we do about what we think and feel.

  • 104. LeoPardus  |  May 14, 2008 at 10:12 am

    bobbi jo:

    If indeed there is a God, who is writing a story that we all are in, then nothing I do makes any difference. I’m just following a script and have no say in it at all. This makes existence truly meaningless. Consequently I’m going to reject such a scenario. (And if it’s true, then God wrote my character in as rejecting the scenario, and again I had no choice.)

    All that goes to show a bit of why I rejected the monstrosity of Calvinism long ago. It’s circular, it’s idiotic, and it’s hopeless.

    MY God does stuff all the time for me

    You’re playing “Where’s Goddo?” [Ever done "Where's Waldo?" You try to find a character named Waldo in a very busy picture.] Of course in “Where’s Waldo?” you can know that Waldo actually is in there somewhere.

    Basically the game of “Where’s Goddo?” is one where you want to see God in the world, or in your life, so you interpret circumstances or events to suit that desire.

    That won’t do for me. If God can show up as he did for Thomas, or Paul, or Moses, etc, then God can show up for all of us. And if he loves us so much as to send Jesus to die for us, how about demonstrating that love with something more than an old book that’s not very credible, and a bunch of apologists that aren’t either? Sorry but I need a real deity. Not the product of a lot of folks’ imaginations.

    i’ll stick by the arguement that you may be too hard-hearted to see God.

    You may. It’s a bit of a cop-out though. Karen addressed this a bit. I will add that when I found myself approaching the process of de-converting, it scared me and disturbed me to my core. I literally screamed and cried for weeks, hoping for something, anything from God. A sign, a miracle, an angel, anything to show me He really was there and really cared. The silence was overwhelming.

    In the end, what could I do? I thought there was a god who loved me and cared for me like a father for his child. What would you call a father who watches his child scream in mortal terror and does nothing at all? If there is a deity out there, he either isn’t listening, or is heartless. With those options I’d rather have no god at all thank you.

  • 105. bobbi jo  |  May 14, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Karen, actually, I’ve read several of your testimonies. However, I used that phrase because Leo 1st used it above when talking about pharoh. and since I was talking to Leo specifially, I knew he would get this. Of course it’s a biblical phrase. I’m sure you have phrases you use in your everyday life. I don’t think I know any more than you do and I am still learning myself. I think it would help if you knew where I was coming from. Here’s a little of my testimony. I grew up in a loving christian home. when I went off to college, my bro-in-law was interning at a methodist church. i went on the Sunday that he was preaching. in the middle of his sermen, he dropped the f-bomb. My sister, our friend Darrin (another intern), and I looked around to see if anyone had caught it. No one stirred. not one person gasped, made any noise or were even looking around. they looked like zombies. i will never forget their looks for as long as I live. That changed me. I had already begone to question my faith and at that point I (like most of you) went through a long process of leaving christianity behind. I went my own way, became a stripper, drank a ton, the list of not-very-christianly-things-to-do goes on and on. I was there for about 8 year. eventually, I started to requestion where I was at in my life and amazingly enough, I came back to Christ. I still have questions, but I do believe in one true deity. So please don’t call me ignorant because I have been there, too, and I know how hard it is. This is a forum for debate, and that is all I am trying to do. I don’t think I’m gonna change your mind with some “wise” words, but maybe something I say might have a different perspective that will make you think. I have enjoyed getting to view everyone else’s perspectives on this blog. Like I said before, that is why I come here, cuz you challenge me.

    Leo, I understand where you are coming from, you want a flesh and blood deity right there in front of you. but that is why it’s called faith. I’ve been trying to explain this concept to a 7 yr old. You remind me of my daughter (not because i think you act like a 7 yr old, but because she acts like an adult). she is always asking tough questions like “how do we know God exists?” and “what is faith?”. She’s 7! But she’s amazingly smart and creative and she challenges me daily to understand more.

    anyway, that is where I’m at right now. Thanks for listening to my perspectives even though they don’t always mesh with yours.

  • 106. karen  |  May 14, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for letting us know about your background, Bobbi Jo. You wrote:

    I went my own way, became a stripper, drank a ton, the list of not-very-christianly-things-to-do goes on and on.

    It’s interesting that “backsliders” who return to religion seem to go on these totally rebellious benders before they come “back to the lord.” What’s wrong with all of us!? ;-)

    One of the things we all joke about here frequently is how totally ordinary and similar our lives are now compared to when we were Christians spending every spare moment in church, bible study or choir practice.

    I guess if I were planning to rediscover my faith at some point in the future, I’d want to get busy living a life of flamboyant sin – because I tell you, I sure wouldn’t have a very dramatic testimony if I “repented” and went back to church someday.

    “Ummm … well, I had this midlife crisis, and then I had an intellectual period of self-discovery, and then I learned a whole lot of stuff about science and other religions and I thought about it for a long, long time and then I prayed and nobody answered. And I just, uh, realized I didn’t believe in god anymore. And I stopped going to church. That’s it.”
    ;-)

  • 107. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Leo, (Karen, and gang,)

    I’ve been giving your question a lot of thought. (why doesn’t God show himself before me?) here’s what I have come up with so far. The words came to me last night while listening to a rap song. okay, here goes….

    Let’s say that God shows up in your honda during rush hour traffic. How do you know it’s him? If he is omnipicent (spelling?) and all-powerful, I am assuming that you know it is him by his just appearing, glowing, whatever. He says “now do you believe?” and he’s gone. or maybe you talk for a while. You are so excited about this, that you of course tell all your friends imediately. and they say, “are you smoking weed?” your friends didn’t see God appear to them, so of course they are sceptical of your encounter. They accuse you of letting your imagination run wild, even though you KNOW this was God. Do you see the problem here? If God really appeared to you, then why would it be so hard to believe that he’s appeared to me or others and it’s not just my imagination playing “where’s Goddo”. It’s 100% real.

    So, since God gave you an inch, you ask for a mile. “why can’t you appear to all people everywhere at once?” uh..hello? He’s gonna do that! It’s called the rapture. “like a thief in the night…” He’s not being mysterious. He’s telling exactly how it has to be. if the scriptures said, I’ll come back January 1, 2015, do you know how much chaous (I really can’t spell) that would cause? it’d be like Y2K but 1000 times worse. And most people would be like, “I’ll live however I want to and accept Jesus as my savior Dec. 31, 2014. As long as I repent and believe, I go to heaven, right?”…or something along those lines.

    You’re probably thinking yeah, but this is all hypothetical. why hasn’t Jesus appeared to me right here right now. Really?! on your timetable? Maybe he has and you missed it. I do not say this lightly, I’ve been where you are, I’ve got scars on my arms to prove it. I’m saying that I personally believe in a triune God, so I can’t have God show up without the holy spirit alive in me. what I’m saying is for whatever reason, your heart is closed off, even if you think you’ve been searching, acepting, ect. because you’ve given up on the holy spirit. i’m starting to sound preachy now so i’ll stop.

    again, I say this all with a very heavy heart. I’m still searching, questioning, too, and I have been in the lowest of places where I didn’t see God. At least I didn’t think I saw him. i think he was there but I was so closed off, that I was blind, so to speak. But now I feel (not just imagine :)) the Holy Spirit in me and it makes it easier to face those tough questions. I honestly feel that you would not be satisfied if your friend’s hand grew back (different post). I think you would find every scientific excuse to explain why that happened. I believe that God uses different means, so what if some scientist/doctor comes up with a cure for cancer/AIDS/whatever? I doubt you’ll give God that credit. But what if the scientist does. he’s says it was through God that he found this cure. Do you believe him? Maybe God appeared in his honda and told him exatly how to do it. :) you never know….

    okay that is my two cents. Come back at me with four.

  • 108. Rachel  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Rachel,

    Do the atheist kudos for bashing John Piper (and, essentially, all Reformed Christians) ever give you pause? If the other team is rooting for you, maybe you’re shooting at the wrong basket?

    No, not really. I don’t agree with Piper’s views on double-predestination and neither do they. I don’t think it follows that just because an atheist says it I can’t agree. And I definitely don’t think that criticizing John Piper amounts to bashing all Reformed Christians. There are plenty of Reformed Christians who don’t hold such hard-line views on election. (I should know-I’m about to graduate from a Reformed institution. :))

  • 109. LeoPardus  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:56 am

    bobbi jo:

    I have seen religion help people to get out of messed up lives like the one you got into. It’s one of the positive things about religion that I do appreciate. And I’m honestly glad that it did help you.

    On God appearing in my Honda. I’d be happy with that. I probably would not tell very many people (perhaps none). I’d just return to the faith actively and live it. I figure God can appear to others if and when He wants to. After all, that’s His bailiwick, not mine.

    As for God appearing to everyone; yeah, good idea. Not like it’s the slightest effort for an omnipotent being.

    I honestly feel that you would not be satisfied if your friend’s hand grew back

    I’ve heard this sort of thing many times. Look in the archives for an article I wrote called “The Cal for Miracles”. There I deal with this “you just won’t buy it” type of objection.

  • 110. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Leo, you wrote, “On God appearing in my Honda. I’d be happy with that. I probably would not tell very many people (perhaps none). I’d just return to the faith actively and live it.”

    Don’t you think people would wonder why you came back? I’m not saying you have to answer to anyone else, I’m just saying that I am curious how you got to the point you are now, so if you actively started living in faith again, I would definately wonder what had happened. again, you wouldn’t have to tell me, but I think I personally would be too excited to keep quiet. (that could just be the cheerleader in me though :) )

    as for your other article, I’ll take a look if I have time and get back to you on it. Thanks. have a great day!

  • 111. LeoPardus  |  May 15, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    bobbi bo:

    As of yet, most people don’t know I’ve left. But for those who do, I’d simply say, “You know what I was requiring of God, if I were to believe again. Those requirements have been met fully.” As to telling anyone what actually happened, if God told me to tell people, then I would do so. If God did not specifically direct me to tell anyone, I would not tell anyone. I’d simply stick with what I said above in quotes, and if they pushed for more, I’d politely tell them “No. It’s not your business.”

  • 112. karen  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    You’re probably thinking yeah, but this is all hypothetical. why hasn’t Jesus appeared to me right here right now. Really?! on your timetable? Maybe he has and you missed it.

    That’s the problem, Bobbi Jo. It’s all hypothetical. God just doesn’t show up in a way that’s persuasive to anyone who’s not already predisposed to believe.

    Let’s put it this way: God’s omniscience (knows everything) right? If so, surely if he exists and loves us, he could figure out a way to appear to me, or Leo, or any deconvert here that would be meaningful and convincing. Whether it’s an unmistakable voice in my head, or a vision or a conversation in my car – god knows what it would take to make me believe in him again.

    So: He knows what’s needed, and I’ve asked – begged, in fact – him to do it in all sincerity. And guess what? No response. I’m still waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

    If god wants to get in touch with me, he has my number. My mind is very much open to the possibility he exists, but it’s going to take more than an emotional feeling for me to believe again. Emotions are not reliable. If I used them as a barometer to decide what to believe, I would believe in all sorts of ridiculous nonsense that made me feel good.

  • 113. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Fair enough. I have been wondering if your wife knows and how she took it if she does. also, what are her beliefs and how does that affect your marriage?

  • 114. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Karen, you wrote, “My mind is very much open to the possibility he exists, but it’s going to take more than an emotional feeling for me to believe again. Emotions are not reliable.”

    I may be reading too much into this, but it seems to insinuate that MY experiences have been just emotions for me. That is NOT the case. If you did not imply that, then disregard this note. :)

    here’s something i’ve noticed about how my prayers have changed. It used to be I would pray for something spacific like patience. and I would get mad cuz he did not give me patience. I reralized he gave me oppertunity instead. I have 2 very fiesty girls, so I am getting ample oppertunity. :) I realized that I could have all the patience in the world, but if I never have the oppurtunity to use it, it doesn’t do much good. for some reason, when I saw it as an oppertunity, it seemed to make me much more patient. (I still have a long way to go, but it’s already better).

    The reason I tell this story is because you wrote, “Whether it’s an unmistakable voice in my head, or a vision or a conversation in my car – god knows what it would take to make me believe in him again.” God knew what it would take for me and so he’s been showing me, which has changed the way I think in the process, which has affected my prayer life, relationship to hubby, children, friends, family, ect…It’s also the reason I can come on a site like this and hopefully befriend people here, even though I don’t share all their views and they don’t share mine. anyhoo…better get some work done….thanks for listening! :)

  • 115. bobbi jo  |  May 15, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    one more thing…

    “God just doesn’t show up in a way that’s persuasive to anyone who’s not already predisposed to believe.”

    so, are you saying you are predisposed to not believe? You believed once, it could happen again. I believed, then de-converted, then came back. would you say I am predisposed? just some thoughts….

  • 116. LeoPardus  |  May 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I have been wondering if your wife knows and how she took it if she does. also, what are her beliefs and how does that affect your marriage?

    I’m guessing this was to me. Yes, she knows. It bothered her a bit, but her whole family is atheist/agnostic except for her, and they have very good family relationships. So she’s “used” to atheist/agnostic family.

  • 117. Servant  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:25 am

    @Leo
    I’ve read given assignement, here be my comments:
    First off there’s the whole issue of free will. Do we really have free will? That’s debatable, both from the Bible and from secular philosophies.

    Yes, anything is debatable, but what do you think, do humans have free will?
    Or maybe how is it possible that you became deconvert if you didn’t have free will, for sure I expect that once religion gets grip on your life, you could never be set free, and it seems that you did. So judging by your experience what would be your answer?

    Next we have the problem of “God can’t “. That’s a biggie. The all-powerful God “can’t”??? I suppose one could say that God chose that limit for himself. But how would anyone come up with that? It isn’t in the Bible.

    Why do you limit your evidence to the existence or non existence of an selflimited God only to references in the Bible, when you state that Bible is a work of Man, and not God? If that is so, it is possible that such theory of God’s limitation couldn’t find it’s way into Bible, because of imperfectious nature of Man, right? For me it is obvious that God has self limitations, that started when He set the first rule.

    Clear revelation might force us to believe in the existence of a powerful deity, but it does not follow that we would have to worship him. The Bible even says that demons know God exists, but they don’t serve and worship him.The fact is that miracles, visions, visitations, and the like would not in any way violate or remove our free will to follow/not follow or worship/not worship God. Such events would only provide proof that there is a God.

    Good point, I agree with you here, especially because in OT there were written examples that Israelites saw the miracles, and yet strayed from the path set by God. However I have a problem with clear revelation: How would you know it IS God who is showing up demanded miracle? It is written that even Enemy dresses himself into the being of the light, and there are many false “prophets” who claimed to have spoken with God, and yet they have contradictory testimonies. That problem will soon be ephasized when the Enemy starts pulling tricks convincing the world that he is the returned Messiah. I wish to see then what will be your answer, when presented an evidence of divinity from the undivine.

    Throughout the Bible God violates free will. -God hardened Pharoah’s heart.
    Again, that OT passage should be read only for the stated facts, not for the comments of imperfect Man who wrote it. I see no violation of free will in that case, God gave pharaoh each time a choice to accept or reject the Moses requirement. Problem is that God started with small miracles that pharaoh’s men were easy to reproduce, and that fact hardened pharaoh heart, it’s not that God poured in some concrete to make thinks look good for Him. The entire story of pharaoh is good description of struggle between free will of the man and will of God. I conclude if God wanted to disregard pharaohs free will, He would send Israelites to Palestine on a thundercloud, no questions asked.

  • 118. LeoPardus  |  January 12, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Servant:

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    On free will: Personally I take it that we have free will. I only mention that it’s debatable because people usually come down on one side of the matter solidly and then demand that they are absolutely right (and usually say that God agrees with them too).

    I use the Bible for “God info” because this site is for ex-Christians mainly and the Bible is the source book for them. So when Christians want to insist that God has certain limitations, I want to insist that they show me where their holy book says this. For the most part I find that what people know about their holy book could be written down and marketed as a note book.

    On clear revelation: I sort of figured that an all-powerful God could handle that. I mean “he’s all-powerful but he can’t even get through to a mere human”??? Now if the Devil was real and could clearly show himself to be real, I might just believe in him – and by extension then, I might just believe there was a God too. But since the Devil is just a make-believe entity like God, there’s no problem.

    God gave pharaoh each time a choice to accept or reject the Moses requirement.

    Read it again. More than once Pharaoh was ready to cooperate, but God hardened his heart. Pharaoh did not get to make a free will choice. God took the choice away and MADE Pharaoh be nasty. Lovely guy this God of the bible.

  • 119. Servant  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Now if the Devil was real and could clearly show himself to be real, I might just believe in him – and by extension then, I might just believe there was a God too. But the problem is, how would you differentiate which is which? For instance, what about children who claimed to spoken with Virgin Mary in Međugorje or Fatima? Assume for a moment that God exists, who did they talk to, God or Devil? What about spiritist seanses where people claim to speak with the deceased, and are given intimate informations that only deceased and the spiritist client knows? Who is talking to them?
    Field of miracles is strange, because all sort of stuff can happen, and if miracle does not answer specific need, i find it next to impossible to understand who did it.
    More than once Pharaoh was ready to cooperate, but God hardened his heart.
    I’veread it again and again and for sure i don’t see that written. :) But that’s the case with Bible, i can only accept accuracy of given names, places and events. But explanation is made by hands of contemporary men, so it isn’t neccesary correct. How would a Israelite peasant explain how Namaan became leper? Could he write that it happened because Namaan had a wound that was infected with microbes? No, in his ignorance he writes: God made Namaan a leper, but that’s only his peasant description. Same thing is with hardening of heart, the written episode with pharaoh is exactly how it would happen for a pharaoh to harden his heart, and i see direct parallel with contemporary CO ruining a company by stubbornly enduring in bad decision, although they are pouring more and more money down the drain in order to save initial investment. That is human nature, especially of those who have power. I conclude, God did not made choice for pharaoh, pharaoh hardened his heart by himself.

  • 120. BigHouse  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    More than once Pharaoh was ready to cooperate, but God hardened his heart.
    I’veread it again and again and for sure i don’t see that written. But that’s the case with Bible, i can only accept accuracy of given names, places and events. But explanation is made by hands of contemporary men, so it isn’t neccesary correct.

    So, then, where do you get your “truth” from? And if it is from within you, how is that useful and applicable to anyone else?

  • 121. LeoPardus  |  January 12, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Servant:

    I’ve read it again and again and for sure i don’t see that written.

    Exodus 4:21
    Exodus 7:3
    Exodus 9:12
    Exodus 10:1, 20, 27
    Exodus 11:10

  • 122. Servant  |  January 13, 2009 at 3:44 am

    @leopardus
    well, I told you already: What I read from the Bible is the fact that pharaoh released Israelites after 10 consecutive miracles. But he’s done it from his free will. After every miracle he had a choice to release them or not, and he made that choice alone. I explained you why you cannot literally interpret contemporary descriptions of events from the Bible, you can only literally interpret the facts.

    @BigHouse
    the truth reveals itself. You put your effort to make difference between facts and interpretations in the Bible, and then build upon using your reason and logic. All events related to God in the Bible are logical, once you disregard contemporary interpretation.

  • 123. BigHouse  |  January 13, 2009 at 8:33 am

    You put your effort to make difference between facts and interpretations in the Bible,

    So, then, the truth comes from man, not from God. And man will not agree on these interpretations so you will have thousands of truths. Yes, this makes sense for how a supposedly omnipotent God would want his presence to be known by the playthings he created.

  • 124. Ubi Dubium  |  January 13, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Servant -
    I don’t know what bible you are reading. Every version I have read says “The lord hardened Pharoah’s heart” (or in another translation “The lord made the king stubborn”). If you want to claim that god somehow gave man “free will”, the bible is a lousy source to use, because it is full of examples of god f’***ing around with people like that. People in the bible have “free will” except when the storytelling requires that they don’t. Exactly what I would expect from a book of folklore from a Bronze-age tribe about their war-god totem. But not what I would expect from an omnipotent omniscient god who wanted to give us his “one perfect book”

  • 125. dcal  |  January 13, 2009 at 10:53 am

    throughout human history, majority of men have always attributed the “unknowable” to a higher being, a deity. Many of these gods we know about today, but probably many more unwritten in the history books. It can be argued that man has gain englightenment, and more knowledge of these unknowable things throughout the course of history, that science has proved credible evidence of some, but at some point, the rationale and logic of men are limited. I understand the reasoning that it may be crazy to attribute this void simply to God, but to align any faith with that of a fable (santa clause, easter bunny) seems a bit ludicrous to me. To me, overwhelmingly, mans struggle throughout history with religion, suggests otherwise.

  • 126. peridot  |  January 13, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Servant:

    the truth reveals itself. You put your effort to make difference between facts and interpretations in the Bible, and then build upon using your reason and logic.

    Servant, I have to say that this idea is the biggest intellectual problem I had with the christian faith. I spent years and thousands of hours in prayer, personal bible study, group bible study, and church trying to figure out what the bible really teaches. And it was my observation that good, sincere, truth-seeking, honest christians cannot agree on what the bible means. For years as a christian I thought that God would reveal himself through his scriptures to those believers who kept trying to learn more about the bible and were truly open to his revelation. But what I kept observing, again and again, was believers who kept coming to conflicting interpretations. And yes, I did disregard all of the christians and bible teachers who didn’t seem to be sincere and open to the truth (a large number).

    Christians can’t agree on what free will means, whether you can lose your salvation or not, exactly what is required for salvation, what the nature of heaven and hell is, what sects are cults and what others are legit, when divorce is acceptable, the role of women in the church, what is means to be “unequally yoked”, what to do about gays, what the Millenium means, and so on AD NAUSEUM. Even within the same sects, Christians of different generations have conflicting ideas of what the Bible is saying.

    This is what I found after years of attending church, Bible studies, and Bible college. I met thousands of christians along the way, many of them who had passionate beliefs, but the variety of beliefs was astounding. Eventually, I had to conclude that the bible is NOT how an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God would reveal Himself to humanity.

  • 127. Servant  |  January 13, 2009 at 11:20 am

    @BigHouse
    So, then, the truth comes from man, not from God
    I can’t understand why you can’t see it from my point of view.
    The truth is only in fact:
    1. Pharaoh did not let Israelites go.
    2. God performed nine consecutive miracles, after each pharaoh didn’t let the Israelites go.
    3. God preformed last miracle, pharaoh let Israelites go.

    All additional interpretations, such as “The lord hardened Pharoah’s heart” are not word by word factual (the lord touched pharaohheart and it became stone), they are interpretation of the situation, where writer tried to explain what happened.
    For sure writen text doesn’t equal “God made choice for pharaoh”. But you could describe that through series of event, “The lord made the king stubborn”.

  • 128. BigHouse  |  January 13, 2009 at 11:26 am

    God performed nine consecutive miracles

    The fact that you consider this ‘fact” and above interpretaion is a nice microcosm of why we’re having this dicsussion. You have no problem calling 9 consecutvie miracles as “fact” but direct quotes to God hardeing pharaoh’s heart are not? The apolgetic pretzel gets twsitier every time!

  • 129. peridot  |  January 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Servant,

    All additional interpretations, such as “The lord hardened Pharoah’s heart” are not word by word factual (the lord touched pharaohheart and it became stone), they are interpretation of the situation, where writer tried to explain what happened.

    This is a perfect example of a believer interpreting a passage a certain way, with obvious passion and sincerity, that millions of other chirstians wouldn’t agree with. If there is a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, why would he offer salvation to humanity through such a cryptic and divisive book? If God has given us free will, why doesn’t he do a better job of explaining it to Christians who seek to understand?

  • 130. LeoPardus  |  January 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Servant:

    What I read from the Bible

    And here is the nucleus of the problem. You, like all other Christians, read whatever you want out of the Bible. First you decide what you want to believe, then you go verse-picking and exegeting your way through the text. That is flat out sophistry (to be more accurate autosophistry). But then that’s what the faith is really all about. Deceiving oneself.

    is the fact that pharaoh released Israelites after 10 consecutive miracles. But he’s done it from his free will.

    As BigHouse pointed out, you state the miracles as fact and interpret the direct statements that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart as “man’s guesswork”. Do you have a special Bible, with literal parts in red and the non-literal parts in blue (or some such helpful differential scheme)?

    Well, don’t feel bad. You’re just doing what every believer does: Making it up as you go along. :(

  • 131. Anonymous  |  January 13, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Servant said:

    For sure writen text doesn’t equal “God made choice for pharaoh”.

    Servant, you say “for sure” because you are interpreting this text in light of your prior belief in human free will. This is the most popular idea right now among American Christians.

    Now I grew up Calvinist, and this was one of the proof texts they gave to prove God’s sovereignity over human will. Calvinism isn’t popular now in America, but even so there are MILLIONS of Christians today who believe it. You do know, don’t you, that for many Christians, God’s sovereignity over human will is a great and glorious thing that God is to be worshipped for?

  • 132. Rover  |  January 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    At the end of Exodus 3 the biblle says that God knew that pharoah would not let Israel go. It seems God had to harden his heart to ensure that by the final plague pharoah would be so broken that he would let them go. Even so he still persued them after awhile. God must have known that he had to harden him to a certain point in order to let Israel get a far enough head start before he changed his mind again.

    Servant – I find that is better to say we have limited choice rather then free will. We do not see pure free will in Scripture but we do see some level of choice.

  • 133. SnugglyBuffalo  |  January 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Alternatively, an omnipotent God could have simply teleported the Israelites out of Egypt. No need to deal with Pharaoh at all, or to slaughter innocent children in a final grand plague.

    And I agree with Leo: to claim that God visiting the 10 plagues on Israel is some kind of hard fact while claiming that God hardening his heart is just interpretation is picking and choosing what you want to believe in the worst way. Perhaps God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is the only part of the story that survived human interpretation when Exodus was written, and all the plagues were just made up to fill the void of knowledge regarding what actually happened.

  • 134. Servant  |  January 14, 2009 at 6:23 am

    @leo
    First you decide what you want to believe, then you go verse-picking and exegeting your way through the text.

    That’s fair constructive criticism of my theory, for sure you seem to be logical and right about this Bible picking, so allow me to refine my thoughts:
    I don’t claim that some parts of scriptures should be taken as is, and some are available for different interpretation. Bible should be taken as a whole.
    However, i believe we can agree that Scriptures are not written by hand of God, but by men, in best case who were inspired by God. Therefore I canot figure out that it would be possible for the writers to state or explain something that is beyond their limited knowledge, so we have to take that into perspective.
    Do you agree on that?

  • 135. Servant  |  January 14, 2009 at 6:31 am

    @peridot
    If God has given us free will, why doesn’t he do a better job of explaining it to Christians who seek to understand?
    Well, i believe that without God’s assistance, i would be never able to figure out the spirit behind the Bible. And by spirit i mean that subtle conclusions that rise above mere written text, something like what Jesus pointed out to pharisees when he told them they take Bible verses too litteraly, without applying honest reason to it.

  • 136. Servant  |  January 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

    @Rover
    At the end of Exodus 3 the biblle says that God knew that pharoah would not let Israel go.
    @Buffalo
    Alternatively, an omnipotent God could have simply teleported the Israelites out of Egypt. No need to deal with Pharaoh at all, or to slaughter innocent children in a final grand plague.

    Back to the Pharaoh issue.
    What i’m trying to prove, is that written episode by logical reasoning should happen in a way that God did not force decision onto pharaoh. For the fact that God knew what will pharaoh do is not an evidence that god forced him to do so.

    In my life, I am using that method while raising my kids, giving them higher and higher obstacles (without fire and hail, but I could throw in some frogs :) ), and I cannot say that I make choice instead of them, but still someone could say that I am hardening them, and it would make rational sense.
    So as Bufflao said, written episode makes no sense without pharaoh’s free will, because If God really bended pharaoh’s will, He wouldn’t need to go through 10 phases to get to His point.

  • 137. peridot  |  January 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Servant,

    Well, i believe that without God’s assistance, i would be never able to figure out the spirit behind the Bible. And by spirit i mean that subtle conclusions that rise above mere written text,

    What I believe is that is there is no God who assists believers in figuring out what conclusions to make from the bible. If there was, Christians wouldn’t have such so many conflicting interpretations.

    Snugglybuffalo put it nicely:

    to claim that God visiting the 10 plagues on Israel is some kind of hard fact while claiming that God hardening his heart is just interpretation is picking and choosing what you want to believe in the worst way.

    In my many years of being a christian and attending many churches of many sects and bible college, I have to say that I NEVER found a group where this wasn’t business-as-usual. This is just what christians do.

    Most of the time, they don’t realize it. Many bible teachers/pastors sincerely think they are drawing their conclusions from the combination of scripture and human reason and history and the guidance of the holy spirit. But ultimately, the bible is unclear and contradictory, and the huge variety of beliefs that christians come to to is astounding.

  • 138. Dale701  |  January 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Peridot said…….
    Christians can’t agree on what free will means, whether you can lose your salvation or not, exactly what is required for salvation, what the nature of heaven and hell is, what sects are cults and what others are legit, when divorce is acceptable, the role of women in the church, what is means to be “unequally yoked”, what to do about gays, what the Millenium means, and so on AD NAUSEUM. Even within the same sects, Christians of different generations have conflicting ideas of what the Bible is saying.

    from the new years sermon…..
    God doesn’t have a plan and a purpose for my life. It’s up to me to determine what I want my life to be. God isn’t going to bless me if I pay my tithes to the church. I have to work for my living, spend and invest wisely.

    I agree with these 2 statements.
    The thing that christians say that most annoys me, is that god has a purpose for me.

    It seems to me that this takes away the idea of free will.
    If god is pulling your strings how can you have free will, anymore that pharoah did after god hardened his heart.

    And of course the free will argument is the one used to absolve god of the evil in the world.

  • 139. Servant  |  January 15, 2009 at 4:27 am

    It seems to me that this takes away the idea of free will.
    If god is pulling your strings how can you have free will, anymore that pharoah did after god hardened his heart.

    Well i suppose i am blessed with children, so for me that is very easy to explain. I can surely say i pull strings in regard of my children, shaping them to become responsible selfthinking individual. In most of the cases i respect their free will, and back off from my requests, but sometimes i find things too important to be left on their own decision. In such situation I try to negotiate and I keep raising the stakes, untill they give in and fulfill my requests.Ofcourse it would be easier to skip the “negotiations” and to force them to do as i please, but then I would be giving bad example, contrary to all the efforts i’ve put in them so far. So doing all that I never take away their free will,I just allow them to understand the consequences of their decision. So to conclude, this is exactly how i see the pharaoh episode.
    God did harden pharaoh’s heart but without compromising pharaoh’s free will.

  • 140. BigHouse  |  January 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Interesting your change of heart (pun intended) on God hardening Pharaoah’s heart. Now you create another layer of “support” for your deity; that he did it “without compromising pharaoh’s free will.”

    These apologetic pretzels are tasty!!

  • 141. Servant  |  January 15, 2009 at 11:15 am

    @BigHouse
    Interesting your change of heart (pun intended) on God hardening Pharaoah’s heart.
    Well, I cannot say I changed heart. Correct thing to say is that thanx to your efforts, I found better way to explain it.
    The way I see it, it all comes down to one of this three following theoretical possibilities:

    1) God exists and is benevolent, omnipotent, etc. And has set up the Law which differentiates Good and Bad
    2) God exists and is NOT benevolent, omnipotent, etc (not sure does the Law exists)
    3) God doesn’t exist, good and bad (which are not black and white, but many shades of gray) must be figured out by humans.

    My wish is not to convince you to accept theory 1. I only want to show that theory 1. is possible, and that not a single reasonable fact in world contradicts that theory. Therefore for me was enough to show that it is possible that Pharaoh had a free will in the Exodus episode.

  • 142. LeoPardus  |  January 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    God did harden pharaoh’s heart but without compromising pharaoh’s free will.

    I just LOVE statements like this. The idea that if you just baldly state something that is thoroughly contradictory and utterly absurd, it will somehow be acceptable.

    As C.S. Lewis once said, “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when it is spoken about God.”

  • 143. BigHouse  |  January 15, 2009 at 11:29 am

    I only want to show that theory 1. is possible,

    You won’t get any arguments from me on that..

    and that not a single reasonable fact in world contradicts that theory.

    This is probbaly the singlest goofiest statement ever uttered on this blog, Congratulations!

  • 144. BigHouse  |  January 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I only want to show that theory 1. is possible,

    You won’t get any arguments from me on that..

    and that not a single reasonable fact in world contradicts that theory.

    This is probbaly the singlest goofiest statement ever uttered on this blog, Congratulations!

  • 145. orDover  |  January 15, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    In most of the cases i respect their free will, and back off from my requests, but sometimes i find things too important to be left on their own decision.

    So God lets us have complete free will only some of the time, but then he becomes the Intercessor when he sees fit? Makes me wonder why this supposedly loving God didn’t think to intervene during the Garden of Eden. It’s a shame he didn’t think that the entire spiritual fate of mankind wasn’t one of those issues too important to be left up to his children.

  • 146. LeoPardus  |  January 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    It’s a shame he didn’t think that the entire spiritual fate of mankind wasn’t one of those issues too important to be left up to his children.

    Just another primo example of the sort of idiotic absurdities one has to come up with to believe in BibleGod.

    You know, it really is exactly like the doublethink described in “1984″.

  • 147. Servant  |  January 15, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    @Leo
    The idea that if you just baldly state something that is thoroughly contradictory and utterly absurd, it will somehow be acceptable.
    Well, atleast I try to make some real life example, for it is completely useless to theorize about unseen. I am sorry that you don’t find such examples in your life, because to me relationship “God vs Mankind” is very similar to relationship between parents and children. My kids are my joy in life, to see them learn and grow fills my heart more than anything.
    So having that in mind, i am sorry to say that statement doesn’t seem absurd to me, it is normal real life situation.

  • 148. Servant  |  January 15, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    @BigHouse
    This is probbaly the singlest goofiest statement ever uttered on this blog, Congratulations! :) thanx man, and it took me only few days writing here :) Who konws what record will i break if I get into the sordid details :)

  • 149. BigHouse  |  January 15, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Well at least you cop to spouting the nonsense you do :-)

  • 150. Servant  |  January 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    @Dover
    Makes me wonder why this supposedly loving God didn’t think to intervene during the Garden of Eden. It’s a shame he didn’t think that the entire spiritual fate of mankind wasn’t one of those issues too important to be left up to his children.
    Well i suppose it was just because olny way to show to the other creatures that did not break the Law, what are consequences of the rebellion. He figured out that He has to pay for it evenutally, but atleast in the process He will make sure that no one breaks the Law again.
    So this is my conclusion, and i know you’re just gonna love it :) :
    Allowing Adam& Eve’s action (not neccesarily in that order,supposedly) was a part of the plan of Salvation. ;)

  • 151. BigHouse  |  January 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    So this is my conclusion, and i know you’re just gonna love it :
    Allowing Adam& Eve’s action (not neccesarily in that order,supposedly) was a part of the plan of Salvation.

    In other words, God is like a kid with a magnifying glass torturing ants, he created us to be pawns in a game of eternal life and death.

    Our God is an awesome god indeed…

  • 152. LeoPardus  |  January 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Allowing Adam& Eve’s action (not neccesarily in that order,supposedly) was a part of the plan of Salvation.

    A plan that involved years of suffering by everyone, and a big flood to kill all the screwup humans, and a terrible death for one guy on a cross, and more years of people not getting the message, and finally ending when God comes back a wipes the whole mess out again. And this whole “plan” could have been avoided by the loving, omniscient parent stepping into the garden a few minutes earlier and slapping a couple hands.

    This deity reminds me of the Joker in the latest Batman movie, “Do I look like a man with a plan?”

  • 153. orDover  |  January 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Leo, that’s funny you use the Batman reference! Last night while my husband and I were reading (we read aloud to each other because we are nerdy) the problem of evil came up and I mentioned how not preventing an evil deed is considered aiding and abetting it. We discussed how the choice of inaction is still a choice. Not choosing to prevent evil is the same as choosing evil. Then he said, “It’s like Superman just standing there and watching a little boy get hit by a car.” Superman would no longer be considered a hero.

  • 154. Servant  |  January 16, 2009 at 4:38 am

    In other words, God is like a kid with a magnifying glass torturing ants, he created us to be pawns in a game of eternal life and death.
    Uhh i surely cant see where did this conclusion came from, but the difference is that if God is that kid, He is also the one under the magnifying glass that gets burned. And thank God, His sacrifice happened only once in eternity, and when this war is over, there will be sin no more and never again. That is the sacrifice I would be willing to take for my children also.

  • 155. BigHouse  |  January 16, 2009 at 9:40 am

    The conclusion is quite simple, you said that God set Adam and Eve’s “fall” in motion to make salvation possible. So, God willfully created a cosmic game in which the unwitting participants will suffer for eternity if they don’t choose correctly.

  • 156. Servant  |  January 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

    @BigHouse
    Well, that makes no sense, to set fall in motion in order to reach salvation for the same fall. I am saying that God did not put things in motion, they were in motion due to the nature of free will and existence of Law. Fall was meant to happen, and God couldn’t prevent it due to self imposed restrictions, that is without breaking the Law or disregarding free will. In both cases creatures of the universe would consider God as an unjust ruler who sets up Laws that can’t be adhered to. And by dying on the cross he both fulfilled the requirements of the Law, and accepted punishment for breaking the Law.
    That makes His sacrifice perfect.

  • 157. BigHouse  |  January 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I don’t see a lot of utility in continuing this dicsussion with you, so thanks for the opportunity and good luck with everything.

  • 158. Servant  |  January 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I’m sorry that i bored you :( sometimes writting less goes a longer way :)
    Just imagine what would you do in hypothetic oceanic planet with islands where you get to create creature and give it free will, and you have to teach that creature not to swimm in ocean.

  • 159. BigHouse  |  January 16, 2009 at 11:25 am

    It’t nor bordeom, it’s that you have an entirely different paradigm for examining evidence and reality. You admitted so in the ‘Redemption’ thread in your last post. You presuppose God, then make reality fit this pre-supposed worldview.

    This couldn’t be more opposite to how I view the world. Therefore, unless you are willing to reconsider your pre-suppositionalism, we have nothing to discuss meaningfully.

    I wish you the best.

  • 160. Dale701  |  January 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    To Servant…….
    I submit God had no plan at all.
    The story is all hog wash, if taken literally.
    This is my proof.
    If I am the serpent, I tell Eve to eat of the tree of life first.
    Then they eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    God’s treat of death is now null and void.
    Then where is god”s great plan?

    If taken as metaphor, then it makes sense psychologically.
    Every human goes thru different stages of development, starting from infancy.
    Either that or god wasn’t even smart enough to know none of the animals were good enough for adam to mate with.
    Take your pick.

  • 161. LeoPardus  |  January 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    orDover:

    YES!! Doing nothing to prevent evil when you have the ability to do something is aiding and abetting. It is in fact propagating that evil. And yes, Superman would be a villain if he stood by like that. But DAMMIT! people want to let their precious deities get away with actions (or inactions) that are undeniably EVIL and somehow insist that it’s OK. It really is doublethink (holding two mutually contradictory, incompatible ideas in your mind at the same time and believing them both). It’s dishonest and it WILL do damage to the mind. (The same as if you went around with a tourniquet on your hand all the time. The hand would not work.)

  • 162. Servant  |  January 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    You presuppose God, then make reality fit this pre-supposed worldview.
    Well, pressuposing God is a matter of believing in hypothesis, just as you pressupose hypothesis that God doesn’t exist. And it is easy to understand and determine His actions using logic for He is so absolute in His attributes. So i do not fit reality, reality is given as it is, I just how that reality as we see it does not contradict existence of God.

  • 163. Servant  |  January 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    @Leo
    You surely know the Bible prophecies on the end times. You also know that Jesus said that adversary will come first, with power of seduction and miracles, and that almost everyone will believe in him, for he will claim to be returned Christ.

    My question to You is: What will You do if it happens during your life?

  • 164. orDover  |  January 16, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I am saying that God did not put things in motion, they were in motion due to the nature of free will and existence of Law

    But he created both free will, it’s nature, and the law. So…how is that not putting things into motion?

  • 165. LeoPardus  |  January 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    just as you pressupose hypothesis that God doesn’t exist.

    Actually that is wrong. All of us on this site started out as Christians. Most of us were in the faith for many years. We stopped believing because we were overwhelmed by reality once we stopped trying to close our eyes to it and insist on our theism.

    Of course if you’d read the ‘red exclamation point’ posts, you’d know that.

    Re the end times miracles: If that happened, I would be inclined to believe there was some truth to the Bible. Then I would be inclined to return to the faith. Just as I would return to the faith now, if someone could show me evidence of the supernatural. (Note here: I said evidence, not blah-blah-blah, which is ALL any Christian ever has – and that they have in overabundance.)

  • 166. Dale701  |  January 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Leo said,
    Re the end times miracles: If that happened, I would be inclined to believe there was some truth to the Bible.

    What gets me, is that they start out believing the earth is 6000 years old (untill recent modernists), then you have christ saying some shall not taste of death before he returns.
    Then revelations starts out of the box with these things shall SHORTLY come to pass.
    It has been 2000 years, christians, that is NOT shortly in my way of thinking.
    Christians do not even believe their own book!

    I remember back in the day when I was still going to church.
    They could debate for hours over a comma or period placement.
    And of course the king james version was the only true translation.

    Here is something I just came across, I hope you have the answer to.
    The koine greek, when written down, has NO spaces between the words.
    if this is true then you could translate this phrase 2 ways.

    GOD IS NO WHERE
    GOD IS NOW HERE

    Then to further complicate matters, if there were originals they could have been Akkadian to Aramaic translations to the Koine.

    Please fill me in if I am wrong.
    I respect your opinion greatly.

  • 167. Servant  |  January 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    @leo
    Actually that is wrong. All of us on this site started out as Christians. Most of us were in the faith for many years. We stopped believing because we were overwhelmed by reality once we stopped trying to close our eyes..

    Well i guess my english must be somewhat broken, if I think that presupposing hypothesis that God doesn’t exist = not believing in God. :)
    And you write you stopped believing because you were overwhelmed by reality. So obviously you think that reality disproves existence of God. And when I say that I can explain how reality does not disprove God, i am called delusional, phantasizer or whatever. So for the same reality, you got two explanations, mine is wrong, and your’s is right?
    Nice reasoning, isn’t it? :)

  • 168. LeoPardus  |  January 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Dale:

    You’re correct in that old Greek (and some other old languages) did not have spaces between words. They also did not have a lot (if any punctuation). Native readers and writers however knew, by context and construction, how to understand what was being said. You can imagine that if we did not have punctuation and spacing in English, we would develop rules of writing that avoided the sort of dichotomies you mention. E.g. may we’d have a rule that you always put time context first, so your sentence would be NOWGODISHERE or something like that, so as to avoid confusion.)

  • 169. LeoPardus  |  January 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    So obviously you think that reality disproves existence of God.

    Right. If we didn’t think that I suppose we’d still be theists.

    when I say that I can explain how reality does not disprove God, i am called delusional

    We do think such belief is delusional. Mind you we were all in that delusion for years and are now glad to have gotten free from it. So, yes, we do think you’re deluding yourself. Of course we also think your logic is baaaaad.

  • 170. Dale701  |  January 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    to post 139. Servant
    I do not like your analogy, because it goes beyond free will, and delves into the parent child relationships.

    Using your analogy………
    So, if your child was about to pull a pot of boiling water off the stove and spill it on their face, would you negotiate, or stop them?

    I know what I would do, and it has nothing to do with making sure I uphold free will standards.

    If you say god and mankind have a parent child relationship, then god should do the same as you, when your children are in mortal danger.

  • 171. SnugglyBuffalo  |  January 19, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I dunno, I don’t so much think that reality disproves God so much as it doesn’t point to a god in any way. My first serious struggle with my faith was the realization that I only believed because I had been taught to. I never would have reached the conclusion that a god exists had I tried to base my belief on evidence from the beginning.

    I don’t think reality disproves God, but I think that’s mostly because humans set their idea of God up to be unfalsifiable.

  • 172. BigHouse  |  January 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t think reality disproves God, but I think that’s mostly because humans set their idea of God up to be unfalsifiable.

    I also think a lot believers set up a binary choice of belief and non-belief and put the same burden of proof on each choice. That way, you make atheism a matter of “faith”, so their choice of the other “faith” seems like a rational choice.

    However, in reality, non-belief is the null hypothesis, and evidence should support any other position.

    I really think believers have a hard time grasping the idea of the null hypothesis in this case.

  • 173. LeoPardus  |  January 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I disagree with the idea that either belief or non-belief must be a null hypothesis. For one thing, “null hypothesis” means that you’re going to test the hypothesis with statistics. You just can’t do that with a religious/philosophical hypothesis like what we’re discussing. For another thing, whatever you set up as the null hypothesis is usually defined as the favored explanation. I’m not sure either side can really have that designation (though belief, being the predominant mindset, might get the nod).

  • 174. BigHouse  |  January 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I meant null hypothesis in terms of, I don’t believe in ANYTHING without compellling evidence to do so. I don’t believe in God because I am unsatisifed with the evidence for his existence. For the same reason I don’t believe in pink unicorns.

    Believers would have you believe that the above 2 cases are different. This is because they pre-suppose God.

  • 175. Dale701  |  February 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Leo,
    You said…Allowing Adam& Eve’s action (not neccesarily in that order,supposedly) was a part of the plan of Salvation.

    A plan that involved years of suffering by everyone, and a big flood to kill all the screwup humans, and a terrible death for one guy on a cross, and more years of people not getting the message, and finally ending when God comes back a wipes the whole mess out again. And this whole “plan” could have been avoided by the loving, omniscient parent stepping into the garden a few minutes earlier and slapping a couple hands.

    This deity reminds me of the Joker in the latest Batman movie, “Do I look like a man with a plan?”

    This got me to thinking, well said by the way.

    This is the irony of the intelligent design argument.
    How could anybody in their right mind believe, that a guy with a plan like this could be the designer of the universe?

    In a very small way, this would be like a guy, that designed an internal combustion engine and did not realize he would need a lubricant.
    The whole known universe revolves around friction!
    I mean, where would we be without light and heat?
    Take away friction and the universe could not exist as we know it.
    It makes no sense that the designer would not know that a lubricant was needed and yet know all the other details, which are complicated and hidden.
    This perfectly designed engine would be badly damaged in seconds and destroyed within minutes.

    This argument is more of an indictment against the bible and other religions than an argument against a generic god.
    And a generic god that takes no personal interest, is the same as no god at all as far as humans are concerned.
    A generic god is a god of action-reaction, no right and no wrong.
    The problem is that, their is no evidense for a personal god.
    And the idea of a personal god comes men that lived thousands of years ago, which claim to have had direct communication with said deity.

    The problem with this, is this.
    How would anyone (especially sheep herding nomads) know they are communicating with the creator of the universe?
    How could a human tell the difference between ANY being that is talking to you in your head, that has superior knowledge, power and intellect?
    The only way to know the answer to this question would be to be equal to or greater than the creator, which makes the first creator obsolete, far as being the one and only!

    I see nothing in the pages of the BAD book that leads me to believe it comes from a being of superior intellect, knowledge, and power.
    Quite the opposite in my opinion.
    The book reads like someone that knows very little about the universe and are superstitious in the extreme.

  • 176. LeoPardus  |  February 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    How could anybody in their right mind believe, that a guy with a plan like this could be the designer of the universe?

    Hilarious and dead right on. :D

  • 177. Dale701  |  February 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    How could anybody in their right mind believe, that a guy with a plan like this could be the designer of the universe?

    Hilarious and dead right on. :D

    Thanks leo,
    My next question to you, how come it took you so long to see this? You must have asked yourself this many times.
    It must seem crystal clear to you now, it has been for me since 13. It took a few more years to work out the details, however.

    I hated my parents for years, I thought they were the most selfish people in the world.
    They were church of christ and believed that most people born were going to hell, only the conservative wing of the church and only some of them had a chance.
    You know the verses.
    So why did they take a chance of bringing me into this world for maybe 70 years, where life feeds on life, (the ultimate evil plan) and risk eternal torment for me, for their pleasure of having children?
    I mean, 70 years is not even as large as the smallest planck # when it comes to infinity!
    I would not take a chance like that with my worst enemy!

  • 178. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  February 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I think I can speak for myself and say it took me so long out of fear. I was horribly terrified of Satan and hell, and this kept me searching for security within the faith. There was a time when I was like thirteen where I was mesmerized by the beauty of evolutionary theory. I put it out of my head because I had been taught – and read – those ideas must come from Satan and should be pushed out of the mind. Fears like this kept me in depression for year after year after year and I am still fighting the psychological damage it caused.

    I remember once going to my parents and telling them that I thought I was brainwashing myself. I honestly felt like that was what was happening to me. Ironic now that I look back and realize that IS what was happening.

  • 179. LeoPardus  |  February 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I’m not totally sure why it took me so long. One thing I can say is that when I was in the faith, it really did make sense to me. I read the Bible a lot, read apologetics, read Church history, read theology, taught, studied, and so on…. and it all really made sense. Oh sure, there were some occasional problems or doubts, but they didn’t overwhelm the greater portion that made so much sense.
    In the end, it all fell apart pretty quickly.

  • 180. orDover  |  February 20, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I’m with Leo. It took me so long because it didn’t seem ridiculous from the inside. If everyone in your town believed that a magical, invisible purple troll lived under the town bridge, then no child born in the town would find that idea silly. As it turns out, in some towns, all of the people know that trolls are mythological beings with no basis in reality. Only in discovering that view does your own troll ideology seem ridiculous.

  • 181. Dale701  |  February 20, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    That was very touching Josh, I really felt your pain.

    I had doubts right out of the box.
    But my doubts came from the general overall plan.
    Whereas, some of you got here through contradictions, etc.
    I just could not see why an all powerful god needed to sacrifice his only son. This made NO SENSE to me.
    Now add a little water and stir.
    From my position, if the bible said you had to eat an orange then an apple, and that was the only way to be saved, believers would defend this and ask no questions.
    It would make sense to them.
    If god needs to give his creatures free will, then his son would need to die billions of times.
    If I was jesus, I would be asking when is enough enough?
    No wonder he said my god my god why have thou forsaken me.
    Of course what do I know, I am still having trouble with the theory of gravity!

  • 182. jennifer  |  February 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Dale, most people don’t even think about the theory of gravity. I love your insite and honesty….I wish there were more thinking people.

  • 183. Shawn  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    My refutation is as follows: Who says that we would have to believe in him? Say God came down from the heavens, and performed miracles. One, these experiences can be explained through science and reason. The parietal lobes in the brain, near the temple control our perception of reality. One half controls perception of self. The other controls perceptions of the universe. Both of them combined control the perception of ourselves in relation to the universe (obviously). There is significant evidence from a study in Canada that certain electrical fields can interfere and alter the function of these lobes, causing hallucinations which are very similar to that of a religious experience or seeing an Unidentified Flying Object.
    If this is not convincing, religious ceremonies and practices are designed and orchestrated in a manner that activates the Limbic system and the amygdale. The Limbic system controls the emotional responses to things. The amygdale “labels” memories, or sensory information, with a certain emotion and emotional response; in essence, it puts priority on certain memories more than others. Things that have a stronger reaction are put into memory better. Now, religious ceremonies, arts, buildings are portrayed, or designed in such a manner that the Limbic system and the amygdale label them both as very important. It is somewhat culturally motivated, but it happens with most religious ceremonies.

    Second, people deny things that have been proven all of the time. [Young Earth] Creationists have been denying evolution forever. Some people deny the “theory” of gravity. Some people deny that the Holocaust ever happened. So, this proves just how stubborn we can be.

  • 184. Quester  |  May 23, 2009 at 4:02 am

    What exactly are you refuting, Shawn?

  • 185. LeoPardus  |  May 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I”m not sure what you’re refuting either Shawn. In the article I addressed both the idea that we’d have no choice but to believe if God did miracles for us (i.e., that miracles would violate free will), and I addressed the idea that people just would not believe in miracles if they saw them.

    So what is your point?

  • 186. Shawn  |  May 26, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Sorry to be unclear.. I wasn’t refuting the article but a few of the comments that I saw. I apologize, and sadly cannot remember which ones at the moment..

  • 187. Joshua  |  August 25, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Leo, good article.

    This comment amuses me:

    Well, ok. But from what I’ve read of yours, nothing would really convince you. You’re a scientist, right? You could come up with a natural explanation for just about anything.

    Hmmmm, maybe that’s because everything is natural. If there was something supernatural, we couldn’t come up with natural explanations for everything.

    Why does this rarely occur to Christians. Why, oh why.

  • 188. amy  |  August 27, 2009 at 9:25 am

    So it really shouldn’t be any trouble at all for him to be as responsive as my laptop.

    hahahahaha–thank you for making me smile; I needed that today.

    Honestly, though, you’re right. Is it really so much to ask, to be more responsive than a laptop?

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Attention Christian Readers

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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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