Experience God….Really?

June 25, 2008 at 6:06 pm 143 comments

Well, I must say that I did not quite expect to get as many responses to the questions on my previous blog, A Curious Christian with a few questions for de-converts, as I did. Wow. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. After some careful study of your answers and thoughts, here’s what I think and what I think I hear some of you saying.

Some of you struggled with leaving your faith, others of you left easily. Some of you were happy as Christians, some of you were miserable. The Bible, for most, is not authoritative in any way, but instead full of contradictions and fantastic stories. Most of you have nothing against Christians, you just think that many of them are misguided. No one seemed to have a problem with Jesus (I can only think of one post where that was an exception). The hypocrisy of the church turns some of you off, the feeling of being lied to for others.

Some of you felt deserted by God and some of you just awakened from an untruth you thought you had been told, similar to finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. In some way you couldn’t reconcile conflicting parts of your faith so you decided that maybe the reason was that God wasn’t there to begin with. One of the most heart-wrenching statements I read was that you prayed for God to help your unbelief and He didn’t answer. Some of you feel like the foundation of your former faith only stood on the slippery slope of personal experience and not on fact.

Am I hearing you correctly? I hope I am. Please let me know if I missed something. Recently, there was an interesting treatise posted on re-converting in which using experience with God as evidence of His existence is seen as perhaps lowering the amount of evidence needed for faith. Maybe, maybe not. So here’s another question for you: What do you think it means to experience God, if He exists? Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?

Christianity is built on the foundation of eyewitnesses, of personal testimony. Yes, there are foundational beliefs that are non-negotiable, but the Bible is the story of humanity’s experiences with God. The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the apostles three years with Jesus, Acts is an eyewitness account of the birth of the church, etc. It is impossible to separate experiencing God from faith in Him. Now I am not talking about an emotional experience. Emotions are far from trustworthy and are in themselves very deceptive.

Here’s my definition of what I mean by experiencing God: a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way. Like Darth Vader in Star Wars except reversed.

Here’s where I am going: what means the most to me and what gives me certainty of God’s existence is the experience I’ve had with Him. I really can look back at my life and see God’s work in it, even during His silence. (Delusion you say? I don’t think so.) Some of you had to have at one point seen God’s work or been drawn to respond to His invitation of a relationship with Him. Or maybe you thought you had a relationship with Him only to find that you never heard Him, He never answered your prayers, He never seemed present. I’ve been there. I thought I knew God only to find out that I didn’t really at all.

I have one more question for you to ponder. Why did you decide to follow Christ (to become a Christian) in the first place? I only did at first because a childhood friend did and I didn’t want to be left out. I lived that way for a long time. I went to church because my family did; I was involved in youth trips because my friends were. But then I had what I like to call a crisis of belief. I looked at myself for what I really was. I said I was a “new” creation but I was still the same old me. I had never changed; I didn’t sense God’s presence, I never heard Him speak, I never saw Him answer any of my prayers. And I asked why, just like many of you did. That’s when I realized I didn’t really know God at all. I knew about Him; I knew what people claimed He said in the Bible; I knew what people claimed He had done in their lives, but I didn’t KNOW Him.

You see what I have come to understand is that no one can prove or disprove the existence of God. If we could, none of us would still be writing about it. Neither side will ever convince the other. But for me, the evidence of God is found in changed lives, because that is where He does His greatest work. I am a completely different person from the one I started out to be. Does that mean I don’t struggle with doubts, that I don’t worry, that sometimes I don’t ask “God, where are you?” No, not at all. Does doubting in some way indicate that I am not convinced of the authority of the Bible or have never had an undeniable experience with God? No. I can look at a plane and doubt that it is going to get me to my destination even if the facts say that it is safer to fly than to drive. Doubting doesn’t negate that I haven’t experienced flying and getting to my destination safely. I can look around me and see God at work in people’s lives whether they want Him to be or not. I have seen God change people I didn’t think it was possible to change. That to me is a modern day miracle.

Does God still do the kinds of miracles we find in the Bible? Absolutely. Why don’t we see them? I don’t know, but if we could see them do you think that would really change your mind? (I’m really asking, would it?) Or do you think we would still find a way to explain them away and hold on to what we think now? (I’m only asking because if you were to disprove God’s existence I would still hold on to what I think ) Why does God allow suffering? I don’t know that either; but I have experienced His peace in the middle of it and have been comforted.

I say all of this because I think I’m beginning to understand some of your struggles, even if I can’t completely identify with them. God doesn’t seem fair; you feel like He has deserted you and now you wonder if He was even there to begin with. You feel like you have been told a lie or been manipulated to believe in a fairy tale. So my answer to you is this: keep searching. Because I believe God is faithful to His promises and that those who seek Him with all of their hearts will find Him.

Thanks for reading.

- rfogue (Rachel)

Entry filed under: Rachel. Tags: , , , , , , .

Can an Atheist be Spiritual? God in Society: An Atheism-Theism Debate

143 Comments Add your own

  • 1. blueollie  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Interesting, but you still don’t seem to get it.

    I belong to a 12 step program, and after including stuff like prayer and meditation in my life, my life *has* taken a dramatic change for the better.

    I started out my 12 step program as an agnostic (I was formerly a Catholic). Now, 16 years later, I am much more of an atheist than I was at the beginning!

    In fact, my “spiritual recovery” involved my “recovery from religion”; in fact I’ve never been happier.

    Here is what you don’t seem to understand:

    “God doesn’t seem fair; you feel like He has deserted you and now you wonder if He was even there to begin with”

    Wrong. There was no deity that ever owed me anything to begin with.

    My becoming an atheist was really an intellectual evolution; basically I outgrew theism.

    I harbor no grudge; I see the value in some spiritual practices but I simply don’t see any evidence of a personal deity.

    That is really it.

  • 2. Joe Sperling  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    frogue—–

    You are a far wiser person than me. I truly admit that. Last Friday I “laid into you”(and apologized to you later) for being “sugary coated, etc” in your posts here.

    But I realize you have proceeded in a very wise way. You asked for people to give their reasons for deconversion, waited patiently while they responded without being critical, and then came back with this post with the results afterwards.

    I truly appreciate what you have to say above tremendously. I agree fully with you about changed lives being the biggest sign of God’s presence in the world. And I know you don’t mean a person who becomes “religious”—you are referring to someone who changes so miraculously from the person they used to be that they don’t even appear to be the same person any more.

    Personally, I was a non-believer one day, read the Gospel of John, and was a believer the next. I used to smoke dope daily. After I read the Gospel of John (I didn’t really say any “sinners prayer”, I just asked Jesus if I could be one of his sheep) I walked out to the living room and told my brother “I’ll roll it for you, but I don’t want to smoke any”. It wasn’t that I felt condemned about it—-I literally just did not WANT to do it anymore. My life literally changed in a few hours—180 degrees. This “experience” was SO REAL that to this day I find it impossible to deny it.

    Thanks so much for your gentle spirit rfogue–and for forgiving me—as I acted so “unchristian” towards you. Thank you for your comments above so very much.

    –Joe

  • 3. Joe Sperling  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    To add: My life comprised a bit more than “smoking dope”—and the changes that took place were far more than that. I just used that as an example, because at the time dope was my life—-I literally lived for it—-and became extremely nervous when I was running low. Yet, a matter of hours after becoming one of Christ’s sheep this was the least important thing in my life. To me that has always been a miracle—no one coerced me, emotions didn’t do it, it was a change inside—the very presence of God that did it. I believed it then, and I believe it now—–I absolutely cannot deny it.

  • 4. orDover  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Christianity is built on the foundation of eyewitnesses, of personal testimony…the Bible is the story of humanity’s experiences with God. The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the apostles three years with Jesus, Acts is an eyewitness account of the birth of the church, etc. It is impossible to separate experiencing God from faith in Him. Now I am not talking about an emotional experience. Emotions are far from trustworthy and are in themselves very deceptive.

    And the Koran is the eyewitness accounts of the forming of Islam, Allah’s interactions with his people, and the deeds of Muhammad.

    And the Iliad is the eyewitness accounts of the Greek gods’ interactions with humans and interventions in various wars.

    And the introduction to Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera begins, “The Opera Ghost really existed.” He goes on to explain that he found the material for his book in the archives of the National Academy of Music where eyewitness accounts were recorded. He even spoke to actual eyewitnesses, the old men who could still be found in the ballet foyer that were able to recount the details and were “men upon whose word one could absolutely rely.”

    To which shall I grant authority then?

  • 5. orDover  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    PS- If eyewitness testimony isn’t good enough to convict someone of a crime, why should I trust it to convince me that it is sufficient proof of a supernatural deity?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyewitness_identification

  • 6. LeoPardus  |  June 25, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    But for me, the evidence of God is found in changed lives, because that is where He does His greatest work.

    If changed lives constitutes the evidence FOR god, then unchanged lives should constitute evidence AGAINST God. Since there are FAR more Christians living no differently in any discernible way from non-Christians, or from how they were before they were Christians, I find the weight of evidence relative to changed/unchanged lives to fall heavily on the side of “no God”.

    Here’s an article I wrote some months ago on just this topic.
    http://de-conversion.com/2007/11/11/reasons-why-i-can-no-longer-believe-3-unchanged-lives/

  • 7. LorMarie  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    This was a very thoughtful post. But you need to realize one important thing. Many ex-christians were exactly where you are now. One thing I notice is that Christians will generally give evidence for God, but not necessarily evidence for Christianity. For example, you mentioned that the bible contains eyewitness accounts, muslims will declare the same about the koran. Btw, I’ve heard many a muslim speak of changed lives, the avoidance of sin, and repentance. I’ve even heard muslims testify to life saving miracles attributed to the “divinely inspired koran.” Why is christianity the true faith and not islam? I think that there may be some “reconverts” when pivotal questions are finally answered. And no, it would not require some miraculous sign.

  • 8. therantingstudent  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    My deconversion, like many, was one of an intellectual matter as well. Recently, I went through a year long struggle through the christian life. It never made sense to me, but I decided to believe anyways.
    I eventually grew up and decided that christianity was a religion like any other. I stopped putting my faith in a diety, and began to study the world around me. I grew a fascination for science and history.
    Needless to say, now everyday that goes by I find myself thinking of religion as more of fairytale. I do not have a problem with people who follow a religion, eh, it is their choice. I simply cannot belong to one, out of fear that I am only fooling myself.

    Great blog, I will make sure to come by often.

  • 9. Joe Sperling  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Leo—

    Your reasoning is a bit strange in my opinion. You have two overwieight, depressed, alcoholics living in the same apartment. One day one of them (Herbie) changes dramatically and explains it’s because God has entered his life. He immediately stops drinking, and begins to go to church. He begins to lose weight because he is far more active, and has a much different view of life. He says “I am a Christian”. The other guy, “Horatio” says “I’m a Christian too!” but is still the same alcoholic, depressed and overweight person he has always been.

    Do you say—-”look at Horatio—he says he’s a Christian—but there’s no change in his life–therefore I have to say the evidence weighs heavily that there is no God”. Or do you look at Herbie and say “How did this change take place?”.

    Of course there are going to be far more people who SAY they are Christians, and exhibit no change. That is a given. There are many religious people who confess all their sins on Saturday, go to church Sunday, and then immediately do all of them all over again on Monday—-that is truly the NORM.

    But that should not be used as evidence that God must not exist— do you ignore Herbie’s miraculous change because there is a Horatio that claims to be a Christian but shows no change? That appears to be faulty logic to me. No disrespect—it just doesn’t seem like a logical way to weigh things.

  • 10. Walking Away  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    This is a really great post, you are obviously an intelligent, sensitive person (my favorite combination – but not all that common it seems!). As I read, I wanted to feel hope, I wanted to find some nugget of truth to grab hold of because I still WANT to believe, but I just can’t because I just don’t.

    One thing you said that really got to me: “Why does God allow suffering? I don’t know that either; but I have experienced His peace in the middle of it and have been comforted.” What about those of us who have NOT been comforted? Does that mean we are not worthy, our faith is not strong enough, we haven’t done enough good works?

    Also a great point made in one of the comments above mine was the one about God NOT changing people. I don’t think we can use that as “proof”. I changed dramatically overnight too, I quit smoking, drinking, cussing and having sex the day I accepted Christ. But was it God that did that or was it me determined to follow the new rules so I would be a “good Christian”? I eventually started craving those things and asked God to give me strength to say no – but I gave in. I hear all the time that God’s strength will be made perfect in our weakness and that we can do all things through Christ, etc. But I’ve only experienced my own determination or lack thereof.

    I wonder – are you questioning your own faith or just curious?

    If you would have told me a few years ago, even LAST year, that I’d be where I am today I’d laugh and say NO WAY WILL I EVER STOP BELIEVING, GOD IS EVERYTHING TO ME HE DEFINES MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE. At one point I probably would have taken a bullet rather than deny my faith….today its gone…..

  • 11. orDover  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Joe, are you ignoring the first comment here, where blueollie said that something changed his life drastically for the better, and it had nothing to do with god?

    Just because you attribute something to god (or anything else) doesn’t make it so. If I’m overweight and I start the Jenny Craig program and subsequently loose 200 lbs, should I be singing the praises of Jenny? No. I might be thankful to her for developing a program to help me loose weight, but the truth of the matter is that the weight was lost because I had the willpower to eat right and not buy that double chocolate fudge cake I saw at the grocery store.

    Here’s another example: on one of the message boards I frequent, a lady attributed all of her current life problems (she had just been fired from her job and had a failed attempt to quit smoking) to the fact that Mercury was in retrograde. She can believe that astrology was responsible for her problems, but that does not make it true.

  • 12. orDover  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I just realized I assumed off the cuff that blueollie is a “him,” and I want to say sorry if I am wrong and blueollie is in fact a “her.”

  • 13. Steelman  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Rachel, thanks for posting. It’s good that believers and non-believers dialogue with each other.

    Here’s my definition of what I mean by experiencing God: a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way.

    Oh my, that sounds like Bipolar disorder! You don’t really mean that you’re riding an intellectual and emotional roller coaster on a daily basis, do you? :)
    Maybe the experience you’re describing is one of progressive improvement? Like climbing a mountain, you inch your way toward the peak, suffering occasional setbacks, but moving ever upward (closer to God, you might say)?

    I have seen God change people I didn’t think it was possible to change. That to me is a modern day miracle.

    I agree that positive, personal change is a good thing, and I wouldn’t want to try to talk you out of it. The problem I have with this as a proof of God’s handiwork is that such changes are not exclusive to the Christian religion. There are plenty of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists, etc., making similar claims. I’m not saying you’re being dishonest about the changes for the better you’ve witnessed, or experienced yourself, I’m merely offering that you may be mistaken about the actual causes (as are the Muslims, Hindus, et al).

    I just don’t think Christians have the lock on life changing epiphanies (in the non-religious sense) or personal improvement.

    Does God still do the kinds of miracles we find in the Bible? Absolutely. Why don’t we see them? I don’t know, but if we could see them do you think that would really change your mind?

    You’re absolutely sure that biblical miracles still happen, but even you, a believer, don’t see them happening? You do see why a non-believer couldn’t possibly change their mind about the existence of a God who does invisible miracles, right?

    (I’m really asking, would it?) Or do you think we would still find a way to explain them away and hold on to what we think now? (I’m only asking because if you were to disprove God’s existence I would still hold on to what I think )

    If a “miracle” can be reasonably explained as a natural occurrence, then there’s no reason to attribute a supernatural cause. Even if you’re unable to ascertain the cause of said miracle, jumping to supernatural conclusions doesn’t actually help human beings understand their world any better.

    Of course, having naturalistic explanations for phenomena, arrived at through rigorous scientific methods, does not disprove the existence of some kind of god. Conversely, the lack of such explanations does nothing to prove the existence of the supernatural. If supernatural causes are considered valid explanations for what we don’t know, then it’s an anything goes proposition (Allah, Krishna, Yahweh, beings from another dimension, or start a new religion and make up whatever you like).

    Why does God allow suffering? I don’t know that either; but I have experienced His peace in the middle of it and have been comforted.

    I find the “problem of evil” to be a rather devastating argument against an omnimax God (all good, all powerful, all knowing). Also, if you can’t understand why God allows terrible suffering, then I’d say you don’t really understand God very well, and could therefore be mistaken about such a being’s attributes. He might not be such a nice guy (and really wasn’t in the OT). So, I’m not at all convinced that the positive changes in Christians’ lives can be attributed to the Christian God.

    - Steelman

  • 14. Joe Sperling  |  June 25, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    orDover—

    My post was addressed to “Leo” in response to HIS post, not blueollies. Leo said that the fact that their are so many unchanged CHRISTIANS leads him to want to weigh in favor of “No God”—I was simply giving a scenario where two people who CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS are affected by what they say they believe in. One changes dramatically—the other doesn’t change at all. Do we then center on the one who didn’t change and say there is evidence for “no God” (along with a lot of other christians who show no change in their lives either), or do we look at the one who did change.

    That’s all I was stating. I realize many people can change for various reasons–I am not denying that at all. But some people (and I have seen this personally) so radically change literally “overnight” from accepting Christ—that I for one accept this as strong evidence He is there. I know this is just me—-because it happened to me—but that is where I was coming from.

  • 15. orDover  |  June 25, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I understand that your post was addressed to LeoPardus, but I felt like you were ignoring the possibility raised in the first comment. Thanks for clarifying that you do understand.

  • 16. OneSmallStep  |  June 25, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way. Like Darth Vader in Star Wars except reversed.

    It’s interesting that the Darth Vader example was used here, as opposed to a regular character. It seems that the life changing example is to go from extreme evil to extreme good? But not everyone is Darth Vader (although it sounds like you’re using the example as Anakin turning to VAder, rather than Vader turning back to Anakin). What about those who try and live good lives? There wouldn’t be as much to drastically change.

    So my answer to you is this: keep searching. Because I believe God is faithful to His promises and that those who seek Him with all of their hearts will find Him.

    I think the question many would have is what’s the limit on the search? Four months? Four years? Fourteen years? At what point does one conclude that there’ll be nothing at the end of the search?

    We can point to those who did find something, yes. But what about those who didn’t? I think many of those who didn’t contribute to this blog, and what can we say in that instance? That they didn’t search with all their heart? Then we run into the No True Scotsman fallacy.

  • 17. TheNerd  |  June 25, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I can’t really be upset at the “keep searching” request. I completely understand where you are coming from, because I have been there. I know that all compassionate Christians desire others to be open to exploring Christianity deeper.

    if you were to disprove God’s existence I would still hold on to what I think

    This strikes me as odd. You would much rather live with a falsehood than adapt to life with the truth?

    I would have been angry at God for abandoning me, if he had ever done so. But I’m not angry at God. I can’t be. Simply put, I can feel no emotion toward the non-existent. Not to say that there is no God at all (though I don’t see how there could be one), but once I realized that there can be no God as the Christians proclaim him to be, I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my life.

    My life was not suddenly emptier or without meaning. As has been mentioned before, Jesus>Others>You (abbreviated JOY) becomes Others>You once there is no Jesus in the picture. There’s quite a lot of OY in my life, which I find to be quite exciting. (It’s even fun to say: OY!)

    All I have seen as a reason for needing God, even if ever faced with the evidence that there is no God (should it happen), is that you as a person cannot feel whole without it. It actually reminds me of the movie Shallow Hal, when his friend tells him that his girlfriend is actually fat, even though Hal has been “cursed” to only see her as thin. He didn’t care if she really was fat, he didn’t care if everyone else in the world saw her as fat, he only cared that he could experience her as thin in his mind. He didn’t care about every one else’s reality, he only was concerned with his own reality. (Of course, at the end of the movie, he sees her as the overweight person she is, and still loves her just as much as before.)

    If your faith is based on “I want it to be true, because it makes me happy for it to be true”, and you realize that about yourself, I suppose I should not try to take it away from you. But, as you request that I “keep searching” for God, I must ask you to “keep searching” for understanding of how your personal experiences may have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.

    (Interesting look at personal emotional experience as a basis for conversion here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sq-YUdq1OI …see also part 2)

  • 18. theunbelieveratlarge  |  June 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    As a believer, I thought I saw God working in my life. Influencing situations, bringing me just the right person, or words or situation at the right time. Incredible conveniences that I simply couldn’t believe were coincidence.

    3 year into atheism and strangely enough, I see the same pattern of behavior in my life. When I’m looking for a miracle, it seems to be made manifest.

    The fact is, I saw everything positive as God’s handiwork and ignored everything that didn’t work out for me, or considered it a lesson I was being taught. I was looking for miracles, and no wonder I found them. Today I’m convinced that there’s no non-naturalistic power guiding the world and it’s my responsibility to make my own way. And since I’m looking for my own way, I tend to find it.

    It doesn’t take God to have a life altering experience. Just a bit of self awareness.

    Here’s the core of the situation for me –

    Whatever you believe God has done for you has very likely happened to other people who are not Christians. Muslims, pagans, skeptics and cultists regularly find themselves “miraculously” overcoming deadly diseases, escaping bad situations, finding good fortune. They regularly report miracles, experiences with the divine, enlightenment. What’s the source behind their experiences? And why can’t that source as easily apply to you.

    You can’t claim personal experience, ancient or non-scientific documentation of miracles, statistical anomalies, etc. as proof of God while dismissing the same claims as delusion when it’s experienced in another religion.

  • 19. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 12:52 am

    So my answer to you is this: keep searching. Because I believe God is faithful to His promises and that those who seek Him with all of their hearts will find Him.

    I’ve effectively been seeking God my whole life. For most of my life, I believed that I had found him, though I still would continually seek after him. Now I realize that I never found him, and I’m pretty sure he’s not there to be found.

    So, after 23 years of seeking without finding anything, I think it’s time to move on.

  • 20. RIchard  |  June 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

    For my part, I have no problem at all with you making the decision to believe in God and Christian faith and to live you life around it, based on your own experience. You feel you have experienced God’s transformative power. That’s great!

    I think most de-cons, however, simply want to claim the same right. We either have *not* experienced God or we once thought we did but now see fit to intepret that experience differently. So we feel we are just as justified in our unbelief as you are in your belief, after making an honest assesment of our own experience. If we could both agree to live and let live in this way, the world would be a much better place.

    And as others, I am also concerned about the “seek and ye shall find” statements. Many of us feel strongly that we sought deeply and passionately and didnt find. What does that mean? For us, it means that statement simply isnt true. Conversely, if you accept the statement at face value, it (as far as I can see) more or less requires you to conclude we did not really seek. And many Christians, in fact, do say just that. (Im not saying you did! You have been a model of respect and civility.)

    Im just, as food for thought, pointing out the implications of this sort of process: aside from being dismissive and profoundly unempathic, it effectivly reasons backwards, from the outcome (ie, not finding) to infer our mental state (i.e., our sincerity). Thats a dangerous sort of road to go down.

  • 21. The de-Convert  |  June 26, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Rachel,

    I really can look back at my life and see God’s work in it, even during His silence.

    The beauty of this philosophy is that God always wins :) Got to love it!

    Paul

  • 22. Quester  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:07 am

    Thank-you, Rachel, for letting us know what you heard. I think you provided a fair sum-up of the responses to your earlier questions. I’m curious- you’ve been part of this blog for a while, did anything you read surprise you?

    As for your current questions:

    Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?

    Personal experience can be inconstant, inconsistent and interpreted in multiple ways. If this were not true, it might be enough.

    Personal testimony is just that, personal. I would have to know you quite well before I would choose to eat a meal you recommended. I would want to know what sorts of things taste good to you. I would want to know that you know me well enough to guess what would taste good to me. I would want to know if you have the ability to keep my many food allergies in mind when recommending that meal, and whether you would if you could. Et cetera, et cetera. How much less can I receive a personal experience or relationship you have engaged in and I might not be able to (at least, not in the same way) and you have no evidence of (that you can show me)?

    Here’s my definition of what I mean by experiencing God: a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to experience that process in any dynamic, dramatic way. I think I’m in the same process now, but it is slower and less radical. I’m hoping it’s maturation.

    So my answer to you is this: keep searching. Because I believe God is faithful to His promises and that those who seek Him with all of their hearts will find Him.

    I’ve driven that long, empty road for a decade now, searching through prayer, worship and scripture study. I’m thinking it’s time to try another direction. I plan to keep searching for inspiration and ways to grow as a person and make the world better. If God exists, I may find God on the way.

  • 23. KW  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I am new to the blogisherer. I have never looked into it until I started my own blog just last week. I just stumbled upon this blog and this interesting discussion. I am a believer and have been since the cradle, I guess. I am married to a former atheist. When we met and began to fall in love, I told him I could not marry a non-believer (the un-evenly yolked thing), he in turn told me he would not convert just to marry me. He did, however, say he would look into it. He was rejecting something He had never studied. It took about a year, and now 14 years later he is a Sunday school teacher and an elder in our church. A couple of books that my main man looked at were: ‘More than a Carpenter’ and ‘Evidences that demand a verdict’, both by Josh Mcdowell. They are worth a read.

    My BIL is still an atheist. Long hair, black clothes wearing GREAT guy. He is facinated with us. His reaction to us and our situation over the yrs has changed from aggressive to accepting with a lot of curiosity thrown in. I too believe that changed lives is a huge evidence. BTW, it is not about a religion, it is about a relationship, Seek and You will find! I know that sounds so simple, but it is so true.

    Anyway, thats enough rambling for now.

    KW

  • 24. DagoodS  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:37 am

    rfogue,

    A few points to ponder:

    As I was reading your summation of the responses to the Questions for deconverts, I kept nodding my head. You get it. I think you did an admirable job of summing up both the similarities, as well as recognizing the variances, in deconversion stories.

    Too many people say, “You deconverted because of this…” and shove decoverts in a pre-determined formula suited to the theist’s own view of life. You did not. You read, and took people at their word.

    Having been involved in internet discussions on a variety of levels in this never-ending theistic debate, I can assure you this makes you extremely rare.

    Thank you.

    Since you asked, I will answer a few of your questions:

    rfogue: Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?

    Because if personal testimony was enough, we would all be forced to concede aliens are abducted persons and performing experiments of a…rather naughty nature, shall we say? We would have to admit Elvis is still alive. And Joseph Smith saw golden plates from god.

    That Mary appeared in visions to millions of people. That séances really talk to dead people. That Yetis live, Loch Ness Monsters swim, and Big foot stalks.

    Because all of those are personal testimonies. Even as Christians we deconverts did not believe personal testimony was enough. We snickered at claims of alien abductions. We mocked those silly Catholics and their visions of Mary. We disregarded Hindu claims of miracles.

    As Christians we even were skeptical of other Christian claims of hearing voices from God. We utilized other evidences and examined the claims to determine their truth.

    More: But for me, the evidence of God is found in changed lives, because that is where He does His greatest work.

    Maybe too many years in Christianity and too many years being intimately familiar with Christians rendered me a bit cynical on this point. Oh, I saw the lives “changed.” Those quotes are most deliberate. Some person would come forward, and give (hopefully graphic) details of all the sin, immorality and wanton riotous living and how Jesus changed them, and they had given up such evilness.

    “Praise Jesus,” we would call. Then the person would slip up (as humans do) and come back, re-dedicating their life to Jesus. Then they would slip up (again) as humans do and come back re-re-dedicating their life to Jesus. Then they would disappear. We older Christians would nod, stamp, “Not saved in the first place” next to their membership card and wait for the next one.

    Or others who would give up their life of habit-forming dependence, only to exchange it for a new life of habit-forming dependence. Go to church every Sunday. Street-preaching. Demand the church provide money for their new ministry of this or that or the other. When denied, they would shake the dust from their sandals, and move on.

    Yes, there were the extremely rare individuals who did change. Good on them. But they worked at it. We saw the struggle. We saw the growth. In retrospect, there was no god miraculously changing them—they changed themselves.

    With all due respect, re-read your own writing:
    More: But then I had what I like to call a crisis of belief. I looked at myself for what I really was. I said I was a “new” creation but I was still the same old me. I had never changed; I didn’t sense God’s presence, I never heard Him speak, I never saw Him answer any of my prayers. And I asked why, just like many of you did. That’s when I realized I didn’t really know God at all. I knew about Him; I knew what people claimed He said in the Bible; I knew what people claimed He had done in their lives, but I didn’t KNOW Him.
    …I am a completely different person from the one I started out to be. Does that mean I don’t struggle with doubts, that I don’t worry, that sometimes I don’t ask “God, where are you?” No, not at all. Does doubting in some way indicate that I am not convinced of the authority of the Bible or have never had an undeniable experience with God? No. I can look at a plane and doubt that it is going to get me to my destination even if the facts say that it is safer to fly than to drive. Doubting doesn’t negate that I haven’t experienced flying and getting to my destination safely. I can look around me and see God at work in people’s lives whether they want Him to be or not. I have seen God change people I didn’t think it was possible to change. That to me is a modern day miracle.

    Now re-read it again, and see how many times you use the personal pronoun “I” or “me” or “my.” This is why “changed lives” is not very effectual of an argument. We saw it as Christians. Some changed. Most did not. Some simple exchanged habits. But when the person did change, it was “I did this…and God changed me.” “I did that…and God changed me.” Prefaced with “I did…”

    The person changed themselves. No God is necessary in the process.

    More: The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the apostles three years with Jesus, Acts is an eyewitness account of the birth of the church, etc.

    Nope. The gospel of Mark, written anonymously, is claimed by Papias to be an account from Peter. Not an eyewitness. The author of Luke confirms he was not an eyewitness. The gospel of Matthew modifies the name of the disciple “Levi” to “Matthew” to imply he was an eyewitness. (And on Matthew, Papias indicates it was written in Hebrew, which it was not.)

    Further, the gospel of Matthew is dependant on the gospel of Mark (a non-eyewitness) which raises the question of whether he was an eyewitness. Luke, too, is dependent on Mark.

    We can try John as an eyewitness, but this undercuts the Synoptic Gospels. (Noting Papias doesn’t even know of a written gospel of John, which is idiosyncratic.) If John was an eyewitness, why does it contradict the other gospels? (The length of Jesus’ ministry, names of disciples, words of Jesus, signs, day of Jesus’ death, talk with Pilate, spear in the side, time of temple cleansing, post-resurrection appearances, etc.)

    The reason deconverts don’t accept the “eyewitness testimony” of the gospels is that they contradict. Which, as in real life, indicates they are suspect.

    [Important to note. The Gospels were not written as historical accounts, nor were they intended to be an accurate record of what was included. They weren’t written as “eyewitness accounts” like what we think of as testimony in a court, or historical textbooks. The contradictions, in that light, are not surprising. Nor the fact they would be written by non-eyewitnesses.]

    Acts is extremely questionable in its history, both with what we know, as well as with what Paul wrote. It is an argument for the development of the church.

  • 25. Cthulhu  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Rachel,

    So here’s another question for you: What do you think it means to experience God, if He exists? Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?

    Apologies for going Zen here, but I am going to anyway :-)

    If eyewitness accounts and personal experiences are enough, then do you believe in alien abduction and UFO’s? There have been many more eyewitness reports of UFO and alien sightings than there were eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. Yet for UFO’s and Christianity we have no real empirical evidence that these claims are true. It is like me telling my children to do something ‘because I said so!!!’. I despised that as a child and have never used it in raising 2 kids. To paraphrase a Betrand Russel analogy – Suppose I tell you there is a tennis ball in orbit around Neptune? You cannot disprove it and I cannot prove it either. But is it very probable that there is a tennis ball orbiting Neptune? I think not…and there is no more evidence for God than there is for aliens visiting the earth or fuzzy tennis balls in orbit around an outer planet.

    Cheers…

  • 26. Frederick Polgardy  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Just wanted to chime in in defense of LeoPardus’s earlier comment-

    If changed lives constitutes the evidence FOR god, then unchanged lives should constitute evidence AGAINST God.

    This makes me think of the phenomenon of thanking God for all kinds of “blessings” – health, prosperity, good weather for the church picnic, etc. The problem is, if 80% of people die of pancreatic cancer within six months (for example), how can we say God is good for healing Aunt Margaret but not Uncle Billy? Or how can we thank God for saving a child in our church family who was in a car accident, but not all the other children who die in other accidents? Either God is good for saving some people, and bad for not saving others – or God is good no matter what happens, and there is a deep inscrutable reason for everything.

    As a Christian, you kind of have to go with option #2 – but unfortunately that puts you in the annoying position that blessings don’t count as evidence.

  • 27. The de-Convert  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:10 am

    DagoodS,

    Great post.

    Rachel,

    I continue to have “experiences” that I used to attribute to God. Many of my non-Christian friends or other de-converts have similar experiences.

    Also, I’ve seen becoming a de-convert radically changed many lives. They are no longer judgmental of others, intolerant, condemning, mean, etc but become compassionate and kind to gays, unbelievers, apostates, atheists, and others. All very positive changes.

    Yes, I’ve seen someone’s “salvation” radically change them and help them get free from addictions, etc. But I’ve also seen tragedy and other dramatic life experiences have similar effects on people and I’ve seen people just making a simple choice that has a life-changing effect.

    I’ve seen healings in Christianity (though nothing dramatic like a limb regrowing) but the hindus and other religions all have similar “testimonies” of miraculous healings.

    The root question is what makes “my” experience real and everyone else not.

    Paul

  • 28. ehsangill  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:18 am

    facinating read. i have always thought that the question of god is far to important to leave up to religion.

  • 29. LeoPardus  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Joe S:

    Re post #9 – Can you please tell, in your own words, what the “No true Scotsman” fallacy is?

    And while you’re defending the validity of Christianity based on the rare, dramatic life changes (and dismissing the far more frequent unchanged lives) why do you dismiss the similar, dramatic life changes that people testify to for Islam, traumatic accidents, Mormonism, New Year’s resolutions, Hari Krishna ism, etc? Should they be just as true, based on their rare but dramatic life changes?

    I think I’m going to form the “First Church of Medical Trauma”. We will base our faith and lives on the life-changing and soul-regenerating power of heart attacks, terminal diagnoses, severe accidents, and the like. All hail to the great big, oncoming truck!

  • 30. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Leo—

    I still think your logic is a bit flawed. You’re saying “If someone has changed dramatically due to accepting Christ, let’s discount it because people are changed in other ways ALSO”. I mean, if you take that tack, you can negatively ward off any sign of God being real ad infinum. It appears the desire to not believe is just to strong to allow any chance for belief in your system of thinking.

    “That dude over there used to be a heroin addict, wife-beating idiot, but now he is a giving, loving, wonderful husband and father who gave up the drugs immediately, and now says Jesus changed his life. But you know what, Muslims claim changed lives also, so because of that I feel what happened to him does not prove God changes lives–people get changed from auto accidents to—so for me it’s still a no-go, no-god.” You in effect, with one swipe of the brush, are erasing an amazing miracle right before your eyes, by comparing it to something you may have never even personally seen–a muslim claiming a miraculously changed life. Good for the Muslim if that happened, but what about the miracle right in front of your eyes? Won’t you even seriously consider the person’s claims, and the Book he says made it all happen?

  • 31. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    “Daddy! Daddy!”

    “What honey?”

    “Daddy, I asked Jesus to help me at school. Jimmy is always mean to me and pushes me. And he took my money from me 3 times! It was 74 cents, and I needed that money to save for my doll!! I asked Jesus if he could talk to Jimmy and help him to know how mean he is being, and to give me back by money. And today, you know what happened Daddy? Jimmy came up and said he was sorry. And he gave me back exactly 74 cents!! Jesus answered my prayer!!”

    “Honey, Jesus didn’t answer your prayer. It is all coincidence dear. Lots of OTHER people get apologized to every day just like happened with you. Jimmy probably felt bad, or maybe he was afraid he was going to get caught, or maybe for some other reason”.

    “But Daddy, what about him giving me back exacty 74 cents?”

    “Honey, he probably just had that amount in his pocket. Coincidences like this happen to OTHER people too all the time.”

    “Like who Daddy?”

    “Well, I don’t have an exact example for you honey, but it’s happened to muslims, and mormons, and Hindus too dear. The fact that you prayed, and asked Jesus to help you, and return your money, and that Jimmy apologized and gave you back the exact amount you were looking for really proves nothing honey. You were looking for it to happen, so when it did, you immediately said Jesus did it. Believe me honey, you could have prayed to Krishna, or Allah and the same thing would have happened.”

    “How do you know Daddy?”

    “Well, I’m just giving examples honey–that’s all.”

    “Daddy, your logic is extremely flawed and you are using negatives to take away any hope in the miraculous happenings that have occurred in my life due to the benevolence of a Deity, Jesus Christ to be exact.”

    “Honey—aren’t you only 4 years old?”

  • 32. Quester  |  June 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Won’t you even seriously consider the person’s claims, and the Book he says made it all happen?

    First of all, I see no miracle in front of my eyes. Secondly, we did consider those claims and that Book seriously. For decades, we considered them. Considered them and found them wanting. You know this already, Joe.

  • 33. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Joe

    It appears the desire to not believe is just to strong to allow any chance for belief in your system of thinking.

    I don’t have a “desire to not believe”. I just have no strong desire “to believe”. I don’t go around looking for supernatural things to believe in. And for any extraordinary claim, like religion, to deserve my attention, it’s got to have extraordinary proof.

    Isolated cases of improved lives are just not extraordinary enough. These cases happen to people of all religions, and people of no religion. If there were some religion where it happened to every believer, and it never happened to anybody else, that might get my attention. As it is, it’s great for those it happens to, but does not really impress me.

  • 34. blueollie  |  June 26, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I’ll just give an example: suppose I decide to run another marathon. I decide to eat wheaties for breakfast every day while doing the same training as before.

    Presto: I take 15 minutes off of my previous best time and qualify for the Boston marathon, and I loudly credit the wheaties for my success.

    Are you convinced? I hope not. :)

    In fact, by eating wheaties, I quit eating the couple of donuts that had been eating, and so I lost 10 pounds in the process.

    Moral: I did something right and the wheaties had something to do with it, but there was nothing special about the wheaties themselves.

    Same thing with the “ex addict turning their life over to Christ”. They probably did something right, but that happy ending in no way provides evidence that some Jewish zombie somehow “saves us from our sins”.

    In fact, my deity (The Flying Spaghetti Monster) told me that he listens for prayers to other deities, intercepts them and then sometimes answers them just to confuse people.

    I am convinced that His Noodleness is telling the truth.

    So are you convinced? :)

    I hope not.

    Note: there are many real life examples; for example some cancers indeed go into remission, and sometimes people “credit” their deity for making it happen.

  • 35. Frederick Polgardy  |  June 26, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Speaking for myself, my comment wasn’t about the statistics, so much as about the logic of treating blessings as evidence of God’s existence. Many people’s lives are one miserable tragedy after another – what is that evidence of? IMO if you’re going to see the miracle, the blessing, look to the mystery of existence itself, not just to the things that happen to go your way.

  • 36. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    …your logic is extremely flawed and you are using negatives to take away any hope in the miraculous happenings that have occurred in my life…

    This actually seems pretty logical to me. “Miraculous” events happen to people. They happen to people regardless of what they believe. If “miraculous” events happen equally to people who believe in Jesus Christ and those who don’t, doesn’t it seem likely that the “miraculous” events are not connected to Jesus, but instead rely on some other factor?

    Assume that the success rate of people dramatically changing their lives is the same for atheists and Christians. Is it more likely that God is making positive, dramatic changes in atheists lives, or that people, regardless of what they believe, are capable of making dramatic changes in their own lives?

  • 37. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Ubi—

    Understood.

    I do have to comment on a few people who have said that things that they used to take as “coming from God” still happen to them even though they don’t believe. One thing to remember is that in the Psalms it says:

    “The Lord is good to ALL”

    And there is another verse that says “He makes his rain to fall on the just and on the unjust” (the unjust being those who have not been ‘justified’, not necessarily inferring they are unjust people in their dealings).

    So there are many things that God does where he treats believers and unbelievers the same way. In fact, much of the unbelieving world has many incredible worldly blessings, as also much of the world is also very poor.

    I was watching this show “The Deadliest Catch” and their was one Christian captain. He made a great haul of the crab and said “The Lord is really blessing us” (and he had been praying earlier), and yet, moments later, the camera was on another boat who made just as good a haul, and yet that captain had not been praying, nor did he thank God for the haul.

    If you were watching you would say the captain was attributing his prayers for the great haul (and he was), while the other captain was doing no such thing. And yet they had an equally good catch. There was also a story in the Bible where Jesus healed seven lepers, yet only one of them returned to give him thanks. All of them got the same blessing, but only one of them really received the TRUE blessing—he realized where his blessing had originated, and was filled with joy and thanks and just had to return to thank Jesus. The crab boat captains received the same physical blessings—but one captain knew to thank the one who is TRULY responsible for the plenty they received—and received an entirely different type of blessing for this.

  • 38. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Joe -
    This is a good example for discussion. Thanks.

    What I am not understanding here is how the religious crab-boat captain is better off than the one who is not. He received no extra reward for praying – he got the same catch as the other captain. We have no reason to think he will have better catches in the future. The size of the catch I would think depends more on hard work and finding a good spot to go crabbing.

    So is your point that the religious captain was happier because he gave credit to a sky-god instead of to hard work and skill? If the act of giving credit to a higher power for successes makes him happy, that does not seem to indicate that a higher power exists, just that believing in one can make a person happy. I would agree with this, for many people, it can make them happy. But any sky-god would do for this purpose. If I say that it makes me happy to think that my belief in the FSM was what brought me the concert gig for next week I just got, but another singer is happy because they prayed to jesus for it, and another is just happy because they got the gig because they were talented, it sounds like much the same story. It shows, not that religious belief is true, but that it can make people happy. And I don’t think anybody here has any argument with religions’ ability to make most of their followers happy.

  • 39. blueollie  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Ah yes, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is good to all as well.

    Convinced? :)

  • 40. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I am willing to accept that God changes people’s lives whether they believe in him or not. However, that means that changed lives cannot be evidence for God.

    I can attribute my safe trip to work today to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I can claim that all people who safely made it to work today did so because of the FSM’s miraculous intervention, whether they believe in him or not.

    I would hope that no one would take that as serious evidence for his noodly existence.

  • 41. Frederick Polgardy  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I am willing to accept that God changes people’s lives whether they believe in him or not. However, that means that changed lives cannot be evidence for God.

    That’s what I was trying to say, in a roundabout way. :)

  • 42. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Ubi—

    You said:
    So is your point that the religious captain was happier because he gave credit to a sky-god instead of to hard work and skill?

    Not in that sense. One captain gave thanks for the bounty, the others “apparently” (who knows what they are saying in their hearts) did not. But they both received the same physical reward–this captain worked just as hard by the way as the other captains, he was just giving thanks for the fruit of their labors (the crab) to God.

    The seven lepers were all healed. But only one returned to give thanks. The realized something. Here is another bad example (LOL) of what I am trying to say they received:

    You help your son through his life, providing him with clothing, money, a room, and all the other amenities of life. He takes it all for granted. But you continue to supply his needs because you love him–he’s your son. You don’t demand thanks of him–his “thanks” isn’t going to make you give him more—and as always you continue to supply all his needs.

    But then one day he comes up to you and says “Dad, I have never thanked you for all you have done for me. Thank you for helping me, and providing all the clothing and food, and money, and time. I’ve never told you that, and I just wanted to”.

    Both you and your son have both received a blessing by that. You say “thanks son, I love you, I would always provide for you”—but it brings great joy to your heart that he has seen how much you love him, and he appreciates it. In turn, your son gets the blessing of coming close to you, and seeing you smile as he thanks you. It is just a “thank you” but it can mean worlds in developing a closer relationship.

    So, what the captain gained is something dealing with a relationship. He is not thanking God to get greater physical blessings–he is simply thanking God because he realizes that He is the one who has really given the bounty. The other captains will get the same physical bounty–God is good to all—but the captain who returned to give thanks has a relationship with God, and is acknowledging Him. To the scorner it may sound “sappy”, but it is very true. The story of the lepers in the Bible for a reason—there must be something very important in the fact that only one leper returned to give thanks—it shows how unthankful WE can be, and how we do not acknowledge the blessings that have been GIVEN to us. The blessings will still come, thanks or not–but the one who returns to give thanks in sincerity will experience a deeper relationship with God.

  • 43. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    One thing I forgot to mention above–I meant to but lost my train of thought (so what’s new?)—

    In Romans when it speaks of the depravity of man says “neither were they thankful, so God gave them over…” I do not have the full exposition on this, but there appears to be a lot associated with turning away from God that develops from first being unthankful for all the blessings he’s given us.

    As in all things, when we begin to take them for granted we can lose them (from our teeth up to a husband or wife)–and it appears when we begin to take God’s blessings for granted and stop being thankful, we lose something. God isn’t “demanding” thanks, just as we as parents do not “demand thanks” for what we give either. But we lose something in regards to relationship with God–giving thanks is a way of making a step towards God, where unthankfulness, or lack of acknowledgement from where the blessings are coming from are steps away from God.

  • 44. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Joe

    The blessings will still come, thanks or not–but the one who returns to give thanks in sincerity will experience a deeper relationship with God

    OK, and the benefit of a “deeper relationship with god” is….?
    His prayers are reliably answered? – No.
    He receives more belssings and miracles? – No.
    He receives rewards in the afterlife? – Maybe, no way to know for sure now.
    He’s happier? – Yes.

    After your further expanation, the lesson I am drawing from your story is still “Faith can make you happy.” And I don’t dispute that.

  • 45. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    This is getting pretty far off the original point. A few have said that changed lives is evidence for God. Some of us have argued otherwise. Thanking God for his blessings and experiencing a deeper relationship with him because of it is entirely beside the point.

    If lives are changed, positively, whether one believes in God or not, how are these changed lives evidence for God? You have no evidence for God, only evidence that lives can be changed.

  • 46. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Also, I can’t stop chuckling at the thought of thanking God for giving you crabs…

    I’m a terrible person… :P

  • 47. Obi  |  June 26, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I agree with Joe. Whether you believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn or not, she still loves you. But only by thanking her will you ever get closer to her so that you can feel that personal relationship — that blessing. I have one, and that’s proof that I can be arrogant and say that every good thing that happens in this world is because of my God, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, even though I have no evidence to show for this assertion.
    :)

  • 48. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Obi -
    I have direct evidence for the Invisible Pink Unicorn! She blesses my laundry with her divine color, leaves holes in it with her horn, and raptures worthy socks directly to sock heaven. Verily she loves your laundry, and I am sure has given it her holy attention as well. I have more evidence for her presence than for any other fictional deity!

  • 49. LeoPardus  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Joe S:

    You want it to be true so badly. Just as I used to. So you accept the most specious (ill)logic to try to support it. And you even ignore “Biblical standards” in your desperation to prop up the faith.

    Just imagine a pathetic Paul, Peter, or Jesus telling people, “Oh you just gotta believe ’cause look, Matthew over here was a nasty tax collector, but now he’s a swell guy.”

    Nope. Not those guys. They didn’t have some mealy-mouthed, hit-n-miss, sometimes it changes you apologetic twaddle. They had, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b]are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” for their evidence.

    Sorry man, but your imaginary, totally ineffective, invisible guy-in-the-sky is far too pathetic for me to believe in. The God of Paul, Peter, Elijah, etc I could get behind.

    You can have your will-o-whisp. As J.B. Phillips said, “Your god is too small.”

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Bah. I fart at your Invisible Pink Unicorn. You must all attend to the Big Oncoming Truck. You may not see it now, but if you don’t change your ways, one day it will flatten you.

    You have all been warned.

  • 51. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I choose to believe in the Big Oncoming Truck over the Invisible Pink Unicorn, because B.O.T. is a cooler acronym than I.P.U.

  • 52. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Leo—

    You want it to be untrue so badly…just as I have at times (when I wasn’t walking with the Lord). You want utterly fantastic miracles as evidence. You want to see Lazarus walking out of a grave, or a blind man seeing, etc.

    You can bet that hardly anyone believed Paul when he said that a light shone around him and Jesus said “why are you persecuting me?” But the fact that he once was a Pharisee raging against the church, and then had become a born-again believing Christian was more of a miracle than anything! It says in Acts that many were amazed that He who had once persecuted the church now actually taught the same things!!

    He went from being Saul to Paul—his CHANGED LIFE was the most important witness that he had at that time!! Miracles are quickly forgotten, and Paul stood in front of many who had heard about miracles Paul must have done. But Paul never preached about miracles—-he preached over and over about his “experience” on the road to Damascus, and how his life had been utterly changed forever.

    When Jesus cast the demon out of the man in the Gadarenes some may have believed—but you can bet that many more believed simply by looking at this man who used to cut himself with stones and cry out, in his right mind, and saying that Jesus had CHANGED him forever.

    Changed lives is the message in the Gospel—over and over again. If you are looking for fantastic miracles before you will believe you may wait a long time. But there are miracles around you all the time—-lives that have been changed. if you won’t see them as evidence then you are being willingly blind, just like the Pharisees were.

  • 53. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Snuggly—

    Like the “crabs” joke by the way—very funny.

    –Joe

  • 54. Obi  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I’ve seen many people’s lives changed by the Invisible Pink Unicorn Joe, so what’s your point? For example, my best friend was once a skinhead, crack-addicted, child-molesting astrophysicist who — when I witnessed to him about our Lady the Invisible Pink Unicorn — had his life turned around completely after he accepted Her. Therefore, the Invisible Pink Unicorn exists. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    I wrote a book about it as well, so that lends even more credence to my belief, right? …right?

  • 55. Anonymous  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Obi—

    You know and I know that you have not seen people’s lives changed by the Invisible Pink Unicorn. The question was brought up if changed lives were evidence that God is there. All I was saying is that Biblically (not just my opinion) changed lives ARE a huge evidence of God’s presence. As I said Paul in the book of Acts repeats (could be three times) how his life was changed on the road to Damascus. Though they may not have believed him concerning the “vision” he had, they could not deny that Saul who had been raging against the church, was now a changed man(Paul) and was preaching FOR the very thing he once persecuted. This is not my opinion, or my thought—this is a Biblical perspective.

    If you don’t accept it, fine. This is a Biblical teaching—not mine. You want to believe in a Pink Unicorn, and somehow put it on a level with Christianity, and all of it’s writings, and scholars, and believers be my guest. You can call a tricycle a car also if you want to—nobody’s stopping you.

  • 56. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    The above post was me and not anonymous. I keep forgetting to fill in the required areas on the screen. Sorry about that.

    –Joe

  • 57. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Obi—

    Before you say “How do you know I haven’t seen lives changed by the Pink Unicorn?” blah, blah I’ll say it for you. I really am trying to have a real conversation about this. We know that many, many people claim miraculous change through receiving Christ—if you don’t accept that, fine. But resorting to Pink Unicorns, etc. to try and argue the point reminds me of Junior High School in a way. It’s almost like playing “scissors, rock, paper” . :>)

  • 58. Joe Sperling  |  June 26, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    By the way, I am not trying to be disrespectful. I understand your position. And I have not been the greatest person to get along with all the time either. But I have been getting hit with Pink Unicorns and Spaghetti Monsters, etc. every time I mention something today. I get the point—you can pray to a Pink Unicorn, you can claim changed lives through a Spaghetti Monster, etc.—
    I am arguing from events recorded in the Bible, and from the witness of many changed lives that you can actually see if you took the time to do so. You couldn’t produce a changed life by the Pink Unicorn (unless you want to go down the sarcastic trail again and reargue that point) if you wanted to.

  • 59. Ubi Dubium  |  June 26, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    OK, Joe. But there are people who will say their lives have been changed by following Muhammed, and there are people who will testify to life changes from following Krishna, or from Zen Meditation, or whatever. I have a friend who worships Thor. Really! So, when you argue that christianity is superior to other religions because it has changed lives through personal experience, we argue back “but that is also true of (insert some other religion here) as well. How are christian life changes demonstrably superior to those?” Things like the FSM can be convenient placeholders to represent “some other religion that you do not believe” in an argument.

    Plus, to an atheist, if all gods are fictional, the FSM cannot be “more fictional”. It may appear silly, but to a Hindu your religion might appear silly. Talking snakes, evil fruit, burning bushes, only one god who is somehow also three, oh puh-lease. The structure of Pastafarianism is a good mirror. It takes the conventions of the religion you are used to, substitutes different words, and reflects it back to you. If it is preposterous, perhaps it is no more preposterous than christianity might look to a Sikh, or a Taoist.

  • 60. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 26, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Indeed, I knew a man who switched from Christianity to some subset of Wicca. He felt his prayers were answered after he switched, and was much happier with his life. By your reasoning I should believe his Wiccan god/goddess is real, and changes people’s lives, Wiccan and non-Wiccan alike.

  • 61. orDover  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Here is a very moving testimony from a Muslim convert: http://thepeopleofthebook.org/islam6testimony.html

    It sounds almost exactly like every other change-of-life testimony I have ever heard in all of my years of church-going and blog-reading. (Yeah Joe, it sounds just like your story too.)

  • 62. blueollie  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I agree that the Pink Unicorn has caused far less harm than Christianity has; the PU hasn’t invaded countries, tortured people, put people to death, retarded scientific advancement, demanded blind faith, etc.

    You know, there is a reason that 93% of the national academy of science members are atheists or agnostics.

  • 63. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Alright, sorry that I am just now weighing in on the responses. I’m trying to get my house ready to sell and my in-laws are here helping. Anyways-where to start? Let’s see….

    First off, I will grant that other religions claim to have the same experiences with God that I claim. So I see your point as far as that is concerned. However, why argue biblical doctrine and theology when no one here sees that as credible either? So I wanted to start somewhere in order to start a dialog.

    In order to discuss other religions we must first agree that there is absolute truth. If we assume that absolute truth exists, then logically it is possible to assume that there is one truth, meaning one way to God, one revelation to humanity of His character, ways, and interaction with His creation. If that is true, then it is possible to discount other religions as not being absolute in truth. I believe that Christianity is absolutely true; Jesus is who He claimed to be, God did inspire men to write the Bible and then inspired the same men who decided what was included in the canon. We’ll start there, because I think that’s the real argument; how do you know that Christianity is the right choice?.

    Second, miracles seem to be a big hang-up for a lot of people. Some might claim this argument: Nothing exists outside of nature and this premise is demonstrated by science. What if using the scientific method only shows that if miracles did happen science really can’t prove or disprove them, i.e. things that only happen once cannot be trusted to happen again.

    Or look at this way: C.S. Lewis has said that if miracles are claimed as impossible then you would have to know that all reports of miracles are false.

    I like this quote from C.S. Lewis:

    ” If the ‘natural’ means that which can be fitted into a class, that which obeys a norm, nature herself as a whole is NOT natural. If a miracle means that which must simply be that which can be paralleled, that which can be explained by reference to other events, then accepted, the unanswerable actuality which gives no account of itself but simply IS, then the universe is one great miracle. ”

    Okay, give me a few more hours to read the rest of the posts and I promise I will comment on as many as I can.
    You guys rock! :)

  • 64. dumbsheep  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Great book out there on this topic by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, called unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.

  • 65. Obi  |  June 26, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    rfogue –

    Who says there’s even a god to begin with? You’re starting with the assumption that there must be a god, when that assumption isn’t backed up by anything.

    Joe –

    I think others have already quite thoroughly responded to you and rebutted your arguments, so I feel that any of that on my part would be unnecessary. “Changed lives” are proof for no religion or belief system. None at all.

    Also, who cares about the Bible? It’s the same as any other holy book — filled with myths created by ancient peoples, tales of gods and other supernatural entities, some historical accounts, and some admirable and some not so admirable rules of morality.

  • 66. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Just a general comment to all : I am not trying to convince you of anything-I want to make that clear. That is not possible and not my intent. Besides that, there is really nothing I can say that will make you change your mind anyway, so why bother? I want to discuss. The only one who changes hearts and minds is God Himself and I cannot convince anyone of anything; so please don’t assume that I want to convert you to anything-would I love it if you decided that God was who He said He was and decided to come back; are you kidding? ! Absolutely yes. But that it is not for me to decide nor to beat you over the head with. I just want to try and make you think and for you to make me think.

    Steelman-

    You posted this point:

    I find the “problem of evil” to be a rather devastating argument against an omnimax God (all good, all powerful, all knowing). Also, if you can’t understand why God allows terrible suffering, then I’d say you don’t really understand God very well, and could therefore be mistaken about such a being’s attributes. He might not be such a nice guy (and really wasn’t in the OT). So, I’m not at all convinced that the positive changes in Christians’ lives can be attributed to the Christian God.

    I think of it this way. God chose to give us freedom of choice. That freedom allows us to choose to reject Him and to abuse and reject other people too. For God to cease to allow evil would be to take away our freedom. Why would you create beings and then dictate to them that they love and obey you? God didn’t do that. He gives us a choice.

    We were created in God’s image and then sin came into the world through the choice to be like God. Adam and Eve wanted to have the knowledge of good and evil. But the problem was that it wasn’t complete knowledge meaning that we can only decide what is right in our own eyes, which are not God’s. I’m sure you know where I am going. We live in a fallen world that is full of pain and God chooses not to intervene.

    I’m sure that’s not a new answer. It’s a complex question that I don’t completely understand. That’s why I said I don’t know. Because I don’t know the full answer. But then again, I believe God is inherently good and can only act according to His character which is revealed through His word, the Bible.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • 67. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Walking Away-

    One thing you said that really got to me: “Why does God allow suffering? I don’t know that either; but I have experienced His peace in the middle of it and have been comforted.” What about those of us who have NOT been comforted? Does that mean
    we are not worthy, our faith is not strong enough, we haven’t done enough good works?

    I would never ever say that. I sincerely did not mean to imply it if I did. Did you really never experience the comfort of God? That makes me very sad.

    Also a great point made in one of the comments above mine was the one about God NOT changing people. I don’t think we can use that as “proof”. I changed dramatically overnight too, I quit smoking, drinking, cussing and having sex the day I accepted Christ. But was it God that did that or was it me determined to follow the new rules so I would be a “good Christian”? I eventually started craving those things and asked God to give me strength to say no – but I gave in.

    I think you mistake the change I am talking about for the determination to follow rules. We are only human. Failure is inevitable. I probably wasn’t clear enough. What I meant by changing is that although we still desire to do the things we did before we at the same time are different in that we want to know God. See God’s ultimate goal in our lives is to change us from the inside out by replacing (over a lifetime) our old self with a new creation. We are to be Christ-like (Christian I think actually means “little Christs”), to model His example in how we act, think and what we say. The sad thing is, we as Christians do a very, very poor job of that. I would also say that the Christians that you do not see a change in never had a relationship with God to begin with. That is what I was trying to say using my own example. I thought I was a Christian for a long time and then realized I really wasn’t. I would never question anyone’s salvation. But you will know other Christians by their fruit, those being the characteristics of Christ that you see in their lives.

    I wonder – are you questioning your own faith or just curious?

    I have questioned my faith in the past. However, this is a little more personal for me as my brother I think is on the fence. He has always been skeptical and so I am trying to understand many of your experiences and ideas in order to help him.

  • 68. orDover  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    rfogue wrote:

    “I think of it this way. God chose to give us freedom of choice. That freedom allows us to choose to reject Him and to abuse and reject other people too. For God to cease to allow evil would be to take away our freedom. Why would you create beings and then dictate to them that they love and obey you? God didn’t do that. He gives us a choice.”

    And what will you say if or, quite possibly, when science proves that free will is an illusion?

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php?p=273

    More and more studies are coming out that make it seem like we don’t have free will at all. Or at least, free will isn’t what we think it to be, i.e. our decisions are made unconsciously, and the “we” that we consider to be our conscious selves has nothing to do with it.

  • 69. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Interesting…what about Calvinism?
    :)

  • 70. Obi  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    rfogue –

    Do you believe that we can sin in heaven?

  • 71. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    No, because the goal is to become like Christ which is never achieved on earth. (Christ being the model of perfection and the fulfillment of the Jewish law) We become perfect in heaven.

  • 72. rfogue  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Quester-

    I’m curious- you’ve been part of this blog for a while, did anything you read surprise you?

    In response to your question: I am continually surprised by what I read and often saddened. I think I am surprised most by the ones like yourself, who have to some degree experienced God and through a long process and many other circumstances come to change their minds about His existence. I don’t completely understand that but it saddens me greatly. I will be honest and say a lot of what I read haunts me. It also bothered me as I read archived blogs and posts how I as a Christian was perceived but it also forced me to look at how Christians see others. Sometimes I too am surprised by how flippant some are when they refer to God; I suppose I would be the same if I thought He didn’t exist.

  • 73. marc  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    i believed i was in the deivls bible.i thought i was god and the devil.has that happened to anyone?

  • 74. Obi  |  June 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    rfogue –

    So you don’t believe that we can sin in heaven. But then wouldn’t that be taking away the free will that supposedly causes all of the pain and suffering in the world, but that you say is necessary for us not to be automatons in our relationship with God? If we can’t sin in heaven, our free will is gone.

  • 75. HeIsSailing  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Rachel,
    I read this short article, but have not read through the long string of comments – so if I say something repeated 100 times, please forgive me.

    But on the whole, you got it right – and thank you for taking the time to try and understand where we as de-converts are coming from, and for not quickly casting judgement upon us. I appreciate your effort.

    I have a Christian friend of mine – really about the only one left from my old church. She is the only one who knows of my active apostacy who accepts me for who I am, and does not treat me like evil incarnate (yes, some of my old church buddies actively shun my wife and me). I really, really appreciate a Christian who is not quick to judge.

    With that said, let’s see what you got right and not quite so right:

    The Bible, for most, is not authoritative in any way, but instead full of contradictions and fantastic stories.

    Correct. The true nature of the Bible was not the primary reason I left Christianity (after all, my wife is catholic and considers the Bible to be more of a good luck charm than something to be actually read), but reading it – all of it – was sort of the final nail in the coffin.

    No one seemed to have a problem with Jesus (I can only think of one post where that was an exception).

    I cannot remember, but was that me? As I think I said, once you are not afraid of critiquing Jesus’ words as blasphemous acts, he becomes a very flawed individual. I took several pages of notes with this in mind on my last reading of the New Testament. He said and did some mighty powerful things, but he had his dark side as well.

    The hypocrisy of the church turns some of you off, the feeling of being lied to for others.

    I am convinced that there are apologists and Bible teachers who are knowingly deceitful – mostly regarding Bible teaching.

    One of the most heart-wrenching statements I read was that you prayed for God to help your unbelief and He didn’t answer. Some of you feel like the foundation of your former faith only stood on the slippery slope of personal experience and not on fact.

    Rachel, you nailed it here. As I felt my faith in Christianity wane, I did not feel like God was leaving me – no, I felt like God, or my current perception of God was never there to begin with. It was very painful. Like it or not, for better or worse, it ultimately changed my outlook on life. I am more aware of my mortality. I know I will not be with my wife after I die. It is bracing and not pleasant, but it is reality, and something that I have to learn to accept. At the same time, I am relieved to know that the vast bulk of humanity will not suffer in Hell. I am relieved by the fact that the 80,000+ who died in last month’s earthquake in China were not snuffed out by the whim of the almighty. I do not have to wonder why God did not save the 500+ who drowned in the overturned ferry in last week’s typhoon in Philippines. I realize now that the world works exactly as I would expect if there were not a loving omnipotent Being watching out for us. Believe it or not, I am at peace with that.

    Am I hearing you correctly? I hope I am. Please let me know if I missed something.

    You did miss something. From your last comment (#66):

    God chose to give us freedom of choice. That freedom allows us to choose to reject Him and to abuse and reject other people too.

    As a Christian, I used to marvel at apostates who *willingly* rejected the truth of Jesus, and just went their own way as if they were their own gods. How could somebody be so arrogant as to stand before God, to contemplate the sacrifice and suffering that Jesus went through on our behalf, and just reject it? No wonder God is offended – we rejected his greatest gift of all – the precious justifying blood of his Son.

    Now that I myself have left Christianity, I get it. Rachel, we are not rejecting anything, and if there is one minunderstanding that Christians have of non-Christians (especially apostates and atheists) it is this: we are not rejecting a God who we know is there but are willfully rejecting due to our own pride and sin. I don’t know if there is a god or not, there might be one, but that says nothing about a salvific plan that this god put to humanity to ‘believe in’ to save themselves. I truly don’t think salvation in Jesus Christ exists, therefore there is nothing to reject. It was never there to reject in the first place. And if God holds me responsible for not believing in Him at the Great White Throne judgement, well… sorry, I just cannot help that. I cannot choose what to believe and what not to believe. I cannot choose to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob any more than you can will myself to choose to believe in Allah.

    What do you think it means to experience God, if He exists?

    I truly do not know. It depends on who or what God is, I guess. Even the God of the Bible has many different personalities depending on what passage you are reading…. All I can say is, that I prayed to God, whoever he is, numerous times. I tell him that if he wants me to believe in his existance, he knows how to do it. I still pray that sometimes. I really do. That is all I can say.

    Why is personal experience or personal testimony not enough?

    The Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the apostles three years with Jesus, Acts is an eyewitness account of the birth of the church, etc.

    I am convinced they are not. Some non-Christians who have read the New Testment place more authority on these books than others. I think they are mainly a collection of pious fantasies. I could tell you why I think so, but this reply is getting rather lengthy.

    Here’s my definition of what I mean by experiencing God: a type of life-altering daily process in which you are changed drastically from thinking, feeling, and being one way to thinking, feeling, and being radically another way.

    I might have to come out of blogging retirement. Seriously, because I have several articles I could write on how Jesus “radically changed my life” (as Christians are fond of saying). That is no joke – when I did become a Christian, that is, dedicated my life to Jesus Christ as a willing adult, my life did change.

    The question is, what changed it? God? Jesus? or something else?

    After all, I changed (for the better I hope) just as much as when I got married as when I accepted Jesus. And I suspect it will happen again when I have children. Nothing miraculous about it. My priorities just changed when something I care about affects my life – be it my wife, my children, or my ‘beliefs’.

    Rachel, please answer these questions: Can some Christians come away from conversion, or as you would say, an experience with God, without much of a changed life? Also, is it possible for non-Christians, even atheists, to have something occur in their lives that will drastically change them for the better?

    Why did you decide to follow Christ (to become a Christian) in the first place?

    You are asking for my testimony? A very very long story, believe it or not – I am one of those characters who did not have a single conversion “experience”. But I did answer many calls to the alter, both in public service and in private worship, not so much as “rededicating my life to Jesus” (again, as Christians are fond of saying) but as re-affirming my commitment to him. But here is the short version: I was raised in Northern New Mexico in a sort of Pentacostal cultish religious environment. We had meetings oh every other evening or so, full of all sorts of whooping, dancing and hollering – of course us kids loved that stuff. We were always expecting the end of the world just around the corner – which was kind of scary. I first willingly answered an altercall at about 15 years of age. We had moved to the Ozarks by this time, where my family’s hippie Jesus freak nature clashed with the truly conservative beliefs of the Ozark Baptists.

    oh boy… I could write several articles on this stuff already.

    Anyway, I fell away from Christianty after entering the Air Force, as young men of that age tend to be a bit rebellious. But I felt the ‘conviction of the Holy Spirit’ in a huge way about age 27. This was the one time I rededicated my life to Christianity, and I plunged headlong into it. I considered myself born again as a youngster, but at 27 – I really felt the dunamis – the life changing force that a real experience with God gives. I prayed constantly, and asked for strength and wisdom to be a witness for Jesus. And I did street witness – especially at busstops. I volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse and travelled to disaster areas (on my own dime) to help ease the burdens of flood and hurricane victims, and spread the Gospel of Jesus. One of the most truly life-changing events occured when I was a volunteer in Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 as I witnessed for Jesus and fed the ravaged in a slum for Haitian refugees. I mean it was life-changing in both a good and a bad way – an experience I will never forget. I led people to Salvation through Jesus several times out on the streets – once at terrible personal cost (and counted for the Glory of God). I picked up hitchikers and invited them into my apartment where I would give them a couch to sleep on, feed them and share the Gospel. etc etc etc

    I think many apostate Christians do not talk about their conversions to Christianity, or the deeds performed because, like any person of reasonable humility, we do not like to talk about ourselves in that way. It is uncomfortable to ‘toot one’s own horn’. But believe me, I truly felt the power of Christ working through me. My doubts were there, as they are with any honest Christian – but I definitely had faith in my relationship with Christ – no doubt about that.

    Well, my Faith story evolved from there. I went to university to study math and physics, where I struggled with how to reconcile my Faith with what I saw as reliable Science. My young earth creation stance did not last long in this environment. I did not witness as fervently. But I was still a Christian.

    Then I met the woman I would eventually marry. She was catholic, and though I loved her, I gently and tactfully tried to show her the error of her ways. I admit – shamfully – I strove to convert her. We started having Bible studies and prayer groups in our house., and began going on mission trips to Juarez. It was not long after that that my Faith in Jesus unraveled.

    Well, you asked a lot more questions for discussion, but it is getting a bit late, and I will have to pick up the rest another time. Sorry for the long reply – but you asked and I guess momentum just sort of takes over once I start typing. And even as a contributor here, I never talked much about my life as a Christian. It was sort of good to re-live a bit of that in my memories.

  • 76. Quester  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Rachel,

    In order to discuss other religions we must first agree that there is absolute truth. If we assume that absolute truth exists, then logically it is possible to assume that there is one truth, meaning one way to God, one revelation to humanity of His character, ways, and interaction with His creation.

    Wow, you made some serious jumps there! Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that both absolute truth and God both exist. Neither of these premises rely on there being one way to God, or one revelation of God. After all, as a Christian, do you not believe that God reveals God’s self to us in creation, holy scripture, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? There’s three revelations already, without stepping outside of a Christian viewpoint.

    I believe that Christianity is absolutely true; Jesus is who He claimed to be, God did inspire men to write the Bible and then inspired the same men who decided what was included in the canon.

    What do you do with other definitions of Christianity and the frequent vagueness in Jesus’ claims about his own identity? How do you define “inspired” in this situation? What is the difference between the Bible and any other sacrament?

    We’ll start there, because I think that’s the real argument; how do you know that Christianity is the right choice?

    I’ll bite. How? (and which understanding of Christianity will we be using?)

    The only one who changes hearts and minds is God

    As a Christian, I wondered about this:

    - Changing hearts is the role of the Holy Spirit and only the Spirit can convert people.
    - Attempting to usurp the Spirit’s role is blasphemy against the Spirit.
    - The only sin described in the Bible as unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
    - Therefore, attempting to convert others to Christianity is an unforgivable sin.

    This thought caused me a bit of trouble as a Christian.

    But then again, I believe God is inherently good and can only act according to His character which is revealed through His word, the Bible.

    In what way do you consider God’s character, as revealed in the Bible, to be in any way “good”?

  • 77. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:22 am

    I have questioned my faith in the past. However, this is a little more personal for me as my brother I think is on the fence. He has always been skeptical and so I am trying to understand many of your experiences and ideas in order to help him.

    I think my brother is starting to come to that place. One of the bigger reasons I have yet to tell my family of my de-conversion is that I fear it will be the catalyst for his own de-conversion. This in itself is not a bad thing, but it would be doubly-devastating for my parents if both my brother and I leave the faith. On top of that, I can easily see my parents blaming me for his de-conversion, and it’s going to be bad enough dealing with their reaction to my de-conversion in itself.

  • 78. Anne  |  June 27, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Anyone who feels “comforted” by god in the midst of the world’s suffering a) is not personally suffering all that much and b) does not have anything approaching a true understanding of the incredible horrible unspeakable torments that millions endure on a daily basis.

    A child dies of starvation EVERY FIVE SECONDS. Innocent children who are born into terrible grinding poverty and live short miserable lives until they finally die.

    If your god is making you feel better about that, shame on both of you.

  • 79. Gary  |  June 27, 2008 at 3:43 am

    I have just started to read the comments and they are making me weary with the same-old responses that I even used to make as a Christian. Rather than tire myself by reading and responding to them, I will simply address the issue of experiencing God.

    I had a conversation with a Christian the other day and we reached an impasse much like is reached on this blog. Namely, the Christian claims authentic revelation from God to the exclusion of the non-Christian. My claim to experience God is considered to be false and from the devil. And this is all based upon ancient writings that cannot be verified, rather trusted through subjective experience.

    I see the issue as one of perspective. You can either choose to be narrow-minded, and if you do, that is fine, so long as you don’t inflict harm through any of your beliefs. Or, you can choose to be open-minded, where the possibility is to believe or not believe. Either perspective can be harmful, depending upon the individual. However, I would suggest that narrow-mindedness is more a force for evil than good in the world.

  • 80. OneSmallStep  |  June 27, 2008 at 5:50 am

    For God to cease to allow evil would be to take away our freedom. Why would you create beings and then dictate to them that they love and obey you? God didn’t do that. He gives us a choice

    So there’s no limit to this freedom? Because while we may be given the freedom of choice, what about those who have something stolen from them? Are beaten? Are raped, or countries who are invaded? They don’t have freedoms, because none of them choose that.

    That’s a rather large flaw I see in the idea of free will, because not even we go that far. We recognize that some will abuse the freedom of others, which is why if we see that happening, we’re suppose to do something to stop it. Such as get the police involved.

    So if you’re attacked, is your freedom really respected? Or is the attacker’s freedom respected more?

  • 81. edwinhere  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Consider all the circumstances parents take their children take immunization shots. I remember vividly being one of those children. I did not understand the purpose of the shots. I only knew that they hurt. Since I was too young to understand what was happening my mother did the best of what was necessary to comfort me, just as any decent parent would. Now if God exists he is not just any decent parent, he is the standard of decency itself. Thus when we go through our trials and tribulations which are minor compared to a martyr’s it is commonly thought that God has a plan that we don’t understand. But in these situation wouldn’t we expect God to comfort us just like a loving parent would?

    Let me be clear. I do not mean to imply that God cannot allow some pain and suffering in the world, if he exists, since it would be possible for an all loving God to allow pain that we all can learn from, like that of the pain after touching a hot stove, or maybe even pain that leads to some greater good, like that felt after a root canal. In these cases pain is justifiable, instead, my claim is that it is impossible for a morally perfect God to allow unjustifiable suffering, like pain that teaches nothing and in which there is no greater good.

    Even if a few sinners were killed by Katrina or the tsunami, considering all the otherwise innocent people who died also, that will be like God sentencing a man to death by firing squad, then placing him in the middle of a group of innocent children and shooting him with a shot gun from 20 feet away. Don’t you think God will have the ability to punish sin with a little more precision?

    If God exists and wants his existence to be known, it is strange that the evidence for existence of God isn’t stronger. Think about it. Are there much more ways God could have made the evidence for his existence obvious? As Sam Harris observes, God could have included in the Bible a flawless discourse in mathematics so advanced, that it will still be useful today. It would be hard to deny the divine inspiration behind such old scripture. And given all the space devoted in the Bible devoted to who begat who and all the erotica, there would be certainly room for it.

    Read more here: http://meinwords.wordpress.com/arguments-against-the-existence-of-god/

  • 82. Anonymous  |  June 27, 2008 at 9:49 am

    HeIsSailing-

    Rachel, please answer these questions: Can some Christians come away from conversion, or as you would say, an experience with God, without much of a changed life? Also, is it possible for non-Christians, even atheists, to have something occur in their lives that will drastically change them for the better?

    To answer the first question I would say no. With a true conversion experience it would be impossible to not be changed. If there is no identifiable difference in how a person thinks and acts then there was no true conversion experience. Like I said before, true Christians have characteristics (fruit) that make them different from other people.

    I would say yes to the second question. It is true that willpower can do a lot of things. But once again, any one can do good works for other people and lead a moral life. You don’t have to be a Christian to do that. I”m talking about not desiring the same things anymore, about having characteristics in your life that it is not humanly possible to exhibit. I think unconditional love or forgiveness in the sense that the Bible speaks of is humanly impossible. To exhibit those it takes divine intervention.

    Thanks for sharing your testimony with me.

  • 83. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Sorry that was me above.

  • 84. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Snuggly Buffalo-
    I would hope that your family would understand but they may not.
    You have to understand that when they discover it, (if you ever decide to tell them) it will devastate and break their hearts only because they believe there are ramifications for your decision.
    That’s where I am with my brother. I love him dearly and therefore I care greatly about what I consider to be an eternal matter.

    Anne-
    The comfort of which I spoke was the day my house burned to the ground and my family and I lost everything.

  • 85. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:02 am

    One Small Step-
    Freedom of choice leads to a fallen world, which means that there is pain, suffering, and hurt in it. That’s all I mean. People hurt each other because they have the freedom to do so. Does that mean there are not still consequences for that? Of course not. Thank fully we do have police and laws and governent to enforce our freedoms.

  • 86. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Quester-
    I will get back to you later this afternoon when I have more time. :)

  • 87. DagoodS  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:05 am

    OneSmallStep,

    Have you read The Tale of the Twelve Officers? A poignant analogy to what you are saying.

  • 88. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

    rfogue–

    You never answered my previous question…

  • 89. orDover  |  June 27, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Interesting…what about Calvinism?

    You, and the majority of Protestant Christians, are not Calvinists. I was asking you specifically. Would you change your mind and adopt Calvinism? But then how would you rationalize god “allowing” evil? If there is no free will then he just condemns people to hell willy-nilly, without giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

    Essentially, every defense you’ve made for the existence of a loving god revolves around the idea of humans having free will, despite the fact that many biologists, neurologists, and philosophers believe that free will is an illusion based on empirical evidence.

    I think that if the scientific consensus becomes “No, you don’t have free will, sorry” that yours and most Protestant Christians’ main and most cited explanations for a god within a flawed world will completely fall apart. How could you rectify the doctrine of Original Sin? If there is no free will, then Jesus didn’t even really make a sacrifice, he just did what god programmed him to do.

    I think I’m bringing up a very valid argument and that it isn’t fair to write it off with “what about Calvinism?”

  • 90. LeoPardus  |  June 27, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Joe S:

    You want it to be untrue so badly

    Permit to beg you to believe that the forgoing statement is untrue. There’s a post in the archives called “A confession: I want to believe” (by HIS I think). It expresses my feelings fairly well. I do want there to be a God behind it all, a divine purpose, etc. Some de-cons seem to move beyond this desire. I have not done so. Please believe me Joe. I really don’t want it to be untrue. I cannot tell you how happy I would be to have God show up and give me a Damascus Road experience or some such. (You can now choose not to believe me on this. I can only tell you again that I do feel this way.)
    BUT
    I cannot believe. Not anymore. The silence, the non-responsiveness, the lack of anything tangible is simply overwhelming. And frankly apologetics does more harm than good. The incessant apologies for a God who is not there drives me to further assurance that I am right now, and was wrong for 25 years.

    You want utterly fantastic miracles as evidence. You want to see Lazarus walking out of a grave, or a blind man seeing, etc.

    Yes and yes again. I want Biblical standards fulfilled for belief.

    You can bet that hardly anyone believed Paul when he said that a light shone around him and Jesus said “why are you persecuting me?”

    Perhaps, but then he could say to some blind guy, “Receive your sight.” and it would happen. Then you think maybe folks were a little more inclined to believe his Damascus Road story?

    But the fact that he once was a Pharisee raging against the church, and then had become a born-again believing Christian was more of a miracle than anything! It says in Acts that many were amazed that He who had once persecuted the church now actually taught the same things!!

    Sure. They were also amazed that he could heal people and cast out demons.

    Joe, what you can’t seem to grasp is that we don’t credit lives changed as evidence of a supernatural God. There are just too many ‘changed lives’ stories out there. People’s lives change due to substance abuse programs, non-Christian religions, New Year’s resolutions, accidents, deaths or near deaths, getting the crap beat out of them, and so on. If you want people to believe in a supernatural deity, you must come up with more than simply natural evidence. Otherwise we come perforce to the conclusion that it’s all just wishful thinking. [Hence the root of all the BOT, IPU, FSM references.]

    But Paul never preached about miracles—-he preached over and over about his “experience” on the road to Damascus, and how his life had been utterly changed forever.

    Joe, for crying out loud, read your Bible. You have no idea how dumb it looks for you to tell US what this Bible says, only have us correct your ignorance about your own, chosen holy book.

    Romans 15:19, “by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

    For more go to biblegateway.com and search the Pauline epistles for the word “miracle”. Paul preached about them A LOT. Meanwhile I found him talking of his experience about 3 times. Only one of them was more than a sentence.

    When Jesus cast the demon out of the man in the Gadarenes some may have believed—but you can bet that many more believed simply by looking at this man who used to cut himself with stones and cry out, in his right mind, and saying that Jesus had CHANGED him forever.

    Jesus was still right there when people came and saw the ex-demoniac. As long as you’re speculating wildly about things not in the scripture, I can similarly speculate that once Jesus left, no one believed the ex-demoniac at all, or may he could do miracles himself after that, or maybe he got repossessed, or maybe the IPU touched him with her horn….

    Changed lives is the message in the Gospel—over and over again.

    Reread my comment earlier about your need to read you holy book. You seem to have a lot of trouble separating what the Bible actually says from the twaddle you hear from pulpits.

    The Gospels are chock full of miracles. Jesus even said, “believe because of the miracles”. Changed lives are not offered as a reason to believe in the Gospels.

    If you are looking for fantastic miracles before you will believe you may wait a long time.

    True words. I’ll be waiting my whole life. BUT if the Bible were true, I wouldn’t wait. Paul didn’t wait that long. Thomas didn’t. Peter didn’t. Nor did any of the early apostles. Nor did many lepers, lame, blind, deaf, etc. I’m just going by what the Bible says. ….. Rather than by what you say.

    But there are miracles around you all the time—-lives that have been changed.

    You just can’t get it can you? Common, everyday occurrences are not miracles. Try a dictionary.

  • 91. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 11:01 am

    rfogue –

    Here’s the question, for easy reference.

    So you don’t believe that we can sin in heaven. But then wouldn’t that be taking away the free will that supposedly causes all of the pain and suffering in the world, but that you say is necessary for us not to be automatons in our relationship with God? If we can’t sin in heaven, our free will is gone.

  • 92. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Leo—

    Thanks for taking the time to explain yourself. I am very glad you said that you really do want to believe—and if you said this before, forgive me, I confuse who’s saying what in here a lot.

    You said:
    For more go to biblegateway.com and search the Pauline epistles for the word “miracle”. Paul preached about them A LOT.

    I guess I didn’t explain myself very clearly (it’s very easy to mistake what one is actually saying on a blog)—I didn’t mean that Paul never preached about miracles–what I meant was his main EMPHASIS when giving his testimony before Felix or Festus or Agrippa was to talk of his conversion experience. Paul was not prone to say “I was given the ability to do miracles” as his main thrust—–he would talk about what happened to him on the road to Damascus, and how his life was changed. That is what I was driving at. Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear.

    I know I cannot convince you Leo– but miracles even if seen sometimes can mean nothing. Take Thomas for example. For three years he saw Jesus perform miracle after miracle–amazing miracles. Yet, when those he was closest to said Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to them he said “I will not believe unless I see the nailprints in his hands”.
    This in itself should tell you that even if somone sees a miracle, it still won’t be proof enough.

    It is interesting though that Jesus said to Thomas in the Gospel of John “He who has seen me has seen the father”–and when Jesus appeared to Thomas to “prove to him” he had risen from the dead, and Thomas saw the nailprints, he remembered Jesus’ words and said “My Lord AND my God”.
    Jesus’ words had really had a far greater effect on Thomas than any of his miracles had.

    Again though, when one is in a “I have to see it to believe it” mode, they are more prone to come up with why something cannot be real, rather than accepting the testimony of those who HAVE seen—-just like Thomas.

  • 93. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Leo—

    Just a side note also— when Jesus did the miracle of feeding the 5 thousand, they all saw the miracle he did. Afterwards many followed him, but not because it had changed their lives—they actually wanted more bread, or to “get” other stuff from him when he did other miracles. Many who had seen the miracles turned back and “walked with him no more” (see John 6).

    Simon the Sorcerer saw miracles and “believed”, yet later offers Peter money so that he too could perform the same miracles. The miracles he had seen did not change his life–he wanted to be able to do the same miracles. His “belief” was false and Peter says his heart is evil.

    Miracles are great—not denying that. But they don’t necessarily “prove” anything, or necessarily change lives either. Normally when the Gospel is preached, physical miracles don’t happen, instead people give their “testimonies” as Paul did before Agrippa, as the testimony of a changed life is a very powerful thing.

    I understand though that we can just go in circles on this, because you will say Muslims have changed lives too, etc.–
    so it will basically be a circular argument—but just wanted to bring up the point about many who saw miracles, and it really had no effect.

  • 94. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Leo–

    Reread my comment earlier about your need to read you holy book. You seem to have a lot of trouble separating what the Bible actually says from the twaddle you hear from pulpits.

    The Gospels are chock full of miracles.

    Man—you have to be so exact and precise in what you say on this board or you get torn apart. I’ve read the Gospels–I know it is chock full of miracles. And I know also that Paul spoke of miracles. What I said is that when he was preaching the Gospel in front of Kings (Agrippa for example) he did not speak of miracles he could perform, or miracles in general—-he spoke of his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, and who he used to be, and whom he had now become. I am repeating a bit of what I said above, but a posted response was based solely on taking something I said completely out of context. It’s kind of frustrating. :>)

    –Joe

  • 95. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Leo—

    I said above:
    But Paul never preached about miracles—-he preached over and over about his “experience” on the road to Damascus, and how his life had been utterly changed forever.

    My apologies—I went back and read my post above and I did use the word “never”—I really did not mean it that way. I meant to say that Paul never spoke about his ability to do miracles when in front of kings or others he was giving his testimony to. So I take back what I said about my statement being taken out of context. I made an error in my post—I guess I really need to re-read what I am about to post before I actually submit it. Sorry about that.

    –Joe

  • 96. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 27, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Joe, re-read what Leo said. He made it pretty clear that not only is the Bible full of miracles, and that Paul used them as evidence for Christ, but also that Paul’s experience and changed life was in fact not his main argument for his case (only being used about 3 times, the rest of the time using miracles and signs).

    Joe:

    But Paul never preached about miracles….

    Joe, after Leo mentions Paul preached about miracles quite often:

    I know it is chock full of miracles.

    We’re not taking what you said out of context, you don’t seem to remember your own words.

    rfogue:
    I would hope my parents would be understanding when I tell them. And perhaps they’ll surprise me. But I really rather expect that my mom at least will be quite angry with me. She’s like that. When I got in a car accident as a teenager, there was almost no concern for whether I “was alright,” she just jumped straight into an angry tirade. She might, on some level, be upset for the consequences she sees me choosing (in fact, I’m fairly certain this will be a part of it), but I won’t be surprised at all if she reacts by effectively cutting me off from the family.

    If my de-conversion leads my brother to also de-convert, I wouldn’t be surprised if she completely disowns me.

  • 97. Cthulhu  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    I appreciate your quandary – it freaked my Mom out completely. My wife and children know my position and respect it, but my
    Mom will hardly speak to me. It is difficult, but I have to be honest about these things – I can do no less and be true to myself and set an example for my children. If you do ‘come out’ I wish you the best and hope your family understands.

    Cheers…

  • 98. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Obi-

    I disagree. Our free will is only in effect on earth. We can’t apply the same concept to heaven in that we will become what we were originally created to be, perfect and complete.

  • 99. Cthulhu  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    rfogue,

    I disagree. Our free will is only in effect on earth. We can’t apply the same concept to heaven in that we will become what we were originally created to be, perfect and complete.

    I understand where you get the ‘perfect and complete’ from the Bible – but where do you read that you would lose your free will? So every Christian in heaven will become an automaton?

  • 100. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    orDover-

    I realize you have a very valid argument. I’m sorry for making it sound trite. I actually don’t like Calvinism at all. The article you referred me to is quite interesting. However, it in itself cautions that these are not complete results and cannot yet be taken at face value. Also the test that was being done involved a mundane task and not a complex intellectual discussion. That is not to mean that they will not keep testing or that it does not indeed cast doubt on the concept of free will. However we can’t just assume that any result because it’s scientific is valid.

    I”m not sure what I would say if it were to become fact. I am not smart enough to give you a reasonable answer.

  • 101. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Cthulhu-

    Sin corrupts humans; it ruins them. The world was without sin in the beginning because they were pure in their innocence and were created whole. There will be no sin in heaven which means we will no longer long to be God like what led us to this condition in the first place. That is what will make us whole and complete. We will have free will without sin. There’s a big difference there. Free will without sin means we will act in accordance with God’s laws and character and we will be perfect, being made in His image.

  • 102. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    rfogue –

    So you believe that we won’t have free will in heaven? We’ll simply be God-worshiping robots? Isn’t that what Christianity says God does not want?

  • 103. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    rfogue –

    Wait, so you’re saying that we can have free will without sin? Then why didn’t God design the world like that in the first place? If you say that pain and suffering are the result of the sin that came from the free will and choice God gave us, yet you say we can have free will without sin, again, why was it not that way in the first place?

  • 104. rfogue  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    He did create it that way in the beginning. Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan into disobeying God in order to become “like God”. Their disobedience, which was still a choice, and Satan’s deception brought on God’s curse. This brought sin into the world and created the fallen state in which we now live.

    In heaven, Satan will be eternally punished and bound and we will be restored to what we were originally created to be.

  • 105. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    (1) The snake in the Garden of Eden is never referred to as Satan — no, not once. It is simply referred to as the must “subtle” creature in the Garden, meaning that God created it that way, as a deceiver. In essence, he set Adam and Eve up. Why do you think he did this?

    (2) Why did God punish Adam and Eve for committing an evil act when the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave them that knowledge in the first place? They could not have known how to distinguish between the two in the first place. Even though he told them not to eat of the fruit, they still had absolutely no knowledge upon which to base that decision. It’s like sentencing an infant to death for a wrongdoing.

    (3) If God’s plan all along was to eternally bind Satan in Hell, why didn’t he do that immediately after his rebellion? It was completely within his power, yet for some reason he chose to allow Satan to bring unimaginable pain and suffering upon his creations, as well as lead some away into eternal torment. Why?

    (4) Why didn’t God only punish Adam and Eve? If they were the only ones to sin (even though they had no idea what they were doing), why did he punish all of the creatures in paradise, all of their descendants, create the natural disasters that plague Earth, punish the entire human species, and essentially introduce chaos into the Universe to serve as their punishment?

  • 106. DagoodS  |  June 27, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Joe Sperling,

    LeoPardus is right, if you are going to cite your Bible, be aware of your audience. Many of us know it better than you do. Either learn it as well as we do, OR be willing to be taught. But continual displays of lack of knowledge do not help your case.

    The only record we have of Paul’s conversion is in Galatians 1. Paul does speak of his personal commitment to the cause in 2 Cor. 11. However, the record of Acts as to what Paul says to Agrippa and Festus is not history.

    Let me repeat that: Acts of the Apostles is not history. It was not written as history, but rather as a conventional polemic to connect the first-generation Christianity to the third-generation Christianity by means of the Superhero of second-generation Christianity—Paul. Are you aware it was Greek convention to display a particular premise or ideology of the author through the use of speeches of the proponents within the text?

    Galatians 1 conflicts with the time-table of Acts. In fact, many items within Galatians 1 conflict with what was recorded in Acts. (When did Paul visit Damascus? When did Paul visit Jerusalem? Was it the Jews or the Authorities who sought Paul in Damascus? What authority did the High Priest have in Damascus? If Paul was persecuting the Jews in Jerusalem, how come none of the Jews knew what he looked like?)

    Every time you use Paul’s speeches in Acts as “proof” of what Paul did, my teeth grit. Use Paul himself. Galatians 1 and 2 Cor. 11. While your argument is not quite as strong, we can still find some support for Paul recounting his testimony.

  • 107. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Snuggly—

    Actually, I caught my own error and aplogized before you posted. I used the word “never” and worded things completely differently than I had intended. In order to present a good argument one has to present his case in a very definite and precise way most times—I’m not too good at that it appears.

    It’s funny—–I actually started to leave the board a little ways back and really should have. I am seeing more and more that my forte’ is definitely not apologetics :>) It seems I get caught up in trying to do the impossible—”proving that God exists”. As others have said you can use the natural to try to prove the supernatural.

    My gift and calling has always been far more in the arena of comforting Christians, and presenting the Gospel to the lost, than in trying to persuade those who once believed that they need to believe again. I mean, if the seed that was already planted is not taking root, go to new ground, or to plants that have taken root and maybe need a bit more watering, right?

    Boy, I went on a post frenzy here! :>) :>) You know what the definition of insanity is? Someone who does the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result. I’ve been posting here for a couple of weeks now, saying the same things, and expecting a different result. LOL!!! I always have been a bit crazy. This place is like a circular racetrack, but there’s no checkered flag!

    Just one thing before I go (I’m really leaving this time LOL), I believe the reason that some apostasize is this:

    In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,
    so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:7)

    The “genuineness of faith” is what is at stake. If the trial of dullness, dryness, prayers without apparent answers, various trials and tempatations through doubts, etc. is experienced, and faith STILL REMAINS, it is genuine, and it is more precious than gold. Perserverance is the sign of a true Christian, and by perserverance I don’t mean that a person can’t fall, or doubt, or complain—I mean the faith will ENDURE and the person will never say they no longer believe(they can’t say that in finality if they have genuine faith).

    But if one is faced by trials of dryness, deadness, doubts, etc. and they turn back for good, it shows genuine faith never really existed (no matter how one tries to argue against that, it truly is the case). “But I really DID believe!!” someone says—but the Bible says if you in finality say you don’t believe any more then you are lacking the perserverance a true Christian would have. I’m sorry—but that is what it teaches. Hebrews 6:4-10 teaches this. There are those who “believe for a while” and “fall away”(Heb.6:4-8). But in Hebrews 6:9 it says “But we are persunaded of better things for you brethren, and THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION”. How does he make the distinction? Because those in 6:4-8 did not persevere and continue as those in v. 9 did—the ones in v. 9 show the fruits of faith and salvation, while those before show their true colors by abandoning the faith.

    Though many have apostasized on this board, I believe that some have great hope. Jude says, when speaking of apostates, “of some, make a difference”. I believe someone like Leo has great hope—-he can be sarcastic, but has admitted that at heart he really does WANT to believe, if only a sign could prove to him God exists. To me, this shows God is still there for him–”for thou Lord has not forsaken them that seek thee”—any spark, or desire to seek and really know whether God really exists, and a hope in that direction shows the Holy Spirit is still at work. With some others, well…. though I know Leo does not any of my rhetoric I’m sure.

    I really pray that those who want it will find the faith you have been looking for! I’ll pray for all of you. –Joe

  • 108. DagoodS  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    rfogue,

    If you believe in the God of Christianity—it violates free will all the time. To claim it cannot intervene because of some violation of “free will” in light of the Bible doesn’t hold water.

    The Flood. God didn’t let humans continue to make the “free will” choice of doing what they want—he committed genocide and eugenics in order to restrain free will. Gen. 6:7

    The Tower of Babel. Worst violation of free will. Ever. Humans freely chose to work together on a common effort. According to Christianity, God didn’t like it, and literally changed their brains so they could not understand each other. Where is the “free will” in that? Gen. 11:4

    Pharaoh. Probably the best example. First God bludgeons ol’ Pharaoh to the point that Pharaoh agrees with God—he was going to let God’s people go. God, exactly as he foretold he would (Ex. 4:21) imposes on Pharaoh’s free will to force Pharaoh to NOT do what Pharaoh wanted to do. Ex. 9:12; 10:1. 10:20; 10:27, 11:10 Why did your God do this? To show the Egyptians how wonderful God is! Ex. 7:3.

    And how does God show how powerful he is? By killing Egyptians!

    Finally even Pharaoh has had enough, and lets the people of Israel go. But your God wasn’t through. Nope—your God wanted more dead Egyptians. So what does your God do? He imposes against Pharaoh’s free will yet again, and makes Pharaoh go after the Israelites, even though Pharaoh doesn’t want to! Ex. 14:4, 8.

    How does the New Testament writer treat this violation of Pharaoh’s will? With a summary dismissal of “Ah, well. Sucks to be you.” Rom. 9:17-19.

    And then we get to the New Testament version of YHWH—Jesus. A kinder, gentler Jesus? Nope. Notice what happens in Mark 4:1-34. Jesus is speaking in parables that, both his disciples and the crowd hearing them do not understand. Jesus takes his disciples aside and explains the parable to them, so they understand. Focus on the fascinating words of 4:11-12. Jesus tells his disciples that they have been given the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to everyone else they get the message through parables. “so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’ “

    Do you follow that? According to the Christian tale, Jesus, being God, knows that if He bothered to explain the parables to the crowd, they would turn from their sin and be forgiven. Your Jesus is deliberately picking and choosing (using his God powers) what to say and when to say it. Knowing that if he said just the right words, or even a little bit more information, the crowd would have turned from their sin.

    Now, you may not hold to the literalness of these stories. Fine. (Albeit that raises problems in itself for another time.) Even under an analogy we are left with a God who is not only violating free will, but is deliberately failing to inform people and allowing them to make fully-informed decisions.

  • 109. Joe Sperling  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    last comment— post 106 meant to say “you CAN’T use natural means to prove the supernatural” not “can use”. typo.

    Bye!

  • 110. Obi  |  June 27, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Joe Sperling –

    Even though you may not even read this, I feel the need to respond simply because you might. I personally find it condescending and even somewhat insulting when Christians (and religious theists in general) such as yourself think that we’re “lost” and that we need prayer. Have you ever thought that it is you who is hopelessly lost and in need of help?

    I can’t speak for Leo, but I think you may have misunderstood him. Of course he says he wants to believe, but that isn’t because of “God still working in his heart”, it’s most likely because he realizes that as a human, you want to be able to believe that you’re special like most religions would have you believe — but he sees that it simply isn’t so, it’s just wishful thinking. However, like an old flame, there sometimes arises that yearning for the old that you have to learn to get over, and I’m sure Leo is doing a fine job of it (but again, I can’t really speak for him, this is just conjecture).

    Of course the Bible would be chock full of verses criticizing apostates and heaping guilt on their heads and a responsibility from surrounding community members to drag them back into the faith — it’s part of the viral nature of the religious meme. That’s how it survives. You quoting a scripture that we see as simply the work of superstitious ancient men (which undoubtedly, it is) has little to no effect mate, to be honest. Would you be affected or appreciate it if a Muslim pulled the same type of verses out of the Koran? I doubt it.

    G’day, mate.

  • 111. OneSmallStep  |  June 27, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    rfogue,

    I’m confused, because you originally stated that if God does not allow evil, then He is limiting our freedom, and that He gives us a choice. Now you are saying that the freedom of choice leads to a fallen world, and that people hurt each other because they are free to do so.

    But why can’t this be reversed, and we say that God does not in fact completely give us a choice? If we are attacked against our will, and we do not choose to be attacked, what then? How does that demonstrate love? It seems that allowing evil also takes away our freedoms, because then we are at the mercy of the choice of others.

    We don’t tell people that their freedom of choice means that they are free to hurt others. We put limits on their choice, to protect society as a whole. We put limits on that freedom. We have to, and we realize that’s the most just thing to do.

    So to give the impression that God loves us enough to give us freedom … is not something I really see in terms of free will. If I’m attacked, the free will of the attacker is “respected” more than mine.

  • 112. HeIsSailing  |  June 27, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Rachel says:

    true Christians have characteristics (fruit) that make them different from other people.

    I assume you are talking here about Galatians 5:22-23. This passage says that those lead by the Spirit exibhit “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

    Are you really telling me that it is humanly impossible for a non-Christian to exhibit these characteristics? To love, to have peace etc?

    Well, yes you are:

    I”m talking about not desiring the same things anymore, about having characteristics in your life that it is not humanly possible to exhibit.

    Rachel, let me take you seriously here. I want to examine what you are telling me here. Jesus is showing evidence of his power by the “miracle of changed lives” by creating desires and characteristics in the True Christian that no human can possibly have outside of the miraculous grace of a Loving God. Is this what you are saying?

    I guess so:

    I think unconditional love or forgiveness in the sense that the Bible speaks of is humanly impossible. To exhibit those it takes divine intervention.

    Let me assume this is in fact true. Does this mean that every True Christian exhibits the qualities of unconditional love and forgiveness? Unconditional to every human? 24/7? All the time?

    Are you taking the 1John 3:9 route, that those who have been born of God cannot sin? It kind of looks like you are.

    Or are you taking the sanctification route, where Christians progressively exhibit the nature of Christ through a gradual process of trials and sufferings (eg Romans 5:1-4)?

    I am just curious how a Heathen is supposed to tell the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, if even Christians are subject to the ‘sinful desires of the flesh’. I don’t understand Christians can exhibit ‘unconditional love and forgiveness that is humanly impossible’ with any greater moral virtue than the non-Christian – when even Christians admit that it is a process sanctification. Sanctification, it seems to me, is just learning from one’s mistakes, desiring and vowing to do better next time, and moving on. Christians just back it up by claiming God is empowering them. But unless you go the 1John route and say one never sins after being born of God, then I am afraid there really is no distinction between the moral Christian and moral non-Christian.

    This was a huge, I mean HUGE problem with me before my de-conversion. And this is coming from one who did feel change in my life after comitting my life to Christ. You read my testimony.

    I know many Christians in my work environment. Some are more committed than others, but I have to tell you, outside of some pious GodTalk, they act just like the Heathens I work with. I mean *exactly* like the Heathens. They do good works, and screw things up, just like everyone else. Where is this divine morality that is impossible apart from Christ that you speak of? What in the world are you talking about? Shall I dare be presumptuous and say they are not true Christians?

    Because I have to tell you, if this is an example of “love and forgiveness that is humanly impossible”, I for one am not impressed.

    Please explain this to me.

  • 113. HeIsSailing  |  June 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Joe Sperling:

    Just one thing before I go (I’m really leaving this time LOL),…

    Why do some people feel they must announce to the world that they are not going to reply anymore on a blogsite? Just curious.

  • 114. orDover  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Usually because they are seeking attention and want people to say, “Oh no, please don’t go!” etc.

    I was wondering just yesterday how long Joe Sperling would stay around I’ve notice on this blog that the Christians who come here to attempt to defend their faith and prove why others should adopt it tend to disappear after their fallacious logic is pointed out a few dozen times. That right there is a good illustration that religion cannot be defended using reason and rationality.

  • 115. Quester  |  June 27, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Joe,

    You know what the definition of insanity is? Someone who does the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.

    Perserverance is the sign of a true Christian, and by perserverance I don’t mean that a person can’t fall, or doubt, or complain—I mean the faith will ENDURE and the person will never say they no longer believe(they can’t say that in finality if they have genuine faith).

    Look at those to comments of yours again and think about them. At what point does perseverance without result become insanity?

  • 116. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 12:21 am

    DagoodS-

    I am by no means an expert. I know the Bible even says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God is holy; he cannot abide sin according to his character. As far as the flood goes, God destroyed the earth because He was sorry He had created man because of how sinful they had become; all except for Noah and his family. This is nothing new to you I am sure. I can’t remember what the motive was for the Tower of Babel; I think that they had decided to build a tower to reach God. Maybe arrogance? I’ll have to go back and read that story in Genesis. The example from Matthew I think actually supports the idea of free will, at least I have used it in an example to question Calvinism. The interesting thing about Jesus’ words there are that the people are capable of hearing the message and repenting but Jesus hides the meaning because it is not the proper time for them to understand. Jesus had a mission to complete and for not to understand was part of the completion of that mission. The point is they can and are able to make a decision apart from God’s intervention.

    In all of this the thing I come back to is that God is sovereign and good regardless of what I perceive because who am I to understand the ways of God? There are things that are beyond my comprehension. Why God allows people to choose sometimes and others intervenes to prevent them I don’t know.

    I’m not here to debate you. I can’t. You’ve heard all of the arguments that those who are much wiser than me have ever offered. I will provide answers as I see them but that is all I can do.

    You bring up many good points.

  • 117. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 12:42 am

    HeIsSailing-

    I hold to the sanctification route not the never sin again route. There should be a distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian. They should exhibit them all the time, but the sinful nature is still a part of every Christian. That is not taken away until we die and go to heaven or until Christ returns. So while there will be times that we do not exhibit these characteristics there will also be times they cannot be denied. I will use the example of forgiveness. True forgiveness as the Bible defines it, is not just the act of letting go of a hurt. It is also restoring a relationship. I for one think it is impossible to forgive in this way outside of the work of God. Anyone may be able to let go and put a hurt behind them but to completely forget that hurt, restore the relationship and continue as if it never happened is incredibly difficult if not impossible. Could you forgive the murderer of someone you love? So much so to restore a relationship with them and visit them in prison? To befriend them and care about them? Not likely apart from God’s grace. Now I also believe that God works all things for good so that no matter what happens to us or what we do in sin, although we face the consequences he can work things for good according to His purposes.

    I understand how this could be a big hang up. Christians are supposed to be different; the fact is most of them are not.
    Once again, I would never presume to question anyone’s salvation. NEVER. However, if there is no evidence of fruit in their life how can they possibly be what they claim? Keep in mind that Christ says not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. There will be many who say to me I didn’t I do good works in Your name, etc. and He will say I did not know you.

    That is a very haunting statement to me. Very disturbing.

    I’m kinda afraid of what you are going to say to me now.

    Have you ever heard the story of the missionary Jim Elliot and his wife Elisabeth Elliot?

  • 118. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Obi-
    Great points.

    I cannot answer your questions. I don’t know why God does what He does or why He seems to be so awful to some. I only know that He is God and I am not. I believe He is good. His ways are beyond my comprehension.

    I’m sure there are many who are wiser than me that could give you better answers. I cannot; I would rather not try and besides that I’m sure you’ve heard a blue million arguments. I don’t think I can add anything significant to them.

    I do appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

  • 119. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Obi- as they are are very important to me.

    (I meant to add that last part, sorry)

  • 120. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Quester-

    What do you do with other definitions of Christianity and the frequent vagueness in Jesus’ claims about his own identity? How do you define “inspired” in this situation? What is the difference between the Bible and any other sacrament?

    What do you mean by other definitions of Christianity? Are you talking about Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc.?

    I know that Christ often calls himself the Son of Man. But as far as I can tell he is pretty specific when he speaks to the disciples (Who do you say I am? Peter confesses you are the Christ), John the Baptist (John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one he is supposed to be looking for), the Sanhedrin, and Pilate and the other authorities.

    The Bible is the authority on the other sacraments, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion).

    We’ll start there, because I think that’s the real argument; how do you know that Christianity is the right choice?
    I’ll bite. How? (and which understanding of Christianity will we be using?)

    Okay I didn’t think anyone would really want an answer. Quester, I know you’ve heard all of this before, and I know you are more knowledgeable than I am.
    I’m a Southern Baptist (please don’t cringe). What were you before?
    From the other religions I have studied, Christianity is the only one who claims the exclusivity of one way to God (through Christ alone). Muslims work their way to God through good works and a pilgrimage to Mecca (although Muhammed claimed to have risen from the dead but his accounts have even more discrepancies than those claimed by many to be in the gospels and I think were written at a later time than when the Gospels are allegedly written), Buddhists seek enlightenment, Hindus believe in karma and that good works ensure a better reincarnation.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong; I do not claim to know the inner workings of these religions, I only know basic facts.

    I would say that of the ones listed Christianity makes the most sense. (I’m going to catch flack for that as being an illogical statement.) Good works never seemed to be a good measurement of righteousness. How would you ever know when you had done enough to be considered righteous? There is no certainty there. How do you know when you are enlightened? Is that only for a few people?
    Christianity offers a relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with God in heaven all made possible through the sacrifice of His only Son. In essence, God suffering for His creation in order to restore it to a right relationship with Him.

    The only one who changes hearts and minds is God
    As a Christian, I wondered about this:

    - Changing hearts is the role of the Holy Spirit and only the Spirit can convert people.
    - Attempting to usurp the Spirit’s role is blasphemy against the Spirit.
    - The only sin described in the Bible as unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
    - Therefore, attempting to convert others to Christianity is an unforgivable sin.

    This thought caused me a bit of trouble as a Christian.

    I always have defined blaspheming the Holy Spirit as rejecting Jesus as Savior. Is that not correct?

    In what way do you consider God’s character, as revealed in the Bible, to be in any way “good”?
    Because God disciplines those He loves, He rewards those who earnestly seek Him, He cares for the fatherless and the widow, He blesses those who obey Him, and because Paul says nothing can separate us from His love.

    I know these are the same old answers you always get and are not very good at all. I know you’ve heard it all; I am not very wise and there are many who I think could give better answers than I can. But I do care. I always learn something new from your comments. So tell me what you think.

  • 121. Obi  |  June 28, 2008 at 2:08 am

    rfogue said, “I would say that of the ones listed Christianity makes the most sense. (I’m going to catch flack for that as being an illogical statement.) Good works never seemed to be a good measurement of righteousness. How would you ever know when you had done enough to be considered righteous? There is no certainty there. How do you know when you are enlightened? Is that only for a few people?
    Christianity offers a relationship with God and the promise of an eternity with God in heaven all made possible through the sacrifice of His only Son. In essence, God suffering for His creation in order to restore it to a right relationship with Him

    From an atheist’s point of view, Christianity looks like the most nonsensical one here, to be honest. Having to achieve salvation through good works makes much more sense than earning a “free pass”. I mean, isn’t that how the entire world works? Would you respect the person who “earned” a high status in a company because he knew the son of the CEO or would you respect the person who worked his or her way up the ladder, giving it their all at every level?

    I’d choose the latter every time. Of course you may believe that humans can never match God’s standards and therefore they need grace and forgiveness, but doesn’t that seem a bit silly to you? That it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your life, you can just accept Jesus and have a free ride? According to Christianity, Stalin or Mao could have converted during the last year of their life, lived it fairly well, and then died and they would be accepted into heaven. Doesn’t make much sense to me, at least.

  • 122. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:14 am

    However, if there is no evidence of fruit in their life how can they possibly be what they claim?

    Rachel, that is kind of missing my point. It is not that Christians do not exhibit the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ – most do. My point is that most non-Christians do as well. I can find very little distinction between the two.

    Have you ever heard the story of the missionary Jim Elliot and his wife Elisabeth Elliot?

    No, I have not. I will Google him and see what pops up.

  • 123. DagoodS  |  June 28, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    rfogue,

    Too often when theists propose something, and I question it by claims in their own Bible, they retreat to the incomprehensible God. So I will leave you with a question posed by another blogger who was going through a crises of faith, and the standard Christian platitudes were no longer satisfactory to him…

    If your God cannot be comprehended by human, then how can we know when we have found it?

  • 124. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    HeIsSailing-

    Can you define for me what you see love, joy, peace, patience, etc. being and how they are lived out in non-Christians from your point of view? I want to be clear I understand exactly what you mean. I get that you see no difference between the two now but it would help me if you clarify your definitions. (You don’t have to do all of them; just pick like one or two)

  • 125. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    DagoodS-

    Too often when theists propose something, and I question it by claims in their own Bible, they retreat to the incomprehensible God. So I will leave you with a question posed by another
    blogger who was going through a crises of faith, and the standard Christian platitudes were no longer satisfactory to him…

    If your God cannot be comprehended by human, then how can we know when we have found it?

    I’m not sure I understand what you are asking me. I’ll try to answer what I think it is but if I’m way off I’m sorry. Clarify and I will try again.

    The ways of God do not make sense to us. Does it make any sense to say the last will be first or to gain your life you must lose it or that you have to be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven? Not to our minds. That seems backwards. It seems to be foolishness. Eventually we have to get past the why questions and trust that there are limitations to what we can know and understand. That’s where faith comes in. I know many here have called it a blind faith because they see at as not being based on any external evidence but when you come down to it you have to have faith that God is who He says He is. Faith is being sure of what hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is complete trust that God is sovereign and that whether we live or die He will complete the work that He began in us. Faith defies logic; as much as apologetics try to explain the inner workings of Christianity and “defend the faith”
    it ultimately comes down to faith. I think we have to surrender our will, our preconceived notions, our assumptions and humbly examine all of the evidence for God and His Son Jesus in order to make an informed decision. Many here have said that they have done that and still found it wanting.

    I would say you will know you have found it when you no longer care to know why but to know Him and have placed your faith in a person, not a religion.

    It’s not a new answer, and its the same one that probably every theist you have questioned has given.

    You examine the Bible critically; I examine it relationally and authoritatively. Because of how I view scripture I cannot help but to trust it implicitly; I see no contradictions because I trust the One who put it together. Therefore, it is difficult for me to look at it critically. I think that is perhaps why some theists may retreat into our incomprehensible God.

  • 126. Obi  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    rfogue –

    That’s quite foolish, to be honest. If we can’t use logic and reason to analyze the Bible, or if we sometimes have to simply rely on faith and just “believe”, what makes any religion more true than another? If contradictions are found and they’re simply swept under the rug as signs of an incomprehensible God, then can any religion truly be wrong?

    It seems that you didn’t analyze all religions to determine which fit the best with reality and had the fewest internal contradictions, you simply settled upon one that seemed alright, and then you stopped thinking. You ignore any and all contradictions by simply taking that they’re somehow resolved “on faith”. Doesn’t that seem even the slightest bit intellectually honest to you?

  • 127. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    rfogue, I don’t know if I have satisfactory definitions that you are looking for. To me, ‘peace’, for example, is contentment and harmony in the midst of adversities, need or sickness. I suppose in this context, ‘love’ is that state where you place the well-being of others above your own.

    I think you will have to trust me when I say I have seen these qualities in others – both in Christians and non-Christians.

    I once had this very conversation with an old church pastor, and he said that I was confusing the Fruit of a True Christian with the state of the non-Christian – which is simply being ‘nice’. No, no.. I am afraid I do know the difference between love, patience, peace.. and being ‘nice’. I hope I am not being presumptuous when I ask you not to draw that conclusion with me.

    I have seen truly *good* people in my life – people I could admire and strive to be like. Some were Christians. Some were not. I have also seen truly hateful assholes in this world. Some of them were Christians. Some were not. Most of humanity falls somewhere in between – including me. Sorry, that is just the way I see it.

    I do not see it the way Galatians 5 makes the distinction. Because with the Fruit of the Spirit, which is supposedly evident only in those whom God empowers with his Spirit, (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), are those who are ruled by the Flesh and not the Spirit, that is:

    adultery
    fornication
    uncleanness
    lewdness
    idolatry
    sorcery
    hatred
    contentions
    jealousies
    outbursts of wrath
    selfish ambitions
    dissensions
    heresies
    envy
    murders
    drunkenness
    revelries

    That is, those of us who have renounced Christ show ourselves by those actions. Think about this. According to Galatians 5, every non-Christian that you meet – every atheist, every agnostic, every Buddhist, every Hindu, every Sikh, every Mormon, every….. every *anything* other than the Spirit filled Christian is marked by adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, and revelries.

    Only those who are Cricified with Christ have renounced these Fleshly passions and desires.

    And *only* Spirit-filled Christians are marked by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

    Rachel, does this make sense to you? Not from a Biblical standpoint, but in your practical day-to-day life? Is every non-Christian you meet a drunkard? A fornicator? Selfish? Lewd? Wrathful? Every one of them? And only Christians are not?? Only Christians are loving? Only Christians exhibit patience, goodness, etc…?

    Is this what you observe in the world? Because this is what Galatians is saying.

    According to Galatians, the contrast between the Spirit-Filled and the Fleshly is evident. But I am afraid I just cannot buy this. This is not how I observe the world working. There are some Hindus who are are just as virtuous as some Christians. I have met them. Same with Buddhists. Same with people who don’t give a rip about religion one way or the other. Conversely, there are some Christians who are truly trash-scum. I have met them too. We are all human beings, every one of us – Christian or not.

    You can look at my dad, who had a truly drastic conversion expereince. He was a monster when I was growing up, but he is 10000% of the human being he was since his conversion. But since he converted to Mormanism, I suppose his evidence of a changed life is merely due to a deception by the Devil, right? Sorry – but I have heard that one too.

    And dare I say Rachel, that I am *more* loving without the Holy Spirit than with the Holy Spirit? More patient, at greater peace? Trust me, at least I strive mighty hard to be. If the only miracle that God is going to give us is the ‘miracle of changed lives’, I am afraid that miracle is just not going to cut it as evidence of his miraculous power. I simply don’t see it. The world just does not operate that way.

  • 128. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Obi-
    rfogue –

    That’s quite foolish, to be honest. If we can’t use logic and reason to analyze the Bible, or if we sometimes have to simply rely on faith and just “believe”, what makes any religion more true than another? If contradictions are found and they’re simply swept under the rug as signs of an incomprehensible God, then can any religion truly be wrong?

    Are you making the assumption that there is no absolute truth?
    Give me an example of a contradiction that bothers you.

    It seems that you didn’t analyze all religions to determine which fit the best with reality and had the fewest internal contradictions, you simply settled upon one that seemed alright, and then you stopped thinking. You ignore any and all contradictions by simply taking that they’re somehow resolved “on faith”. Doesn’t that seem even the slightest bit intellectually honest to you?

    I didn’t stop thinking and I’m not ignoring any contradictions because I really don’t see them the same way. I’m just fine with not asking why all the time and am at peace with not knowing.

  • 129. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    HeIsSailing-

    What if the difference between Christians and non-Christians was more of a change in motive? What if what Paul is hinting at in Galatians is not only demonstrating that fruit, but a complete change of direction?

    “For me, the essence of conversion is that I no longer want to sin, I no longer want to pursue selfish pleasure, I no longer want to please myself, I no longer want to be controlled by lust–rather, I now want to be holy, I now want to please God, I now want to be controlled by my love for Christ and His love for me. It is not that sin no longer has any pleasure or allure for my flesh, but that my mind, heart, and spirit no longer want to do those things which displease God. My desire to please God has become a greater spiritual desire (motive) than pleasing my flesh with sin.

    Conversion is the replacement of my old wants and motives with entirely new ones, because I am a new creature who has a new nature, a new form, and a new function. My spirit has been made alive, and this spirit brings with it new motives and wants that are not the same as the motives and desires which my flesh had when my spirit was dead.

    If one believes that conversion is nothing more than making minor adjustments to the old motives and desires of the flesh so as to sanctify them, then they miss the reality of conversion. Conversion is not “Behold, the old things have been polished and live on,” but rather, that “Behold, all things have become new.” Entirely new motives, new spirit, new purpose. All things, all motives, have become new, the old motives have passed away.” -Craig Booth

    Just a thought-

  • 130. Obi  |  June 28, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    rfogue said, “Are you making the assumption that there is no absolute truth?
    Give me an example of a contradiction that bothers you.”

    There’s absolute truth about the way the Universe works and how reality truly is. However, I must say that I don’t really see how that question follows from what I wrote. And an contradiction of a contradiction? The largest and easiest to see one in the Bible is the vindictive and murderous God of the OT contrasted with the pacifist God of the NT, Jesus.

    God massacres lnnocent children without a thought in the OT (such as the Egyptian children, and he later states that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart himself, meaning that the deaths were doubly unjust), while Jesus tells his disciples to “suffer the little children” when they attempt to approach him. God commands the killing of unbelievers (Deuteronomy 13), while Jesus preaches love for all.

    However, Jesus has a dark side as well , such as in Mark 4, (specifically verses 11-12) where he tells a parable and then brings his apostles aside to tell them that he meaningfully obscures the meaning of his messages so as to cause some people “not to be forgiven or saved”.

    All of these situations point to a lot of contradictions with respect to the “omnibenevolence” of God. How do you reconcile them?

  • 131. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Rachel, the only difference in motives is that you direct your devotion to God. I do not believe there is a God as you describe. My devotion, my avoidance of ‘sin’, my willingness not to live for myself are not due to devotion to God. No, they are due to devotion to my wife, my family, and those others whom I love and whom I can affect by whatever positive influence I may have.

    Now when I sin, I ‘miss the mark’ not against a God , but against those I love – I hurt them, and it greives me when I do them wrong. And I repent – to them – I turn my will away from myself in my vow not to sin against them again.

    The motive is identical – the devotion is different. If you are worried about the object of one’s worship being God, don’t. Paul sums the Commandments (Law) under one simple rule: Love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:9). Have you ever wondered why Paul never mentions Loving God in that summation, in contrast to what Jesus said (Matt 22:37-40)? Why does Paul skip that seemingly crucial point? Why do you think that might be? Maybe that assumption that you are making, that the only love that counts is that which is devoted to the Christian GOD is just that – a baseless assumption.

    Maybe that is NOT what Paul is talking about. Maybe love – LOVE without concern for motive to an enforcing Diety is what one whould strive for. Maybe my motives for love are even more sincere than from one who believes their ‘correctly motivated’ acts will be rewarded with a ‘Crown of Righteousness’ (2 Tim 4:7-9)

    When you became a Christian you comitted your life to Christ. Your wants changed. Your desires changed. Guess what? When I married my wife, I comitted my life to our marraige. My wants changed. My desires changed. And change they did. I no longer desire to live for myself. Sometimes I revolt, just as the devout Christian revolts against God. But eventually I settle down and put my own desires aside and do what I know is right. It will be even more so when I have children. My single days are gone, and I count it all as joy.

    It is exactly the same. There is no miraculous divine intervention needed. It is very possible to love, to hope to have peace to persevere, to devote one’s life outside of one’s self, to live selflessly, to live with a desire to not ‘sin’ (against whomever) without a belief in the Christian God.

    By the way, I don’t see anyway to distinguish motive for ones actions in Galatians as you suggest. However Galatians 5 does go to great lengths to describe the works of the Flesh. I described these in some detail in my last comment and you chose not to reply to that. I would appreciate it if you did. I am curious to know your answers. Until then, I will end my comments on this topic here – you can make that your last word.

  • 132. rfogue  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Obi-

    The Deuteronomy 13 passage deals with God’s punishment for disobedience by committing idolatry. God hates sin and therefore has very serious consequences for disobedience. Notice here that the cities are ISRAELITE cities. Both the Canaanite and God’s chosen people receive the same treatment when compared to the passages where God commands the destruction of the Canaanite cities. God is not partial in this instance. It also isn’t just that they are unbelievers; it is actually implied that these are members of God’s chosen. It is the fact that they are trying to deceive God’s people. Prophets are to be God’s representatives; they speak His words to the people and therefore He holds them to a very high standard, especially if they are not speaking the truth.

    The fact is, God is holy and punishes sin. We can’t just ignore that side of His character because it is unpleasant to think about. God is loving too. And God is compassionate, merciful, just, wrathful, all-powerful, slow to anger, etc. But we can’t just pick and choose the pieces of God’s character that we are most comfortable with and say that is the God I’m going to worship.

    As far as Pharaoh goes, God wanted to display His power to the Egyptians. That was His purpose. If you read the accounts of the plagues, Pharaoh had one opportunity to obey. God did not harden his heart the first time they came to him. The first time Aaron and Moses told Him what God commanded notice his statement: Who is the Lord that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go. ” Do you hear the arrogance in that statement? Even after Aaron and Moses explained that they wanted to take a three day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices and warned what God would do, Pharaoh ignored them and punished Israel more.
    He was warned and ignored the warning and God punished the nation of Egypt for his arrogance and for their treatment of Israel.

    Yes, God commanded Israel to destroy the nations in Canaan after they wandered in the desert for forty years. God destroyed those nations because they were evil. There was no hope for them; their hearts were hard and they were not going to change. God knows men’s hearts; he is capable of knowing if they are open to Him or not.

    The Mark 4 passage vs. 11-12 is a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10 and is explaining why Jesus presents his truths in parables. Keep in mind that these people had a tremendous privilege. They had God Himself in their midst! And yet they were rejecting Him despite of His teaching and miracles; they did not want to see. And so God hid the meaning and truth behind them.
    Now I also think that this may hint at the ability of humans to respond to God in some way and not the Calvinistic train of thought that we cannot respond to God at all.

    There is nothing to say either that these people were not later given an opportunity to respond to the gospel after Christ’s resurrection. In fact, in Acts 2 three thousand of them did.

    One other thing, the thing about Christ’s sacrifice for me is the idea of God suffering for His creation. God sent His only Son to die in order to restore us to Him. Everything in the OT points to this; the law was impossible for Israel to follow; it was supposed to show our need, our dependence on God. Christ was the fulfillment of that law.

  • 133. rfogue  |  June 29, 2008 at 12:20 am

    HeIsSailing-

    I do not see it the way Galatians 5 makes the distinction. Because with the Fruit of the Spirit, which is supposedly evident only in those whom God empowers with his Spirit, (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), are those who are ruled by the Flesh and not the Spirit, that is:

    adultery
    fornication
    uncleanness
    lewdness
    idolatry
    sorcery
    hatred
    contentions
    jealousies
    outbursts of wrath
    selfish ambitions
    dissensions
    heresies
    envy
    murders
    drunkenness
    revelries

    That is, those of us who have renounced Christ show ourselves by those actions. Think about this. According to Galatians 5, every non-Christian that you meet – every atheist, every agnostic, every Buddhist, every Hindu, every Sikh, every Mormon, every….. every *anything* other than the Spirit filled Christian is marked by adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, and revelries.

    Only those who are Cricified with Christ have renounced these Fleshly passions and desires.

    And *only* Spirit-filled Christians are marked by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

    Rachel, does this make sense to you? Not from a Biblical standpoint, but in your practical day-to-day life? Is every non-Christian you meet a drunkard? A fornicator? Selfish? Lewd? Wrathful? Every one of them? And only Christians are not?? Only Christians are loving? Only Christians exhibit patience, goodness, etc…?

    Is this what you observe in the world? Because this is what Galatians is saying.

    I don’t think that only Christians exhibit those things, but once again they have to be defined against Christ’s example because those fruits are found in His life which is why Christians are to be characterized by them. No, not every non-Christian I meet is drunkard or a fornicator or lewd or wrathful. However, I think that they do display some of these. I think most people are generally selfish to some extent. They don’t always put others before themselves and some people are ambitious and do not care about hurting others to get what they want. I think idolatry would apply because that is putting anything in front of God, including family, money, success, music, etc. I think that some are jealous, some have disagreements that lead to separations and unforgiveness (dissensions). But these are things that Christians struggle with too. I don’t think Paul is saying that Christians simply abandon these characteristics or don’t continue to struggle with them they are just not defined by them. Non-Christians may display some things; joy, peace, love, kindness, but I think they are defined differently.

    Here are my definitions of fruit:
    Love-unconditional, all the characteristics listed in 1 Cor. 13
    Joy-contentment and satisfaction with God in all of his dealings
    Peace-peace with God and with others
    Patience- patience in suffering, annoyance, and persecution (Luke 23:34)
    Goodness-kindness to others
    Faithfulness-trust in God, confidence in our fellow Christians, reliability, trustworthy
    Gentleness-humility, putting others first
    Self-control-moderation of passions, tempers,etc.

    I think that it is possible for non-Christians to display some of these, but not all of them, at least not how they are defined here. I do not think as far as the ways of the flesh go that every non-Christian would display every one of those. But those, to me, describe many of humanity’s basic instincts.

  • 134. OneSmallStep  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Rachel,

    The Mark 4 passage vs. 11-12 is a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10 and is explaining why Jesus presents his truths in parables.

    Is there anything in Mark itself, leading up to chapter four, that hints that events were clearly laid out to the non-disciples? I mean, even the disciples had to ask for clarification. Because if we assume that this is very, very early in the ministry, then no one would recognize Jesus as God. It wasn’t part of the criteria or expectation in terms of Israel’s Messiah.

    Not only that, but what in the passage or verse itself indicates that they didn’t *want* to see? Jesus specifically says he issues parables in order that people cannot be forgiven. Not only that, but you say there’s no indication that these people weren’t later provided an opporutnity to respond … but doesn’t that contradict the idea you stated that they didn’t want to respond, yet clearly had God in their midst — as in, it was obvious to them? If they will be given an opporunity later, does that mean that they haven’t yet been given one?

    The first time Aaron and Moses told Him what God commanded notice his statement: Who is the Lord that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go. ” Do you hear the arrogance in that statement?

    Well … did the Pharoh have any basis or reference point for knowing what God Aaron and Moses spoke of? Was he familiar with it at all? Or would it be like me telling you that I am the “God” of your car, and you must let your car go. Your understandable response to me would be that you don’t know me, and based on my say-so, you certainly aren’t “freeing” your car. That doesn’t make you arrogant. The warning of punishment probably wouldn’t have made sense to him at the time.

    And then when the Pharoh finally does release them, God hardens Pharohs heart, so that the Israelites are pursued, and the Egyptian armies killed. How is that just?

    God destroyed those nations because they were evil. There was no hope for them; their hearts were hard and they were not going to change.

    Even the children? They were also evil? They deserved to die? The response I generally see to this is that the children were “rescued” because they were brought to heaven, but that’s too close to “the ends justifying the means” for me. And it makes killing children a relative evil. It’s not evil in this sense, because where they end up.

    Non-Christians may display some things; joy, peace, love, kindness, but I think they are defined differently.

    Why do you need to define the fruits differently for Christians than you do for non-Christians? The fruits of the flesh are very straightforward, and apply across the board, regardless of the religion the person has.

    Yet it seems for the fruits of the Spirit, in order to say that only a select few can demonstrate then, you have to define those particular fruits differently, rather than across the board. Shouldn’t the way the standards apply in the both the Spirit/flesh category be uniform? You do say that it’s not possible for non-Christians to dispaly all the fruits, but isn’t that because you’re offering your own definitions of what the “fruits” mean?

  • 135. Obi  |  June 29, 2008 at 9:43 am

    rfogue said, “The Deuteronomy 13 passage deals with God’s punishment for disobedience by committing idolatry. God hates sin and therefore has very serious consequences for disobedience. Notice here that the cities are ISRAELITE cities. Both the Canaanite and God’s chosen people receive the same treatment when compared to the passages where God commands the destruction of the Canaanite cities. God is not partial in this instance. It also isn’t just that they are unbelievers; it is actually implied that these are members of God’s chosen. It is the fact that they are trying to deceive God’s people. Prophets are to be God’s representatives; they speak His words to the people and therefore He holds them to a very high standard, especially if they are not speaking the truth.

    So you think that it’s acceptable to slaughter people (even one’s own family as God in the chapter commands) for unbelief?

    Think of it this way. During the mid-20th century, Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist. Anyone, I mean anyone with dissenting beliefs was killed, so that he could stay in power. If you didn’t submit to the authority of the state (and the near godhood of Stalin in his self-made cult of personality), you were killed for being a threat to authority.

    Let me ask you, do you think what Stalin did was justified, rfogue? I highly doubt you do, so why do you think it’s right for God to do the same thing? Freedom of religion is something that’s cherished in this country, and for good reason. Yet you imply that it was somehow just for God to take this right away in these ancient times among the Israelites. Not to mention, why a death penalty? Doesn’t it infringe on the free will that God gave them if he kills them when they’re only exercising their freedom of choice? He could just as easily have left them to be counseled or spoken to by priests or something of the sort — anything but killing them. And he even commands the destruction of whole cities, along with all of their occupants. I see it as quite gruesome, to be honest.

    rfogue said, “As far as Pharaoh goes, God wanted to display His power to the Egyptians. That was His purpose. If you read the accounts of the plagues, Pharaoh had one opportunity to obey. God did not harden his heart the first time they came to him. The first time Aaron and Moses told Him what God commanded notice his statement: Who is the Lord that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go. ” Do you hear the arrogance in that statement? Even after Aaron and Moses explained that they wanted to take a three day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices and warned what God would do, Pharaoh ignored them and punished Israel more.
    He was warned and ignored the warning and God punished the nation of Egypt for his arrogance and for their treatment of Israel.

    He ignored the warnings not out of his own volition, but because God made him ignore the warnings. You yourself acknowledge that God hardened his heart, so where is the justice in that? God makes Pharaoh stubborn, so that he can inflict more unjustified punishment on the Egyptians. And why does God see fit to kill the infants of the nation? What role could they possibly play in the decision of whether or not Pharaoh released the Israelites?

    I think OneSmallStep rather nicely laid out a response to the Mark verse, so I’ll stop here to avoid redundancy.

  • 136. rfogue  |  June 29, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Obi-

    So you think that it’s acceptable to slaughter people (even one’s own family as God in the chapter commands) for unbelief?

    No, I don’t. But that is not the issue in the Deut. 13 passage. It specifically addresses those who deliberately disobey a clear directive in God’s law and then deceive others to follow them. They are leading God’s people astray by causing them to follow other gods.

    “Freedom of religion is something that’s cherished in this country, and for good reason. Yet you imply that it was somehow just for God to take this right away in these ancient times among the Israelites. Not to mention, why a death penalty? Doesn’t it infringe on the free will that God gave them if he kills them when they’re only exercising their freedom of choice?”

    I find it interesting that you compare God to Stalin who was one of the most evil leaders in history.

    Freedom of religion had no place in the covenant with God that the Israelites agreed to. That wasn’t even a right that was considered legitimate. God clearly spelled out His expectations when He made His covenant with Israel. They knew what they were agreeing to before they entered Canaan. There were consequences both for obedience and disobedience which are clearly spelled out in Deuteronomy. Israel agreed to give up that right when they agreed to follow God and enter into that covenant.

    Just because they are given freedom of choice doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences. They knew what the consequences were for breaking God’s laws just like the citizens of this country know what the consequences are for breaking its laws.

    “He [Pharaoh} ignored the warnings not out of his own volition, but because God made him ignore the warnings.

    Look again at the first time Aaron and Moses approach Pharaoh. There is no mention of God hardening his heart at this point; that is not even brought up until after that first encounter and seems to me to only apply afterward. Pharaoh had one chance and he decided to ignore their warning. How did Israel become Egypt’s slaves in the first place? Remember the story of Joseph? Joseph became the second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt some years earlier. after several previous circumstances (famine, sold into slavery, prison, etc.) and then years later his descendants(Hebrew people) were put into slavery. It isn’t like the Egyptians would not have been completely unfamiliar with the God of Israel. Pharaoh made his choice. When we make choices more often than not they affect other peoples lives as well as our own. Keep in mind too that the Egyptians ordered the slaughter of all of the male infants in Israel (Moses being the only one that escaped) because Pharaoh felt that Israel was becoming too strong. Was that fair or right?

  • 137. Obi  |  June 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    rfogue (I’m assuming it’s you) –

    As someone previously stated, Pharaoh was rightfully credulous. Although you say he was “familiar with the god of Israel”, you I take it are “familiar with the god of Islam”, but do you accept it’s authority? Or if not Islam, then Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, et cetera. You acknowledge (I hope) their existence, but do you submit to and acknowledge their gods?

    This was Pharaoh’s case. But regardless of this, you seem to accept how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and from then took the chance to send plagues, massacre firstborns, and all sorts of other devastating events upon the Egyptian population when (1) None of them had any say in the matter save for Pharaoh, God could have punished him and him alone, instead of bringing innocents into play. He is supposed to be just. (2) I can’t repeat this enough, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God, it was not his free will to hold the Egyptians, as God states himself. It doesn’t matter that this is revealed to us later, because God stated that he had been doing it all along, to prove some sort of a “point”.

    This type of God isn’t a just and loving supreme being, it’s merely the projection of this ancient group of people seeking to give themselves some type of importance. He isn’t acting right or just in any sense of the word, mate.

  • 138. OneSmallStep  |  June 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I find it interesting that you compare God to Stalin who was one of the most evil leaders in history.

    The comparison is created because we see the same type of behavior — ruling with an iron fist, and absolutely no freedom granted. For Obi, it looks like there’s no difference between what STalin did, and what Deut. 13 commands. What Stalin did is wrong. Yet what God did is right? It’s the same type of behavior, so why is one wrong and the other right? How is this determined?

    Just because they are given freedom of choice doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences.

    Then how “free” am I to honestly break those rules? I’m not “free” to steal, because if I do so, I’ll be arrested. My freedom is in fact curtailed by the law.

    But the fact is, the idea of stoning someone to death for following another religion is being defended here. I think everyone on this board — yourself included — is appalled when we hear of the Middle East countries stoning someone, especially for following another God. We find that appalling for the same reason Deut 13. is found to be appalling. It’s the same circumstance.

    It isn’t like the Egyptians would not have been completely unfamiliar with the God of Israel. Pharaoh made his choice.

    Except the text also states that Pharoh was unfamiliar with Jospeh, so if he were unfamiliar with Joseph, how familiar would he be with Israel’s God? Not only that, but considering all the “gods” floating around those times, why would he lend credence to this God over that God? What would he base this on?

    Keep in mind too that the Egyptians ordered the slaughter of all of the male infants in Israel (Moses being the only one that escaped) because Pharaoh felt that Israel was becoming too strong. Was that fair or right?

    No, it wasn’t. But that type of behavior is what we expect from a ruler of that time. The problem comes in when that same type of behavior you say isn’t right — killing all the male infants — is the same behavior displayed by God in killing all the firstborn in Egypt. Pharoh’s behavior is neither fair nor right. Why is God’s? What standard is used to determine why one is fair, and the other is not?

  • 139. rfogue  |  June 29, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    OneSmallStep-
    Rachel,

    The Mark 4 passage vs. 11-12 is a quote from Isaiah 6:9-10
    and is explaining why Jesus presents his truths in parables.

    Is there anything in Mark itself, leading up to chapter four, that hints that events were clearly laid out to the non-disciples?

    Yes, before Jesus was John the Baptist. Look in Chapter 1 vs. 4-8. There would have been several familiar with John the Baptists teaching. In addition, He had performed several miracles up to this point and is not only healing people but forgiving sin. Look specifically at Chapter 2 the story of the paralytic, specifically vs. 7. That sets him apart from other prophets and gives Him a different kind of authority that would have been recognized by other people. Even the demons that were driven out called him the Son of God.

    Jesus specifically says he issues parables in order that people cannot be forgiven.

    I disagree. God chose to reveal the secrets of the kingdom of God to the disciples at this time. There were others who heard even through the parables and believed Jesus, Nicodemus for one, the Roman centurion,etc.

    Not only that, but you say there’s no indication that these people weren’t later provided an opportunity to respond … but doesn’t that contradict the idea you stated that they didn’t want to respond, yet clearly had God in their midst — as in, it was obvious to them? If they will be given an opporunity later, does that mean that they haven’t yet been given one?

    The Pharisees would be the only group I would consider that didn’t want to respond. They knew who Jesus was claiming to be and that is why they tried so hard to trap him and eventually killed him. The others, if they did not understand, were provided the opportunity later. Not everyone understands anything the first time they hear it. I know this applies to me with Algebra. I could not understand those concepts without a special explanation from someone.
    Some heard and understood, some did not, but I do think that those (excluding the Pharisees) who did not understand were given a later opportunity.

    Well … did the Pharoh have any basis or reference point for knowing what God Aaron and Moses spoke of? Was he familiar with it at all? Or would it be like me telling you that I am the “God” of your car, and you must let your car go. Your understandable response to me would be that you don’t know me, and based on my say-so, you certainly aren’t “freeing” your car. That doesn’t make you arrogant. The warning of punishment probably wouldn’t have made sense to him at the time.

    I think Pharoah did have reference point for knowing who God was. I replied in more detail in post #139.

    And then when the Pharoh finally does release them, God hardens Pharohs heart, so that the Israelites are pursued, and the Egyptian armies killed. How is that just?
    Israel had been slaves to the Egyptians for 300 years. Was that just? They murdered Israels sons because they thought they were becoming too powerful and would overthrow their captors. Is that right or fair?

    Why do you need to define the fruits differently for Christians than you do for non-Christians?
    I”m not defining them differently I am using how they are defined in scripture. How would you define them?

    The fruits of the flesh are very straightforward, and apply across the board, regardless of the religion the person has.

    Of course they do because they are natural, basic instincts.

    Yet it seems for the fruits of the Spirit, in order to say that only a select few can demonstrate then, you have to define those particular fruits differently, rather than across the board. Shouldn’t the way the standards apply in the both the Spirit/flesh category be uniform?

    No, because the fruit of the spirit is supernatural; they can only be developed through God’s work in a person’s life. That’s the point; we are comparing the natural to the supernatural.

    For example, I define joy as contentment and satisfaction with God in all of his dealings. (its a little more involved than that but this is the simpler version) Your definition might equate joy and happiness as the same thing. There’s a big difference there. Non-Christians are of course happy and joyful but they would not have contentment and satisfaction with God in all of His dealings.

  • 140. Obi  |  June 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    rfogue -

    You seem to be justifying God’s actions against the Egyptians (some were guilty, most were definitely innocent, such as children/infants) by saying that the Egyptians were cruel to the Egyptians. But let me ask you something. Have you ever heard the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”? Simply because someone slaps you doesn’t mean you should slap them back, you should turn the other cheek and move on. Does that sound familiar?

    Simply because the Egyptians (remember, not all of them) were cruel to the Israelites doesn’t make God’s actions any more right or just. As a supreme being, he should keep himself above the level of such petty human dictators and deal with everyone in a just way that is equal to their wrongs. The firstborn infants had nothing to do with the enslavement of Israel, so why did they need to be killed?

    This story points more to the fact that God is merely an entity created by the Israelites to give themselves comfort and a sense of guidance. No supreme being would lower himself to the level of man and act in an unjust way that is equal to the unjust acts that he was punishing the men for in the first place. That makes no sense.

  • 141. OneSmallStep  |  June 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Rachel,

    In your future responses, could you find some way of seperating the paragraphs you’re responding to compared to your responses themselves? Even if it’s something like using paranthesis, it would be helpful.

    In addition, He had performed several miracles up to this point and is not only healing people but forgiving sin. Look specifically at Chapter 2 the story of the paralytic, specifically vs. 7. That sets him apart from other prophets and gives Him a different kind of authority that would have been recognized by other people. Even the demons that were driven out called him the Son of God.

    Being called the son of God is not the same as being called God. Adam was referred to as the son of God in Luke, in the geneology portion. I believe others are referred to as sons of God in the Tanakh. Not only that, but from what I understand, saying someone’s sins are forgiven is not blasphemy. I quote: “In the Prayer of Nabonius from the Dead Sea Scrolls, it says “I was afflicted with an evil ulcer for seven years…and a gazer [exorcist? healer?] pardoned my sins. He was a Jew.” (Vermes 1981, p66-7). The relationship between sin and sickness was well established in ancient Judaism (Fredriksen 1988, p105). ”

    I got this from the link: http://www.michaelturton.com/Mark/GMark02.html#2.p.1.12

    I disagree. God chose to reveal the secrets of the kingdom of God to the disciples at this time.

    But the Mark quote we’re specifically talking about doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say that he’s choosing to reveal the secrets at this time, and will reveal at a later time. It says that he’s not revealing it to others so that they can’t be forgiven.

    Plus, I don’t think the idea that events were clearly laid out works. There were healings, there was forgiveness, yes. Many were drawn to those, and accepted those. But I believe in Mark, this is the first time Jesus spoke in a parable, and no one understood it. Where did the large crowd (we’re leaving out the Pharisees for the moment) reject the teachings? Or clearly want nothing to do with Jesus? In fact, they believe him so much that they take people to him to be healed — Mark 2, and great multitudes follow him. Don’t the events leading up to Mark 4 incidate that the crowd — minues the Pharisees — would’ve been receptive?

    The others, if they did not understand, were provided the opportunity later. Not everyone understands anything the first time they hear it.

    I’m sorry, Rachel, but I don’t know what you’re basing this on in Mark itself. Jesus was addressing a very large crowd here, and then later says to the disciples that to them it’s been given, and to those on the outside (such as the large crowd), it hasn’t been. Jesus doesn’t mention a later opportunity. No one understood at that time, and the only reason why the disciples did was because it was explained to them.

    I think Pharoah did have reference point for knowing who God was. I replied in more detail in post #139.

    I referenced this in a response on post #141 (I’m assuming you meant 135 here). I’ll copy it here.

    My response: “Except the text also states that Pharoh was unfamiliar with Jospeh, so if he were unfamiliar with Joseph, how familiar would he be with Israel’s God? Not only that, but considering all the “gods” floating around those times, why would he lend credence to this God over that God? What would he base this on?”

    And we still end up with the idea that after Pharoh released the Egyptians, God hardened Pharoh’s heart again, and put the Egyptians in a situation where they were all killed.

    Israel had been slaves to the Egyptians for 300 years. Was that just? They murdered Israels sons because they thought they were becoming too powerful and would overthrow their captors. Is that right or fair?

    No, it wasn’t. But you seem to saying that because the Egyptians did this, it was perfectly acceptable that they die. We expect behavior like that from rulers of that time. Yet God acts no better and no worse than the Pharoh or the Egyptians.

    And what this doesn’t answer is how is it just to deliberatly cause the Egyptians to go after the Israelites, and then kill them?

    No, because the fruit of the spirit is supernatural; they can only be developed through God’s work in a person’s life. That’s the point; we are comparing the natural to the supernatural.

    I would define them based on a basic definition (by looking in a dictionary), and I would define them in specific contrast to the fruits of the flesh. The opposite of drunkeness and carousing is self-control. The opposite of jealousy, dissensions, factions can be both generosity, love, kindness. In fact, that’s how Paul states it. The fruits of the Spirit contrast the fruits of the flesh.

    But the point here is that it seems as though in order to include only Christians in the fruits of the Spirit aspect, the definitions of those fruit has to be incredibly narrow. The same does not apply for the fruits of the flesh. I guess I see you going about this as, “Non-Christiand dont’ display the fruits of the Spirit based on your own definition of what those fruits are.” ONe is straightfoward, the other is not.

    If we have someone who loves to get drunk day in and day out, we don’t need to apply a special definition of “drunk” to make that the fruit of the flesh. We can clearly see that it is the fruit of the flesh.

    Whereas if we have an atheist displaying great patience with someone who is taunting them, to you, that’s not a fruit of the Spirit, that’s simply a certain definition of patience. We can’t clearly define the fruit based on the act, but on who is doing the act, and why. We don’t do that with the fruits of the flesh. If I see an atheist reacting with patience to taunting, and a Christian not, who is truly displaying the fruits of the Spirit?

    If you tell someone that you are joyful, you are going to mean that you are in a state of extreme happiness. If you tell someone that you are patient, it means that you aren’t hasty, that you don’t react quickly to strife, that you are careful and cautious with people, and tolerate bad things that occur. And then suddenly we’re told that the fruit of the Spirit that is patience actually means something relating to Luke 23:34.
    Joy suddenly becomes contement and satisfaction with God, but even the Greek word itself doesn’t really support that. It literally means “cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness.” YOu can have joy with God, or be joyful over God, but joy itself is simply a feeling. It can be produced by God in all of his dealings, but it can’t really include what produces it. It’s evoked by something. It can be evoked by contement in God and all of his dealings. But to say that it is contement with God is stripping the word “joy” of its basic meaning.

  • 142. DagoodS  |  June 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

    rfogue,

    Quite a bit of ground to cover here, but I will highlight three areas:

    Incomprehensible God

    Here’s where the concept fails. Every single time, the Christian begins by attempting to draw logical conclusions. They use logic form, argument and presentation to make their point. I picked a random quote from you to demonstrate an example:

    rfogue: In order to discuss other religions we must first agree that there is absolute truth. If we assume that absolute truth exists, then logically it is possible to assume that there is one truth, meaning one way to God, one revelation to humanity of His character, ways, and interaction with His creation. If that is true, then it is possible to discount other religions as not being absolute in truth.

    And, along the way, those of us who have studied the Bible, read it “critically” as you say, are aware of instances which contradict what the Christian is claiming. In our present situation it is the tired defense of “Free Will” to the Problem of Evidentiary Suffering. The claim that God has to allow a bit of evil to seep into the world, because God holds “Free Will” to be a higher priority than evil. There are a number of problems with this defense (like the lack of Free Will in Heaven, as pointed out, or the Fact that evil becomes a necessary component), but one which we have focused on instances in which God clearly interacts with humans and violates their free will.

    This is directly contradictory to the claim God can’t impinge on Free Will, because Christians rely upon stories in which he does. When pressed, the Christian coughs up (every time) that God is incomprehensible, unknowable. (Coincidently, this contradicts Job, but another time…)

    I asked: If your God cannot be comprehended by humans, then who would we recognize it when we see it?

    Now the Christian abandons logic, argument and presentation, and launches into how we CAN’T use these things to understand God. Huh? More quotes from you:

    rfogue: There are things that are beyond my comprehension. Why God allows people to choose sometimes and others intervenes to prevent them I don’t know.

    I cannot answer your questions. I don’t know why God does what He does or why He seems to be so awful to some. I only know that He is God and I am not. I believe He is good. His ways are beyond my comprehension.

    rfogue: Not to our minds. That seems backwards. It seems to be foolishness. Eventually we have to get past the why questions and trust that there are limitations to what we can know and understand. That’s where faith comes in. I know many here have called it a blind faith because they see at as not being based on any external evidence but when you come down to it you have to have faith that God is who He says He is. Faith is being sure of what hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is complete trust that God is sovereign and that whether we live or die He will complete the work that He began in us. Faith defies logic; as much as apologetics try to explain the inner workings of Christianity and “defend the faith” it ultimately comes down to faith.

    First you use logic, and when we point out that is contradictory, you fall on faith which “defies logic.” Which is it? Do we use logic or not?

    What ends up happening is the Christian must say that logic may or may not point to God. Faith may or may not point to God. THAT is what I mean by an incomprehensible god being unrecognizable—even the Christian admits we can’t know it if we see it!

    While I know the reasons claimed for the Tower of Babel, it is still a huge imposition against the idea of Free Will. Yet the conversation has focused on two incidents—let’s stick with them.

    Pharaoh

    The standard argument of “Pharaoh hardened his heart first.” I listed the verses before, in anticipation of such a claim. (You’d think I’d done this before. *wink*)

    There are many problems with this;

    1) God predicted he would reach a point where he would harden Pharaoh’s heart prior to Moses asking. If you look back at post #107, where I first mentioned this claim, you will note the first verse I used was Ex. 4:21—chronologically before Moses ever approaches Pharaoh. (By the way—did you know God told Moses to lie? To claim they were only going to the wilderness to sacrifice for three (3) days, whereas in fact they were intending to leave Egypt? Ex. 3:18)

    God knew (regardless whether Pharaoh hardened his own heart, Pharaoh’s cat hardened Pharaoh’s heart, or no heart was hardened at all) eventually there would be a point in which Pharaoh would want to let the people go, and God wouldn’t let him! That God would have to deliberately step in and impose on Pharaoh’s will.

    2) The plagues were not warnings. Too often we approach the Ten Plagues as if God was trying to change Pharaoh’s mind. He was not! How do we know? Because when Pharaoh became convinced TO change his mind, God wanted to perform more plagues. It is particularly illuminating Pharaoh didn’t even want to chase the Hebrews, but God made him.

    The point is moot whether the Egyptians knew the God of Israel. If they did—God was going to demonstrate his power. If they didn’t—God was going to demonstrate his power. Look at the order of events:

    Moses: Let my people go!
    Pharaoh: Who are you? I think not.
    YHWH: Ka-Pow! Zap!

    Moses: Let my people go!
    Pharaoh: So what! My magicians can do that too.
    YHWH: Ka-Pow! Zap!

    Moses: Let my people go!
    Pharaoh: O.K. You win.
    YHWH: Ka…er…what? He said, ‘O.K.’? That’s not right. Ziggity-Ziggity-Zap. Pharaoh–change your mind back.
    Pharaoh: Oh. I guess you can’t go.
    YHWH: Yipee. Ka-Pow! Zap!

    Moses: Let my people go!
    Pharaoh: O.K. You win.
    YHWH: Ka…er…what? He said, ‘O.K.’ again? Sigh. Ziggity-Ziggity-Zap. Pharaoh–change your mind back.
    Pharaoh: Oh. I guess you can’t go.
    YHWH: Yipee. Ka-Pow! Zap!

    3) How do the New Testament writers handle Pharaoh? Read Rom. 9:17-24. (*cough, cough* Also mentioned in my previous post.) Notice verse 19 in particular where Paul is addressing the argument: “But who then can be held at fault? For who has resisted his will?” Understand that question would never even come up if the readers felt Pharaoh was to blame for Pharaoh’s own actions. The only way that question comes up is if God was the one forcing Pharaoh to do some thing. Look at it from these two different perspectives:

    a) Pharaoh did something wrong. “Oh yeah? Then how can Pharaoh be held at fault? For who can resist God’s will?”

    OR

    b) God made Pharaoh do something wrong. “Oh yeah? Then how can Pharaoh be held at fault? For who can resist God’s will?”

    In which of those two perspectives does the question make any sense?

    How can you explain Romans 9 in light of the claim Pharaoh is at fault for hardening his heart first? Explain how the question of vs. 19 could ever arise.

    Mark 4:11-12

    OneSmallStep addressed this very well. I would only highlight the point regardless of what you claim the others had already seen (Miracles, John the Baptist, claims of Jesus), so had the disciples and even THEY had to have the parable explained. More importantly, Jesus knew the disciples needed the parable explained, and knew the crowd needed the parable explained, yet deliberated only choose one group to explain it too.

    And another point which should be noted is that this was a crowd. Not just the Pharisees. Not just the Herodians, or Sadducees, or the “bad guys.” This was a crowd of peasants, and workers and people who wanted to hear Jesus, and Jesus deliberately kept this to an “insider group.”

    (There is a reason for it, but unimportant on the issue of Free Will.)

  • 143. LeoPardus  |  June 30, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Moses: Let my people go!
    Pharaoh: O.K. You win.
    YHWH: Ka…er…what? He said, ‘O.K.’ again? Sigh. Ziggity-Ziggity-Zap. Pharaoh–change your mind back.
    Pharaoh: Oh. I guess you can’t go.
    YHWH: Yipee. Ka-Pow! Zap!

    Hilarious! :D

    BTW, I think this says something to the “miracles won’t convince people” argument.

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Attention Christian Readers

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

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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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