What Would Yoda Do?

March 12, 2010 at 9:14 am 356 comments

Some time ago I wrote an article for this blog discussing my take on the issue of who, “really”, is a Christian.  This comes up when you are told, as we all have been at one time or another, that you never really were a Christian in the first place – because if you de-convert, it somehow proves the alleged falseness or insincerity of your prior belief. 

My basic argument was that there is no answer to the question.  The reason is that “Christian” is an arbitrary human group designation that is used with different (implicit) definitions by different groups.  Since none of those groups has accepted authority to establish a (or the) correct definition, and since “Christian” does not (as we used to believe) refer to anything divine or supernatural, it follows that there can be no final, ultimate, “correct” definition.  There is no right answer to whether “I was a Christian” is true or not, independent of context and a pre-chosen definition.

I still think my answer is substantially correct.  But its not exactly punchy.  It takes a bit of explaining, and that won’t always do in the heat of an argument.  When faced with confrontation and criticism from friends, former friends, and others who challenge us, it helps to have an answer at the ready that doesn’t depend on delving into philosophical issues of “natural kinds” vs “nominal kinds”.  I wanted something more memorable – compact & colorful, more visual and less abstract.

So after continuing to chew on this, I think I’ve come up with one.  So, let me share it here and you all can tell me what you think.

Here’s the setting: you are telling a friend, coworker, or stranger on the web that you used to be a Christian, but you deconverted.  She scoffingly replies that that means you never were one in the first place; true Christians remain faithful and never leave.  (Or, as a variant, as was said to me once, that you cannot lose your salvation, so you are still a Christian whether you think you are or not.)

I think I will call this Kenobi’s Fallacy.   Here goes:

Imagine that you once believed yourself to be a Jedi.  I mean, seriously.  You really, truly, honestly, in your heart of hearts believed in the Force, and that you, as a Jedi, were studying to master it.  You dedicated many years of your life to this with the singular passion of a Sith. Then, gradually, after many years of often painful reflection and study, you came to lose your belief.  You came to realize that there really was no Force, and there never had been.  You used to feel so sure – you once believed you felt it, flowing through you, controlling your actions but also obeying your commands – but now, you realize you were mistaken.

It was a very wrenching process for you.  You dedicated your life to this craft, and now, sadly, you see that Han was right: there really is no substitute for a good blaster at your side.

Now, though, your former Master comes to you, and says:  You never really were a Jedi in the first place.

I feel I hardly need to explain any more.  Do you see the silliness in having a debate with this person about whether you “really” were a Jedi?  Now that you have de-converted, you can see that the word “Jedi” doesn’t refer to anything except this:  people who believe themselves to be masters of the Force.  It has no supernatural, extradimensional, mystical (or whatever) aspects to it at all. 

Of course, your former master believes it does refer to something.  He thinks it refers to “someone who actually is a master of the Force”, just like you used to.  But from where you sit now, it cannot mean that – or, rather, it could, but if so then no one is a Jedi, because there is no such thing as the Force.  And since it would seem weird, and needlessly confusing, to claim there were no Jedi when the whole galaxy was full of people running around claiming to be Jedi, it makes much more sense to retain the term but change its referent. 

But how can you answer this person, who says that you never really were a Jedi – in his sense of the term Jedi… i.e., master of a real, literal Force?  By arguing that yes, you “really” were? No, that’s not true – you don’t believe that.  There is no Force.  But its also not strictly accurate that you “really” weren’t a Jedi either, in his sense of the term Jedi, because that still implies there is an actual Force to be a master of. And that’s the point: it cannot be answered whether someone has satisfied his definition of “Jedi” or not, because it assumes a nonexistent entity. His criterion for what qualifies as a Jedi is nonsensical.

So, back to this galaxy, the analog is clear: when someone uses the word “Christian” to mean something like “one whose soul has been saved by Jesus” , it becomes absurd to argue whether or not you ever “really” met that criteria. The only criteria that can really mean anything has to do with mundane and arbitrary group membership, membership that is not based on anything external, in any precise way.  “Christian” can only mean something like “one who considers herslef to be a follower of Jesus.”  “Christian”, thus, is actually more like “soccer fan.” There’s no real right answer as to whether someone is or not.

What I think I like about this analogy – if it holds – is that, in actual use (and I haven’t beta tested it), I don’t think you would need to explain as much as I did here.  Just replying to your critic, “That’s kind of like if, say, you used to think you were a Jedi, but now you don’t, and then I came to you and said ‘you never really were a Jedi’”, and let the implications slowly sink in, would probably be enough.

And if you like, you could reshape this analogy into anything you like: you used to think you were a wizard.  Or a dragonrider.  Or a unicorn-tamer.  Or a Romulan spy.

So ,what do you think of my analogy, my fellow Padawans?  Useful it is, hmm?

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356 Comments Add your own

  • 1. amy  |  March 12, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I know not it’s usefulness, but truthful and entertaining it is! Gotta love “Star Wars” analogies. I really want to be a Jedi.

    Just replying to your critic, “That’s kind of like if, say, you used to think you were a Jedi, but now you don’t, and then I came to you and said ‘you never really were a Jedi’”, and let the implications slowly sink in, would probably be enough

    I don’t know that it would be enough. The Christian would say that was a silly argument, because Jedi’s aren’t real, totally missing your point that Christianity isn’t real. Kind of like they have no problem admitting Santa isn’t real (who they believed in as children) but still insist that the Christian god is.

  • 2. Wes Widner  |  March 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    This really assumes that there is no objective definition of Christianity AND that there are no objective claims Christianity is based upon so that faith then becomes merely an expression of personal preference and not a valid truth claim.

    I’ve written an extended piece on this subject here:

    http://reasontostand.org/archives/2010/01/11/on-the-de-conversions-of-true-believers

  • 3. The Nerd  |  March 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Hmm… by the logic of comment #2, that means Christians should constantly suspect each other of not being “True Christians”, because any one of them could deconvert in the future, so you never really know.

  • 4. Laura  |  March 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    But I really AM a Jedi because there really IS a force. So your analogy is nonsensical. ;) ;)

  • 5. Portwes  |  March 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I like the Jedi approach. It works in a couple of different ways.

    I get this all the time, “then you weren’t a REAL christian!”. If I met ALL the criteria and more (and I did) they posit for what constitutes a “real” christian, then they simply cannot specify what more I could have done to have made it real in their eyes.

    Taking their thinking to it’s logical conclusion, the ONLY way to know if anyone was a real christian would be if they died without denying their faith. Now THAT is an odd “Assurance of Salvation”: if you die without ever denying the faith, then we believe that your christianity was geniune!

  • 6. Quester  |  March 12, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I’m not sure that explaining with the analogy would be any shorter than explaining without it, but it might be more quickly comprehensible. Thanks for the idea!

    Wes,

    This really assumes that there is no objective definition of Christianity AND that there are no objective claims Christianity is based upon so that faith then becomes merely an expression of personal preference and not a valid truth claim.

    No, it assumes that there are many objective definitions of Christianity, several of which contradict the others AND that the objective claims Christianity is based upon are either false or meaningless.

    I read your extended piece, as well.

    My guess is that your beliefs weren’t based on intellectual conviction of facts.

    Wrong. My beliefs were based on the facts that I had. They changed when I learned new facts, including some that allowed me to better interpret previously learned facts.

    My guess is that they were shaped more by your environment and the influence of those around you more than they were by your sincere efforts to study and understand what Christianity teaches and what the alternatives are (such as the paradox of infinite regression).

    Partially right. I studied what Christianity teaches by studying many different Christians and Christian denominations, by studying the scriptures Christians claimed holy, by studying church history, and by studying the world to see how God acted in it. It took me a long while to start studying some of the alternatives.

  • 7. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Wes-

    My guess is that your beliefs weren’t based on intellectual conviction of facts.

    Seriously? You’re going to base your assertion that de-converts weren’t “true believers” on a guess? For all your talk of facts and evidence on your blog post, your entire argument hinges on a poorly thought-out, intellectually lazy assumption.

    I’m with Quester on this. My belief was based on the facts I had. I started on the path to Christianity based simply on my environment, but that’s not to say I didn’t bolster my beliefs with research and facts.

    It’s just that eventually more facts came to light that provided a clearer picture, one that lead to my apostasy.

    As was mentioned earlier, based on your reasoning there is no way to know if anyone is a true believer, not even yourself. Up until the moment a person dies, they could be given new information that changes their mind about theism.

  • 8. BigHouse  |  March 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I was just cruising his website, Snuggly, and it is devoid of any “evidence” as well.

  • 9. LifeTrekker  |  March 13, 2010 at 1:37 am

    This is my first post here, but I am a recent de-convert that has been reading this site as a lurker for a few months now.

    I am currently writing an extended exitestimony and have included what I call the Assurance of Salvation Conundrum in that document. I believe it would be appropriate to post it here.

    Assurance of Salvation Conundrum
    If I would have died during the time before my recent crisis of faith, because I had been faithful up to that point, according to scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) I would have gone to be with Christ. However, if I were to die today, because of my doubt, according to scripture, I would not go to be with Christ, and according to 1 John 2:19, I would have been considered to have never been a genuine Christian to begin with. If this is truly the case, how can anyone have assurance of salvation? How can anyone be 100% certain they will never have a faith crisis like I have had and then be told that they were never a genuine Christian to begin with? When a Muslim or a Hindu comes to faith in Jesus Christ do we ever say they were never truly a dedicated member of their respective religion to begin with? Of course not!

    I know from messages that have been preached recently from the pulpit of the church I currently attend that after I come out, I will be told I was never a Christian to begin with based on the 1 John 2:19 passage. With the above argument, as well as the rest of my exitestamony, I am seeking to establish that up until recently I believed I was a Christan, and also to get the people who read my exitestamony to think about their own assurance of salvation, and just how tenuous it really is.

  • 10. portwes  |  March 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I just went to the link in Wes’ comment, and it’s a re-statement of “you never were a real believer in the first place” argument. Here was my comment to him:

    “Apply your reasoning to any other area of life, and no one can ever stop believing something that they really believed in. True belief PRECLUDES assimilating newly discovered evidence which causes re-evaluation of what you once would have given your life in defense of????

    So an Amazon tribal person who once believed that the sun revolves around the earth, who is shown through diagrams and scientific language he understands, stops believing that and then believes that the earth revolves around the sun, DIDN’T REALLY BELIEVE IN THE FIRST PLACE THAT THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN????

    It’s ridiculous isn’t it? And yet that is the same faulty logic you are applying to us former christians (in my case, a Th.B. from Multnomah Bible College, several years as a missionary in Europe, and 46 years as a witnessing, praying, worshipping, fervently passionate evangelical.

    If you apply your logic to all of life, no held belief can ever change, and if it does, it was never a true belief. The only infallible test of true belief is DEATH. If you can make it to the grave without ever denying a belief, then that proves it was “true”. There is NO OTHER WAY to prove whether the belief was geniune, according to your test of belief.

  • 11. portwes  |  March 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Oops, I meant “…THAT THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH????”

  • 12. Wes Widner  |  March 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I started penning a response but it quickly grew past the size that could be comfortably included or contained within a comment field. So I’ve chosen to include my response on my blog and post it outside of my normal post schedule.

    So, if you are interested in my reply, you can find it here:

    http://reasontostand.org/archives/2010/03/13/was-i-ever-saved-in-the-first-place

  • 13. Tim  |  March 14, 2010 at 4:19 am

    LifeTrekker,

    There was a movie called The Rapture with Mimi Rogers that made me think of your very conundrum. She ended up in a kind of hell/purgatory. Had she died five years earlier while she was a Christian, she would have gone to heaven. Five years before that before her ‘conversion’ she would have gone to hell.

    Before becoming a Christian, this troubled me greatly. After becoming a Christian, it still does. The difference between now and then is trust in God that has come through the Spirit. I trust in a God so great He could create a universe. I trust that though they may be errant, there is enough in Scripture that speaks to God’s goodness and love. I trust in the Wonderful Counselor I find in prayer. All that I put ahead of my own ability to understand His doings.

    Perhaps you are right and I would be better off dead right now rather than risk living another day where I might possibly lose my faith. But the story of Solomon comes to mind. Did anybody have it better? Yet the end of his life was turning away from God. Do you think most Christians would believe that Solomon is in hell?

  • 14. BigHouse  |  March 14, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I trust in the Wonderful Counselor I find in prayer. All that I put ahead of my own ability to understand His doings.

    And this, in my opinion is one of the greatest coups that Christianity has pulled. Don’t think or reason or use your brain, just trust me and drink this Kool-aod and you’ll be all set.

  • 15. Richard  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    Wes- Actually, my article *argues* that there is no objective definition of Christianity; it does not assume it. That was pretty much the point: there is no supernatural referent to “Christian” (or “God” or “salvation” or any of it), so the only definition(s) possible have to do with human social designations. Many groups of course *claim* to have objective definitions, but since I believe (a) they are all wrong, and (b) all lack the authority to settle the question for everyone, I can either scrap the word “Christian” altogether, or understand it to refer only to those who profess to be followers of Jesus. Thus, the boundaries of the term “Christian” are very fuzzy: it doesn’t refer to anything divine, and there is no universally accepted coding system, as it were. So: there is no correct answer.

    Anyone is, of course, free to stipulate any definition of “Christian” they wish. You can, if you like, define “Christian” such as to exclude de-conversion. I can’t say that you’re wrong. But there is no reason at all I have to adopt your definition.

    Regarding the second half of you sentence (comment #2), the answer is that yes, this article does start from the standpoint that the claims of Christians regarding the supernatural origins of Christianity are untrue. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be an atheist. But I trust you don’t think I need to argue for every part of non-belief in the same article! So, although I will leave it to others to decide whether faith is a “personal preference” or not (perhaps just an error), but yes, I do think it is not a valid truth claim.

    And BTW, I did read your articles in your links. All I will say about them is that, contrary to your statements, your view on this matter does indeed most certainly constitute a very fine No True Scotsman fallacy.

    To wit:

    A: “No Christians deconvert.”
    B: “But I did, and I was a Christian!”
    A: “Aye, but no Christians *with proper epistemic warrant* deconvert.”

    Truth by definition: you have not told me what Christians do, or do not do, out in the world. You have told me how you use the word “Christian”. Here’s my take on this topic

    http://de-conversion.com/2008/10/24/the-psychology-of-apologetics-definitions-or-flapping-your-arms-with-a-pure-heart/

  • 16. UNRR  |  March 15, 2010 at 6:28 am

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 3/15/2010, at The Unreligious Right

  • 17. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Christianity does have an early and objective definition which has been upheld by all orthodox Christians ever since the establishment of the Church in the book of Acts. In fact, this objective definition is what we use in order to determine whether something is orthodox or not.

    This definition is seen clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul clearly states what many believe to be the earliest Christian creed or codification of Christian beliefs. It contains a number of things but the quick rundown is that Christians believe that Christ is a real person, who died a real death, who then rose from a real grave in a real, physical body and who appeared to real people.

    I realize it is very popular to characterize Christian belief in particular (as well as religious belief in general) as merely a product of wish fulfillment or a preference akin to which flavor of ice cream is best (I prefer chocolate). However the fact remains that Christianity is based upon real, historical events which means that Christianity, like Judaism, is potentially falsifiable.

    This also means that no one can epistemologically be a “true Christian” unless Christianity is, itself, true. If you have renounced Christianity and now believe it to be false, by definition you also believe you were never a “true believer” because you would have to logically commit yourself to the idea that you were deceived when you held an irrational belief (if, that is, Christianity is indeed false).

    Finally, you seem to misunderstand the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. The fallacy is one of lack of objective definition such that the goal-posts are rendered wholly subjective. My contention (as well as Paul’s per 1 Corinthians 15) is that lack of objective definition of what beliefs are definitive of “true Christian beliefs” is simply not true.

    We do have an objective standard, rooted in real historical and falsifiable events. Our claims are not entirely subjective, nor are they ad-hoc (as supposed competing explanations of unique Christian claims such as the resurrection are).

    So the question of whether you were a “true believer” in the first place must logically center around what you believed in relation to the objective truth claims of Christianity (specifically the resurrection of Jesus) AND what competing, credible, competing theories/arguments/and evidence you have subsequently found that have provided sufficient defeaters to your original beliefs.

    In the end, you were either a “true believer” then (of the objective claims of Christianity) or you are a “true believer” now (in atheism/agnosticism). However, die to the law of the excluded middle you cannot claim to have been a “true believer” of both since, at the end of the day, one of them is false and therefore cannot have “true believers” no matter how strenuously it’s adherents may wish it to be true.

  • 18. DSimon  |  March 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Wes, I have no idea why you’re saying “true believer” is only applicable when the belief being held is, in fact, objectively true. It’s perfectly possible to believe in something that turns out to be false; the person holding that belief still does “truly believe” in it, they’re just wrong.

  • 19. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I’ve posted some of this at Wes’ blog but will do so here as well.

    Wes, where do you get your support for using “true belief” in this way? I believe standard parlance for true in this context is on par with “sincere”.

    So, I think de-cons have every right to object to your doubting the sincerity of their past beliefs, but I’m not sure that is what you’re doing here.

  • 20. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I am getting this from the accepted parlance of respected epistimologists like Alvin Plantinga who all agree that there is a vast difference between a sincere belief and a true belief. This is not a redefinition on my part, but an attempt to not muddy the waters by using unclear and vague terms.

    If you want change the question to ask whether it is possible for a person to sincerely believe something and be wrong (be it about Christianity, atheism or anything else) then I would wholly agree. However sincerity of belief in itself does not mean that one is a “true believer”. As Paul writes in Romans 10 regarding his fellow Jews, “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”

    You see, the hallmark of the Christian faith is not whether someone is merely sincere in their belief but whether what they believe is actually true (1 Corinthians 15:17 tells us this plainly). This is why we, as Christians, are called to continually examine our beliefs and make sure they are true as opposed to holding on to “blind faith”.

    Hence, the very notion that one was a “true believer” while having unexamined beliefs in the face of potentially faith-crippling doubt, by Biblical definition, excludes one from being able to claim to have been a “true believer”.

    Another way to put this would be; If you believe the right things for the wrong reasons your belief is not a “true belief” even if your belief proves to be true in the end because it was formed under false pretenses. No matter how sincere you were in your belief, if your belief is either wrongly formed or is itself false then you cannot be a “true believer” because, by definition, the truth involved in the belief is invalidated.

    Sorry gentleman, truth is not subjective and beliefs are not merely preferences akin to which flavor of ice cream one likes. You cannot have your epistemic cake (the notion that you were once a “true believer”) and eat it too (that is, your present persuasion that Christianity is, in fact, false).

  • 21. The Nerd  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Wait… so if an atheist becomes a Christian later on in life, how can we know if they ever were “really” an atheist to begin with?

  • 22. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    They may have had a sincere belief in atheism at one point, however their conversion indicates that they now hold their belief in theism (Christianity in particular) to be true.

    The real dilemma and discussion here is whether their beliefs are true or not which determines whether their beliefs are true or not.

    In all honesty it is rather asinine to whine about whether they were sincere in their beliefs or not (something I really have no interest in discussion) as the REAL discussion and question lies with whether their beliefs are true or not.

    You can be a sincere believer in just about anything.

    Whether your beliefs are warranted and thus true or not is a wholly different story.

    What I’ve found is that many people sincerely do believe the claims of Christianity but then never go on to examine their beliefs, or only examine them after they have decided to give them up anyway (thus providing a biased basis for evaluation of facts). Therefore there are many people who even today claim to be “true believers” without ever taking the time to evaluate whether what they believe is actually true or not.

  • 23. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    No matter how sincere you were in your belief, if your belief is either wrongly formed or is itself false then you cannot be a “true believer” because, by definition, the truth involved in the belief is invalidated.

    OK, so assuming Christianity is true for the moment, how do you know whether a belief is wrongly formed? If I formed my Christian beliefs for the same reasons you did, and later came upon evidence that changed my mind, was my prior belief true or not? I may have changed my beliefs for the wrong reasons, but that has no bearing on whether the beliefs I held previously were true and formed for the “right” reasons.

  • 24. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Good question, to answer that I would have to know more about your beliefs, how they were formed, and what new competing evidence you came upon that caused you to change your mind.

    At the end of the day, whatever has compelled you to deconvert ought to be sufficient to cause all Christians to deconvert if the evidence is true and offeres both sufficient defeaters as well as better alternative explanations of the facts.

  • 25. DSimon  |  March 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Wes, I think that “true belief” and “true believer”, while seemingly very closely related, in fact have a significant difference in meaning. A “true belief” means a belief in a fact that is true, but the “true” in “true believer” has to do (at least, in every conversation up til now I’ve been in where the term has come up) with how deeply those beliefs are held, not with whether the beliefs themselves are true.

    It’s like the difference between blue writing and a blue writer. A blue writer (an author wearing blue face paint?) can write with red ink and thus make red writing. And of course, a non-blue writer can make blue writing with blue ink.

    I really think that the definition of “true believer” you’re using is much much less common then the definition being used in the OP, and that your use of it without first explaining what you really mean by it is confusing.

  • 26. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    If we are going to answer the question regarding whether a person was ever a Christian in the first place, the truth of the unique claims which constitute Christianity (such as the ressurection of Jesus) must be addressed first.

    As far as I recall, no one here has ever doubted whether it is possible to sincerely believe in something, be it right or wrong.

    The question, however, is whether those of you who are unbelievers are actually right in what you claim to currently believe. Because if you aren’t, as I would argue, then your deconversion has not brought you into a state of enlightenentnt but rather has torn you away from a state of enlightenment and into a state of epistemological blindness.

    Conversely, if Christianity is merely a myth then it is I who am in a state of darkness while deconverts such as yourself are the ones who can rightly claim the epestimological high ground.

    So the question at the heart of our discussion is “who’s right?”.

    In this respect I believe deconverts are at a disadvantage moreso than the common atheist or agnostic because for some strange reason it seems that deconverts want to claim to have been “true believers” in both camps.

    The bottom line is; Where does the truth lie?

    Wherever we find the truth there we will also find “true” believers.

    Everywhere else we will only find people wandering around, groping in the darkness and why would we ever try to differentiate between degrees of lostness or blindness (provided both answers are, in fact, wrong)?

  • 27. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    So, Wes, what happens to Christian “believers” whose beliefs are wrongly formed upon their death?

  • 28. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    That’s a good question BigHouse, and one I would have to differ to the grace of God on since I am not the one who is the ultimate judge in this case.

    If you are asking whether it is possible for even a child to believe then I would have to say “sure”.

  • 29. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    If you are asking whether it is possible for even a child to believe then I would have to say “sure”.

    There’s no way a child could believe under the arduous conditions you’ve set up. There’s as much evidence for this particular God as there is Santa Claus for a child’s intellect and you’ve already stated that believes in Santa Claus are a priori not able to be “true”.

  • 30. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Strictly speaking you are right, however in this case the underlying question is one of salvation which is not wholly dependent upon the production of true beliefs.

    Salvation, which is entailed with the question of “being a Christian”, is wholly dependent upon God who searches and understands our hearts (which, according to the Hebrew understanding includes one’s mind as well) far better than even we do.

    Also, we’ve been told that “faith the size of a mustard seed” is all that is required to accept the gift that is freely offered in the person of Christ.

  • 31. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    So, if God is judges our heart why even bother caring about this “true belief” stuff? It becomes a total red herring and a waste of typing on all our parts.

  • 32. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    No, belief still requires an object. The difference between a child and us is that of cognitive ability. What I am merely stating above is that there is no minimum of cognitive ability required in order for a person to be saved by an all-loving and all-knowing God.

  • 33. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    What I am merely stating above is that there is no minimum of cognitive ability required in order for a person to be saved by an all-loving and all-knowing God.

    If this God you speak of drops all the belief modifiers you’ve been debating for days then I would agree. But you’re pitching to us de-converts that we were never “saved” in the 1st place (assuming God is real), using downstream changes in belief as proof. The pre-suppositional thinking at it’s clearest.

    And an all-loving God is completely and logically at odds with damning a human to hell forever because he earnestly sought the truth and sincerely believed God didn’t exist, even though he was wrong. Seriously, how can you put that stuff down in a post and not read it and see how absurd it is?

  • 34. Wes Widner  |  March 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    To quote myself from earlier “belief still requires an object”. How were you saved in the first place if you didn’t really believe that what you were believing in was objectively true?

    Conversely, if you did believe what you believed about Christ was objectively true at one point, what made you change your mind? How were you so easily led astray? You see I see your present state of unbelief as clear evidence of faulty grounding at some point in the epestemic process I outlined initially. Otherwise, you will have to make the case that what I believe in regards to Christ is false (which is actually a more important and foundational question imo).

  • 35. Richard  |  March 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Wes- Thank you for your replies to my comments, esp. #17 and #20. I appreciate the clarification; I think I understand much better now where you are coming from.

    (1) What you are insisting on, it seems, is that if Christian claims are untrue, then there are no such things as “true” Christians. Well, you could define it that way, I suppose. I think that view is needlessly Platonic, implicitly invoking some notion of an essence or Form. However, that kind of understanding of how language is used and terms are defined certainly does has a lineage. But it is not the only view, and, as Wittgenstein showed, it isn’t the most prevalent view. As he showed, meaning is use.

    If a “true” Christian requires some divine action, and there is no such thing as the divine, then you could indeed say there are no real Christians and most of the world is using the term wrong. But I think that is needlessly strict and confusing. I believe it is much simpler, more sensible, and (most importantly) much more congruent with how we use language in everyday life to just recognize that now, we use and understand the word “Christian” differently than we did before.

    And that is what has happened upon deconversion: once we understood “Christian” to mean something roughly like what you do. Now, we understand the term does not refer to that; it simply refers to a group designation. When our beliefs about God and miracles and whatnot changed, so did our belief about what it is to be a Christian. Now, it simply means something like “one who professes to be a follower of Jesus.” It is not necessary to understand all these terms to suddenly to refer to nothing.

    So no, there is no contradiction at all in our stance. This has nothing to do with objective vs subjective claims. It has to do with how we want to use our terms. That’s why there is no right or wrong answer, independent of a definition. ** And there is no right or wrong definition.**

    (2) You say that there is indeed an objective definition of Christianity, drawing from the allegedly “orthodox” position, and the New Testament. My question to you, which illustrates the point I am making, is why should we consider these definitions, well, definitive? Why do they have authority? Granted, if you and the modern 21st century American evangelical view is true, then perhaps this definition could theoretically be considered authoritative. As far as that goes, you are correct. But you have not convinced us that Christianity is true, and so, your definition carries no authority for us. Sp, you can define Christian however you wish, and I cant say you’re wrong. You are within your epistemic rights to have your own opinion. But since your definition is idiosyncratic to your particular world view (and your particular choice to see the Bible as authoritative, and your particular interpretation of its meaning), and since it is not in keeping with English usage in general, I don’t accept your definition.

    (3) Finally, no, my understanding if the NTS fallacy is correct. You are not recognizing that *all* definitions are both objective (in the sense of referring to the world) *and* simultaneously subjective (in the sense of deciding how we wish to use our language). There is no necessary connection between the word m-a-m-m-a-l and “vertebrate the gives birth to live young.” We do not have to parse the world up that way. We could establish categories for animals based other things if we wish (such as color), and for some contexts, we do: such as their sleep-wake cycle (i.e. nocturnal vs diurnal). Categories are not right or wrong; they are either sensible and useful, or not.

    So, saying that “Christian” refers to “one who is x” is not wrong, nor right. The problem is when you make your definition idiosyncratic, and inconsistent with general word use, and dependent upon subjective conditions that can only be defined in retrospect. We could say all “true” mammals have fur, and then stick to that in the face of the discovery of a creature that is like mammals in every other way except in being hairless. We could do that.

    But does it make any sense to do so? That’s the question. It is not strictly illogical, or wrong, to define “true” Scotsman as those who do not put sugar in their porridge. But does it make any sense to do so? That’s the issue, and that’s where your definition of “Christian” is arbitrary, impractical, and a bit self-serving.

  • 36. BigHouse  |  March 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Conversely, if you did believe what you believed about Christ was objectively true at one point, what made you change your mind? How were you so easily led astray? You see I see your present state of unbelief as clear evidence of faulty grounding at some point in the epestemic process I outlined initially. Otherwise, you will have to make the case that what I believe in regards to Christ is false (which is actually a more important and foundational question imo).

    The arrogance of this is borderline offensive and demonstrates your bias (i.e. How do you know how easily I was “led astray”) but nonetheless, I’ll respond.

    I base my beliefs on the fact that the Bible was presented to me as the true word of God and historically accurate when I was a child. I won’t say “inerrant” because there was plenty of debate over what was fact, what was allegory etc. My parents and a number of other adults whom I respcted and trusted to tell me truth told me I was a sinner and would forever burn in hell unless I accepted Jesus into my heart. I accepted this proposition and lived my life as best I could believing their was a God in heaven who loved me enough to send his son to die for me.

    As I got older, I realized that almost all of Christianity was based on a book written a long time ago, by disparate authors, well after the times of supposed events that was debated and cobbled together by men who held meetings to decide what was Biblical and what wasn’t.

    Then I really read the book from the standpoint of not pre-supposing it’s true. There are so many contradictions and outright goofy and unbelievable stories (e.g. basically all of Genesis, the story of Jesus, talking donkeys, I could go on) that I realized that to assume this book was true like an encylclopedia was silly. It was just like all other religious texts that I had rejected so easily because they weren’t pre-supposed as true by those shaping my earlier belief.

    Now as I am even older I analyze how the God of the Bible is presented vs what the book says he did and they are logically and morally inconsistent and absurd. An all-loving God who supposedly cares for humans does not create them with faulty wiring and no choice to be anything other than sinful and then damn them all the hell when the first man breaks a rule and we become what he destined us to become.

    So, I do not give the Bible special status that Christians do, it is a human writ book that should be evaluated as all other books. I don;t believe Greek mythology because it has Minataurs and Unicorns in it, why would I accept similarly obviously mythological writing?

  • 37. Tim  |  March 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    BigHouse,

    I share your frustration with ‘Christians’ who have no desire to explore their faith intellectually. But I disagree if you are suggesting that being a Christian means you relinquish your intellect. Prayer is very much an exercise of the brain, particularly reviewing what comes from prayer and testing it. Prayer itself, I find, is fueled by the study of Scripture. Can you think of one book that has been analyzed as much as the Bible has? There is no shortage of intelligent and critical thinking with respect to biblical analysis and interpretation. True, you might have to filter through the vast material with little intellectual basis.

  • 38. Quester  |  March 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Can you think of one book that has been analyzed as much as the Bible has? There is no shortage of intelligent and critical thinking with respect to biblical analysis and interpretation.

    Tim,

    You’re right, there. If I had read more of that analysis and interpretation earlier in my life, I may have deconverted much earlier. Or maybe I would have simply discounted it. It’s hard to say.

  • 39. SnugglyBuffalo  |  March 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    At the end of the day, whatever has compelled you to deconvert ought to be sufficient to cause all Christians to deconvert if the evidence is true and offeres both sufficient defeaters as well as better alternative explanations of the facts.

    The problem here is that people are notoriously good at compartmentalizing. People are perfectly capable of holding two mutually exclusive beliefs at the same time without it bothering them in the slightest. By the same token, whatever has compelled you to reject Islam should be enough to cause all muslims to apostatize, whatever compelled you to reject Hinduism should be enough to cause all Hindus to apostatize. But clearly this doesn’t happen. That sufficient reason exists to reject a belief does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that it will cause everyone (or even most) to do so. This is especially true when such beliefs are set up to be untestable (which I would argue is a reason in itself to reject them).

  • 40. Phil  |  March 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Growing up, I went to a church with my parents that taught the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. When I studied this issue a few years before my deconversion, I realized that those beliefs could lead to denial of a person’s Christianity. But saying someone was never really a Christian after the fact of their falling away causes many problems and doesn’t really solve anything. How do you know that someone is a true Christian and has salvation? Is it not enough to say the sinner’s prayer or get baptized or receive the holy spirit or whatever your denomination says is necessary for salvation? And can you still in good conscience tell someone that those things are enough for their salvation? How is it that no one, either themselves or their pastor or other Christians, could tell that they weren’t saved, until after they fell away? And what does this mean for your salvation? And furthermore, if they never really were saved, then doesn’t that mean there are probably many more people who listen to the pastor and read the Bible and pray regularly and follow God as best as they can, who believe they are saved but never really were? As many on here (including me) will attest, they thought they were saved at some point before they lost their faith. That is what is wrong with this doctrine; that is its fatal flaw.

  • 41. 4riozs  |  March 26, 2010 at 10:27 am

    The title of this post cracks me up everytime I come back to the site. It makes me recall the WWJD years. I don’t know if it happens to anyone else but II keep hearing the WWJD song when I look at the post but hear, What would yoda do?, it’s very funny. Great post by the way.

  • 42. John C  |  March 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    The ‘Christian’ label is not a self designation, Christ is Christianity. Man is essentially a container for a certain kind and quality of life, either of the false and fallen (adamic) or the real and risen (Christ) kind. If one is truly ‘InChristed’ (if Christ be his or her very life, Col 3:4) then he/she will quite naturally express, manifest the same nature or ‘fruits’ thereof, every tree (JC saying ‘I am the true vine and we the branches’) bearing its same ’seed’ kind and not merely in the professing of it. JC saying ‘with your lips (lip service) you draw near, but your hearts are far from me’.

    A Christian is one in whom the Life is manifested since Jesus (himself) is perfect theology. All the best…

  • 43. Quester  |  March 27, 2010 at 1:45 am

    So, if we take Wes, John C., and every other Christian who drops by this site to share the one and only definition of “a true Christian” and we put them in a room, arming each of them with their preferred translation of the Bible, setting them to face each other, then we lock the doors and walk away, how long do you think it would take for someone to miss them?

  • 44. Lvka  |  April 3, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    This Easter, the Church has devised a new season-greating to attract free-thinkers:

    Christ is reason! :-)

  • 45. Ubi Dubium  |  April 4, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Which is why their holiday is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. :)

  • 46. Wes Widner  |  April 4, 2010 at 8:02 am

    It may be named after another god, but it is celebrated by non-Anglo-Saxons across all continents and throughout the centuries because of an event that happened almost 2,000 years ago. One of the best attested events in history, I might add.

    Jesus is risen, death is defeated, happy Easter!

  • 47. Richard  |  April 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Wes-

    Actually, the crucifixtion narrative is not well attested at all, it has just been frequently repeated. Thats not the same thing. There are just four disagreeing narratives, after all, written at a minimum of 30 years after the event, by people who were very likely not even eyewitnesses.

    The U2 concert I saw last fall is better attested than that — 30000 people maybe? Hell, even the Sasquatch has more people claiming to have seen him, than claimed to see Jesus ressurected.

    But I’ll grant you this poorly attested story has certainly assumed worldwide significance. And the significance of a story is often as much its acquired meanings as its factuality, no?

    But regardless, happy Easter to you as well!

  • 48. Wes Widner  |  April 4, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Actually, it is well attested historically (http://bit.ly/9t7p0Z), the sources ARE eyewitness and early. I find it funny how all competing theories are far more ad-hoc and don’t manage to explain the basic set of facts accepted by 80-90% of NT scholars (skeptics mind you) from the 1970s to today.

    Yes, the resurrection narrative has gained worldwide fame. It also had scores of early Christians (both friend and foe) dying in defense of it. People who would have been eyewitnesses to Christ, his ministry, death, and resurrection. In fact, without the resurrection being a real, historical event we have no other explanation as to how or why Christianity managed to survive such harsh persecution and rejection so early on.

    At any rate, I hope you take time to look into the historical evidence for Jesus’s resurrection more closely because the inescapable conclusion is that Jesus did not remain dead, he is risen. He is not there.

    Happy Easter indeed!

  • 49. LifeTrekker  |  April 4, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Wes Widner said,
    “…without the resurrection being a real, historical event we have no other explanation as to how or why Christianity managed to survive such harsh persecution and rejection so early on.”

    I think we actually do have an alternative explanation if we look at the early growth and extreme persecution of the Mormons. Think about it. They had a charismatic leader that made some pretty amazing claims about some gold plates and an angel that gave them to him. He wrote a book which he claimed he translated from these same gold plates which contained a purported new revelation from God. (The gold plates have never turned up, by the way.) They were run out of one town after another. Many of these early Mormons died for their belief in Joseph Smith’s story. The religion survived this early persecution and has thrived since. Millions of Mormons worldwide still believe this story today. Does the fact that it survived this early persecution make it true?

    I, like most of the Evangelical Christians I know, believe that Joseph Smith made up this story and that Mormonism is not what it claims to be. I also believe that whatever it is in humans that causes this kind of blind devotion to an obviously false religion (obviously false to me, but I suppose not so obviously false to the majority of Mormons) was also very likely at work in first century Christianity.

    Blind devotion to ones faith and a willingness to die for your beliefs does not make that faith true. Just ask all the followers of Jim Jones that drank the Kool-Aid.

    By the way, I had a very nice Easter!

    LifeTrekker

  • 50. Richard  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Wes- what you said was that the alleged resurrection is one of the “best attested events in history”. Can we agree that was hyperbole? Which is fair enough, as far as it goes, but in the interest of not mixing evangelism with history, lets keep our claims a bit more sober. Virtually any event ine the modern world is better attested than the gospel story. The Holocaust? The assasination of JFK? Pearl Harbor?

    Second, it is by no means universally agreed that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and it most certainly not thought so by skeptics. Your claim is true almost exclusively for conservative scholars and apologists. Again, lets please refrain from wildly overstating the case. Your theory is that the books attributed to matthew mark and john were written by eyewitnesses. Fine, youre entitled to your conclusion. But there is plenty of reason to doubt this, such as the fact that they never claim to be, they nowhere write in the first person, and they relate events they could not have witnessed, such as Jesus’ birth.

    Third, legendary development, rather than ‘miracle’, actually makes much better sense of the data and is far more consistent with the way we – you included, Ill wager – explain every other book.

    Finally, I wont waste much time on the bit about early martyrs dying for the faith, therefore it must be true. That is beyond ludicrous. History is awash in the blood of those who believed in what they thought they had seen/heard/felt/experienced enough to die for it. Remember 9/11? You woild never, ever let anyone else get away with using this argument, so I wont either. The martyrs prove precisely nothing except that they were convinced.

  • 51. Quester  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Wes,

    If you’re not even going to post one true statement, stay away.

  • 52. Richard  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:48 am

    BTW, Christians endured varying degrees of persecution (the popular perveption of relentless, continual, empire-wide Christian persecution by Rome is a myth). But that ceased when it became the official Roman religion in the 4th century. From the until today, it was the dominant religion in the West and the only persecution ofChristians has been by other Christians.

    By contrast, Jews have suffered much harsher, more widespread, more continual, more systematic persecution for most of the past 2500 years. And they have survived. May we then infer, by your logic, the Truth of Judaism?

  • 53. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 8:30 am

    The difference between the persecution of the Mormons and the early Christians is that the Mormons who “suffered” (or had a legal action taken against them, but I digress) were not eyewitnesses to the events detailed in the Book of Mormon.

    As for the gospels being written by eyewitnesses. What other area do you expect unanimous agreement from? I would argue that such a criteria is rather ad-hoc and limited only to a subject like the resurrection which has personal implications beyond it’s subject matter (as you pointed out earlier).

    “From the until today, it was the dominant religion in the West and the only persecution ofChristians has been by other Christians.”

    For the most part this is true but it..
    A.) doesn’t explain the endurance of the early Christians up until the 4th century. I’m not sure where you get the historical data required to counter the decree of Nero to kill all Christians which, along with eyewitness testimony, provides rather conclusive proof that the persecution of early Christians WAS empire-wide in Rome
    B.) doesn’t explain the enduring faith of Christians in persecuted areas (Africa, Asia, Russia, North Korea, etc.)

    The fact is that going from a handful of dejected followers (their leader was just brutally killed and in a manner which would have indicated that he was accursed) who were not expecting or looking for an individual resurrection (the Jewish interpretation of resurrection among the Jews who did hold to a resurrection was of a general resurrection at the “end times”, not before then) who also were uneducated and not very powerful (politically or culturally) to hundreds of thousands of adherents in the span of a century or less is nothing short of miraculous in itself (and strongly suggests that the catalyst to such a boom in population was equally as miraculous).

    Finally, your question of the Jews and Judaism strikes me as quite odd.

    “May we then infer, by your logic, the Truth of Judaism?”

    Um, yes. Jesus was a Jew, lived as a Jew, and claimed to be the Jewish messiah.

    Your question actually makes me wonder how much about Christianity you’ve explored and understand because the question of Judaism being true is actually Christianity 101.

  • 54. The Nerd  |  April 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Your question actually makes me wonder how much about Christianity you’ve explored and understand because the question of Judaism being true is actually Christianity 101.

    That’s good to know, because the truth of Judaism is that they think Christianity is full of shit. ;)

  • 55. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Including the Messianic Jews who accept Jesus?

    I would have to say “not really”, but that’s a different subject altogether I’m afraid.

  • 56. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:09 am

    What other area do you expect unanimous agreement from?

    Is this a joke?

  • 57. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:16 am

    “Second, it is by no means universally agreed that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and it most certainly not thought so by skeptics.”

    This is a bare assertion which does not deal with the data provided.

    I told you where I get the data that my claim was based on and that data includes both skeptical scholars (many atheists even) as well as Christians. However to combat the very accusation you made anyway the data Habermas collected focused on getting to the minimum set of accepted facts agreed upon by _skeptical_ scholars.

    Additionally, “universal agreement” seems to indicate that your requirements for accepting a historical event as true is that there be no competing theories rather than merely possessing strong evidence. Tell me, do you expect to have Cartesian certainty regarding an event in history before you consider it to have happened?

  • 58. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Tell me, do you expect to have Cartesian certainty regarding an event in history before you consider it to have happened?

    When it’s a ghost story? The evidence must be stronger.

  • 59. mile high  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    My only regret is that I didn’t deconvert much earlier in life. It would have been much simpler and I would have saved myself a lot of time and energy trying to follow the elusive and unpredictable will of God.

  • 60. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    The difference between the persecution of the Mormons and the early Christians is that the Mormons who “suffered” (or had a legal action taken against them, but I digress) were not eyewitnesses to the events detailed in the Book of Mormon.

    Wait, wait, wait. Isn’t that exactly the point you were trying to make? That without being eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, it doesn’t make sense that early Christians would have endured the persecution they were subjected to?

    Yet here we have an example of a religious group that were not eyewitnesses to the most important part of their beliefs, and yet they also endured, showing quite clearly that a group can persist through harsh persecution and eventually thrive, regardless of whether the founding events actually happened.

    Your claim that Christianity could not have endured harsh persecution if its founding events were not real is demonstrably false.

  • 61. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    SB, drives home the nail in the coffin there, well done.

  • 62. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    *facepalm*

    No, the point I was trying to make is that the writers of the Gospels were eyewitnesses. Both to Jesus’s life as well as his post-resurrection appearances.

    As my friend Mike Licona likes to put it “liars make poor martyrs”.

    Simply put, if you think the resurrection is false you are left explaining why so many people were willing to (and many did) die for their false belief.

    My original argument was not that people are willing to die for a lie. But that scores of people are generally not willing to die for something they know is a lie.

    So unless the Mormons you are referring to were eyewitnesses to the events described in the Book of Mormon we simply aren’t talking about the same thing here.

  • 63. The Nerd  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Nobody (that I know of) is doubting the fact that people who die for beliefs actually believe them. I’m sure every early-church Christian who was killed, every suicide-murdering Muslim, every Buddhist who lit himself on fire in protest… I’m sure they all believed that what they were dying for was the truth.

  • 64. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Simply put, if you think the resurrection is false you are left explaining why so many people were willing to (and many did) die for their false belief.

    As the Nerd put it, it has happened all the time throughtout history.

  • 65. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    People throughout history have been willing to die for something they KNEW to be false? I must have missed the historical evidence for that somewhere…

  • 66. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Wes, no one is contending that the Christian martyrs knew Christianity was a lie. Drop the strawman, please.

  • 67. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    No, the straw man here is assuming that the deaths of the early Christians in any way resembles the deaths of other “religious fanatics”. The reason the deaths of the early Christians matters is because they were eyewitnesses to the events they ended up dying for.

    What, other than the bodily resurrection of Jesus, would cause them to form a belief so strongly in the resurrection of Jesus that they were willing to die in defense of it?

  • 68. The Nerd  |  April 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    What, other than the bodily resurrection of Jesus, would cause them to form a belief so strongly in the resurrection of Jesus that they were willing to die in defense of it?

    The same things that causes a suicide bomber to KNOW he’ll be rewarded, and a protester to KNOW his demonstration will change the world. Humans often times KNOW things, which then an increased understanding of the facts reveal to be “knowledge” instead of KNOWLEDGE.

  • 69. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I would argue that you can’t really posses knowledge of something that is false. But that’s an epistemological issue.

    What we have here, however, is, again, simply not on the same order of a suicide bomber’s hope of receiving 70 virgins in paradise.

    Early Christians died after having been eyewitnesses to the events they were giving their lives for. There’s a big difference.

  • 70. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Wes, what’s the evidence that the gospels were eyewitness accounts? I’m pretty sure that’s not a universally accepted fact.

  • 71. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    #1. Your requirement for Cartesian certainty (universally accepted fact) is untenable and not something historians use to determine whether a historical event (like the resurrection of Jesus) happened or not.

    #2. “The gospels” are actually a collection of letters which each need to be treated as seperate documents. All of which agree, there are no contradictions. Amazingly they all manage to report the same things with amazing detail and with historical features such as embarrassing details intact.

    #3. Extra-biblical sources (http://bit.ly/ahdDQm) corroborate the basic facts surrounding the death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus.

    What I am curious about is: What competing theory that addresses the minimum facts accepted by the majority of scholars (including skeptics) on the subject do you find to be MORE plausible than the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

  • 72. The Nerd  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    #2. “The gospels” are actually a collection of letters which each need to be treated as seperate documents. All of which agree, there are no contradictions.

    *Headdesk*

    I give up. Have fun with this one, boys.

    *Unsubscribes from comments thread.*

  • 73. Ben  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Wes,

    One has to make a lot of assumptions about the explicit epistemology of the earliest Christian martyrs in order to conclude what you have concluded.

    I mean, if those assumptions aren’t assumptions and we have a really amazing case for the part as you say: “they were eyewitnesses to the events they ended up dying for,” then it seems we ought to be talking about that case, since that is really what is in question, right?

    It doesn’t have to be some kind of CSI: Empty Tomb type of Christianity that generated martyrs. People like Paul were converted primarily by what is historically indistinguishable from a hallucination. There were many gnosticie Christians who had a variety of spiritual understandings of Christian truths. As has been pointed out, many types of religious people are willing to die for what they *believe* to be true.

    It is not inconceivable that some religious people may have a more modest version of religious convictions they believe in that may well be *just as important* to them as the grandiose version they think will play better for others. If they are willing to die for that, who are we to judge?

    Regardless, my conclusion is that we really don’t know what kind of Christianity the earliest Christians were willing to die for. As I understand it, we either have no information on the majority of instances, limited and ambiguous secular information that doesn’t tell us what we need to know to make the Christian case, or we have religious traditions about martyrs that are just way too good to be true. In other words, perfect martyr stories that might as well just be made up or assumed by spiritual discerning authorities to be “probably true” if the Holy Spirit reinforces those convictions. Who knows.

    Ben

  • 74. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    “Christians who had a variety of spiritual understandings of Christian truths.”

    Not really. I know it is popular to claim this as a fact (without any historical basis) and I know it is also expedient to try and discredit the early Christians and their beliefs. However such is simply not the case and can’t be argued against historically. The best you can do is a few manuscripts in obscure places dated much later than the eyewitness accounts under questionable authorship and whose contents fly in the face of other, earlier, accounts. Not to mention their internal inconsistencies with the theology of the OT (and accepted and known practice of the NT).

    In fact, the way we know about the gnostics (which were varied and disperse, not a single unified group) comes primarily from writers AGAINST the gnostics such as Irenaeus who wrote long books against various groups who simply found the “Christian” moniker expedient (like the Marcians http://bit.ly/aMRhZM).

    “Regardless, my conclusion is that we really don’t know what kind of Christianity the earliest Christians were willing to die for.”
    No, we have clear evidence from passages such as 1 Corinthians 15 that the early Christians had codified a core set of beliefs which has characterized Christianity as early as within a few months to at most up to 5 years after the death of Christ. Not much time for legendary development and, quite frankly, there aren’t any markings of legendary development in the gospel accounts either.

    So again I ask; What other scenario answers the basic facts surrounding the life, death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus better than the simple resurrection narrative?

  • 75. Ben  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Wes,

    Actually your early evidence is my early evidence. The diversity of early Christian belief is right there in the NT texts themselves:

    Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4-6; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Timothy 3:4-7; 2 Timothy 3:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:13-14; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:16; 1 John 4:1; Jude 1:3-4; Jude 1:8-16; Romans 16:17-18; Philemon 1:15-17; Hebrews 13:8-9

    That obviousness aside, to answer your question:

    “What other scenario answers the basic facts surrounding the life, death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus better than the simple resurrection narrative?”

    The problem with this is that simplicity is only one criteria of a good explanation. Christian theology presents tons of epistemic hurdles on tons of other issues that are cleverly boxed up not-mentioned land. So if a hundred other debates on a hundred other issues between atheists and Christians sound “simple” to you, then so be it. But to an outsider “god did it” is not a simple historical explanation. A slightly complicated and slightly improbable naturalistic explanation can easily be a better explanation since the long convoluted history of humanity isn’t always simple and complicated historical things *do* happen.

    We could disown ALL of history because it seems complicated and unpredictable and say, “Obviously gnomes made the entire universe 5 minutes ago. Find a simpler explanation of all these complex historical problems.” That wouldn’t be very reasonable, would it? It would also leave every issue associated with magic gnomes completely and unfairly unaddressed, wouldn’t it?

    Ben

  • 76. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    “It would also leave every issue associated with magic gnomes completely and unfairly unaddressed, wouldn’t it?”

    It would also raise more questions than it purports to answer. I’m still not sure what competing scenario you believe explains the minimal facts better than the resurrection narrative.

    I’m also not sure I understand what diversity you believe exists among the early Christians. Can you pick one and show me where Christians supposedly differed from the creed recorded in 1 Corinthians 15?

  • 77. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    So again I ask; What other scenario answers the basic facts surrounding the life, death, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus better than the simple resurrection narrative?

    This is so rich, I can’t take it.

    I agree, Nerd, it may be time to bail from this “conversation”.

  • 78. Quester  |  April 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    If you’d followed his link to his blog, BH, I think you would have bailed much earlier.

  • 79. Ben  |  April 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    “It would also raise more questions than it purports to answer.”

    Um, that’s actually my point. Saying “God did it” raises more questions about reality in general than it answers on behalf of one guy supposedly rising from the dead two thousand years ago.

    “I’m also not sure I understand what diversity you believe exists among the early Christians. Can you pick one and show me where Christians supposedly differed from the creed recorded in 1 Corinthians 15?”

    The NT authors are referencing all sorts of other Christianities they are competing with. False prophets. False Christs. False gospels. They must have had some disagreements of substance, right? Or do you suppose everyone was on the same page as what we find vaguely codified in 1 Corinthians 15?

    Heck, I’ll bet you’re not even on the same page with Paul there. Do you baptize for the dead? Do you even know what Paul is talking about at the end of that chapter (15:29)? We can only speculate, but the point is, we don’t have the information we need to resolve any of this to a responsible positive conclusion in favor of where Christian apologetics would like to go.

    Ben

  • 80. BigHouse  |  April 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve been there, Quester, and actually enaged in a debate there over his “true belief” canard he was peddling here before.

    I gave him the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the conversation but it’s clear he is so steeped in his belief it is pointless to continue with this “debate”.

  • 81. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    “The NT authors are referencing all sorts of other Christianities they are competing with.”

    Of course they are, one would expect as much if there were a strong core of beliefs that defined Christianity at the outset. Otherwise we would expect confusion and splintering (which, much to the gnostics dismay) didn’t happen.

    “Or do you suppose everyone was on the same page as what we find vaguely codified in 1 Corinthians 15?”

    Paul seemed to think so since he also mentions traveling back to Jerusalem to verify his teaching and doctrine with Peter and James at least 3 times.

    “Do you baptize for the dead? Do you even know what Paul is talking about at the end of that chapter (15:29)?”

    Do we need to in order to accept the resurrection narrative as a real historical event?

    Are there things I find hard to understand and decipher in the text? Sure. However just as some reported that the Titanic broke in half prior to it’s sinking while others maintained that it remained intact. The fact remains that the Titanic still sunk after striking an ice berg.

    “We can only speculate, but the point is, we don’t have the information we need to resolve any of this to a responsible positive conclusion in favor of where Christian apologetics would like to go.”

    That seems to be a gross assumption on your part. I would highly recommend to you the renowned epistimologist Alvin Plantinga’s work on warranted Christian belief (http://bit.ly/aLNaHA) and how, even though we do not posses conclusive evidence and warrant for all of our beliefs and doctrines, we do posses enough to constitute a rational warrant for the belief in Jesus as the prophesied Jewish messiah who died, was buried, and subsequently rose again from the grave.

  • 82. Richard  |  April 5, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Wes- I find your condescension grating. Are you unable to make an argument without insulting others? I must confess I am not exactly inclined to run out an convert to Christianity after interacting with you. Would it turn me into a narcissistic ass, too?

    Your entire approach to apologetics is a giant No True Scotsman fallacy: “All those truly educated about Christianity agree with me.” I suppose this is the reason why you try to overemphasize the agreement among NT scholars.

    There are many balls in the air here, so I will try to sum as quickly as possible:

    (1) Christian persecution under Rome happened sporadically and inconsistently. Nero’s behavior was not an exception to this. Even empire wide edicts were not actually carried out throughout the empire. From Wikipedia: “Christians had always been subject to local discrimination in the empire, but early emperors were reluctant to issue general laws against them. It was not until the 250s, under the reigns of Decius and Valerian, that such laws were passed.” And: “Persecutory policies varied in intensity across the empire.”

    (2) Re: the example about Judaism, all I can say is that only a Christian could be so narcissistically imperial as to claim belief in Judaism is compatible with belief in Christianity.

    The *point* of the example is that if suffering for one’s faith = the truth of the faith, then you should convert to Judaism. The Jews who have suffered this persecution for centuries were not “Jews for Jesus”, **they were Jews**. As in, Jews for Judaism. They did not accept Jesus as meshiach. That’s the point.

    So, essentially, your argument is: (a) suffering for a belief suggests truth of the belief, (b) 2500 years of Jews **who didn’t believe in Jesus** have suffered the most, therefore..… (c) you will be a Christian???

    You cannot believe Judaism is true and Christianity is true also. I know you think you can. I know very well that Christians have long re- and mis-interpreted Judaism to bend it to their own theology, but, to state the obvious, Jews themselves do not accept Jesus as meshiach. Of course, I guess they just misunderstand their own religion, right? Its goofy to suggest that Jewish Torah scholars – who know their scriptures better than you and I and a hundred other people put together – somehow have for centuries missed the simple and obvious truth that it points to Jesus. Guess they were too busy trying to work their way into heaven!

    No, my friend, the Judaism you say is “true” is a Judaism created in your own image. It is a Judaism only Christians believe in.

    (3) Our debate was whether the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. You say 80-90% NT scholars think they were. However, your arguments and your data, and those at the link you provided, do not support this claim. They speak of “minimal facts”, which is not the same thing. From that many NT scholars accept most (not all) of these “minimal facts”, it does not follow that they accept the gospels were eyewitnesses, nor in the supernaturalistic conclusions you reach.

    (4) “My original argument was not that people are willing to die for a lie. But that scores of people are generally not willing to die for something they know is a lie.”

    First of all, no one claims they died for what they “knew” was a lie. Obviously, they believed very strongly in their conclusion. What I’m saying is, so what? That doesn’t make it true. Your argument falsely assumes that if they all would have known whether or not it was a lie – and since they died, it couldn’t have been.

    But that is untrue. We do not know how most of the apostles died, and subsequent Christian martyrs would not have known Jesus or been present at the crucifixion. So all you have demonstrated is that early Christians believed what they believed very strongly. But so have eons of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and pagans. Strong belief is not an argument for truth of the belief. Are you seriously questioning this???

    Moreover, your understanding of human psychology is impressively unsophisticated. Human beings are capable of the most profound acts of self-deception, distorted perceptions, and emotional reasoning. We can convince ourselves of anything, anything, anything. The apostles were not special. They just convinced themselves a miracle had occurred. C’est la vie.

  • 83. Ben  |  April 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Wes,

    “Of course they are, one would expect as much if there were a strong core of beliefs that defined Christianity at the outset.”

    I guess that is one unverifiable interpretation. Another is that early Christianity had all sorts of ideas about what the core beliefs were supposed to be. Who is right?

    “Otherwise we would expect confusion and splintering (which, much to the gnostics dismay) didn’t happen.”

    Um…didn’t other forms of gnostic Christianity persist well into the 4th century? If survival equals true, aren’t all old extant religions then true?

    “Paul seemed to think so since he also mentions traveling back to Jerusalem to verify his teaching and doctrine with Peter and James at least 3 times.”

    I don’t think the idea that some apostles agreed with each other discounts the many allusions to contemporaneous false prophets and false apostles. Taking a step back, what we have is a spectrum of early Christian belief and not enough information to tell us who is more likely correct (if anyone). And from the evidence of the other kinds of Christianities we do know (if you accept the gnostic texts at all), it seems that perhaps the orthodox Christians weren’t exactly being fair to what they had to say.

    Then we have to deal with the fact that Paul doesn’t tell us about the epistemology of Peter and James. Did they just have visions, too? Did Peter and James have exactly the same things to say as we would expect from a reading of the four gospels? Or no? Our earliest evidence doesn’t seem to say.

    The only conclusion that I think is warranted is that a religion got started under unclear circumstances and at least some people took to some version of it in a way that compelled them to be martyred for it (ie. the original thing we were disagreeing about). I don’t think we have to get all extra-philosophical to figure out we don’t have enough to go on to go further than this responsibly. Obviously religions get started for all sorts of reasons and someday they’ll probably all have some philosophy professor writing their own “Warranted [insert religion here] Belief” to say that insufficient evidence is really sufficient after all.

    I tease. hehe

    Ben

  • 84. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    “No, my friend, the Judaism you say is “true” is a Judaism created in your own image. It is a Judaism only Christians believe in.”

    Jesus was a Jew. I don’t know how you can claim Christianity to be alien to Judaism when Jesus was a Jew and a rabbi (strict teacher of Judaism). Additionally Paul was a Jew. So were the vast majority of early Christians. In fact, there are everal accounts in the NT (which you need to study apparently) where the issue of accepting gentiles into this new “sect of Judaism” was a hot topic. Even Josephus claims that Christians were a sect, not a cult. So your arguement that Christianity is foreign to Judaism is quite odd indeed.

    “So, essentially, your argument is: (a) suffering for a belief suggests truth of the belief, (b) 2500 years of Jews **who didn’t believe in Jesus** have suffered the most, therefore..… (c) you will be a Christian???”

    a. Not just anyone’s suffering. Eyewittness’s suffering for something they either knew to be true or false.
    b. This simply shows your lack of understanding of the early Church and the NT. I will not address it and simply say that I feel embarrased for you on this point.
    c. Yes, I am a Christian because of the eyewittness testimony of Jews who claimed to have known the Jewish messiah (both before and after his ressurection).

    “From that many NT scholars accept most (not all) of these “minimal facts””

    You still seem to place the bar for historical certitude artificially high. You can insist on unanimous agreement if you want as your bar for acceptable historical fact. However I’ll stick with the same criteria historians use to measure all other historical events. And on that scale we have overwhelming evidence (or, as one scholor putit, “an embarrassment of riches”) concerning the ressurection account.

    “Obviously, they believed very strongly in their conclusion”

    Epestemically you can’t strongly believe in something you know to be false. Mostly because we don’t directly control our beliefs and as such our beliefs must be filtered through our epestemic grid. More on that here (http://bit.ly/8HHddW) though.

    Suffice to say, though, that it would be very odd indeed for the early Christians to die for something they knew to be false.

    “But that is untrue. We do not know how most of the apostles died, and subsequent Christian martyrs would not have known Jesus or been present at the crucifixion. So all you have demonstrated is that early Christians believed what they believed very strongly.”

    True, we don;t know how many were present at the crucifixion. However this is really a moot point because we do know that those most motivated to see Jesus crucified WERE present and gave specific orders to the Roman officials (who were experts in death) to see to it that Jesus was crucified. You really have to stretch the evidence until it doesn’t even come close to resembling the established historical facts in order to make the claim that Jesus was not put on the cross and crucified.

    However I think your last statement begs a curious question. Why were the early Christians willing to die for their beliefs if they were not true? One would suppose that all the Jewish and Roman officials would need to do would be to produce Jesus’s body and that would have ended the whole Christian movement right there.

    “They just convinced themselves a miracle had occurred.”

    They convinced themselves of miracle they weren’t expecting and had no reason to accept even when they were given accounts of it (ie. the women were thought to be hysterical, as were Peter and John, as were the whole of the disciples per Thomas). I think this does show your philosophical bias towards naturalism as your theory essentially relies on over 500 people having a mass hallucination _of the same thing at the same time_. Such a theory, if true, would be a miracle in itself. In fact, it only sounds plasuable because the alternative (that a miracle actually ocurred) is simply not an option according to your presupposed naturalistic view of the world.

    Besides, if they were all hallucinating then you still don’t have an explination for the conversion of those hostile to the ressurection message. Men like James and Paul certainly were not looking towards Jesus as the messiah and Paul, in fact, was quite content to persecute the “Jewish sect” gleefully (even obtaining official permission to kill Christians at will).

    “Um…didn’t other forms of gnostic Christianity persist well into the 4th century?”

    Where are hey now?

    Seriously, there are and have always been cults who have claimed to be a part of a larger movement who do not hold to the orthadox doctrine of that movement. However the thing I find curious is that none of their doctrines have syrvived to the present day intact. It needs to be pointed out that “the Gnostics” were not one single group. They were innumerable per Irenaeus (who, again, wrote at length about them). They were not very big (they were centered around one or a handful of people), and they quickly died out once their origional members died (or shortly thereafter).

    In short, to claim the Gnostics were serious contenders for the mantle of “true Christians” while, at the same time, disbelieving the ressurection account is to proclaim quite clearly your lack of serious treatment of history. In short, it is an act of baffoonery at best and intentional intellectual dishonesty at worst to disbelieve the stronger evidence and favor the weaker evidence.

    “Taking a step back, what we have is a spectrum of early Christian belief and not enough information to tell us who is more likely correct (if anyone).”

    Only if you presuppose at the outset and then reason back to your presuppositions. This statement also makes me wonder what, if anything, you WOULD accept as a valid historical event.

    “The only conclusion that I think is warranted is that a religion got started under unclear circumstances and at least some people took to some version of it in a way that compelled them to be martyred for it (ie. the original thing we were disagreeing about).”

    The question is not how they took it but whether it was true. You see, you are either left defending the rather wild theory that the disciples were all tripping on LSD (and somehow managed to all see the same thing at the same time) or else you are compelled to admit that the disciples died for what they knew to be true because they wittnessed it firsthand and were presented with compelling evidence, which they faithfully passed on, which has endured to the present day.

  • 85. Wes Widner  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Gentleman, I’m going to have to drop off this thread at this point due to prior engagements. It’s been fun, though. Thanks for the stimulating discussion!

  • 86. Richard  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Okay, well, no point in arguing with Wes anymore, but I have a question for others, if anyone has not yet ground their teeth powder from this discussion.

    This “they were willing to die for it therefore it must be true” argument is something I hear from time to time, as I’m sure do most of you. To me, it is so blindingly, screamingly, mind-bogglingly stupid that my brain will barely let me believe I have to argue against it. And those who push this line seem especially impenetrable.

    I mean, basically, what do you say to someone who says “a=b, and b=c, therefore a=(k+m)/t”

    I.e., someone who insists a non sequitur is valid… what do you say to get through to these guys??

  • 87. Quester  |  April 7, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Richard,

    I don’t say anything. I try to limit my comments/interactions to people I feel are capable of learning. Sometimes, I fall short of this standard, but when I hear a statement that is so stupid on the face of it that there is no place I can stand from which to speak to this person, I just move on.

  • 88. salbro1  |  April 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I know Wes has dropped off this thread, but I would like to comment on his claim:

    #2. “The gospels” are actually a collection of letters which each need to be treated as seperate documents. All of which agree, there are no contradictions. Amazingly they all manage to report the same things with amazing detail and with historical features such as embarrassing details intact.

    I challenge anyone making this claim to take the Easter Challenge. Namely, take all of the events of the resurrection described in each of the gospels and, omitting none of them, compile them into one story. (Click on the link above if you’d like an annotated summary of why this isn’t possible.)

  • 89. David  |  April 11, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Going right back to the start of this post, it strikes me that you don’t really need to justify your choice to stop being deluded. If you tell someone that you no longer consider yourself a Christian and they tell you that you never really were – so what? Why justify it further?

    “You never really were a Christian” translates to “You never really were fully sucked into this fairy story” Really? Thanks!

    If you now know that religion is cobblers, why would you care if some deluded fella thinks you never fully subscribed to said cobblers?

    Walk away happy that you have the insight and courage to reject the sorry mess that is ‘revealed’ religion.

  • 90. BigHouse  |  April 11, 2010 at 7:39 am

    For me, David, it’s because Christians use this canard to misrepresent and tar former believers for the purpose to solidifying their own beliefs. The arrogance that they can understand what I believed before and why and then assign ill-motives to my deconversion, without even knowing me, is what gets me. It’s just another case of illogic and brazen us vs. them thinking that shows how ugly Christianity truly is.

  • 91. Dan  |  April 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Keep in mind, there is no such thing as an ex-Christian because Christians don’t fall away.

    Now as far as your Kenobi’s Fallacy.

    Being a “Jedi” (Christian) is determined by Yoda, or the counsel, (Bible) so you cannot just define it yourself. If Luke walked out of the training because he was too frightened then he NEVER completed the teaching to BECOME a Jedi. He is not a Jedi because he did not follow the Jedi mastering. You are not a Christian because you have yet to do what is necessary to become a Christian. It is not too late though.

    >>Do you see the silliness in having a debate with this person about whether you “really” were a Jedi?

    Well yea, since it is a made up movie analogy, move the goal posts much? Christianity is not just some silly posed situation, It IS reality.

    >>“Christian” can only mean something like “one who considers herself to be a follower of Jesus.” “Christian”, thus, is actually more like “soccer fan.” There’s no real right answer as to whether someone is or not.

    And there is your “evidence” that you were never a Christian. You have no clue what one actually is by your description. Keep looking. We are not followers of Christ, merely a fan, we are indeed the body of the Christ head. So to fit your analogy we are not just soccer “fan’s” We are Soccer itself. You cannot watch a game without us.

  • 92. T  |  April 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

    So, if Christianity is true, there may be a correct definition of it. Agreed. If you could get god to clarify that for us, that’d be great. Im sure ut shouldnt be too hard for the omnipotent creator to just pop in and straighten us all out about what the rules are, such that we can all agree.

    In the meantime – and I expect we’ll be waiting a while – chew on this central point from the analogy: the Force is not real. When you understand that, you will understand this argument.

  • 93. BigHouse  |  April 13, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Indeed, T. Throw in a good No True Scotsman fallacy and we have ourselves another garden variety apologist. No new arguments, no interesting point of view, just the same hackneyed and ineffective arguments. Sigh.

  • 94. Quester  |  April 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    One fun thing about this thread- that’s the third “true Christian” to show up and provide a definition for Christianity. Not that the definitions even overlap.

  • 95. DSimon  |  April 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Dan, since your links only offer Biblical arguments, and since we don’t accept the Bible as a good source of objective fact… um, why were you expecting us to find those links convincing?

  • 96. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    T,

    >>So, if Christianity is true, there may be a correct definition of it. Agreed

    Already done in the Book we all so lovingly call God’s Word, or The Bible.

    >>In the meantime – and I expect we’ll be waiting a while

    Just as long as it takes you to read.

    If you wish to read the bullet points then look at the “What fruit will grow in a True Christians life:” part of my post called “Fallen Away

    >> the Force is not real.

    We agree on that but billions of people do not agree with you on the point that God, and Christianity, is indeed real. So you cannot just proclaim that it isn’t real. If I say that gravity is not real, will I splat when I jump out a window? What matters is the truth. Truth is objective, not selective.

    ” When you understand that, you will understand this argument.” :7)

  • 97. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    BigHouse,

    Allow me to address the “no true Scotsman” claim, that many atheists droningly follow, that some atheist dude made up.

    Look at the definition of ‘nationality': “people having common origins or traditions and often comprising a nation. The status of belonging to a particular nation by birth or naturalization”

    Now that’s a true Scotsman, true Japanese person or true Chinese person or born again Christian. I stand by my claims. A true Christian cannot turn away from God. Here is why. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

  • 98. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    DSimon

    >>Dan, since your links only offer Biblical arguments, and since we don’t accept the Bible as a good source of objective fact… um, why were you expecting us to find those links convincing?

    Does it matter that you accept something, or not, for it to be the truth? Is all truth selective? Truth is that, in order to be called a Muslim you must follow the criteria, as described in the book that labels people “Muslims”, namely the Qur’an. In order to be called a Christian, therefore, one must be meeting the criteria set in the book that defines it, The Bible.

    So it is irrelevant whether you “don’t accept the Bible,” what matters is where is that word defined. There would be no such word without the Bible so you cannot just arbitrarily discount it. Christianity, and the definition of Christianity, and the Bible are synonymous.

  • 99. Josh  |  April 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    “Christianity, and the definition of Christianity, and the Bible are synonymous.”

    Things I learned today:

    A noun, the definition of that same noun, and the book that talks about the noun are all the same thing.

  • 100. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Josh,

    >>A noun, the definition of that same noun, and the book that talks about the noun are all the same thing.

    Haha, maybe I was thinking of the word synergy.

    When (X) is said to cause (Y) this means that (Y) is contingent on (X) and that (X) preceded (Y). A characteristic of (Y) is that it is that which is caused by (X) so the existence of (Y) implies the existence of (X). This, however, does not mean that (Y) caused (X). (Causality)

    When (Bible) is said to cause (Christianity) this means that (Christianity) is contingent on (Bible) and that (Bible) preceded (Christianity). A characteristic of (Christianity) is that it is that which is caused by (Bible) so the existence of (Christianity) implies the existence of (Bible). This, however, does not mean that (Christianity) caused (Bible). (Causality)

    My point was that you cannot discuss Christianity without the Bible. Thanks Josh for keeping me honest though.

    Only a friend will tell a friend they stink.

  • 101. BigHouse  |  April 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    The last I checked the Bible WASN’T a dictionary, but an old text culled of many sources and edited, omitted, added to etc by human authors with agendas. Please excuse my not giving it the same credence that you do.

    But even if we accept that the Bible can define Christian, that one verse is all that is said on the matter? There aren’t many others? And how do you know the proper interpretation of that verse isn’t that I still AM a Christian, despite what I attest to aloud?

    Dan, stop trying to play God and acknowledge that even within your self-identified group of Christians there are HUNDREDS of interpretations of doctrines and definitions. Let alone the opinions of those who actually seek to think brodaer about truth than to blindly follow one slanted book’s view.

    The sooner you stop trying to pigeon-hole and tell others what Ithey believed then and believe now, the better you will understand other people’s points of view.

  • 102. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    BigHouse,

    >>The last I checked the Bible WASN’T a dictionary.

    The last I checked the “On the Origin of Species” WASN’T a bible either. Much like “On the Origin of Species” defines evolution, the Bible defines Christianity.

    Was On the Origin of Species “interpreted” wrong by modern secularists and Ahteists?

    “I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question, and this cannot possibly be done here.” (Charles Darwin, Introduction, On the Origin of Species 1859)

    By “balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question” did he mean Creationism and Evolutionism?

    I will not address all that blah blah about me being god.

    Christianity is not a belief system, by the way. What people “believed” is irrelevant to the term Christianity.

  • 103. BigHouse  |  April 13, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    The last I checked the “On the Origin of Species” WASN’T a bible either. Much like “On the Origin of Species” defines evolution, the Bible defines Christianity.

    Was On the Origin of Species “interpreted” wrong by modern secularists and Ahteists?

    This is such a horrible analogy and gross misunderstanding of how science works. Not a good effort for you.

    Christianity is not a belief system, by the way. What people “believed” is irrelevant to the term Christianity.

    Produce your facts and you can remove the “belief”.

    And since you can’t, do other religions get to claim the same things about their faith? How can these multiple religions co-exist if they are not “beliefs”?

  • 104. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Big House,

    >>This is such a horrible analogy and gross misunderstanding of how science works. Not a good effort for you.

    Nice bare assertion with zero refutations.

    .>sarcasm<.Wow you are good ..

    >>Produce your facts and you can remove the “belief”.

    There are plenty. Just none that your presuppositions will allow you to understand.

    Keep searching someday you just may find that illusive truth.

  • 105. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Oops, didn’t finish answering your questions.

    >>Do other religions get to claim the same things about their faith?

    Sure, if they produce credible evidence.

    >>How can these multiple religions co-exist if they are not “beliefs”?

    I had a hang up about the word religion once and a friend wrote me and said:

    “That is, our religion is from the Creator. It is a result of our hope and trust in God. It is the natural fruit. False religions have stolen from God and not the other way around. False religions have a common denominator and that is there assault on the term “Justification.” They are working toward their salvation. We are working as a result of our salvation.

    A religion that is pure in the sight of God is a “discipline” which results and originates, from God. We do these things as a result of being justified. We do these things because God has declared us “not guilty” because of the passive/active obedience of the Messiah being given to us as a gift. His works are what save us. In contrast, the religions of the world who deny justification seek to bring their “religious” efforts to God to “save” them.

    Don’t let that word religion, be a hindrance. We as believers have a beautiful religion because it is a fruit which comes from God. It starts with him and ends with him. Like I said; the religion we show is a result of what God did. It is an external response. For example, we love because he first loved us right? The false religions out there have a completely different gospel. As a result they bring their filthy rags and present then to God thinking they are working their way to God. We have been made clean by the word. The false religions make themselves clean.”

    That is the difference.

  • 106. Quester  |  April 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Dan,

    Thank-you for being a brilliant and thorough example of precisely what the article is talking about. Between your comments and the responses that have been made thus far, we couldn’t ask for a better illustration of Kenobi’s Fallacy.

    Richard,

    With the apparently unironic fulfillment of your predictions happening in response to your article above them, I have to say it’s a beautiful illustration, but not enough to punch through to someone unwilling to think. And if they were willing to think, they probably would not need the illustration. I think the only real use for Kenobi’s Fallacy would be to calm the fears of those few deconverts who fall prey to the No True Scotsman Fallacy.

  • 107. Dan  |  April 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Quester,

    >>I think the only real use for Kenobi’s Fallacy would be to calm the fears of those few deconverts who fall prey to the No True Scotsman Fallacy.

    Now I have addressed that (comment #97)

    I have to say that comment #97 is a beautiful illustration, but not enough to punch through to someone unwilling to think.

    Ironic isn’t it :7)

  • 108. Richard  |  April 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    First of all, “T” above, in #92, was me. Not sure what I did; sorry for the confusion.

    Dan, thanks for your thoughts, but I think you misunderstand the point of the NTS fallacy. The issue is not whether there is a definition to be found somewhere, but the authority behind the definition. E.g., who gets to decide how the word “American” is defined, operationally — i.e., who really counts as an American?

    Well, the US government does, obviously. But that is only b/c of common agreement among other nations and, of course, the ability of the US to literally defend its sovereignty, militarily – we can physically prevent anyone else from asserting control over the definition.

    But there is no “right” answer to the proper inclusion criteria for “American”. There is no scientific test one can run to see what the definition “ought” to be. The “right” answer exists only by common, social agreement in the authority of the US government to decide.

    So who has the authority to establish the correct definition of “Christian”. Well okay, God, if there is a God, can, and I know you believe he has. But many other individuals who call themselves Christians, just like you, nonetheless reject your conclusion. And they, too, believe the Bible backs their conclusion, not yours. So why are you somehow automatically right, and they wrong?

    Because the Bible says so? But that just pushes the issue back a notch: why is the Bible an authority? Essentially, all you are doing is just declaring the Bible to have authority. Or, reading its own declaration of authority, and then yourself declaring that you accept it. But the Catholic church rejects that conclusion; they believe the Pope has authority. Jews believe the Christian Bible has no authority at all.

    You see? The word “Christian” is not like the word “element”, for example. Nature itself can tell us what we “ought” to be referring to when we talk about that concept. There is a right and wrong answer. But definitions of “American” and “Christian” are only as good as the authority behind them, and authority is a social construction. It exists only because people agree it exists.

    Again, if there is a God, he can set us straight. But its silly for you to claim he has already done so, when you cant even get all (those who call themselves) Christians on board with you about God’s alleged clarification.

  • 109. Richard  |  April 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Quester-
    you’re right. This wont be the Holy Grail of counterapologetics: the perfect argument.

    Back to the drawing board….

    But I suppose in the end almost all of our efforts are directed toward those who have already decided to leave, or are close to doing so.

  • 110. Richard  |  April 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Dan – try this on for size. Here is my scripture I just found under my couch:

    “I, Richard, declare that I have Full and Complete Authority to establish correct definitions of the terms ‘Christian’, ‘coffee nut’, and “Trekkie.'”

    So sounds like you’re stuck! I just delcared I have authority to decide! Whatever can you do??

    What? You….. *reject* my authority? You have the freedom to grant or withhold assent to any asserted authority? And then you can just ignore their self-declared right to establish correct definitions?

    Oh.

  • 111. Dan  |  April 14, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Richard,

    >> But many other individuals who call themselves Christians, just like you, nonetheless reject your conclusion. And they, too, believe the Bible backs their conclusion, not yours. So why are you somehow automatically right, and they wrong?

    That appears to be too vague to comment on. Are you claiming that there are Christians that do not believe in the authority of the Bible, or do not place the Bible as the authority of Christians? If so, then I am “automatically right” by default because what I claim agrees with the the Bibles claims.

    >why is the Bible an authority?…Essentially, all you are doing is just declaring the Bible to have authority…

    Simple, because of the claims that it is the Word of God, with evidence to show it, logically. So it is actually logic that is declaring the Bible’s Authority. For example,

    * (1) The writings in question are true on all specific points we can verify. (With arguments in each case.)
    * (2, from 1) Hence, we have good reason to assume that they are completely truthful throughout.
    * (3) The writings describe many events that demonstrate the existence of God.
    * (4, from 2 and 3) Hence, these descriptions must be truthful, so God must exist. (It actually suffices for just one of them to be truthful.)
    * (5) If the writings had been authored by man, they would not have been true on all of these points. (With arguments in each of these cases.)
    * (6, from 1 and 5) Hence, they must have been authored by someone other than man.
    * (7, from 2 and 5) Hence, we have good reason to assume the existence of someone who, unlike man, is completely truthful, and who authored these writings.
    * (8, from 7) This someone is God.

    This and logic tells us the Bible is supernatural.

    >>The word “Christian” is not like the word “element”, for example. Nature itself can tell us what we “ought” to be referring to when we talk about that concept.

    Nature has intelligence? So evolutionists believe in intelligent design then? Got it.

    >>Again, if there is a God, he can set us straight.

    And He will very soon.

    >> But its silly for you to claim he has already done so, when you cant even get all (those who call themselves) Christians on board with you about God’s alleged clarification.

    That is like if I said “good morning” to you and you screamed back ” What did you call me!?”

    Is it my fault that you misunderstood what I said? Yes clarification is coming soon but you could at least ask God what He means by reading, and studying, the Bible. Is it God’s fault that people misunderstand something? It could be because of a lack of all the facts, improper hermeneutics, or a hostile presupposition. Because the Bible is quite clear that “he that seeketh findeth” (Luke 11:10) I sought, and I found the truth and understanding.

    Here is the frustrating part for us Christians. God has “given over” unbelievers to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28) For us this complicates matters, using rational evidence and logic are not enough for most unbelievers.

  • 112. Dan  |  April 14, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Richard cont’d,

    >>So sounds like you’re stuck! I just delcared(sic) I have authority to decide! Whatever can you do??

    Use logic, reason, and evidence to decipher if the authority is a valid claim.

    I sure challenged my Dad’s authority at 13 and received all the “evidence” that I needed to show that to be true.

    Speaking of using logic, and since you brought up authority, how do you account for the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic, on what basis do you proceed with the assumption that they will not change, and how is it possible to know anything for certain according to YOUR worldview?

    While the Bible is my ultimate authority, it is not the only means by which God has revealed Himself to us. It is through God’s collective natural and special revelation that I know for certain my senses are reliable and can account for absolute, immaterial, universal laws of logic and reason.

    In contrast, you are stuck in an absurd worldview where you claim to sense the validity of your senses and reason the validity of your reasoning and are certain that we can’t know things for certain.

    Don’t bother answering, use it as a thought experiment for yourself. I don’t want to hijack the subject, or move the goal posts, here.

  • 113. David  |  April 14, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Dan,

    I have some questions: –

    God is the creator of everything: all humans, all animals, all life on Earth; the trees, the mountains, the seas, all the other planets, other solar systems, and galaxies, etc. etc. Is that correct?

    However, the bible is written for and about his ‘chosen’ people (the Jews), who are only a tiny fraction of the human population; never mind all that other wonderful Creation. Therefore, it only speaks to a teeny-tiny bit of all His wondrous works. What about the rest of us? Were we never in his plan?

    According to this web site: – http://www.s8int.com/saved1.html “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.”

    So, what about all those poor Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and Sikhs? They believe they are leading good lives but have never been exposed to the word of God in the Bible. So, although God made them, he is going to send them straight to hell because they were not baptised in Christ.

    That seems a little unfair to me…

    It makes the point about being a ‘true’ Christian all a bit one-sided, in favour of people brought up in the West. For example, I could be a perfectly good human being, created by God and placed (presumably by God) in Yemen and spend my whole life being good and true and moral and just simply wonderful. However, I will go straight to hell because people in Yemen do not have access to the Bible.

    And what about children that die before they are old enough to believe? They may well have been baptised but they cannot be true Christians by any of your arguments above. Those poor little buggers are going to roast.

    One more question, what about people that are intellectually or developmentally disabled and cannot make the distinction or understand the word of God in the Bible. They cannot really be ‘true’ Christians either, can they? Looks like we are barbequing the disabled too…

    So should the phrase, “Jesus saves” have a proviso that reads, “as long as you are not too young, intellectually challenged or one of those foreign weirdoes”?

    On the other side, what about the rapists, murderers and paedophiles that convert on death row? It looks like they are getting in; so long as they really believe. Which they may well do, if the alternative is frying in hell.

    The rules for being a ‘true’ Christian and being subsequently saved seem a bit lax on the moral side of things….

    Sorry if this has been covered in other threads but I’m new here and there is a hell (sorry Dan) of a lot to wade through.

  • 114. David  |  April 14, 2010 at 4:35 am

    Oh and by the way, the link you provided in 111 above: –

    “This and logic tells us the Bible is supernatural.”

    …is one of the largest collections of drivel that I have ever seen.

    You use logical arguments in a lot of your threads and although I do not have your obvious training in logic, even I can see that this section of “de-bunking Atheists”just does not make sense. I think they are called ‘circular arguments’?

    It’s actually a little bit scary that someone who is obviously intelligent is happy to discard that intelligence and accept such utter nonsense.

  • 115. Richard  |  April 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Dan –
    I like you; youre scrappy whether or not you have a gpod argument. And Im sure it would be much more convenient for me not to reply, but Im scrappy sometimes too :) So, lets get started.

    First a houskeeping issue. Re: nature “telling” us things in the comment above—  are you just spittin’ here, or are you really too concrete to recognize metaphorical language for what it is? I can be more literalistic if you need me to; say the word.

    Second, all I will say about your “proof” of biblical authority is that I have been over this argument before and I think its wrong. I confess I have no real interest in yet another debate about whether then bible should be considered supernaturally authored.  I will mention just one small point, though-  you really believe you can infer (2) from (1)??  If some of the things I say are true, then logically all of them must be??  I suggest you think this over a little more, my friend.

    (3) Your “explanation” for logic and reason amount to nothing more than “goddidit”. 
        (a) this explains nothing. Like the medieval First Cause argument, you just moved the question back a step. How do uou know god is logical? B/c he says so? Is that a logically valid argument?  You just assert “what god says is true” rather than “what our senses show and what logic infers are true”. How your answer is supposed to be epistemically superior to mine is mystifying. Presuppositionalism always terminates in ungrounded assertions, however much its practicioners want to believe otherwise.
      (b) you assume it is self-evident that god has authority.  Other than the threat of punishment, tell me why god, assiming one exists, has authority. You see? Authority, unless grounded in naked, amoral might, is a matter of assent.
      (c) your question about how I “account” for logic is based on a vague, equivocating understanding of “laws” of logic.  “Logic”, as you seem to use the concept, refers to two different things: The order we observe in the universe is just that: observations of patterns. “laws of logic” are, in this sense, just descriptions. (How do I know they wont change? I dont. You are projecting your claims to know with certainty on to me. I make no such claim. Falliblism is at tbe core of any honest epistemology).  The other concept of “logic” you employ has to do with inference: given x, what can we say about y that is true or probably true.  How do we know this? Because our brains evolved in such a universe and would not have survived to produce offspring had they consistently made false inferences.

    In other words: a=b, b=c, therefore a=c. On the level of ontology, this is just a description of the wotld. On the level of epistemology, our brains evolved to correctly describe the world b/c of selective pressures for making valid inferences.

    Finally, my complaint to you about differing “christian” definitions is based on the observations that christians themselves, who all use biblical proof texts to defend their conclusion, dont agree with you about what it means or takes to be a christian. Appealing to the bible, logically, does not seem to solve this problem of definition.  Christians cant agree on what it means.    
       

  • 116. DSimon  |  April 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

    The contrived definition of “Christian” that retroactively excludes de-converts is markedly different from the definition used in everyday conversation, where “Christian” simply means somebody who has Christian beliefs.

    Unlike the definition for, say, “American”, there’s no authority you have to appeal to or register with in order to join or leave Christianity (well, certain branches of Catholicism aside…) Being a Christian is about having Christian beliefs, just like how being a libertarian is about having libertarian beliefs; and like it or not, beliefs can change.

  • 117. Joe  |  April 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    DSimon (#116)—

    That is very true. The defintion of a “Christian” is someone who believes in Christ, and that is a huge spectrum to say the least. Good point.

  • 118. LifeTrekker  |  April 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Who is a “Genuine” Christian

    What is the definition of the term Christian?
    It depends on who you ask.

    Dictionary.com defines the word Christian thustly:

    Christian – –adjective
    1. of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.

    2. of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.

    3. of or pertaining to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.

    4. exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity.

    5. decent; respectable: They gave him a good Christian burial.

    6. human; not brutal; humane: Such behavior isn’t Christian.

    –noun
    7. a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.

    8. a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ: He died like a true Christian.

    9. a member of any of certain Protestant churches, as the Disciples of Christ and the Plymouth Brethren.

    10. the hero of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

    11. a male given name.

    So, since this is the current definition from a fairly reliable source, we can assume that this is pretty close to the current secular definition of the word Christian, and as such is pretty much the way the word is currently used in our society.

    Now, if you ask the question, who is a “genuine” Christian, you will get quite a few different answers depending on who (which authority) you ask.

    If you ask the Catholics, they will tell you the only “genuine” Christians are those that are members of the Catholic Church. All of the rest of the people that call themselves Christians, (especially all of the Protestants) are not “genuine” Christians and thus will spend eternity in Hell.

    If you ask the Protestants, they will tell you that they are the only “genuine” Christians, as they rely only on the authority of the Scriptures – sola scriptura, and do not need the supposed continuing apostolic authority represented by the Pope in the Catholic (universal) Church.

    If you ask the Fundamentalists, they will tell you that they are the only “genuine” Christians. Of course not all of them will say that, but that is pretty much what they think. The members of mainline Protestant denominations are especially suspect, as are of course all Catholics.

    If you ask the Evangelicals (there is some overlap here with the Fundamentalists), they will tell you that they are the only “genuine” Christians. If you have not had a “born again” salvation experience, you are not a “genuine” Christian. If you just follow the teachings of Christ without this “born again” experience, it is all just “head knowledge” or “mental assent”. You may know the “truth” or the facts of the gospel, but if you have not made it “personal” by asking Jesus to become your “personal Lord and Savior” and the “Lord of your life”, you are not a “genuine” Christian.

    If you ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they will tell you that they are the only “genuine” Christians.

    If you ask the Mormon’s, they will tell you that they are the only “genuine” Christians. According to them, God told Joseph Smith that all of the other Christian faiths had been corrupted, and that he was to re-establish the “genuine” Christian Faith. If you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, you are not a “genuine” Christian.

    While I will agree that the claims of some of these groups are easier to dismiss than others, they all seem to be saying the same thing, Unless you are a member of “our group” you are not a “genuine” Christian and will burn in Hell for all eternity.

    Now I must ask, how do you determine who is right, if anyone? (And we haven’t even considered the claims of all of the other major religions of the world here.) With all of these groups claiming the same thing, (and using the same authority, the Bible, to substantiate these claims) how do you know who is right and who is wrong? How do you determine which one has the right “formula”?

    Whichever side of the argument you come down on, I think we can all agree that they can’t all be right. Most are making exclusivity claims. “It is either our way or the highway.” I, for one, after considering this question (and many others, to be sure) have come to what I believe is the only logical answer to this question. None of them have the right “formula”.

  • 119. Quester  |  April 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Richard,

    But I suppose in the end almost all of our efforts are directed toward those who have already decided to leave, or are close to doing so.

    Hmm… that might be worth an article in and of itself.

  • 120. Dan  |  April 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Life Trekker,

    >>Now I must ask, how do you determine who is right, if anyone? (And we haven’t even considered the claims of all of the other major religions of the world here.) With all of these groups claiming the same thing, (and using the same authority, the Bible, to substantiate these claims) how do you know who is right and who is wrong? How do you determine which one has the right “formula”?

    Excellent question and points, I perfectly agree with just about everything you said. You also bring up the most important point of this entire discussion.

    I remember two analogies that I can relate this subject. Both are relating to comparisons, first one compares sinning that I said a while back.

    I am sure a thief considers himself to be good compared to a rapist, and that rapist considers himself good compared to someone that murdered a person, and that murderer considers himself a good person compared to a serial killer. I am sure that serial killer considers himself good compared to a democrat. When we compare each other by each others “standards” we all seem to be good “at least I am not as bad as he is” mentality. We must be compared to the righteous standard of God’s Law. If we do that you will simply see that we all fail and all fall short of the righteousness of God. We are simply wicked and wretched sinners and will be judged according to those sins.

    The second is from Ray that basically says the same thing.

    “A little girl was once watching a sheep eat grass and thought how white it looked against the green background. But when it began to snow she thought, “That sheep now looks dirty against the white snow!” It was the same sheep, but with a different background. When we compare ourselves to man’s standard we look pretty clean, but when we compare ourselves to the pure snow-white righteousness of God’s standard—His Law, we can see ourselves in truth, that we are unclean in His sight. That Law is the holy standard by which humanity will be judged on Judgment Day.”

    When we look through the beer goggles of mankind, things are foggy and subjective just like you pointed out. The ONLY way to see if someone is a Christian is by what God determines is a Christian. A Christian will bear the fruit of a Christian. The Bible says to evaluate everything to see if it is of God by its fruit, good tree = good fruit; a bad tree can never bear good fruit. We don’t even have to address the Catholic Church and the mass pedophiles, and the crusades to determine the fruit, it is obvious. Look at the professing Christin’s fruit to determine the authenticity. Just ask Ted Haggard whether God reveals/exposes the fruits. The ultimate authority to determine a Christian starts with God and His Word, not mankind.

  • 121. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    We are simply wicked and wretched sinners and will be judged according to those sins.

    Why did God make us this way, Dan?

  • 122. Dan  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Big House,

    >>Why did God make us this way, Dan?

    I love these questions. Maybe forced love is not love. We are “this way” because of our resistance to God. God is not evil. We are wicked and wretched for not following His loving direction.

  • 123. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Um, Dan, I had no choice but to be born sinful. I couldn’t be without sin if I tried.

    So stop dodging the questions you can’t answer because your god is an illogical creation.

  • 124. Wes Widner  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    If you had no choice but to be borne sinful then take heart, you don’t bear any responsibility for your actions since you did not have the freedom necessary to bear culpability.

    Unfortunately, however, I see that you DO believe in creaturely freedom by your implied assertion that punishment for something you had no ability to not do is wrong. I would agree.

    Perhaps your problem is that you simply don’t understand orthodox Christian doctrine and what you do understand apparently is illogical.

  • 125. Dan  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    >>Um, Dan, I had no choice but to be born sinful. I couldn’t be without sin if I tried.

    What is that supposed to mean? The devil “made” you do it?

    You have a choice not to lie, you choose to lie.

    You have a choice not to steal, you choose to be a thief.

    Truth is you didn’t have the choice, you are a slave to sin.(Romans 7:14-25) Proven over and over again in your actions. You chose your master.

    Prove the Bible wrong…if you can.

  • 126. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Wes and Dan, you think it is possible for a human to live a sin-free life? And you back this up with the Bible?

    Wow. Just, wow.

  • 127. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Prove the Bible wrong…if you can.

    Can you prove it’s true?

    I’ll take some cracks at proving it false: it has stories of imacculate conceptions, talking donkeys and snakes, and a morally repugnant god who says he’s all-loving while demonstrating over and over otherwise.

  • 128. Wes Widner  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Its’ logically possible. What the Bible reveals to us is that it won’t happen. Not because God decrees it, but because, as Dan stated earlier, WE choose to sin.

  • 129. Wes Widner  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Oh, and here’s a post I wrote on this subject today.

  • 130. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Its’ logically possible

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  • 131. Wes Widner  |  April 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    From the wikipedia write-up (though I picked it up from much denser philosophical works on epistemology):

    A logically possible proposition is one that can be asserted without implying a logical contradiction. This is to say that a proposition is logically possible if there is some coherent way for the world to be, under which the proposition would be true.

    Did you have a different definition in mind?

  • 132. BigHouse  |  April 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Unless your god isn’t omnipotent or omniscient, it is not logically possible for humans not to sin.

  • 133. Wes Widner  |  April 14, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I’m curious, how do you define sin if not by an omnipotent, omniscient God?

  • 134. LifeTrekker  |  April 15, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Dan,

    I think you may have missed the point of my last post. Or maybe I didn’t express myself very clearly. If that is the case, I apologize.

    At the end of your reply to my previous post, you said the following: “The ultimate authority to determine a Christian starts with God and His Word, not mankind.”

    My intention in listing all of the various Christian denominations was to point out that each and every one of them thinks that they have the proper interpretation of God’s Word. They all started with God and His Word, and they all came to somewhat different conclusions as to exactly what God meant and what God set as the standard for a “genuine” Christian. The problem, as I see it anyway, is that you can’t take humans out of this equation. Even if you start with God and His Word as you suggest, as soon as humans get involved in trying to determine what God meant it all goes awry, and you end up with a bunch of different denominations each claiming that they are the only ones with the correct “formula” (interpretation), and thus are the only “genuine” Christians out there.

    I guess I should just start with God and His Word, learn the original languages myself, study everything I can find about the history of the people the books were written to and about, learn about hermeneutics from both the conservative and liberal sides of the fence, weigh all of the evidence, and then come to my own conclusion about how God determines who is and who is not a “genuine” Christian. After all of this, I think I will start my own denomination, because I am sure I will come up with a slightly different “interpretation” than the rest of them have come up with. And I will be right since I started with God and His Word. Oh darn, I forgot one thing. Since I did the interpreting, that means mankind was involved, and my interpretation is therefore invalid. Oh well, I tried.

    BTW, do you have God’s direct number? I think if I could ask him a few questions I could probably clear this whole “who is and is not a genuine Christian” question right up.

  • 135. Wes Widner  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:15 am

    LifeTrekker,

    The existence of denominations (while unfortunate in itself) does not logically necessitate the conclusion the notion that there is no core of Christian doctrines which all Christians hold to which is found in Scripture (specifically 1 Corinthians 15).

    Additionally, most Christian creeds go out of their way to affirm earlier Christian creeds and all (as far as I know) at least affirm the Nicene Creed (both the Nicene Council and the Council of Constantinople).

    What Christians differ on among themselves is not the basics of Christianity such as who Jesus was (the promised messiah) or what he did (died and rose again to break the power of sin and death). Rather, what Christians differ on are secondary and tertiary doctrines (and no, the distinctions here are not purely subjective).

    I know men like Richard Carrier like to promote the notion of legendary development and a greatly fractured and divided 1st century Church. It is certainly a popular picture to paint. However the simple historical fact is that it’s simply not the case.

    Were there outliers like the Gnostics who tried to blend eastern mysticism in with any and all religion they found in Greece/Jerusalem? Sure. Were they ever confused as being part of the religions (including Judaism) they attempted to subvert? Hardly. This is why Jewish Gnosticism (aka Kaballah) was never confused as being a “sect of Judaism” (unlike Christianity).

    No, the core of Christian teachings, the kerygma (http://bit.ly/bK25qb) were codified in oral and written phrases and symbols (http://bit.ly/a7TNsx) as early as a few months after Jesus’s death and resurrection.

  • 136. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Life Trekker,

    >>Even if you start with God and His Word as you suggest, as soon as humans get involved in trying to determine what God meant it all goes awry, and you end up with a bunch of different denominations each claiming that they are the only ones with the correct “formula” (interpretation), and thus are the only “genuine” Christians out there.

    You are absolutely right! I cannot argue that one. The mere fact there are different denominations negates the one true way as talked about in Jeremiah 32:38-40. So where does that leave us?

    Is it arbitrarily claiming what is or is not Christian? I am sure that, in some delusional way, Ted Haggard thought he was a Christian. Nope, that is not a dependable barometer.

    Again it goes back to the beginning, the authority of who is or who is not a Christian, and that authority is Christ Himself. As I pointed out , “the Bible says to evaluate everything to see if it is of God by its fruit, good tree = good fruit; a bad tree can never bear good fruit.” (Luke 6:43, Matthew 7:19)

    God lets people know who is and who is not a Christian, in this world. It will be obvious by their fruits.

    “”What fruit will grow in a True Christians life:

    1. Repentance – A 180 degree turn away from sinful behavior and towards Godly behavior.

    2. Thankfulness – A thankful heart that is grateful for what God has done… and shows itself in a cheerful disposition.

    3. Good Works – A life that becomes others centered (helping the aged, feeding the poor, teaching children, etc.) Not self centered (all free time consumed in personal hobbies and interests)

    4. Fruit of the Spirit – An ever-growing capacity of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control in the life of the believer.

    5. Fruit of Righteousness – Doing the right thing according to the way God defines it in his word. Not according to the way man defines it in his own mind.

    If we understand the parable in Mark 4:3-13 then it unlocks the secret to all parables: Foolish virgin=false convert Wise virgin=Genuine conversions. The good fish, the bad fish. The man who built his house on rock and the man who built his house on sand. The one who built his house on sand is the one who hears the word of Jesus but doesn’t keep them. False Convert.

    I feel honored and privileged to be discussing these topics with people that do not even believe that a God exists. If I didn’t believe it I certainly would not be willing to discuss it exhaustively since it would be just absurd to me and my mind would be made up. Kind of like someone claiming up and down that some flying fairy created all of us, it would be too ridiculous to even entertain in thought. There must be something in your mind that believes there is some validity to this “God” thing. Please do not get defensive here, I am just thankful to be discussing, what I feel is, the most important subject in all of our entire lives. I cannot wait until we are all in Heaven someday laughing at these times together and living blissfully.

    Want to see a real Christian? Look at the fruit that they bear. If you observe beautiful ripe fruit then you can be rest assured that the tree has very strong, and blessed, branches.

  • 137. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    rest assured that the tree has very strong, blessed branches, and most importantly, roots.

  • 138. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Wes,

    >>What Christians differ on among themselves is not the basics of Christianity such as who Jesus was (the promised messiah) or what he did (died and rose again to break the power of sin and death). Rather, what Christians differ on are secondary and tertiary doctrines (and no, the distinctions here are not purely subjective)…

    Well said brother, blessings.

  • 139. BigHouse  |  April 15, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Dan, first off I appreciate your change in tone.

    Second, plenty of non-Christians bear wonderful fruit. And plenty of Christians are a#$%holes.

    I’d like to ask you to read the big red exclamation point post on the front page and try to understand who we are and what we’re doing here. And then try to understand while your preaching isn’t welcome here.

    Thanks in advance.

  • 140. Philip  |  April 15, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Dan,

    I’m a lurker here, and usually when preacher-types come through here I stay away from the blog for days until it settles down. Most of the time, there’s really nothing constructive in those remarks and often there’s quite a bit of frustration and pain in reading Christian posts here.

    That said, I had read your latest post (#136/7), and…you reminded me of William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. When he wrote about that sort of person summarized in that passage, he noted that the kind of attributes you’ve listed are common across the religious spectrum, but are still very rare. When reading his chapter on conversion, I felt more at peace with everything than I had felt in the three years at that point since I had left Christianity. James saw and understood that there were people who “may be excellent persons, servants of God in practical ways, but they are not children of his kingdom” in the sense you’re describing.

    For some reason, James made things easier to accept. Not even those who may be moral and God-fearing will match everyone’s definition of a Christian. In your sense, there are a LOT of false converts out there, those who still dedicate their lives and energy to the church but who will never display those tendencies, who will struggle and never be able to turn away from their sin, who will never really be loving or peace-filled or thankful in their daily lives. It helped to see that I have a lot more in common with most people who call themselves Christians than even they will admit.

    I say your post reminded me of that because you did look at the outward signs of conversion instead of focusing on the faith aspect. And you helped something click for me in doing so.

    Under your definition of a Christian – if the attributes in that Galatians passage, above and beyond simply accepting Christ in your heart, is the best indication of what a Christian is – I really never was one.

    No amount of praying did anything or believing changed anything. No amount of shame and disgust with myself, compounded by passages like that as well as Hebrews 6 and most of I John, brought me to grace.

    Nothing worked, despite being driven to near-suicide over everything. And for some reason…looking back, I can’t get angry, either at the church or the Bible or individual believers for helping encourage that state because I’m not going to argue with you (collective, not you personally) anymore. It’s simply not in me to believe merely on the basis of someone’s words. If I can help it, I really don’t want anything to do with Christianity again, and if I go to hell for something that only God could do…well, I was f*cked anyway.

    I just wanted to thank you for inadvertently taking away a little bit of my lingering pain, even if ultimately I do think the Galatian definition of a Christian, rigorously applied, will end up alienating more people than you think.

    Just remember where you are, as BigHouse said. Read that red-exclamation link, read the stories here, and be respectful, please.

  • 141. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Big House,

    >>I’d like to ask you to read the big red exclamation point post on the front page and try to understand who we are and what we’re doing here.

    I have been talking to people here at DC for many years now. If my memory serves me correctly I believe my first contact was in May of 2007.

    I appreciate the dodge but I don’t believe I have preached to you yet. If I did you would be crying in conviction. :7)

    Look, I fully understand that truth always is confrontational, there is always someone on the wrong side of truth. This is a very serious and real subject for you and I. If I didn’t love you enough to tell you the truth, then I wouldn’t. Truth hurts, I understand.

  • 142. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Philip,

    >> In your sense, there are a LOT of false converts out there, those who still dedicate their lives and energy to the church but who will never display those tendencies, who will struggle and never be able to turn away from their sin, who will never really be loving or peace-filled or thankful in their daily lives.

    Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. We are here to get fruit bearing Christians, not decisions for Christ to fill pews.

    >>I say your post reminded me of that because you did look at the outward signs of conversion instead of focusing on the faith aspect.

    Do you even understand what the word faith means? It sounds like you don’t by that comment.

    >>Under your definition of a Christian – if the attributes in that Galatians passage, above and beyond simply accepting Christ in your heart, is the best indication of what a Christian is – I really never was one.

    Amen. Thanks for admitting that one. You are on your way to the truth.

    >>No amount of praying did anything or believing changed anything. No amount of shame and disgust with myself, compounded by passages like that as well as Hebrews 6 and most of I John, brought me to grace.

    Exactly there is nothing YOU can do for your Salvation. You must submit your entire “self” to Christ.

    >>Nothing worked, despite being driven to near-suicide over everything.

    Well the devil convinced you that things are hopeless. I can relate completely.

    >> It’s simply not in me to believe merely on the basis of someone’s words. If I can help it, I really don’t want anything to do with Christianity again, and if I go to hell for something that only God could do…well, I was f*cked anyway.

    That is perfectly understandable, you were just mislead. Just look at those poor kids that got molested all in the “name of god” by those criminal priests. I am sure they are not running to Church on Sundays.

    >>I just wanted to thank you for inadvertently taking away a little bit of my lingering pain, even if ultimately I do think the Galatian definition of a Christian, rigorously applied, will end up alienating more people than you think.

    Once again you are not getting it.

    >>Just remember where you are, as BigHouse said. Read that red-exclamation link, read the stories here, and be respectful, please.

    I thought I was but I will do my very best. Now please do me one more favor, please read this one last post I made to see if it matches your experience. If so it will help me out greatly. You are the perfect candidate as to figuring out what went wrong in your life with God. Please answer after reading the post: Have you put Jesus on to comfort your ride?

    Thanks Philip.

  • 143. BigHouse  |  April 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Dan, you’re still preaching.

    And what did I dodge? Speaking of, you haven’t answered a few of my questions yet, either. But that’s ok, I know you aren’t here to discuss, but to preach.

    How long you have been here doesn’t matter. We don’t want your personal opinion of and slavish devotion to 2000 year old mythological texts shoved down our throats as truths.

  • 144. Philip  |  April 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    I don’t have time right now to comment on your entire post there, but I wanted to touch on a couple things.

    In that post specifically, you weren’t talking about faith, but the consequences of it – how god works in those who are “Christians.” I didn’t mean to give the impression that I didn’t know what faith was in my response because I wasn’t actually talking about faith. Now if you want to talk about the connection between faith and outward signs, we can do that – I just wasn’t under the impression we were.

    But as far as your DA post goes… That story isn’t mine. For one thing, persecution and mockery were never a part of my experience. I was even shamed by that after reading that persecution would follow those who followed Jesus. I was under no illusions as to what the Bible said about believers and the world – opposition would have at least meant something was going as written. :-)

    There was always the full awareness of my finitude compared to what was called of us. I understood quite well what Paul and Jesus both meant when they spoke of the impossibility of people to save themselves. But there was never any peace that came with that, only terror and inadequacy and guilt and depression, only occasionally interspersed with feelings of calm.

    I submitted, I gave everything I had to god – my brokenness, my heart, my life, my possessions, my future – and there was never any peace or joy or fulfillment. I prayed for god to show me what I might have been holding back, and even dedicated that, unknown, to him.

    I witnessed to others, I fed the poor, I devoted myself to prayer and fasting to try and discern anything of god’s will, and there never was anything. No voice, no direction, no calling, no sense of being connected to anything holy, only an increasing sense of distance from…well, everything, even myself.

    Even when I didn’t sense the spirit, I clung to the promise of Jesus’ saving work, knowing that god wouldn’t leave me forever. Even surrounded by other believers who did their best to encourage me, even with the call to perseverance it was still little better than shouting at a brick wall to come and crush me.

    It never really got better than that, and if it had gotten worse I’d know whether or not god exists first-hand. Nothing I did, nothing I didn’t do. I burned out, or crashed, or just said “No more.” I left it in God’s hands. I started reading – Feuerbach, Stirner, Nietzsche, the above-mentioned James, Pascal Boyer, Scott Atran, the Buddha. I had a moment of clarity when I read Dawkins, and a belief which had been torturing me simply fell away. I saw things emerge in an entirely new way – questions actually had answers that made sense, and everything pointed toward a naturalist universe. And I’ve been in quite a lot of therapy, trying to learn to mentally function again. There’s still no peace, but at least life’s livable.

    …and if you want to blame me for believing incorrectly, or critique something I’ve said. That’s fine, that’s your prerogative. But unless you have something that requires a response, I think I’m done here for tonight. Take care of yourself.

  • 145. Dan  |  April 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Philip,

    Thanks for sharing and you actually helped me feel your past pain.

    >>I witnessed to others, I fed the poor, I devoted myself to prayer and fasting to try and discern anything of god’s will, and there never was anything. No voice, no direction, no calling, no sense of being connected to anything holy, only an increasing sense of distance from…well, everything, even myself.

    It saddens me that you think that God somehow was a jack-in-the-box and that if you just cranked hard enough that He would pop out some way. What was the religion you associated yourself to? What preacher did you wrong??!! I am quite angry at some of these professing preachers that have no clue who He is and leading the flock towards destruction.

    God has already spoken to you but apparently you are asking him to reveal Himself to you in a special way. That reminds me of a cartoon I saw.

    It is through God’s collective natural (Nature and the Universe) and special (Bible) revelation that I know for certain that He indeed exists. What more do you want? Voices in your head? God does not work that way. To appear to you? God does not work that way. Who are you to question Him? You want more verification then His Creation and His Word? Well that is where the Faith comes in.

    So we are on the same page, to be perfectly clear lets define faith. Faith is a strong belief in a supernatural power that control human destiny, complete confidence in a plan, a loyalty or allegiance to a cause.

    Webster says:

    1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
    2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
    3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs.

    Faith, in a sense, is synonymous with loyalty and TRUST. In fact the synonyms are: confidence, trust, reliance, conviction, belief, assurance, devotion, loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, fidelity, constancy, fealty, dedication, allegiance.

    Allegiance. Get it? That was what the water baptism was for. It was to publicly make a covenant with God.

    God’s Word simply declares that this is God’s plan of salvation; 1. Hear the WORD of God. 2. Believe that Jesus is the Messiah. 3. Repent of your ways that are contrary to God’s will. 4. Be Baptized INTO Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 5. Remain faithful to the Covenant you have made with God.

    The only problem is that you decided that it was not for you and violated part 5. You decided to “go it alone” but I am not here to “preach” to you at this point. I am now pleading with you to understand Him. If you were mistaken, that is fine. I just want you to know the truth. I have heard your kind of story countless of times (certainly not to discount yours either) and I just want to help show you the right path to Him (Salvation). Whether you take that path is up to you and God and none of my business.

    I am not here to try to “convert” you or “save” you. That is not my job. If that were the case there would be no such thing as a non-believer. Why God selects some, and not others, is way beyond my pay grade. Please understand I am not on some soap box, as someone with authority, calling you a sinner or something like that. I am just trying to understand your point of view and giving you mine, from my perspective as a fellow sinner. Sometimes truth is confrontational, I understand. Please do not take offense. I know me all to well and sometimes I am aggressive attempting to pull you out of the fire while you are kicking and screaming but when we are “in the clear” we can both calm down and lick our wounds. Right now its an emergency, forgive me if I bruise you a little in grabbing you. Now get your butt out of that fire!!!

    Thanks for sharing and hope the best for you.

  • 146. David  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Hey Dan,

    You have steadfastly ignored my other questions, so I guess you don’t have answers. It’s not because you don;t have teh time, you must live on your computer. Anyway, here’s another question: –

    Commandment number 5 says that you must – “Honour thy mother and father”.

    What if I was sexually and physically abused by these parents? How am I to honour them?

    very interested to hear your answer.

    David

  • 147. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:25 am

    David,

    >>You have steadfastly ignored my other questions, so I guess you don’t have answers.

    Squeaky wheels do get the grease, just repeat or clarify the question and I will address it. I am not afraid of anything or anyone.

    I do have 5 kids here and sometimes I do get distracted. Forgive me.

    >>Commandment number 5 says that you must – “Honour thy mother and father”.

    >>What if I was sexually and physically abused by these parents? How am I to honour them?

    I have addressed that already. Take a gander?

    Let me know what you think, please.

    To answer that quickly though the answer is NOPE! Why? Because we are to honor unless it violates God’s will.

    “When a child is told by her father to lie on the telephone, or, far worse, to submit to his advances, the resulting sense of conflict can be intense. In such cases the human authority must be disobeyed, but this is not an exception or an exemption to an absolute, for the absolute is defined in such a way that obedience is to be rendered only when human commands do not violate clear scriptural prohibitions and instructions.

    God’s moral absolutes never truly conflict, and that all of them are binding in any given situation, with the power of God present for their fulfillment.”

    What was the next question?

  • 148. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:33 am

    David,

    I certainly did miss some of your questions. Oops

    Let me address some

    >>It makes the point about being a ‘true’ Christian all a bit one-sided, in favour of people brought up in the West. For example, I could be a perfectly good human being, created by God and placed (presumably by God) in Yemen and spend my whole life being good and true and moral and just simply wonderful. However, I will go straight to hell because people in Yemen do not have access to the Bible.

    Are you claiming that there are no Christians in Yemen or China or Iran. If I were raised in Iran I believe I would be a Christian just like there are many Christians in Iran today. You are starting to sound like Opera though.

    OK I will address the rest.

  • 149. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:41 am

    David,

    >>However, the bible is written for and about his ‘chosen’ people (the Jews), who are only a tiny fraction of the human population; never mind all that other wonderful Creation. Therefore, it only speaks to a teeny-tiny bit of all His wondrous works. What about the rest of us? Were we never in his plan?

    First of all it is written for everyone. The Hebrew Tanakh were for the chosen for a period of time to write about the shadowy prophecies of the Messiah to come. But the Word is for all of us. You feel left out? You are included, I hope you understand.

    We have one verse that sums it all up: Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We all have our roles as the body of the Christ head.

  • 150. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:46 am

    David cont’d,

    >>For example, I could be a perfectly good human being, created by God and placed (presumably by God) in Yemen and spend my whole life being good and true and moral and just simply wonderful.

    First, there is not one that is good. (Psalm 14:3, Proverbs 20:6) Second, Christ will not come until the Gospel is preached to all corners of the planet. You are without excuse.

  • 151. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:47 am

    David cont’d,

    >>And what about children that die before they are old enough to believe? They may well have been baptised but they cannot be true Christians by any of your arguments above. Those poor little buggers are going to roast.

    I believe Children go to Heaven

  • 152. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:50 am

    David cont’d,

    >>One more question, what about people that are intellectually or developmentally disabled and cannot make the distinction or understand the word of God in the Bible. They cannot really be ‘true’ Christians either, can they? Looks like we are barbequing the disabled too…

    You see that is the difference between us. I believe God is a just and righteous God and you don’t. From your presuppositions you believe he is evil and everything you read you put into that presupposition. I believe God saves the ones that are incapable of knowing Him. I am sure I can back this up with verses if you wish, I just don’t have them at this very moment.

    So I will address your bare assertions with a bare assertion. :7)

  • 153. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:54 am

    >>So should the phrase, “Jesus saves” have a proviso that reads, “as long as you are not too young, intellectually challenged or one of those foreign weirdoes”?

    How about “Jesus saves the young, intellectually challenged, and the faithfully repentant sinners”

    Again your presuppositions are showing, you might want to cover those up before someone calls the cops. :7)

  • 154. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:59 am

    >>On the other side, what about the rapists, murderers and paedophiles(sic) that convert on death row?

    Like Jeffrey Dahmer?

    >>It looks like they are getting in; so long as they really believe.

    Nope, a belief is not enough. Remember it is those who repent (turn away from sin) and trust their entire lives to Jesus Christ, then they are saved and forgiven. It was a legal transaction, I am sure you have heard before. The Judge (God) can stay your execution on Judgment Day because Jesus took your punishment for you.

    Jeffrey Dahmer was a sinner, just like me and you, and yes it is possible that he was saved. Only God knows for sure.

  • 155. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 2:02 am

    >>The rules for being a ‘true’ Christian and being subsequently saved seem a bit lax on the moral side of things….

    If we are saved for our morals then we are all headed to hell because that is what we all deserve. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) The whole point is we all lack morals and we are all wretched and wicked sinners deserving of hell and God for some reason loved us enough to provide a way to save us. I am so grateful for that, I will worship Christ for all of eternity.

  • 156. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 2:04 am

    David,

    Your 114 comment seemed to be more of a statement so I will not address.

    Did I miss anything? :7)

  • 157. David  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Wow, thank you Dan,

    that’s brilliant – thanks for taking the time.

    All my questions have been amply answered and I no longer have any doubts about the whole thing.

    thanks once again.

  • 158. Frreal  |  April 16, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Congratulations David!

    Now all you have to do once God gives the word, is bind up your kid, stick him on a pyre and wait for an angel to stop you mere inches from plunging a dagger in his heart. Then you can genuinely praise him for being the truly merciful, good, and kind God that he obviously is.

    Dan, would you put your kid on an altar and sacrifice him if God asked you to? Is it more wrong to disobey God or to sacrifice your child? When God asked you to go into a city and slaughter all the women and children would you have a problem plunging a sword into the swollen belly of a woman with child?

    So my problem is even if I could believe God, I couldn’t love Him with all my heart. I couldn’t abandon my own family for Him and I certainly couldn’t slaughter babies for Him. I guess I deserve Hell — but God knew my path before I was even twinkle in my parents eyes so he must have intended for me to suffer for all eternity. Shrug. Whacha’ gonna do…. might makes right I guess.

  • 159. DSimon  |  April 16, 2010 at 9:26 am

    When a child is told by her father to lie on the telephone, or, far worse, to submit to his advances, the resulting sense of conflict can be intense. In such cases the human authority must be disobeyed, but this is not an exception or an exemption to an absolute, for the absolute is defined in such a way that obedience is to be rendered only when human commands do not violate clear scriptural prohibitions and instructions.

    It seems like there’s a paradox there. So, the 5th commandment doesn’t apply when following it would violate some other commandment… but where is that order specified? I.e. why does the commandment about not lying necessarily have more priority than the commandment about honoring your parents?

  • 160. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

    DSimon,

    >>So, the 5th commandment doesn’t apply when following it would violate some other commandment… but where is that order specified? I.e. why does the commandment about not lying necessarily have more priority than the commandment about honoring your parents?

    I am not completely sure I understand your point. God’s Commandments are being violated if you lie.

    By lying you violate the 5th, the 9th, the 2nd, and the 1st Commandments. When you steal you violate the 5th, the 8th, the 2nd, and the 1st Commandments.

    Maybe by breaking a Commandment it actually is blasphemous to God, so there goes the 3rd also. If we really think about it, we are even violating the 4th also since Jesus is now our Sabbath Rest.(Hebrews 4:9-10) We are not “keeping it Holy” (Exodus 20:8) so there it goes also. When you sin you are breaking which ever sin PLUS the first 5 Commandments also. You are breaking a great deal of Commandments with one simple lie.

    Let’s compound that. Let’s just say you break God’s Laws (Lie, steal, lust, or covet) 5 times a day. You lied once, lusted once, stole something, etc. In one year, that would be 1,825 sins. If you live to 85 and started sinning at, lets just say, age 15, @ 70 years of sinning you would have broken God Laws 127,750 times. Compounded, if you sinned one time, and thus breaking 5 other Commandments each time totaling 6 sins, and did that 5 times a day that would be 766,500 sins in a lifetime!!!

    Now take that times just 6 billion people and that is some 4.6 quadrillion sins for the planet on an average.

    Now, lets multiply that by many generations throughout history…

    Dude, that is a lot of sins!!!

    Now can you see that sinning is not just a little thing? Its a big, big deal!

    That just made the post of the day. Thanks

  • 161. DSimon  |  April 16, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Dan, if I understand right, what you were saying earlier is that if a parent tells their child to lie, and the child refuses to do it because lying would violate the 9th commandment, then that child made the right choice.

    However, isn’t the child still violating the 5th commandment by not honoring their parent’s wishes, even though they’re doing it to avoid violating another commandment? No matter which choice they make, aren’t they violating one commandment or the other?

    I was pointing out that your advice seems to prioritize one commandment over another, because that’s the only way to resolve situations where every possible choice violates a commandment.

  • 162. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

    DSimon,

    How would a child’s refusal to violate the parent’s command not to bear false witness entail the violation of their refusal to honor them?

    The early Christians taught that everyone should honor the authority of the state and yet they still violated the state’s laws when they refused to acknowledge Caesar as lord.

    It’s perfectly plausible to respect the authority/position of a state/parent while, at the same time, disobeying their command/law without supposing that the state/parent’s honor/authority has been violated (thus breaking the command from God to love/honor both).

    I think a lot of the violations that are supposed to exist in Scripture are really misunderstandings that people don’t bother to try and resolve.

  • 163. DSimon  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I don’t understand how one can simultaneously honor the authority of a state and disobey that same authority. It’s a bit like saying “Well, your honor, my defendant certainly respects the authority of the law, and in fact had that respect firmly in mind as he ordered the teller to put all the money in a bag.”

  • 164. DSimon  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Sorry, messed up my pseudo-court-speech: meant to say “my client”, not “my defendant”.

  • 165. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Dan-

    I believe God saves the ones that are incapable of knowing Him. I am sure I can back this up with verses if you wish, I just don’t have them at this very moment.

    Doesn’t this mean it’s better that we don’t tell anyone about Christianity? Shouldn’t we make sure that no one is capable of knowing him? Every time you tell someone about Jesus who was previously ignorant, you’re giving them the choice to reject him and go to hell, whereas before they were incapable of making the choice and would have gone to heaven by your reasoning.

  • 166. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I’m glad you asked :-)

    The early Christians, like Socrates, honored the state by submitting to it’s judgments (or sentence of punishment in our legal parlance). Specifically it’s sentence of death.

    That is, if the child decides to honor both God and their parents, and if their parents do not want to honor God. The child will very likely be put in situations where they will have to endure the unjust treatment of their parents. Just like the early Christians (and indeed, Christians throughout the world even today) are made to endure persecution for their beliefs because the states they are in have chosen not to honor God.

    This unfortunate circumstance (where we are to honor authorities that do not honor God) is most likely why Jesus told us that we would see persecution, pain, and suffering in this world should we decide to follow him.

  • 167. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    DSimon,

    >>I was pointing out that your advice seems to prioritize one commandment over another, because that’s the only way to resolve situations where every possible choice violates a commandment.

    I think Wes tapped on the point. To refuse to lie for the parent or to resist their advances is indeed HONORING them, or Respecting them. I am sure you will agree that it is only by lying do they dishonor them by breaking a Commandment. It is honoring them because they are the head of the family, as Christ is our Godhead, not because they are wicked. By asking a child to lie, the parent is actually dishonoring the child and God. The child is to honor their parents as long as it is Godly by doing so. If it is not Godly then it is dishonoring them to listen to their wicked instructions.

    Clear? Now stop being difficult. :7)

  • 168. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    That would appear to be the case…

    ..if people never grew up and freely chose to sin.

    Here is a more detailed explanation of the age of accountability.

  • 169. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Dan said nothing about an age of accountability, only about the inability to know God. Unless you want to argue that you can know God without ever being told about him (in which case why do we need missionaries?) then Dan’s statement means that those who are never told about God go to heaven by default. Otherwise, there are people who are incapable of knowing God who will go to hell.

  • 170. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    First, love the name. What an image.

    >>Every time you tell someone about Jesus who was previously ignorant, you’re giving them the choice to reject him and go to hell, whereas before they were incapable of making the choice and would have gone to heaven by your reasoning.

    I guess the difference is incapable of understanding Him and incapable of making a choice. We all choose to sin. We all know lying is wrong.

    It’s a proven fact that with ALL people, across all genders and races, the consequences / telltales of when a person lies, are that;

    They experience sweaty palms; They experience induced swallowing; Their heart rate increases; Their faces turn red; They avoid eye contact; They speak more quickly, etc. etc. This is with everyone human being on the planet no matter where they grew up or was raised. Except, of course, for sociopaths and those who have perfected evil deception. So these are physical reactions (that cross all humanity), that occur when people lie.

    Here’s a hint, lying is a spiritual event. It’s not merely a physical action. Lying is an offense against God. When His creations lie, He is ashamed of His creation and simply separates Himself. Therefore He has constructed us with built in sensors that perhaps we just might someday, in our blind little, self seeking minds, finally get the big picture.

    So, because we sin, the wages are death (Romans 6:23). Now, God has and will provide a way for that person to hear the “good news” about his habitual sinning. Everyone will have that chance to hear the good news. We still have some work to do, care to join us? Again, God provides a way.

  • 171. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Wes-

    The early Christians, like Socrates, honored the state by submitting to it’s judgments (or sentence of punishment in our legal parlance). Specifically it’s sentence of death.

    So, the American Revolution was counter to God’s will? That was a very blatant rejection of the authority of Britain, and nothing Britain was asking the American Colonies to do opposed God’s law. By this reasoning the colonies should have submitted themselves to Britain’s judgments, even if they were unjust.

  • 172. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    “Unless you want to argue that you can know God without ever being told about him”

    That is exactly what Romans 1 argues. Namely that all of nature cries out that there is a God and that we are accountable to Him.

    I think there are several ways we know this but for the sake of space I’ll simply say that I hold to the view that belief in God is “properly basic”.

    That is, we are borne knowing about God and that in the course of our lives we either work to know Him more or we work to actively forget what we were borne knowing.

    Either way, it is not one’s knowledge of God that saves him/her or not. Even the demons know God (and they tremble as they also know His power).

    What denotes faith is accepting and honoring God _as_ God (something the demons do not do). Which, from the conversation above, would also entail accepting his judgments/sentences. Specifically, his sentence for breaking His moral law. Which means we are under the condemnation of death because of our freely and knowingly committed sins.

  • 173. DSimon  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    That definition of “honor” seems reasonable, Dan, but I still think my point about conflicting obligations stands. How about a slightly different (contrived and silly, but still useful) scenario:

    Suppose your next-door neighbor is an incredibly nasty person who imagines himself to be some kind of devious supervillian. To that end, installs a series of well-hidden deathtraps around your neighborhood: a whirling guillotine disguised as a sprinkler here, a covered spike-pit there, an automatic sod-covered pop-up machine-gun turret in his backyard, and so on.

    The other people in the neighborhood are too afraid to do anything. Many people have tried calling the police, but they refuse to do anything about it; perhaps they’re corrupt, perhaps they’re also scared of the deathtraps, but regardless, they’re not going to show up.

    You happen to be an expert engineer; you alone in the neighborhood have the skill necessary to dismantle the deathtraps safely and prevent them from hurting anybody.

    In this scenario as a Christian, what can you do that doesn’t violate a commandment? If you dismantle the deathtraps, that’s clearly stealing; they belong to the sadistic neighbor, not to you! However, if you simply leave them alone and allow them to kill people, that’s tantamount to murder; after all, you are the only one capable of preventing those deaths from happening, and you can do so without risk or trouble.

    So, what choice can be made here that doesn’t violate a commandment?

  • 174. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Dan-

    Now, God has and will provide a way for that person to hear the “good news” about his habitual sinning. Everyone will have that chance to hear the good news.

    This is utter nonsense. How many people have died without ever hearing the “good news”? How many people have gone to hell according to Christian theology without ever having the option to choose salvation?

  • 175. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    DSimon,

    That’s a rather convoluted scenario.

    Are you saying that this supervilian has installed his death traps on his own land or public land?

    Additionally, how would disabling a trap be considered “stealing” in any sense?

  • 176. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    What denotes faith is accepting and honoring God _as_ God (something the demons do not do). Which, from the conversation above, would also entail accepting his judgments/sentences. Specifically, his sentence for breaking His moral law. Which means we are under the condemnation of death because of our freely and knowingly committed sins.

    So, do you believe there are people who have never heard of Jesus who are in heaven now? If God can reach people this way, what’s the point of proselytizing?

    And doesn’t this mean we’d be better off killing all of our children before they reach your so-called “age of accountability”? Wouldn’t it be better to go to hell for murder than to allow countless children to grow up and reject God and go to hell themselves?

  • 177. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    DSimon,

    Whew, I thought you would give me a difficult scenario. :7)

    >>If you dismantle the deathtraps, that’s clearly stealing; they belong to the sadistic neighbor, not to you!

    First how is “dismantling” stealing?

    Also, in Exodus 20 it says thou shall not kill (Strong’s H7523 – ratsach: Murder) and the very next page in Exodus 21:12 says “He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall be surely put to death”

    If you look at the ten commandments and read thou shall not (Strong’s H7523 – ratsach: Murder) in Exodus 20:13. All you would have to do is to look to the very next page to see if a man (murders) another man he shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:12) [Rush?] So capitol punishment if fully justified. Protection of self and others are fully justified in the Bible.

    All that said, I would dismantle to save others and let God judge me and give thanks for Christ dying on the cross for all my sins.

  • 178. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    “So, do you believe there are people who have never heard of Jesus who are in heaven now?”

    No. Because we have been told that such acceptance will not happen apart from specific revelation.

    And actually, among even those who are told the good new of Christ’s atoning sacrafice on the cross, many will still willfully reject God’s offer of peace and reconciliation.

    At any rate, why are you so concerned with those who may or may not have heard? Do you believe God is morally obligated to save everyone?

    “Wouldn’t it be better to go to hell for murder than to allow countless children to grow up and reject God and go to hell themselves?”

    This is an ethical situation based on a false-dichotomy.

    What makes you think it is more desirable (or even possible) to choose hell for ourselves? What makes you think it is just to not to allow a child to grow up and choose (or reject) God themselves?

  • 179. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    At any rate, why are you so concerned with those who may or may not have heard? Do you believe God is morally obligated to save everyone?

    If he is to have any claim at being “just” or “good” or “loving”, then yes. Any claim at these things goes out the window when you start sending people to hell without even giving them the option to escape it.

  • 180. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    SnugglyBuffalo,

    >>How many people have died without ever hearing the “good news”?

    Too many

    >>How many people have gone to hell according to Christian theology without ever having the option to choose salvation?

    Do you know? It is God’s choice but that is another discussion entirely but to try to follow the thought…

    God did save many people under the Old Covenant and with the New Covenant comes new provisions. (http://tinyurl.com/CNCCK)

    >>So, do you believe there are people who have never heard of Jesus who are in heaven now?

    Not one. Not one single person at all. How do I know this because there is none that are sinless. Without Christ, they cannot enter Heaven but many are in Hell for their sins. God has also been there, with man, from the beginning.

    >>If God can reach people this way, what’s the point of proselytizing?

    The point is because we are told to. Maybe because we feel needed when we help. God knows this. He doesn’t “need” us. Plus, is not charity a selfish act? Does it not make the “self” feel good to help others? God wants us to feel needed I suppose.

  • 181. LifeTrekker  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Dan,

    In post 170, you said the following:
    “It’s a proven fact that with ALL people, across all genders and races, the consequences / telltales of when a person lies, are that;

    They experience sweaty palms; They experience induced swallowing; Their heart rate increases; Their faces turn red; They avoid eye contact; They speak more quickly, etc. etc. This is with everyone human being on the planet no matter where they grew up or was raised. Except, of course, for sociopaths and those who have perfected evil deception. So these are physical reactions (that cross all humanity), that occur when people lie.

    Here’s a hint, lying is a spiritual event. It’s not merely a physical action. Lying is an offense against God. When His creations lie, He is ashamed of His creation and simply separates Himself. Therefore He has constructed us with built in sensors that perhaps we just might someday, in our blind little, self seeking minds, finally get the big picture.”

    First of all, I’ll start off by saying that I am terrible at lying. I always have been. Whenever I lie, I experience all of the body language clues you mentioned above, especially the face turning red part. Before I de-converted I could easily tell people I believed the core tenets of the Christian faith, such as that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and that he rose from the dead on the third day and conquered death. I could easily tell people that he was my Lord and Savior, and that my acceptance of his blood sacrifice for my sins was the ONLY thing that would save me. I believed 100% in salvation by grace, not salvation by works. I believed all of these things 100%.

    However, now that I no longer believe these things, I can no longer say that I do without having the same lying body language signals showing up. If I tell people that I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead, my face turns red and my palms get sweaty.

    All this to say that I think you are way off track when you say that lying is a spiritual event. It is an emotional event and a psychological event, but it is not a spiritual event. The body language signals come into play when a person says something that THEY do not believe is true.

  • 182. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    LifeTrekker,

    >>If I tell people that I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead, my face turns red and my palms get sweaty.

    Because that is a lie. You are still lying to God. It still is a spiritual event.

    Here is the real question. Did your face turn slightly red, in a subconscious manner, when you proclaimed Jesus in the past when you thought you were a Christian? I can assure you that my face would not turn red today. I sure wish I could have a BBQ with all of you here, speaking of that. What a fun night that would be, huh? Nothing like a face to face conversation about God. Maybe that is why my entire family stopped talking to me. :7)

    I understand that conviction is uncomfortable. Also, I fully understand that truth always is confrontational, there is always someone on the wrong side of truth. This is a very serious and real subject for you and I. If I didn’t love you enough to tell you the truth, then I wouldn’t. Truth hurts, I understand.

  • 183. LifeTrekker  |  April 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Dan,

    “>>If I tell people that I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead, my face turns red and my palms get sweaty.

    Because that is a lie. You are still lying to God. It still is a spiritual event.”

    Well, you kinda get it. It is a lie, but it is a lie because I no longer believe the assertion. It is still not a spiritual event.

    “Here is the real question. Did your face turn slightly red, in a subconscious manner, when you proclaimed Jesus in the past when you thought you were a Christian?”

    Not in the least. Like I said, I was 100% convinced that I was a true believer through and through.

    “I understand that conviction is uncomfortable. Also, I fully understand that truth always is confrontational, there is always someone on the wrong side of truth. This is a very serious and real subject for you and I. If I didn’t love you enough to tell you the truth, then I wouldn’t. Truth hurts, I understand.”

    When people have difference of opinions, that is confrontational. I understand that you believe what you are saying is “Truth” with 100% conviction. From what you have written here, there is no doubt of that. (I know the feeling, since I used to believe the same thing, also with 100% conviction.) Confronting the “truth” hurts. That is why de-converting was so difficult for most of us here on the forum. But knowing the “truth” has now set me free. Free of believing a 2000 year old lie about how the world and the universe works. Now I know the truth, and for that I am thankful, even if it puts me in uncomfortable situations at times.

  • 184. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Life Trekker,

    >>I know the feeling, since I used to believe the same thing, also with 100% conviction. Confronting the “truth” hurts. That is why de-converting was so difficult for most of us here on the forum. But knowing the “truth” has now set me free.

    So you were 100% certain that you were a Christian and was wrong and now you are 100% certain that no God is the “truth”. So tell me how do you know you are not merely wrong? You must admit that with your track record of “100% certainty” that you could be 100% wrong yet again.

    I do notice the pattern of narcissistic reasoning though. You were 100% certain that you were a Christian, then you were 100% certain there must be no God then, since you were 100% certain that if there was a God then He surly would of picked you for Christianity in the Body of Christ. Now that you are 100% certain not a Christian you are 100% certain. O’rly?

    Could it be possible, you are yet again 100% wrong about your perceived truth? If not, why not? If yes, then wouldn’t this be the most important subject in your life until you figure it out? Are you willing to risk 100% of your life on your decision? Because you are.

    What do you now have 100% faith in? Humanity?

  • 185. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Dan, my point was that you believe people have gone to hell even though they were incapable of choosing to believe in Jesus and accepting his salvation. This is no different than a child or someone with mental problems that prevent them from accepting Christ, it’s just a different disability (that being a lack of knowledge). Not to mention the injustice of offering salvation and then eternally damning everyone you didn’t send the memo to.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say God saves the ones incapable of knowing him and then say he condemns those who never had the opportunity to know him. You are holding two contradictory positions.

  • 186. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    “it’s just a different disability (that being a lack of knowledge)”

    Once again, it’s not knowledge that saves or damns a person. It’s their acceptance or rejection of God, his ways, and his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  • 187. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Right, Wes, I get that. But it’s completely irrelevant if you are never given the option to accept or reject it. It’s no different for a child to be unaccountable because they are too young to make the choice or for an adult to be unable to make the choice because they are unaware of it.

  • 188. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Ah, and there you are bringing in a hidden premise again that God is somehow obligated to save us from a situation we have freely gotten ourselves into. I simply don’t see where you get that “ought to” from.

  • 189. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    The doublethink here is so thick you can cut it with a knife. I’m fully willing to accept that Christianity says that God allows non-believers who never had the chance go to hell regardless. But you then go on to say that children go to heaven regardless. But what’s the difference between children and adults who don’t know any better? The only difference is age, both are equally incapable of choosing to accept God.

    Yet you are able to recognize the injustice in sending children to hell, and unable to do the same for adults who never heard about God and Jesus.

  • 190. BigHouse  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Snuggly, why debate with people who accept this morally bankrupt doctrine willingly?

  • 191. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    “But what’s the difference between children and adults who don’t know any better?”

    The difference is that there aren’t any adults who don’t know any better.

    I love George Orwell too, but mind control this isn’t. This is the very definition of a limited free will.

    BigHouse, I am curious. What objective moral standard are you using to judge Christianity to be morally bankrupt?

  • 192. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    It’s not even the moral bankruptcy that’s driving me up the wall, it’s the positively Orwellian doublethink they’re exhibiting.

  • 193. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Wes,

    >>What objective moral standard are you using to judge Christianity to be morally bankrupt?

    Nail…hits…head

  • 194. BigHouse  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Right, and how do you win and argument with people who contradict themselves post to post and either can;t or won’t see it?

  • 195. SnugglyBuffalo  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Wes, you can’t argue that they know better and at the same time argue that a man who is not told about Jesus and God will go to hell. The only way to know better is to know about God and Jesus, which we’ve already established doesn’t happen without being told about them (or at least Dan appears to agree with this, and he’s the one I’ve been primarily addressing).

  • 196. BigHouse  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Nail…hits…head

    This is deliciously humorous, backwards metaphor for backwards thinking. Well done, mate.

  • 197. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I need to think this one through it is a good question.

    salvation is not by attaining the right amount of knowledge of Christ. That would involve us in our own salvation.

    Give me just a minute and think, and look things up. I don’t have the concrete answer at this moment… but I will. Noah never heard of Christ and is in Heaven so I am missing something or a verse.

    Must…have…more…research,…help…gulp…Google…help.

  • 198. BigHouse  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    salvation is not by attaining the right amount of knowledge of Christ. That would involve us in our own salvation.

    Fantastic, so I don;t have to do anything to have salvation? I’m happy to hear I have it, then, groovy.

    Now watch the torture of the ENglish language to say that believing in ancient stories and following the guide of a spirit dwelling within me has nothing to do with me.

    SB, you can’t reason with people whose definition of reason changes depending on what they just wrote in their last post.

  • 199. BigHouse  |  April 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    BigHouse, I am curious. What objective moral standard are you using to judge Christianity to be morally bankrupt?

    The same one all humans use, their own sensibilities crafted through experience in life.

    And you don’t get to invoke your supposed absolute moral authority until you can prove that the creator of that authority actually exists.

  • 200. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    And Big House has faith in universalism?

    Hold On I will find an adequate answer. Most atheists know it already but I need to find this one.

    I know that we are all dead in our sins and deserving of God’s wrath. But God did offer a way to Salvation. So does everyone get a chance to reject that “out”?

    Amazing how little on that subject there is. It needs to be addressed. Maybe my brain is getting in the way. Anyone? A little help?

  • 201. LifeTrekker  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Dan,

    You wrote the following in post 184:
    “So you were 100% certain that you were a Christian and was wrong and now you are 100% certain that no God is the “truth”. So tell me how do you know you are not merely wrong? You must admit that with your track record of “100% certainty” that you could be 100% wrong yet again.”

    I don’t believe I have previously stated my position on whether or not I believe there is or is not a god, so I will do so now. I currently believe that there is a chance that there is a god, but only in the most basic “prime mover’ since of the term. I suppose if I put a label on it, I would say that I am a Deist.

    As far as being 100% certain about things, (anything for that matter), when I was a Christian I can honestly say that I can not remember a single time that I ever doubted my salvation. I may have had questions and a few doubts about the age of the earth and the worldwide flood of Noah, but I never doubted my salvation or the “truth” of the Gospel. I KNEW that I was saved and that my hope of salvation rested solely on the blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross for my sins. That is why I described this with the term 100% certain.

    I have now come to the conclusion that I was wrong to place my trust in this story. Am I 100% certain that my current position is the “truth”? No, I would not say that I am 100% certain, but I am VERY certain. I simply allowed myself to look at the evidence for the Bible and Christianity with the same skeptical eye that I had previously used to look at the claims of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I did this I found that things didn’t add up.

    Now I would ask you, how certain of you in your position as a Christian? Are you 100% certain that it is “true”? If you can’t answer with 100% certainty, you may not want to hang around here too much longer. ;-)

    “I do notice the pattern of narcissistic reasoning though.”
    I don’t think so. But if you mean that I finally started to think for myself, then maybe the answer is yes.

    “Could it be possible, you are yet again 100% wrong about your perceived truth? If not, why not? If yes, then wouldn’t this be the most important subject in your life until you figure it out? Are you willing to risk 100% of your life on your decision? Because you are.”

    Is it possible that I am wrong? It could be, but I don’t think so. I don’t have the time or space here to list all of the reasons for my de-conversion, but I will say there are many. Most have to do with the outright conflict of the findings of science with the things that are written in the OT, and most of the rest have to do with the internal conflicts in the Bible itself, both in the Old and New Testaments.

    “What do you now have 100% faith in? Humanity?”

    I don’t have 100% faith in anything, and certainly not humanity. I think humanity stands a really good chance of burning itself out and becoming extinct by its own hands. I certainly hope that this doesn’t happen, but it does seem entirely possible. But to get back on topic, why do you think is it important to have 100% faith in something?

  • 202. LifeTrekker  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    BigHouse

    “Right, and how do you win and argument with people who contradict themselves post to post and either can;t or won’t see it?”

    I certainly agree with you on this statement. I can see it is easy to get a little frustrated. However, I really think that they really just can’t see it. Let me explain.

    As a recent de-con myself, I can really say that I never could see the evidence against Christianity and the Bible for what it was before I reached a turning point of allowing myself to question my own faith. It is like I had a pair of sunglasses on, and all the evidence that would have harmed my faith just bounced off, never even reaching my eyes.

    I think of these sunglasses as the filter of your worldview. We all wear them, and I now just wear a different pair. I don’t know if any of you other de-cons have experienced this, but I find myself still being able to identify with the evangelical christian worldview, while at the same time no longer looking at life that way. It is as if I can take one pair of sunglasses off (my new worldview) , and switch to another pair (my old worldview), and back again.

  • 203. Wes Widner  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    LifeTrekker,

    Are you saying that believers like Dan and myself have never had doubts, honestly questioned our faith, etc?

  • 204. Dan  |  April 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    OK just so we are clear everyone here has indeed rejected God. Now some remote east African village that has not heard of Christ will not go to hell because of that. They go to hell because they are sinners as we all are and deserve hell. Someone said “it’s not so much that we have “free will” as that we have “free won’t!”

    I will bring it back in faith to God in that as claimed in Romans 8:28-30 God chooses, or “predestinate”, His chosen.

    So the people that did not hear of Christ will not go to hell because of that reason. They go to hell for sin, as all of us. God will provide a way for His elect to understand Christ and keep us as Jesus said in John 10:28-30.

    Now, we have to get into an entirely different discussion between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism and I just do not have the energy at the moment. There are plenty of things that I don’t know, or understand, with God but the difference is that we have faith, or trust, that God will indeed do the right thing for all of us.

  • 205. David  |  April 16, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Good morning everyone and “CONGRATULATIONS”!

    You have finally exposed the filth that is the bible. Dan says it right there in post 204. We are all going to hell because we are ALL miserable sinners. Just as god made us! The African villagers he mentions, will all burn in hell but not because they didn’t hear the word of god. Oh no, because they deserve to anyway! Simple, isn’t it? You are scum in God’s eyes and he’s gonna getcha.

    Oh, apart from his ‘chosen’ ones. Of course Dan is one of these, so he has the smug safety of knowing that he is safe and you lot will BURN IN HELL.

    And he is happy with that. He can sit up in heaven and watch y’all suffer, while he sits at god’s right hand, presumably sipping manna. We all rejected god, so we deserve to roast.

    A few lucky ones will be given the ‘nod from god’. Unless they reject him, by failing to live up to the ridiculous and impossible to abide commandments (many writers have very convincingly shredded them).

    To recap, god created us all, chose a few special ones, made it almost impossible for them to live up to his demands and is going to fry those that fail and everyone else. This god sounds like a kid with a magnifying glass, merrily burning ants.

    Nowhere has anyone convincingly explained to me how disabled children (such as my autistic daughter) will be saved. She is a teenager now and cannot possible accept the word of Christ (hey, I’m no slouch and I don’t get it), so this ogre will fry her. You are adulating a guy that will condemn and burn my daughter. I’m fairly sure you can imagine how that makes me feel about you.

    Dan, I was always led to understand that the sermon on the mount and Jesus’ proclamation in Mark 12:28-31 are all you need to follow him. Yet, in order to justify your arguments, you dredge up obscure passages from every backwater book in the bible. You should not NEED to. And what the hell is all this ‘infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism’ crap about? If you need to resort to Calvinist doctrine, you really are screwed.

    In fact, why are there any more books after the gospel? Jesus said it all, so why do another bunch of guys need to elaborate? Are they clarifying his word? Thought he was the son of god and perfect and stuff?

    Wes and Dan seem to be very clever folk and I believe that one day, if they keep looking, they will find what the rest of us know. That the bible is a disparate and random collection of gibberish, written by various human authors at different times, to fit circumstances long past. To whit, a bunch of ignorant, desert-hopping, bronze age psychopaths that happily went around murdering and raping as they saw fit, while passing it off as the word of god. All your tortuous and logic-defying attempts to make it fit to any kind of morality would be laughable, were they not so abhorrent.

    I wasn’t going to post again after my last one but Dan’s comments above are priceless and really show religion for what it is.

    Happy bickering.

  • 206. LifeTrekker  |  April 19, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Wes,

    You said in post 203:
    “Are you saying that believers like Dan and myself have never had doubts, honestly questioned our faith, etc?”

    If you are human, then I am sure that you have had doubts. But the question remains, how certain would you say you are right now in your current position? 100% 99% Less? Just curious.

  • 207. HeIsSailing  |  April 19, 2010 at 2:00 am

    LifeTrekker says:

    ‘If you are human, then I am sure that you have had doubts.’

    That is a really interesting statement. I know it was directed at a believer, and I am not a believer, but the funny thing is, I never, ever worry over doubt any more. I never have sleepness nights worrying over whether I am correct or not in non-belief. I never fret over my eternal security or possible damnation as a non-believer. I would not call it certainty, rather, any religious doubt I have, if I in fact have any, is a non-issue to me. I used to worry over my doubt when I was a believer. My worries are completely over as a non-believer.

  • 208. Wes Widner  |  April 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

    LifeTrekker,

    I would say that I am 99.8% certain that my beliefs are true based on both natural (archeology, cosmology, etc.) and supernatural (logic, mathematics, special revelation) lines of evidence.

    Conversely; How sure are you of your beliefs and, more importantly, what would it take to persuade you to change them?

  • 209. Frreal  |  April 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Wes said:
    “Conversely; How sure are you of your beliefs and, more importantly, what would it take to persuade you to change them?”

    Speaking for myself.

    If the Biblical God were to exist he most certainly would know (based on the biblical incarnation of him) what it would take even if I do not. I am told by his preachers and pastors and priests that I am to look to the Bible to develop and define the originations of my own moral character. I look and there I find humans that slaughter children in obedience.

    God would know I have read the books of the Bible that MEN have told me were written and/or inspired by Him. He knows (based on the books inspired by Him) that I cannot accept that a “good” God would ask his followers to kill infants. God has yet to provide me with a palatable explanation (logically or devinely) for how such an act is good and merciful or how those who believe in a “good” God could delight in such a slaughter.

    I therefore must assume that God either CHOOSES not to reveal himself to me and therefore purposes me to suffer for eternity OR that he simply doesn’t exist.

  • 210. Frreal  |  April 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

    devinely = divinely.

  • 211. Wes Widner  |  April 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

    That’s a curious statement Frreal and it illicits a question on my part regarding your criteria. Namely, where do you get the objective standard you believe God would/should ascribe to in order to persuade you of His existence?

  • 212. Frreal  |  April 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I am instructed by MAN to believe what is in the Bible was written/inspired by God. Man tells me the Bible is the TRUTH. Man tells me that God cannot lie. Man tells me that God knows my heart.

    The Bible says…..

    God is not willing that any should perish.

    Anything that God wills or does not will is by nature God’s will. So either God wills that I perish or God will provide me with whatever He KNOWS will cause me to believe (AGAIN) in his existence.

    I have believed once. I have repented. I have been baptized. I have loved God with all my heart and soul. I have evangelized that love. Then I studied more deeply his Word and came to a different belief.

    God knows I cannot believe He would allow his Word to be corrupted by MEN. Yet I KNOW that the Bible books HAVE been corrupted by MEN. His Word has been added to, taken from, changed, mistranslated, taken out of context,, lost and deliberately destroyed. That is the OBJECTIVE standard Men tell me God wishes me to use.

    Since I, personally, cannot comprehend that conundrum of logic, I can no longer believe that the God of the Bible exists.

    If God exists and He is unwilling that I shall perish than it is impossible for me to be at odds with His will. If God does not wish me to perish His Will cannot be denied. If he exists and he is willing, that I will perish than so I shall, BUT his Word will ring false. What good is the Word if it is not the TRUTH?

  • 213. Joe  |  April 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Frreal—

    Out of curiosity, have you ever shared your deconversion experience here in one of the story posts? I’d like to read it if
    you have–is it in the archives?

  • 214. Dan +†+  |  April 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Wes,

    >>”I would say that I am 99.8% certain that my beliefs are true based on both natural (archeology, cosmology, etc.) and supernatural (logic, mathematics, special revelation) lines of evidence.”

    That is spot on to label logic, mathematics, and special revelation as supernatural, but you are completely right. I never thought of it quite like that though. Hmm. Well said.

    FFreal,

    >>God will provide me with whatever He KNOWS will cause me to believe (AGAIN) in his existence.

    Well, that is why we are here. Now you are looking a gift horse in the mouth. :7)

    In all seriousness, I wish that to happen very soon and I am confident that He will indeed do that for many, I just hope for your sake that it will not be too late. Again, I have faith in God to do the right thing, whatever that is. What if He feels that you just do not deserve everlasting bliss with our Savior, Christ, would you agree with that conclusion? State your case to Him. Maybe God, and you, know something we don’t. That is something else I will just have to accept with faith/trust.

  • 215. Dan +†+  |  April 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    David,

    >>We are all going to hell because we are ALL miserable sinners. Just as god made us!

    God made you defiant? OK try this thought experiment. You are god and you want the people to choose their own paths. You don’t want to force love because forced love is not love. Now you have all the children that you made. How do you create them without affecting free will? After all you don’t want to create robots that do merely as programed. How do you prevent them from sinning?

    Side note: You don’t have any children do you?

    Side note deux: Just like cold is the absence of heat, or dark is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.

  • 216. Dan +†+  |  April 19, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    David,

    >>To recap, god created us all, chose a few special ones, made it almost impossible for them to live up to his demands and is going to fry those that fail and everyone else.

    Is it that hard to not to steal or lie? The Bible claims that you are a slave to sin. Must be right again then.

    >>Nowhere has anyone convincingly explained to me how disabled children (such as my autistic daughter) will be saved.

    Same faith that will save my autistic son. I hope we all find out soon that man created these autistic children with those so very aggressive vaccines. God will correct that major mistake of mankind’s also. But I digress.

    I feel your anger and that is allowed, God gave you anger after all.

    >>She is a teenager now and cannot possible accept the word of Christ (hey, I’m no slouch and I don’t get it), so this ogre will fry her.

    The god that you created would maybe but not God. You cannot claim that bare assertion with any evidence but I can certainly counter it with a plethora of evidence. God is a JUST God, not an evil God. Only someone with your brain believes that a righteous and just God would do such a horrible act. Obviously you feel that is justice for some odd reason. I will justify though that my boy knew full well when he lied to me. He knew and knows that he is being mean to his brother. But I still know God will save him.

    Now, my brother has cerebral palsy and has sworn off God forever. He married some devil worshiping, God hating, woman and constantly defies God. He is very bitter and angry at God but he is fully functional, brain wise. He has his wits in other words. Will he be saved? Hope so. Do I know for sure? Not really. My Mom is in hell and I know that for sure. Hard to come to grips with those thoughts but I know without a doubt God will do the right thing. I trust God more then any man on this planet.

    Ironic thing is that mankind possibly “created” your daughter’s autism and yet you trust them all the more.

    >>Dan, I was always led to understand that the sermon on the mount and Jesus’ proclamation in Mark 12:28-31 are all you need to follow him. Yet, in order to justify your arguments, you dredge up obscure passages from every backwater book in the bible. You should not NEED to.

    Obviously you do not understand that while Jesus was still alive he was under the Old Covenant not the New one. When he spoke he spoke to the people familiar with the OLD Covenant. The new one was in place only when Jesus rose from the grave and was introduced by those very important “Jars of Clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

  • 217. Frreal  |  April 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Okaaaaay. Well, wow, there ya go. Just when you think someone is sane they go and write a post like that. Wow. Just wow.

  • 218. CheezChoc  |  April 20, 2010 at 10:12 am

    How can one “know for sure” that someone else is in Hell?

    Does eternal torment make any sense?

  • 219. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

    CheezChoc,

    It doesn’t if you presuppose philosophical naturalism.

  • 220. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Dan, I was just about to repent and become a christian again (2 years after I left the fold) until I read your comment. Then you reminded me of all the clones like yourself who ceased to think for yourselves when they became christians, and live entirely inside a Bible Bubble.

    Whew! That was a close one!

  • 221. Joe  |  April 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    portwes–

    I love decons with a sense of humor. :) Though I also understand the fact you are being serious with the guilt trip you are laying on Dan. :)

  • 222. Joe  |  April 20, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I didn’t word that quite right. What I mean is that I understand there is a serious statement being made in the midst of the “guilt trip in gest” being laid on Dan.

  • 223. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    And to Wes’ question:
    “Conversely; How sure are you of your beliefs and, more importantly, what would it take to persuade you to change them?”

    The ONLY belief I am absolutely sure of, 100%, is that Bible God does not exist. Bible God is a primitive human attempt to describe the universe and events, before modern science existed to explain these things.

    All other beliefs in abstract concepts, including the existence of a supreme being, are open and possible, but not provable.

    And to answer your last question (which I presume you implied what would it take for you to change your mind and believe in God): if a person were to pray out loud, in front of me, for a person with missing limbs (also in front of me) to have those limbs fully restored, and “God” actually performed that miracle (in front of me), then I’m pretty sure I would believe again.

    BUT if that were to happen when a muslim prayed, or a hindu, or a christian, then I would have to believe in whoever’s God answered that prayer! But I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen anyway.

  • 224. Joe  |  April 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    jest not gest—–geez I better go get a coffee and wake up.

  • 225. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    portwes,

    Have you bought a crystal ball or started a 1-900 line yet? It seems that with your omniscience (required by your 100% certainty) you could absolutely dominate the market.

    Also, I’m curious about your criteria. What makes you think God is obligated to provide you the evidence you require? It seems to me that a man dying and rising from the grave is much more of a miracle than a man regaining limbs.

    Also, what of this “in front of me” criteria? Are you honestly going to say taht you disbelieve everything that hasn’t happened in your presence?

    Seems to me like you have the scales firmly weighted in your direction and that nothing can/will change your mind.

  • 226. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Jeez, Wes, all I did was answer your question from my point of view! You seem mad that I answered it. Didn’t you want me to answer it, or was it a rhetorical question?

    Did YOU see Jesus come out of the tomb? Can anyone prove that Jesus rose from the dead, using normal the normal scientific criteria? And it appears that the resurrection idea slowly developed, from the first gospel written hardly claiming a bodily resurrection. ALL you have is to “prove” his resurrection are sketchy accounts written by third person parties who did NOT witness the event themselves, some 40 to 80 years after the actual alleged event.

    At least with a restored missing limb, we could witness it with our own eyes, and record it with all the technology available to us. And of course, I believe lots of things in the natural world that I haven’t witnessed (eg, tsunamis, tornados, etc), but lots of things in history are open to uncertainty, such as the existence of Buddha, and Jesus, and the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants (there is no archeological evidence for the event, just ancient writings), even, was Shakespeare a real person, or did someone else use that name.

    For extraordinary events (no one we know or who is alive today has ever witnessed a restored limb, or a geniune resurrection) you will need to provide extraordinary evidence. Which, if god is omnipotent, shouldn’t be too much of a problem . . .

  • 227. Dan +†+  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Potwes,

    I agree with Wes when he said “It seems to me that a man dying and rising from the grave is much more of a miracle than a man regaining limbs.”

    Like God says to the rich man in Luke 16:31. If you will not believe in the God’s Word then nothing will convince you.

    Also, you sound like the devil himself now tempting Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:5-7)

    I am sure you have heard this before from CARM but just in case you have not I wanted to point out that your presuppositions will not allow you to examine without bias the evidence that I present to you for God’s existence. If I had a thousand eye-witnesses saying they saw Him, you’d say it was mass-hysteria. If I had Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament,you’d say they were forged, dated incorrectly, or not real prophecies. So, I cannot prove anything to you since your presupposition won’t allow it. It is limited.

    Your presupposition cannot allow you to rightly determine God’s existence from evidence — providing that there were factual proofs of His existence. Don’t you see? If we DID have incontrovertible proof, your presupposition would force you to interpret the facts consistently with your presupposition and you would not be able to see the proof.

  • 228. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    No, it’s not that I am upset you answered the question. Its that I am frustrated that your standard is impossible. It is unfairly applied to Christianity whereas you almost certainly do not use the verification principle (which, itself, cannot be verified) in any other area of your life/belief system (at least not to the degree you are demanding from Christian claims).

    Look, aside from you being able to dictate to God what he ought to show you (which is rather silly imo) I would expect a more open-minded answer along the lines of historical criteria you would use to test and determine if ANY historical event had occurred. Miracles are historical events, not regular occurrences. Miracles also do not occur upon command. Is it possible for God to perform one for your amusement? Sure, but you seem to expect such an extraordinary miracle before you’ll even countenance any evidence for God’s existence which seems to me to be a bit lopsided.

    You’ve epistemically stacked the deck. It seems nothing will change your mind.

  • 229. Dan +†+  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Potwes cont’d,

    As a principal founder of the Harvard Law School said, In a mock trial today there would be overwhelming evidence as to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Under oath in a legally binding setting the assertions of the witnesses would be admissible as evidence.

    Now let’s see if your presuppositions will be altered by that evidence…

  • 230. BigHouse  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The irony that the theists are throwing around presuppostion is rich.

  • 231. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    BigHouse,

    Why? Presuppositions are not the exclusive domain of theists.

  • 232. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    No, but theists – no, sorry, evangelical christians – are the CHAMPIONS of presupposition. They presuppose that everything in their bible is true, with liittle or no recourse to observability and independent verification.

    Whereas, most non-theists I know simply say that any faith in the supernatural is pretty much outside the system of verification, unlike most of the natural world we live in. Not that it can’t be true, just that you can’t PROVE it to be true.

    And today’s chairman of Harvard Law School would be laughed out of the building if he tried to do the same today. There is absolutely ZERO forensic evidence for the resurrection, and the so-called witnesses to the event have been dead for 2000 years. You think THAT is a water-tight court case? Then you are more gullible than I thought.

    On the other hand, if you claim that you know he rose again because he lives in your heart, then THAT is fine with me. I used to say the same thing, but it applies to you personally, and is something that cannot be tested externally.

    Oh, and Wes, you are wrong about miracles not being done on command. There PLENTY of miracles done on command in both the OT and NT. You should know that.

  • 233. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    portwes,

    “They presuppose that everything in their bible is true, with liittle or no recourse to observability and independent verification.”

    Two faults here.

    1.) You seem to presuppose what theists are presupposing. What makes your presuppositions any more valid than the supposed theists? It appears an objective standard is required to judge betwixt the two.

    2.) Are you still harping on the verification principle? I thought we covered it’s failure to pass it’s own criteria earlier.

    You seem to presuppose that whole classes of evidence bear no epistemic warrant and thus you, again, stack the deck in your favor (or at least you think you do, but I digress).

    History is not known merely via forensic information (though, we can still at least gather intelligent design if we applied this criteria equally across the board, but I digress again).

    Rather historical events are primarily known about through testimonial evidence, mostly because forensic objects don’t generally last very long. Also, what forensic evidence would you like for the resurrection of Jesus?

    The body isn’t there and the tomb is empty. Do you accept negative forensic evidence? Probably not, from your a-priori assumptions it is more likely that you will merely brush even these facts aside for any naturalistic explanation no matter how wild or ad-hoc.

    Finally,
    “There PLENTY of miracles done on command in both the OT and NT. You should know that.”

    They are, but none are done on command. Even Elijah had to pray and ask for God to send fire from heaven as evidence for the priests of Baal.

  • 234. Dan +†+  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Portwes,

    >>They presuppose that everything in their bible is true, with liittle or no recourse to observability and independent verification.

    Bare assertion much? There was indeed observable and independently verified evidence as recorded in the historical narrative antiquity of the Bible and yet again, it is all unacceptable with your presuppositions.

    >>There is absolutely ZERO forensic evidence for the resurrection, and the so-called witnesses to the event have been dead for 2000 years.

    Bare assertion much? That is simply not true There is a plethora of evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. I even saw Jesus the other day.

    >>And today’s chairman of Harvard Law School would be laughed out of the building if he tried to do the same today.

    Bare assertion much? Any evidence of this wild claim? According to Title 18 of the United States Code (Section 1001), assertions are legally binding when said under oath.

    These eye witnesses, some 500, would be making such claims fully understanding they are under oath, understanding that point.

    “Although it may be morally reprehensible for a person to lie, no legal criminal sanction is imposed for lying until after a person has sworn to tell the truth. Hence, the State must allege and prove that the statement was given under oath or affirmation administered by an authorized person, or under some other form of legally binding assertion.” (Statutory Authority section 491)

    Ask Martha Stewart what happens when you lie under oath. They take it quite seriously and is binding.

    >>On the other hand, if you claim that you know he rose again because he lives in your heart, then THAT is fine with me.

    Nope, that is not what we are dealing with at all and you know it. That would be a cop out. He has indeed risen as a real historical event. (Luke 24:6-7)

  • 235. BigHouse  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    They are, but none are done on command. Even Elijah had to pray and ask for God to send fire from heaven as evidence for the priests of Baal.

    This is quite deft hair-splitting.

  • 236. BigHouse  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    The body isn’t there and the tomb is empty.

    Are you going to keep treading over this same ground and think it becomes more convinving each time you say it? That this is enough evidence for you to believe in zombies is your prerogative but hardly convincing to me and many others. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Please drop you a priori asumptions and bring some to the table or else your echo chamber may break.

  • 237. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Wes,we will NEVER agree on much of anything. That’s because you accept everything written in the bible as unquestionably true, whereas I no longer do. For example, many of the 500 “witnesses” were dead by the time the statement in 1 Corinthians was written. Did the author give ANY names, places, times for those 500? Did he personally talk to any of them? Probably not. Better not use THAT verse in a court of law!

    Your “proof” comes almost entirely from within ancient anonymous manuscripts, which most scholars agree are unreliable and contradictory. If you need a primer, read Bart Ehrmans books. (And having a Th.B. from Multnomah Bible College, I’ve probably read most of the ones you have, so don’t suggest I do that.)

    No more replies, I have work to do. Peace to you . . .

  • 238. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    BigHouse,
    “That this is enough evidence for you to believe in zombies is your prerogative but hardly convincing to me and many others.”

    That depends, were zombies predicted to rise from the dead in a religiously charged setting among a people hostile to the very idea?

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
    How is the resurrection of Jesus extraordinary if the universe was created by an omnipotent God who told us beforehand what to expect and provided signs and wonders through the life and ministry of Jesus as corroboration?

    It seems to me that the more extraordinary explanations are the ones that attempt to explain the resurrection of Jesus (and the subsequent rise of the Christian church) as merely a naturalistic phenomenon.

    portwes,
    Dan is right, you make a ton of bare assertions. Like this one, “For example, many of the 500 “witnesses” were dead by the time the statement in 1 Corinthians was written.” how do you know that outside of your bare assertion and wishful thinking (in order to prop up your apriori presupposition?

  • 239. BigHouse  |  April 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    How is the resurrection of Jesus extraordinary if the universe was created by an omnipotent God who told us beforehand what to expect and provided signs and wonders through the life and ministry of Jesus as corroboration?

    There you go pre-supposing again.

    Wes, thanks for the conversation but I’m bowing out too. Nothing I haven’t seen a dozen times before. Good luck.

  • 240. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Holy cow, Wes, it says it right there in 1 Corinthians! I didn’t make it up. You guys need to study your bibles more. What a bloody waste of time this is . .

  • 241. portwes  |  April 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    And so folks, I am now home from work, and reading through the comments from Dan and Wes, you can see how nearly impossible it is to dialogue with christians like this, as they create entirely new definitions of ordinary english words. For example, Wes says “how is the resurrection of Jesus extraordinary…?” In order to wiggle out of the demand that believers in the extraordinary resurrection provide extraordinary evidence, he calls the resurrection ordinary! Problem solved, no need for extraordinary evidence. EXCEPT when they need to prove the divine nature of Jesus, then the resurrection becomes the most extraordinary event of his life. Sorry, you guys can’t have it both ways, although that is typical of your “apologetics”.

    When I stated that many of the 500 witnesses mentioned in the NT had died by the time Paul wrote about it, he accused me of making this up through wishful thinking. He knows his precious bible so little that he could have found it himself in 1 Corinthians 15:6. Even there, Paul, when plainly talking about people who claimed to have actually seen a physical Jesus after the crucifixion, he tries to include himself in the list of people who had seen Jesus alive, although clearly Paul himself had only seen a vision decades later! That’s what imposters do.

    Big House is right, they are also very adept at hair-splitting too.

  • 242. Dan +†+  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Portwes,

    >>In order to wiggle out of the demand that believers in the extraordinary resurrection provide extraordinary evidence, he calls the resurrection ordinary!

    Don’t move the goalposts. It depends on the perspectives. From God’s perspective it is a relatively easy event. From our perspective it can only be accomplished supernaturally much like Logic and mathematics.

    >>When I stated that many of the 500 witnesses mentioned in the NT had died by the time Paul wrote about it, he accused me of making this up through wishful thinking. He knows his precious bible so little that he could have found it himself in 1 Corinthians 15:6

    Touché. Point noted, but that does not mean the entire Bible was written AFTER the witnesses had past away. Just that letter at that moment.

    >>although clearly Paul himself had only seen a vision decades later! That’s what imposters do.

    That sparked a memory cord to make a point. A sinner without being washed of sins cannot be in the presence of God because he/she would burst into flames. (Genesis 32:30) God is perfect so we must be perfect to be in His presence. Without the mediator we would perish (1 Timothy 2:5) Many want to see proof of God, but as sinners, they would all perish so God stays away, for their own good. Look what happened to Saul (now Paul) he was blinded by God’s holy presence of light.

    Now stop splitting hairs yourself and repent.

  • 243. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    1 Corinthians 15:6 states “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”

    Notice the key word “some” there rather than “all”. Some does not even denote the majority (and guess what, you won’t even get that from the Greek either.

    Regardless, its still a far cry from your bare assertion that “all/many of the 500 witnesses were dead”. In the end, though, only one eyewitness was needed to falsify the Jesus myth, especially in an environment that we know was explicitly hostile to the fledgling “Jewish sect” known later as Christendom.

    You are right about one thing, though. We can’t have it both ways when it comes to the evidence we demand and the evidence we are forced to accept. However that is exactly what the philosophical naturalists like yourself must do when it comes to the overwhelming evidence we have for the resurrection being a real, historical event.

    Additionally, even though Paul includes himself in the kerygma of 1 Corinthians 15, what reason do we have to conclude that the entire account is a legendary development? Especially when we know that within a predominantly oral culture like the Jews and Greeks at that time, legends took much, much longer to develop than the comparatively limited time-span (months to a few years at most) within which the gospels were written.

    You seem to decry the practice of splitting hairs, however isn’t that was a search for truth is? Chemical compounds may only differ by one molecule but the result can be deadly.

    Details matter. Facts matter.

    And when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the details could literally spell the difference between life and death.

  • 244. Wes Widner  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Oh, and impostors rarely die for something they know to be a lie.

    As a friend of mine likes to put it; Liars make poor martyrs.

  • 245. portwes  |  April 21, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Liar and imposters are not synonymous. Of course Paul could die for something he is deceived about. Many thousands of muslim martyrs have done it in recent years. You think just because someone is willing to die for something that proves their belief correct?

    What do you evangelists come to these ex-christian sites for anyway? To witness to us apostates? Why not sew your seed in fertile soils, like Jesus said? You’re more likely to get converts preaching to people who never were converted in the first place! Jesus is probably pretty angry at you wasting your time here when you could be more fruitful elsewhere. (And it’s a real question: why DO you and Dan leave comments here?

    Whatever floats your boat. You are aware, aren’t you, that all of us ex-christians laugh at you guys (actually, some may feel like vomiting!), because we used to spew the same garbage that you’re dumping on us right now.

  • 246. Dan +†+  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Wes,

    >>Notice the key word “some” there rather than “all”…Regardless, its still a far cry from your bare assertion that “all/many of the 500 witnesses were dead”.

    You are on your “A” game Wes.

    I looked up some other translations and Young’s Literal translated it this way:

    “afterwards he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain till now, and certain also did fall asleep

    Slam Debunk’d

    Can you feel that honey? He has exercised the demons, this house is clear.

    And here I gave Portwes the benefit of doubt. Retracting the touché (its the French thing to do)

  • 247. Wes Widner  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:04 am

    “What do you evangelists come to these ex-christian sites for anyway? To witness to us apostates? Why not sew your seed in fertile soils, like Jesus said? You’re more likely to get converts preaching to people who never were converted in the first place!”

    This is actually the easiest question of them all to answer.

    Love.

    You see, it’s not about numbers or some innate need to “win” an argument or score points or anything else. I come here and wrestle with you because I honestly care about you and love you.

    The atheist Charles Peace once put it this way:
    “Sir, I do not share your faith. But if I did – if I believed what you say you believed – then although England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would crawl the length and breadth of it on hand and knee and think the pain worthwhile, just to save a single soul from this eternal hell of which you speak.” http://bit.ly/1g3C2o

    So, the least I can do is join in on a conversation every now and then and risk “all of us ex-christians laugh[ing] at you guys”.

  • 248. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Dan (post 242),

    blockquote cite=”A sinner without being washed of sins cannot be in the presence of God because he/she would burst into flames. (Genesis 32:30) God is perfect so we must be perfect to be in His presence.”

    Your idea of ‘perfect’ is making people burst into flames?

    You are one strange cat…..

  • 249. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:14 am

    New at this…

  • 250. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Dan (post 216),

    “I hope we all find out soon that man created these autistic children with those so very aggressive vaccines. ”

    No wonder you believe in the bible if you can fall for that MMR/autism crap.

    I won’t answer the rest of your drivel but to say that you are a condescending git. I was bang on in my earlier post when I called you smug. You think you have a front row seat in heaven and you are gleeful that everyone else will burn.

    Nasty.

  • 251. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Wes (post 247),

    “I come here and wrestle with you because I honestly care about you and love you.”

    If you love me, send me all your money. I need it because I…er…um…I need a life-saving operation. Yes, that’s it, I’m dying and I won’t be able to continue my work with orphans if I die.

    Go on – you’ll be doing god’s work and he’ll be ever so grateful. You’ve already proven that you are criminally gullible, so it won’t be too much of a stretch to swallow this.

    Send me all your cash. Praise the lord.

    Give till it hurts.

    Hallelujah.

  • 252. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I said: –

    “I was always led to understand that the sermon on the mount and Jesus’ proclamation in Mark 12:28-31 are all you need to follow him. Yet, in order to justify your arguments, you dredge up obscure passages from every backwater book in the bible.”

    Dan answered: –

    “Obviously you do not understand that while Jesus was still alive he was under the Old Covenant not the New one. When he spoke he spoke to the people familiar with the OLD Covenant. The new one was in place only when Jesus rose from the grave and was introduced by those very important “Jars of Clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7)”

    So, poor old Jesus didn’t really know what the hell he was saying and, thank god, Paul and a few other guys were there to put him straight.

    Dan didn’t answer this: –

    “In fact, why are there any more books after the gospel? Jesus said it all, so why do another bunch of guys need to elaborate? Are they clarifying his word? Thought he was the son of god and perfect and stuff?”

    …and probably can’t because all he can do is…. dredge up obscure passages from every backwater book in the bible!

    You should give it up Dan. You are crap at this.

  • 253. Wes Widner  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:03 am

    David,

    The whole point of Dan and I’s message is that the greatest good in the universe is not a life lived in luxury but one lived in virtue. What strikes me as odd is that even ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle understood this point and yet many in our culture seem to think that happiness as defined as a fleeting feeling is the penultimate goal of life.

    I implore you, dig deeper.

    Or, as Socrates so eloquently put it: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

  • 254. HeIsSailing  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:29 am

    portwes says:
    “Whatever floats your boat. You are aware, aren’t you, that all of us ex-christians laugh at you guys (actually, some may feel like vomiting!), because we used to spew the same garbage that you’re dumping on us right now.”

    In my case, I am not laughing. I am just groaning and shaking my head. It is almost a bit nostalgic. Yes, I used all the same arguments. I even remember our church group going to Village Inn for some late night pancakes after worship, all of us piously carrying our bibles with us. If interested people passed by, we would “witness” and “share the gospel”. I was once asked why we did it. “Because we love you.” I said.

    I remember it all like it was yesterday.

  • 255. Wes Widner  |  April 21, 2010 at 8:37 am

    HeIsSailing,

    I want to address what seems to be a common misunderstanding that you elude to in your sentiment above. Specifically it is the notion that “we were once like you”. To think that you know me/us well enough to make such a claim is wildly presumptuous and not a little bit arrogant.

    Your present state of unbelief notwithstanding I would like to make this point quite clearly; There is a fundamental difference between the two of us.

  • 256. David  |  April 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Wes (post 253)

    “The whole point of Dan and I’s message is that the greatest good in the universe is not a life lived in luxury but one lived in virtue.” etc.

    What the hell has that got to do with ANYTHING that went before?!?!?!?

    I think you are a little delusional….

  • 257. Frreal  |  April 21, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Arrogance is feeling justified and entitled to call your interpretations of “holy” text the “truth”.

    The simple act of interpreting scripture through a sinful and corrupt human mind renders the “pure” corrupted. Knowing that you are a sinner with a sinful mind and believing also that you do not corrupt them is foolish. Believing that you are right in your foolishness is arrogant.

    God’s word should need no interpretation. Surely he meant to write what he wrote. He doesn’t need the likes of a sinner to explain to others what he meant to say or what he thinks.

  • 258. Dan +†+  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Wes is spot on. I love you.

    I am goofing around here, and poking at y’all sometimes, but this is a very serious subject. My heart aches for you, as the lost. Something greater can be for all of us. Something far better then the current misery can be for all of us. Mankind cannot do it alone as you all can see by looking around us. We are horrible and once in power we cannot even see what kindness is.

    I hate this world and want us all go to the “promised land”. Even If we all don’t make it at least I have had the time to meet, and get to know, some of you. I just have to keep in faith that God will stop me crying for all of eternity for the wicked. (Revelation 21:4 ) How he will do that will be a miracle in itself.

    Frreal said >>God’s word should need no interpretation. Surely he meant to write what he wrote. He doesn’t need the likes of a sinner to explain to others what he meant to say or what he thinks.

    Amen brother!!! Very insightful.

    The RCC wants us to call their pedophile priests “Father” (Matthew 23:8-12) and wanted to rule over the flock (1 Peter 5:3) which is not Biblical at all.

    No God alone will save you and there is nothing I can say to change your heart or guide you (Proverbs 3:5-6, John 14:26, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, 1 John 2:27)

    Just think of us as friends pleading with you to listen to God. That is all.

    I cold easily just say “insert Pascal’s wager here” but it goes beyond that. I would rather live a life knowing there is a God, and die to find out there isn’t one. (I would still be glad I attempted to conduct myself in a righteous manner.) Then to live a life knowing there is no God, only to find out I was horribly wrong.

  • 259. Joe  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Dan—-

    I understand where you are coming from. But I have to say that one thing you will discover–may take some time—is that the majority of people here REALLY do not believe in God any more. It took me a long time to realize that—I always felt that they SAID they didn’t believe—but secretly did believe and were in denial.

    It is not the case. I have been visiting the board for quite a while so I can attest to this. With the exception of one person who really knows which buttons to push :) I have had some really good discussions. But you will come to see that quoting scriptures here is like asking a former marathon runner who lost his legs if he’d like to go for a jog with you. Not only will he be a bit offended, he REALLY cannot go for a run with you.

  • 260. Dan +†+  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Joe,

    >>But you will come to see that quoting scriptures here is like asking a former marathon runner who lost his legs if he’d like to go for a jog with you. Not only will he be a bit offended, he REALLY cannot go for a run with you.

    I appreciate what you said. I perfectly understand what they “believe” to be true. Just like that person that “lost their legs(way)” I have great news that they may not have thought of originally. I have cheetah legs (new perspective) that will help them not only run, but run better marathons. I am here to help them on a better path then the proverbial “self pity.”

  • 261. BigHouse  |  April 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Dan and Wes,

    How would you feel if a Muslim came barging into your house and tried to convert you relentlessly? All out of love, of course.

    Love isn’t about imposing your will in an uninvited space. It’s more akin to bullying and doesn’t show me much in the way of good fruits being born.

    Try empathy rather than evangelicalism sometime and you might find you actually connect with them rather than putting them off.

  • 262. Joe  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Dan (#260)—-

    By the way, I am not inferring by mentioniing the athlete with no legs that deconverts are handicapped—–what I was attempting to say was like the marathon runner, whose legs are now gone, the de-convert has “severed” their belief in what they once held to be true, and REALLY does not believe any more.

    They will not regain their faith any more than that runner could regain his legs—they would both need a miracle. :) Far from being handicapped, most de-converts are very intelligent people, who pose very good arguments. They just do not possess faith any longer–which is something Christians have a very hard time understanding as one can readily see in discussions on the board.

  • 263. DSimon  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I hate this world and want us all go to the “promised land”.

    And this in a nutshell is why religion can be very very scary. What could be more frightening than someone who genuinely believe that what we do on (or to) the Earth doesn’t really matter?

  • 264. Dan +†+  |  April 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    DSimon,

    >>What could be more frightening than someone who genuinely believe that what we do on (or to) the Earth doesn’t really matter?

    My new post might be even more unsettling to you then. :7)

  • 265. Quester  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Big House,

    How would you feel if a Muslim came barging into your house and tried to convert you relentlessly? All out of love, of course.

    If you’re going to feed the trolls, it just looks silly to complain when they eat.

    I know you’re not the only one, or even the main one, encouraging this blather to go on. I also know that I sometimes get bored enough to engage in such “debates” and that earlier in my deconversion I sought such out– in order to see if there was any evidence I was ignorant of or overlooking, and to expand my emapthy by learning multiple different worldviews. But I have some confidence that if they had something to say, they would have done so in the 100+ comments above. Wes and Dan have kindly provided links to their blogs. If there are those (David, Frreal, DSimon, etc.) who want to continue this game, perhaps those blogs would be the appropriate places to do so.

  • 266. HeIsSailing  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Wes, I never said, as you claim, “we were once like you”.

    I have no idea whether I am like you or not. I don’t know you, and have no idea what you are like.

    This is what I did say:

    “Yes, I used all the same arguments. I even remember our church group going to Village Inn for some late night pancakes after worship, all of us piously carrying our bibles with us. If interested people passed by, we would “witness” and “share the gospel”. I was once asked why we did it. “Because we love you.” ”

    All of which is 100% absolutely correct. Please do not misrepresent what I said.

  • 267. Joe  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Hels—-

    I was once involved in a very “legalistic” church. We would go places for dinner, carrying our Bibles. I remember certain guys who when asked to “say Grace” saw it as their opportunity to “shine spiritually” and they would say these long, involved prayers of thanksgiving as the waitresses stood grimacing, holding the plates of food, afraid to put them down in front of us and ruin the prayer. Then the same guy would tip poorly afterwards also. I am still a Christian—but I remember those days well. It was quite the learning experience. :)

  • 268. HeIsSailing  |  April 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Hey Joe.

    Yeah, I remember we used to go to Village Inn after Thursday night services. A whole huge group of us (older) singles would go – most of us around 30. We went every week, so we were definitely regulars. The wait staff knew who we were and we usually had a good time and shared some laughs.

    But we all would carry in our Bibles to eat with us. Always, and every one of us, lugged in our Bibles – mine was a small NKJV and fit in my pocket. Others had NIV student Bibles, others had honking huge study Bibles with shiny leather zip covers. And in hindsight, I know exactly why we did that. We wanted to show our piety before nonbelieving people, and advertise that we were in fact Bible Believing, Blood Bought Christians.

    Sometimes it worked. I remember in particular one young man who wanted to talk about his religion of Judaism, and our mouths watered at the golden opportunity. He debated, and debated and debated, and I remember camping out at that table for hours with a couple mugs of coffee. He and one other buddy of mine ‘witnessed’ and tried desperately to convince him that Jesus was the Messiah. All for nought – he finally left for the evening unconvinced. Ah well, we had ‘planted our seeds’.

    We had lots of witnessing opportunities after Thursday night services. I once took one homeless man to my apartment with me, let him sleep on my couch for the night, and even cooked supper for him. Of course I ‘witnessed’ the Gospel to him. He asked why I did it. I told him it was because I loved him and grieved the lost and dying world. He left the next morning before I woke up – leaving a very nice thank you note on my fridge.

    Sorry for rambling but the memories are flooding back to me right now. I have tons of experiences and stories to share as a man ‘on fire for Jesus’. I even ‘led some people to Jesus’ right there on the city street. Amazing…. those exeriences seem so recent, yet they seem like they are from another life.

    Joe, you mentioned tipping. I don’t know how we tipped – it was so many years ago that I do not remember such details, but I think we were all pretty generous. The wait staff usually welcomed us, so I think we did ok. I worked for a while at a local Bennigans restaurant, and one of the waitresses was furious because one of her customers left a religious tract instead of a tip.

  • 269. HeIsSailing  |  April 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Joe, by the way, our Thursday night services were Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque. If you are familiar with Calvary Chapel, that might give you some reference to where I am coming from. That is not the last church I attended, but it is the one I attended during my greatest religious fervor.

  • 270. Blue  |  April 22, 2010 at 12:56 am

    HeIsSailing, is that Skip Heitzig’s church? I checked that one out with a buddy a few months ago.

  • 271. HeIsSailing  |  April 22, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Blue,
    Yes, that is Pastor Skip’s church. I attended there from 1989 to about 1994. During that time, Skip claimed that it was the fastest growing church in the United States. That was a believable claim; good grief that church grew way WAY too big for me, so I left for a smaller church.

    I have not been there in about 15 years, and have no idea what it is like now.

  • 272. Joe  |  April 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Hels—-

    Yes—I am very familiar with Calvary Chapel. I used to attend Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa with Chuck Smith as Pastor. I also went to Harvest Church in Riverside with Greg Laurie as Pastor for a while also.

    The “legalistic” church I mentioned was several years before, and was centered in another area of Orange County, Ca, with about 300 members. It was quite a different experience than the liberty in Calvary Chapel–my experiences there were traumatic, and I went for several years without attending church, or reading the Bible. I never really stopped praying, but the experience soured me badly for a while.

    I always remembered how I had become a Christian though—and that memory helped me to get through it all and get back to the “roots” of when I first believed. I totally relate with what you are saying though.

  • 273. Blue  |  April 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    HeIsSailing

    Well that church is the biggest megachurch in Albuquerque, but that’s not saying much. Still kind of a small town feel here.

    He does preach with a lot of Calvinist leanings. I didn’t know the Calvary Chapels were like that.

  • 274. LifeTrekker  |  April 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Blue and HeIsSailing,

    Are both of you guys still living in Albuquerque? I grew up there and had several friends that attended Calvary Chapel during the mid to late ’80’s and into the early ’90’s. My wife and I never attended but my brother did for a while. We moved away from the Albuquerque area in 1991, and have not lived there since. I know it’s a big church, but we may just know some of the people. It’s a small world.

  • 275. Blue  |  April 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    LifeTrekker,

    I live here in Albuquerque but I don’t really know any church type people out here. I just go to churches occasionally with a friend of mine to try to understand better how and why people belong to various religions. I appropriated the idea from Hemant Mehta and “Jim and Caspar go to church”

  • 276. HeIsSailing  |  April 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Blue says:
    “He does preach with a lot of Calvinist leanings. I didn’t know the Calvary Chapels were like that.”

    Skip must have changed alot since I was there last. He used to teach the standard Baptist doctine of Eternal Security, but you could lose your salvation too – Calvary Chapel is notorious for not really picking sides in these kinds of Calviism vs Arminianism debates.

    I have not attended there since around 1994. I think they are still using that converted sports complex on Osuna Drive. My brother still attends there, I think.

    ************************************

    LifeTrekker asks:
    “re both of you guys still living in Albuquerque? I grew up there and had several friends that attended Calvary Chapel during the mid to late ’80’s and into the early ’90’s.”

    I moved from Albuquerque back in 1996, and I currently live in El Paso, TX. There is a very good chance I knew or at least was acquainted with your friends, LifeTrekker. Huge as that church was becoming, I was pretty active in it. I organized a home Bible Study and several street preaching crusades. I was also very active in a singles ministry. After Hurricane Andrew in 1993, I went with many others from Calvary Chapel to Florida to preach the Gospel to some Haitian refugees.

    Wow – I shudder at some of those memories.

    If your friends were involved in any of that, I am sure we met at some point.

  • 277. Blue  |  April 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Well I’m somewhat oversensitive towards seeing Calvinism so I may have misread what he was preaching. There was a feel of a cult of personality but that seems to be a megachurch thing.

    Sorry to go offtopic OP.

  • 278. LifeTrekker  |  April 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    HeIsSailing,

    If you want, send me an email at lifetrekker63 at yahoo dot com and we can compare notes. Maybe we do know some of the same people.

  • 279. Frreal  |  April 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    HIS,

    Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your contributions here. It is soo good to see you still posting/keeping tabs. For people who struggle with this
    ” —” every(other)day(now), it” s good to see you are still around.
    I followed you here from HotAir a couple of years ago on some religious instigation thread posted by Allahpundit. I have checked here frequently ever since. Your demeanor is appreciated, missed when absent, and often needed as a reminder that it’s not “their” fault I came to a different conclusion. Thanks, your presence proved invaluable to my sanity at the time.

    Now if we could get some more of those absentee posters back. You guys are more valuable than you know. It’s the anon searchers you appeal to.

    Leo where ya been?

  • 280. HeIsSailing  |  April 23, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Thus saith Blue:

    “There was a feel of a cult of personality but that seems to be a megachurch thing. ..”

    NO DOUBT..!!

    I don’t know how mega it was 20 years ago compared to now, but 20 years ago parishoners used to fawn over Skip. Myself included. He was young, tall, good looking, comfortable before a crowd, and talked really hip. He also sounded like he knew what he was talking about (only after 20 years of hindsight can I see what a stifled, uneducated charlatan he was). He was so vastly different from your typical TBN type preacher that was wraped up in some scandal (his church really started growing after the televangelist scandals of the late 1980s), that you could not help be attracted to the guy. He was so charismatic, that I cought myself a couple of times embarrasing myself by falling under his spell and acting like a fanboy, and it made me uncomfortable. But I saw loads of other people doing it too – that is another reason I left that church for smaller pastures.

  • 281. HeIsSailing  |  April 23, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Frreal says:
    Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate…”

    Oh man, that just made my day. Thanks very much. HotAir! Good grief, I have not visited that site, much less commented there in… I don’t know how long. I used to follow Robert Spencer at JihadWatch, then registered at HotAir when he started doing his Blogging the Quran series. It was outstanding, except when commenters had nothing to say except how terrible Islam is compared to the True Religion of Christianity. Even Spencer had me cringing a bit when he started promoting his book ‘Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t’. Gag. But yeah, sometimes an article went up concerning religion or evolution that inevitably started up the debate – I tried to stay out of that kind of stuff, but I am of frail and weak flesh.

    To be honest though, I have not written an article here in.. what.. over two years now. When I posting articles here, I still considered myself a Christian, but I knew a change was coming. I simply could not live the evangelical life anymore, the doubts had piled into an unbreachable mountain, and I had become too educated about Christian doctrine and history to simply pretend that it did not exist. So I placed articles here, and occassionally debated just as a way of trying to come to grips with what it was that I did believe, and what place Christianity had in my life. It was a real struggle, and it was often difficult, and emotionally painful.

    Now I am no longer a Christian, and even though I still have a lot to learn about life, this debate over whether Jesus is my Savior or not is now simply a non-issue to me. I don’t see the value of online debate, so I don’t engage in it (ok, sometimes I still do,…), but since the doubts and struggles and anxieties are no longer there, and life has moved on, and my life has become more complete without the baggage of religion, I no longer have the desire to post articles here the way I used to. I think lots of us feel the same way. About 2 years ago, I emailed Paul (Roopster) who started this blog, and asked him to remove my name from the contributor list – but he convinced me to keep my artlcles up. But he confessed to me that he felt the same as I did – he just left religion behind in his life and felt it was time to move on. He no longer contributes here as far as I can tell. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of old contributors here, contributors who’s online support I desperately needed a few years ago, Karen, ThinkingApe, carriedthecross, lostgirlfound, Marie, notabarbie, others who I have not seen in ages, feel the same as I do.

    So, … I don’t know, sometimes I feel the urge to write an artlcle here, and I sit at the keyboard to type.. then think better about it, and take the dogs out for a walk in the desert instead.

    But Frreal, I really appreciate your words.

  • 282. amy  |  April 23, 2010 at 7:53 am

    HeIsSailing,

    You know, I was thinking that might be one of the reasons. Now that I’m happy in my lack of religion, I really have no need to write about it, whereas when I was struggling, I wanted to write about it all the time. So really, the dearth of new articles here is a good thing. Still, it’s a bit sad, as I always thought this was the most intelligent, reasonable, and fun place for those de-converting to come and compare notes.

    So, … I don’t know, sometimes I feel the urge to write an artlcle here, and I sit at the keyboard to type.. then think better about it, and take the dogs out for a walk in the desert instead.

    There have been so many times over the last couple of months that despite my newfound happiness I was still tempted to get into debates on sites like this or pro-Christianity sites. But now, for the most part, I’m with you. There are so many other things I could do. So now I try to limit my commenting to providing an encouraging word. And more and more I’m finding that I just skip it altogether.

    Anyway, thanks to ALL the contributors here, past and present, for making this a place where people struggling with faith could/can come and not feel like complete failures. In my life coming to de-conversion made a BIG difference in coming to terms with my loss of/inability to find faith, and I’m sure others feel the same way as well!

  • 283. HeIsSailing  |  April 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Jeez Amy, between you and Frreal, I might just have to start writing articles for this site again.

  • 284. LifeTrekker  |  April 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    HeIsSailing,

    I was just wondering if you have ever published your de-conversion story out here on the internet anywhere? If so, I would certainly be interested in reading it.

    Like Amy said, I think when your de-conversion is a new thing, (like it is for me right now), you spend a lot of time thinking, reading, and writing about it. It is nice to know that there are those that have gone before us and that it does get easier with the passage of time.

    However, I am also dealing with the fact that most of the people in my family are still deeply involved in the evangelical christian community, and that is something I don’t see changing anytime in the foreseeable future. I’m sure that this is something I will have to deal with for years to come, and most likely, the rest of my life.

  • 285. HeIsSailing  |  April 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    LifeTrekker asks:
    “I was just wondering if you have ever published your de-conversion story out here on the internet anywhere?”

    Wow! – thanks for asking. The simple answer is, No I have not. Some of my favorite things to read and hear about as a Christian, were Christian conversion stories (or ‘testimonies’ as they are called). I never got the same source of strength as a non-Christian from reading de-conversion (de-testomony?) stories. I am probably in the minority here, because I know a lot of apostates enjoy them. I thought about writing my story here a few times, but decided not to for a few reasons:

    1) It would be long. The story of my de-conversion is really the story of my life. I can find seeds of unbelief sown back in 1975 that lead to my ultimate unbelief some 30 years later. Where would I begin such a story? I figure the story of my leaving Christianity is the story of my Christianity, and the story of my apostacy from belief is the story of my faithful belief. I think writing it all down would be beneficial to myself, but the task just seems too daunting for me. Which leads to my next reason:

    2) It would require opening old wounds in my family. I don’t mind doing that myself, but I have other family members who are more sensitive to my turbulent family history. To do the topic justice would raise many questions in my own life that I do not know the answers to. I think that to understand why I left Christianity, I need to know how I fell into it in the first place. Don’t misunderstand me, as a good Fundamentalist, I still remember that altar call and the ‘hour I first believed’, (actually I remember many, many altar calls that I responded to), but how did my mother, who somehow got converted during the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s, fall into that world, and what convinced her to raise me with the beliefs that she did? She also de-converted from Christianity about 10 years ago, unknown to me at the time, and she has just recently opened up to me about it and has been willing to respond to my questions about those days. I suppose I could do a de-conversion story without all that detail, but if I write such a story, I need to write it primarily for myself – and I would personally have a hard time leaving those details out.

    3) As I said upfront, I find de-conversion stories unfulfilling. For me, the fascination in these conversion stories lies in the thought processes that leads a person to altar their entire philosphophies, priorities, goals, etc – not in the actual moment of decision itself. It seems all too often these stories have the same structure (I once believed, examples of piety, I doubted, I studied and researched, I doubted some more, the doubts become unsurmountable, I left Christianity behind, how foolish I was, the end – my story follows essentially that structure but it dragged on for DECADES), and there is nothing after the great climax of de-conversion. OK, so I left Christianity.. and then? What next? De-conversion stories seem anticlimatic to me, almost like ending a book right at the cliffhanger with no resolution.

    I don’t know. I understand the benefits of writing it down and telling that story, and I know such stories are important for people who are doubting and about to veer over that fearful precipice of apostacy, but for me it would just feel incomplete and unfulfilling. I will talk about it with my wife – maybe we can make a podcast sort of thing out of it and she gets me to tell my story by interviewing me.

  • 286. Anonymous  |  April 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Hels—

    You should seriously consider writing your story. Even the way you constructed the post above (#285) shows you thought out what you were going to say carefully before laying it down.

    I think you would do a great job in explaining the different steps to your de-conversion. As one who often speaks without thinking things out first, I appreciate those who are able to do so, and methodically explain how they came to their final decision to “leave the fold”.

    Though you are correct that many of the stories do follow the pattern you laid out, I find it very interesting to read the testimonies that those who are willing to share do post here from time to time.

    You should give it a shot—you are a very gifted writer.

  • 287. HeIsSailing  |  April 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    LifeTrekker laments:

    “I am also dealing with the fact that most of the people in my family are still deeply involved in the evangelical christian community, and that is something I don’t see changing anytime in the foreseeable future. I’m sure that this is something I will have to deal with for years to come, and most likely, the rest of my life.”

    You know, the internet is stuffed to the brim with skeptical resources. But do you know what it is seriously lacking? Resources for the people in mixed religious relationships. It is not just the internet that lacks it, churches, the very place that needs them most, lack it. Churches, especially mega-churches have ministries for every conceivable purpose, but I have yet to see a ministry called ‘Dealing with your de-converted spouse’ or a women’s group for ‘how do I love my apostate husband?’ I listen to Christian advice shows occassionally and it seems their one and only solution is to convince the spouse that they are sinners in need of God, and divorice, while a last resort, may be necessary. This is just not realistic anymore. I have thought for years that churches need to deal with the fact that people leave the faith more often than they like to admit, and if they want healthy and successful marraiges, they will have to start dealing with that fact head-on.

    But is is not just churches. The de-con community also needs to get involved – because we are in relationships with believers, sometimes married to believers, sometimes wrapped in mixed relationships with children, and it just seems that religous skepticism, which is all well and good, just kind of throws us to the wind with personal relationships.

    “OK, they believe in Jesus but you don’t, but you have to visit every week – Good Luck..!!”

    My wife (still a Christian) and I thought of doing a podcast or a blog or something a few years ago that works that angle, but we never got to it. hmmmm I will have to remind her….

    Seriously though, LifeTrekker, good luck with your family.

  • 288. Richard  |  April 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I would echo these recent comments. I find myself still coming up w/ ideas for posts – in fact, I have a pretty good backlog- but have a harder & harder time actually getting around to writing them. The self-therapy phase of posting is pretty much over. And I agree that seems to correlate with a much greater sense of peace about the whole thing. I no longer need to work out my nonfaith with fear and posting, you might say.

    I have always had more of an interest in the psychological end of things. I always felt that it was emotional, rather than intellectual, reasons that I believed in the first place, and the emotional failure of Christianity that led me to seek elsewhere. But I was never satisfied with sayibg things like “religion provides comfort”- thats too simple. I needed to work out with some more depth whats going on in conversion- what fears have been stoked and what needs are being met. Once I felt I had a handle on it, the impetus to write started to fade.

    Now, if I write, its mainly b/c I think I have an idea that may help others. I think almost all of our efforts are for those who are doubting & searching, not for the convinced who come here to save us.

  • 289. Outsider  |  April 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I humbly thank all the contributors to this site. It’s was HeIsSailing’s posts that first made me visit. Thereafter I continued to read the many well-written, intelligent, reasonable, articulate and tasteful posts here. Many of you have been so honest and open with your struggles. Thanks for sharing your research, thoughts and experiences. It really does help in so many ways than you may realize.

  • 290. Quester  |  April 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I can really relate to the trend, here. I’ve mostly been sticking around out of the hope of helping others in the way I was helped by the people here when I really needed it. I’ve written the first few paragraphs of a few articles, before deciding that they weren’t really where I am, anymore. I’ve deleted several responses to people about issues I really can’t bring myself to care about. My first two articles on this site were written when I was still a Christian. Most of my last few have been about the other side of the transitory deconversion period.

    I sort of hate to see this community just fade away, after I benefitted from it so much. But I’m aware of the danger of becoming bitter from staying past the time I should have left, and hearing the same “counter-arguments” again and again.

  • 291. Quester  |  April 23, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Before I get myself into trouble, the “issues I really can’t bring myself to care about” do NOT include questions and concerns from deconverts.

  • 292. LifeTrekker  |  April 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Quester,

    I, for one, really appreciate people like you and HeIsSailing, (as well as others) sticking around this site and continuing to offer kind and encouraging words to new deconverts like myself.

    I am also comforted by the fact that you and others have found the way to move on with your lives, while at the same time not forgetting what it was like when you first “took the red pill.” (reference to “The Matrix”)

    I fully “came out” with my wife less than a month ago, with my grown and nearly grown kids 2 weeks ago, and not yet with my dad and siblings. As you can tell, I am right in the thick of it. Having this site as a place where I can share my thoughts, feelings, and fears has been a real port in the storm. Thanks for being here.

  • 293. Blue  |  April 24, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Good luck LifeTrekker. That’s a hard time. I’m coming up on my 2 years out as an atheist, and I owe a lot of the ease of my transition to this site. Lot of great help here, sometimes just knowing we aren’t alone is the best thing of the stories here.

  • 294. portwes  |  April 24, 2010 at 1:41 am

    LifeTrekker, I’m a year or so ahead of you, after 46 years of being a 5-star, fully-credentialed evangelical. Most people I know here in the town I live in know that I am no longer a christian. But my brother and mother don’t know yet, though I suspect my brother may be getting clues.

    But my 87-yr-old mother would be devastated if I told her that I had de-converted, and I have no desire to inflict pain in her lonely life at this time. There’s also a sneaking suspicion that she would write me out of her will if she knew!

    My young adult sons gave their christianity the boot a few years before I did, and my wife seems to be exiting from hers as well. So in the immediate family, there are no conflicts about that!

    I would absolutely love to tell everyone I know about my de-conversion, instead of keeping this a secret around my home town, where my mother lives. But such is reality, if you care for your family, that their needs take priority over my own.

    It sounds like you may still have turmoil in your relationships over this issue, so I wish you the best, and hope you manage to keep on good relations with them.

    Something I’ve done with my brother, is just planting seeds of doubt about the bible, instead of arguing about the big theological issues. EG, most christians don’t know that all the crucifixion and resurrection accounts in the four gospels completely contradict each other on the main points in the narrative, such as when, where, who was present, how Judas died, etc. Or that 7 of Paul’s epistles were forgeries written by other people (As well as the 4 gospels!). When I raise one of those “did you know . . . ” questions with my brother, he always seems surprised, rather than offended, and off he goes to look it up in his bible.

  • 295. Quester  |  April 24, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Ah, Trekker, I’m still not “fully out”. My close friends know, as does my wife. Everyone else who knows me knows I’m no longer working as a pastor, due to “struggles with my faith”, but I have a hard time wanting to go further than that. I really hate conflict, for one thing.

  • 296. Grace  |  April 24, 2010 at 9:12 am

    HeIsSailing,

    My husband, and I , though both Christians, are not always at the same place theologically. So, I suppose every couple has stuff that needs to be worked on.

    Speaking as a person of faith, I think one of the issues that I would struggle with the most if I were married to a non-theist would be the utter disrespect, and even mockery that some, not all , deconverts seem to display toward the Christian faith, sometime even the teachings of Christ, or the witness of the church.

    I would have a challenge being able to separate all this out from a disrespect, and even a rejection of me as a person, a real disparaging of my intellect, and ability to reason at all.

    Could I actually intimately live with someone who was actively working against the very things that mean so much in my personal life, and faith? I don’t know.

    It would totally break my heart, to see my own husband attempt to influence our children away from trust in the love of God.

    I imagine that people who are deconverts, and about “debunking Christianity, ” would have the same challenge married to someone like me.

    It must take tons of grace, and love on both sides

    I’m not at all sure I would have what it takes..

  • 297. Richard  |  April 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Grace-

    That feeling being disrespected works both ways. I have never felt as demeaned, dismissed, and rejected as much as when trying to discuss religion with my still-Christian family. And I did *not* approach it from the standpoint of arguing with them, or trying to change their views, or criticizing their beliefs, or telling them they were all clueless or delusional or irrational or any of the things you seem to assume we all do.

    My whole take was to say I just wanted to agree to disagree. That I was perfectly willing to let them believe and live as they saw fit, and I would even celebrate with them if, as seemed the case, their faith-system made them happy and fulfilled in life. Why would I not be happy that my family seemed fulfilled? Because I personally happen to disagree with them about the things they affirm to be true? So what? There are more important things about human life, sometimes, that believing the “Truth”, whatever it happens to be.

    So please dont generalize about us. There are “evangelical atheists” out there, who think that making everyone else agree with them is more important than human well being. But I suggest you dont find many of those sorts of folks here.

    And you guys can often have as hard a time being respectful of us as we do to you.

    Fo my part, I am very happy for you that you and your family are on the same page. It sounds like your faith is important and meaningful to you, and if its a source of strength and connection to you all, and makes your lives more fulfilling, I would never try to change your mind. Even if I happen to disagree with you about whats true.

  • 298. HeIsSailing  |  April 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Grace says:

    “…I would have a challenge being able to separate all this out from a disrespect, and even a rejection of me as a person, a real disparaging of my intellect, and ability to reason at all…..”

    And this, as I see it, is part of the problem. Grace, do you know any atheists? Maybe you do, and forgive my assumption if I am wrong, but I am guessing you do not know any, at least not very well. I know quite a few now, and I am one of them, and I don’t know a single one who thinks like the one in your comment. Part of the problem is the charactures that are painted by popular American culture, and popular Evangelicalism, of those who do not believe your God exists. That we do not believe because we are depressed, because we want to sin, because we are angry at God, because we had lousy relationships with our fathers, etc, etc, that we are always angry and on the attack and want to purge belief from our society. As long as we are painted this way, the misconceptions and misunderstandings will continue. Is the Christian Church willing to understand and engage with different beliefs, or will the straw men continue to be built and knocked down on the pulpit?

    Look, I won’t deny that there are loud and obnoxious atheists out there who think believers are not thinking with all cylinders and want the world to believe just like they do, but you cannot deny that many religious and Christian cultures are guilty of the same crime. The loudest are usually the most obnoxious, and they are the ones who get the most air time. You have characters like Dawkins, who is a brilliant science writer, but when he calls believers delusional, I cringe (and so do many other atheists). But you also have jokers like Ravi Zacharias who thinks that atheists live such empty lives that they should all just commit suicide if they had any integrity. How eo you think that makes the non-believer feel? Neither are realistic – both are charactures that are the result of not knowing how to engage with those of different beliefs. I will not deny that the same charge can be brought against atheists who turn believers into unrealistic charactures to mock.

    But I believe that more important than beliefs about transcendent, unseen and unknowable things is relationships with human beings, humans who are very close and important in my life. And maybe that comes from my wife’s influence, my wife who is still a Christian, who I love very much, and the influence of my marraige that I am willing to compromise for in order to be successful. Maybe it is her influence that is keeping me from being an ‘Evangelical Atheist’, but I am convinced that most Christian churches, as they are currently structured, destroy bridges between people of different beliefs rather than build bridges. When they do engage with other people and cultures of different beliefs, it is to convert them rather than to listen to them. It is to convince them of the error of their ways rather than try to understand their lives. Don’t worry Grace, I think many atheist communities need to learn that lesson too.

    So when one member of a marraige leaves the Faith, and stops believing in God (and it happens all the time), what do you think is more important – mocking your marraige partner, or trying to understand your marraige partner?

  • 299. Quester  |  April 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I would have a challenge being able to separate all this out from a disrespect, and even a rejection of me as a person, a real disparaging of my intellect, and ability to reason at all.

    I think several of my friends and family members would have the same problem, which is why I limit my comments that might get read that way to the Internet, and particularly to sites for deconverts, atheists and skeptics. I do not go onto theist sites to upset them.

    I do not respect many aspects of the Christian faith, most of the teachings of Christ, or the majority of the witness of the Church. I do respect a great many Christians, though.

  • 300. Grace  |  April 24, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you Richard. I know it can work both ways.

    Quester, is your wife a committed Christian believer, though?

    What about people in these mixed marriage situations that have children together? I can’t think that a family could really be close, and a married couple intimate together on so many levels, without truly sharing their hearts, or revealing their true selves, and honest opinions.

    Yes, HeIsailing I do.

    You know, I think it depends on the person, their background, maturity, temperment, just so many factors. In my experience, it is usually the atheists, or agnostics who originally come from the fundamentalist Christian background who have the most contempt, and disrespect, not so much people who were reared in secular humanist homes as young children.

    There’s definitely a connection between religious fundamentalism, and evangelical atheism, IMO. These people can just be plainly hateful.

    And, I’m able to hear what you’re sharing. We should do our best to be respectful, and try to understand.

    I personally think that Jesus broke down social barriers between people, and was inclusive. As a Christian, I want to be the same way in relationships. We should all hold our opinions in humility.

    Of course, sometimes this is all easier said than done. I can definitely fail big time. And, sometimes, it’s a struggle balancing this, and also wanting to share the truth of the gospel at the same time. I have to be honest, and say that it would very much matter to me whether my husband, and kids knew the love of God , and were following Christ.

    I do think that there is some truth, and beauty in almost any philosophy out there. We can always find some common ground. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that I can accept that all opinions are equally true, and good, either.

    So where’s the balance?

  • 301. Quester  |  April 25, 2010 at 6:11 am

    My wife is a Christian, yes. She became one as an adult, after having finished a Religious Studies degree and choosing what fit the best for her. Not having grown up in it, she has made her own decisions about what teachings are valid and what aspects of the faith are necessary. She does not fear for my soul nor preach to me. I do not mock her, and I accompany her to the occasional worship service or church activity. Heck, last Christmas I threw together a Christian Christmas Eve service for the two of us, because it meant something for her. She does not ask me to go to services with her often, because she knows I feel insulted at them. But when she asks (less than five times a year), I go. Having been a pastor’s wife, she has her own take on the witness of the church and the authority of the hierarchy. She has completely refuse any fear-based gospel message, and takes what she reads and hears with a grain of salt. I can’t list her beliefs, as putting things into words is not among her many strengths, but love, trust, and integrity are at the center of them, so we don’t have a lot of conflict on this matter.

  • 302. Grace  |  April 25, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Your love, and caring for each other runs deep, Quester.

  • 303. portwes  |  April 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    It is fascinating to me, Grace, how you keep showing up on ex-believer sites and commenting. You don’t seem as “evangelical” as others like Wes Widner, who say they just “love” us (without having ever met us) and want us to repent and come back into the fold. I know you’re not as fundamentalist as those are, so I’m not sure what your purpose is. Maybe you feel irresistably drawn to explore the “dark” side, ha!

    Anyway, this remark of yours got me: “It would totally break my heart, to see my own husband attempt to influence our children away from trust in the love of God.”

    But what if your children decided on their own? To be fair, have you given them a choice? When my own two sons were early-to-mid teenagers, and my wife and I were still zealous christians, I took them aside and told them: “You should be christians because you have examined the case for faith, and found it to be valid for yourselves, not because your mother and father are christians.” And you know what? Within two years, they had both decided to stop being practicing christians. They both had serious questions after reading the old testament, about the genocide and the creation and flood fairy tales, which their youth group leaders failed to take seriously, or else gave them the “rote” evangelical excuses. They stopped going to church.

    As their mother and father, we stopped going to church 5 years later, when we reached the same conclusion.

    And you know what? Our lives are just as full of meaning, and morality, and mystery, and adventure, as they ever were as christians. Except that we are missing a whole load of guilt that most evangelicals carry around: never loving god enough, never obedient enough, never praying enough, never witnessing enough, never reading the bible enough, never loving others enough, not giving enough money.

    Thank the stars, we’re free, free at last!

  • 304. portwes  |  April 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Oops! Did mean to write “And you know what?” twice . . . that’s just plain sloppy writing!

    Grace, just to answer one more question of yours: “But, of course, that doesn’t mean that I can accept that all opinions are equally true, and good, either. So where’s the balance?”

    I honestly don’t think ANY life philosophy or religion can claim to be “the truth”. There doesn’t seem to be way to verify whether any person’s “opinion” (your words, not mine) is more true than any other sincerely held opinions. (And in spite of the “I Am” statements that the writer of the gospel of John put into Jesus’ mouth – many scholars doubt whether Jesus actually uttered those statements).

    So, the balance you seek, is not to regard your religious beliefs as superior to any other, such as buddhism, or taoism, or any other. Let each man live in peace with his own beliefs, without seeking to convert others.

  • 305. Grace  |  April 26, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I’m so sorry Portwes. Your family’s experience in the church sounds pretty dismal. Given what you’ve shared, who would not be open to a way out.

    It’s true, I’m not a fundamentalist Christian. To me the essence of the gospel is freedom. I think living the Christian life is more a matter of relaxing into our unity in Christ. In a mystical sense, He is living His life in, and through us. It’s not what we do, or don’t do, especially in our own strength. The core of my personal faith is in the reality of the incarnation.

    I think you did the right thing with your kids. God doesn’t expect us to check our mind at the church door. If our faith can’t stand any honest questioning, or scrutiny, than what good is it really?It’s just a shame that they never had a chance to hear other perspectives.

    Some of my kids are Christian believers, and others not. But, to be totally honest with you, a huge part of their issue, I think has more to do with lifestyle, and popular Christian culture, than it has to do with intellectual searching.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, Portwes.

    I have studied at a more progressive seminary. Have you had a chance to reflect concerning the criteria these scholars use to determine which teachings in the gospels they feel are authentic, from the lips of Jesus?

    I don’t find them too unbiased, or without their own presuppositions, but I would be interested to hear your opinion, and how you’ve come to your views.

    If you want to talk, that is.

  • 306. Wes Widner  |  April 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    “I honestly don’t think ANY life philosophy or religion can claim to be “the truth”.”

    Such as that statement/sentiment? Sorry, I just couldn’t pass up pointing out such an obviously self-contradictory statement.

    “So, the balance you seek, is not to regard your religious beliefs as superior to any other, such as buddhism, or taoism, or any other. ”

    So, the balance in your mind is for everyone to agree with your presupposed relativism? Glad to know you keep an open mind :-)

    “Let each man live in peace with his own beliefs, without seeking to convert others.”

    Gladly, if “others” (such as yourself) would care to do likewise.

    Finally, your assertion that the gospel writers added in the doctrine of Jesus’s divinity is simply false and I welcome you to provide any evidence whatsoever to show otherwise. I’ll go ahead and admit that I think you will find none.

    Even secular NT scholars like Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier are, at best, left with merely casting doubt on the Biblical evidence but they are, when pressed, unable to come up with any competing theory as nearly well-evidenced as the view that Jesus was who he claimed to be and he claimed in no uncertain terms to be God come to dwell among us.

    BTW: I do still love you, not necessarily because I know you but because I know who made you and how much He loves you.

    Blessing,
    -Wes

  • 307. portwes  |  April 26, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Quite honestly Wes, if I do spend time in dialogue with a christian, I would much prefer it to be someone like Grace, not you. Yes, I believe the world would be a much better place with a tolerant, open relativism like mine, than a closed, “I-have-the-truth-and-you-don’t” attitude like yours.

    I’ve told you before, we will never agree on much of anything, so I honestly wish you would go away and quit pestering us ex-believers with your Calvinistic dogmatism.

    And finally, I’m not seeking to convert anyone, unlike you. I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you leave me alone. Live and let live. Believe what you want to, or don’t believe. Relativistic, as you say. You’re anything but relativistic. In your mind you have the truth, and you won’t be happy until everyone believes like you do.

    Go preach to your own kind, because we ex-believers have said and heard it all before.

    Grace, I would love to answer you questions, but Wes distracted me for the time being. I’ll be back in a little bit . . .

  • 308. Richard  |  April 26, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Wes –

    “Let each man live in peace with his own beliefs, without seeking to convert others.”

    –“Gladly, if “others” (such as yourself) would care to do likewise.”

    Do you so easily forget that you are visiting a de-conversion blog, preaching to us? We are not on your blog, preaching the gospel of atheism to you. I would think, as a presupper, that difference would be obvious to you. You’re not judging our worldview by your own internal standards, now are you? Tsk tsk….

    “So, the balance in your mind is for everyone to agree with your presupposed relativism? Glad to know you keep an open mind”

    Wes, my friend, the love of your God shines through every sarcastic keystroke you make. You make me just jump up and down with eagerness to run out and convert to your view. After all, being **right** is so much more important than being compassionate, or empathic, or even kind. Epistemology Uber Alles.

    But we all know you dont care about such things, nor do you really “love” us, despite your protestations. You see us as a narcissistic threat and it is your sovreign duty to take us down a notch or two.

    Ressentiment, nothing more, nothing less. We are freer than you. We are more secure, in our honest uncertainty, than you will ever be in your protesteth-too-much dogmatic proclamations. Our spirits are lighter, in our godless naturalism, than yours will ever be in that Calvinistic chamber of horrors you call a theology. This is why you incessantly argue epistemology: the last refuge of the truly terrified. “But I *am* right! I *am*!! I just know it!!”

    And, on some level, you know it. I feel for you, my friend. I used to be like you. I hope you find peace.

  • 309. portwes  |  April 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    BTW Wes, you won’t find me spending half my day on christian sites trying to get christians to de-convert, unlike yourself who seems to appear on several ex-believer blogs every day leaving arguments for your point of view. (Go ahead readers, google Wes Widner and see how many ex-christian sites he pops up on!) All that I am trying to do is hook up with other ex-christians to compare notes and offer and get emotional support with others who have had similar experiences. Is it so hard for you to leave us alone so we can get on with our lives?

  • 310. Wes Widner  |  April 26, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    “Yes, I believe the world would be a much better place with a tolerant, open relativism like mine, than a closed, “I-have-the-truth-and-you-don’t” attitude like yours.”

    And the irony here is that you appear to hold your beliefs…

    ..objectively.

    “And finally, I’m not seeking to convert anyone, unlike you.”

    You actions betray you.

    “Relativistic, as you say. You’re anything but relativistic.”

    I don’t think you understood me. I am not claiming to be a relativist like you. however I don’t claim to “have the truth” as if it were my own personal possession. I do, however, claim that what you are espousing is a dead-end and that what you claim to have been liberated from is not as easily dismissed and shoved into the dark recesses of your mind as you may hoped.

    “Go preach to your own kind, because we ex-believers have said and heard it all before.”

    I’m sure you believe you have, however in order for that statement to actually be true, you would have to be omniscient.

    Oh, and btw guys (and this is quite humorous) I’m not a Calvinist. Your knowledge of doctrine saddens me. Perhaps if you WERE to actually read my blog you wouldn’t make such silly blunders of assumption as this.

    And as for freedom. The constant moping and whining and complaining I read on sites like these make me think that your notion of freedom is quite misguided (at best).

    Oh, and for the last time (but probably not). You weren’t “just like me”. I know you would like to think you were in order to validate your present state of disbelief, however your present state is quite a clear indication that you and I are worlds apart.

  • 311. Wes Widner  |  April 26, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    So, Richard. In your mind, loving you would entail that I agree with you and leave you where you are in your state of disbelief without attempting to comment at all? In spite of the fact that, according to what the Bible tells us, if you are wrong an eternity of separation from God awaits?

    As for not playing nice and hurting your feelings. Well, sometimes I spank my children (not that you are my child or subordinate in any sense) and yet I still love them. Where is it written that sarcasm, pain, etc. is antithetical to love?

    In my world, one can only truly love if one truly hates. And I do. Though not you (though you may think otherwise) but rather the beliefs (yes, naturalism) that hold you captive.

  • 312. portwes  |  April 27, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Wes, your demand for literalism as imposed on us is hypocritical unless you apply it to yourself as well. For example:

    When we say “we’ve heard it all before”, you know damn well it’s not a claim to omniscience, but a general statement that we’ve heard and preached, like you, the general tenants of evangelicalism, that we as humans have sinned, fallen short of God’s standard, and can have our sins forgiven and enter into a personal relationship with God by accepting and acknowledging Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. Do you deny you believe that? Do you deny that is the basic truth you hold? Do you deny you believe that trumps all other truth claims? Please don’t prevaricate as usual: a simple yes or no will suffice for each previous question.

    And please acknowledge that you are invading our turf to try to win us back (or to show everyone how “smart” you are, or ???). We do not go to your turf to convince you. I noticed you conveniently ignored this point made by both Richard and myself.

  • 313. Wes Widner  |  April 27, 2010 at 6:33 am

    portwes,

    I’m not sure what you are getting at. My adherence to Christ as the ultimate reality does not, in itself, constitute a logical paradox or self-contradiction. Unlike relativism wherein the statement “all things are relative” is, by itself, self-contradictory.

    I would readily admit that all epistemic systems must find it’s grounds in something we would consider to be a-priori if we are to avoid an infinite regress. And almost any grounds would pass as being logically valid except (and particularly) for the grounds you’ve chosen.

    “We do not go to your turf to convince you.”

    Why not? It’s not as if I don’t welcome or invite it.

    It seems that you have an underlying hidden premise here in that I am somehow committing a sin in your view by coming here and attempting to persuade you to reconsider something you claim to have left behind.

    This raises a curious question in my mind in relationship to the point you made to Grace earlier regarding disagreements between believers and non-believers. It seems that the only acceptable resolution as far as you are concerned is if we either ignore each other or if I accept your relativistic principle that somehow we are all both right and wrong at the same time (because who can know, eh?).

    Oh course, all of this is predicated on what appears to be your agnostic presupposition that the supernatural is somehow unknowable in any objective sense and that any truth-claims regarding it’s nature are, a-priori, to be dismissed as baseless subjective opinions.

    Does that pretty much sum up your view of things?

  • 314. portwes  |  April 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Yes, that exactly sums up my opinion. And 98% of agnostics and atheists as well. You are trying to treat the existence of a deity as objective fact, equivalent to the knowledge of chemical compounds or operation of our solar system. So, you mixing in here is like oil and water.

    And we think it’s a sin that you visit and comment here?? We don’t use that christian jargon any more, but no one seems to be stopping you wasting your time here. If you spent 6 hours a day commenting here for the rest of your life, I venture a guess that you would not convince a single ex-christian to return to the life of faith again. If you want to be a bad steward of your own time (again, Jesus would be disappointed!) then knock yourself out!

  • 315. Richard  |  April 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Wes, your words betray you, my friend. “Spanking” – how curious that, of all the metaphors available to you, that is what you chose. I suppose you think it was just accidental.

    No, Wes, I think that choice of metaphor occurred to you b/c it exactly captures your emotional stance towards us: as wayward, willful children. And that, my friend, is exactly what I was talking about. That is precisely the narcissism I spoke of in my last post.  

    Moreover, sarcasm in this sort of context (i.e., people sharing intimate & powerful feelings), is aggressive and demeaning– and that is *precisely* why you use it. The fact that you can also rationalize it is entirely to be expected; evangelicals are masters at rationalizing virtually any behavior as being in the service of “love”. But the affect behind your “loving” sarcasm and “loving” belittling is as transparent as it is grating.

    And it is also what you count on. After all: in your mind, the fact that your comments make others angry is evidence that you’ve hit a nerve, right? That you’ve confronted us with Truth and, like Adam, we do not want to face our Judge, right? The “offense of the cross”? Am I getting warmer? 

    Sounds like youve got kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy: you are sarcastic & demeaning, others get angry, you crow in triumph “Ha! See how you run from the Truth!” Yes, I know the evangelical mind backwards & forwards.

    The fact that you see no alternative between hostile sarcasm and saying nothing is also pretty predictable. Its called “splitting” or, for the more cognitively inclined, “dichotomous thinking.” Of course one can disagree & even be challenging to others views, while nontheless remaining respectful, kind, and even congenial. You should learn this lesson, if you really want to be an effective evangelizer, b/c its a vinegar and honey thing. 

    But I will be surprised if you can see it, (a) because your world is black & white, and shades of gray are not your forte, and (b) it does not suit your purposes anyway. Your challwnging if us here is almost entirely narcissistic and designed to reassure yourself of your worth, power, and superiority, by giving these wayward, stubborn children a verbal spanking.
     
    Your “love” has nothing to do with us, Wes. It is all about you.

    PS one final prediction: you will see my interpretation of your behavior here to be a reflection if my own unregenerate depravity. To wit: I am evil, so I cannot understand good. Am I close? 
     

     

  • 316. Grace  |  April 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Hey, that’s cool, Portwes.

    I’ll see you in a little bit. :)

  • 317. Wes Widner  |  April 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Richard, Thank you for psychoanalyzing me so throughly. Where shall I send the check?

    On a more serious note. I think we’ve exhausted this conversation thread so I’m going to gracefully bow out.

    Thanks everyone for the stimulating conversation.

  • 318. Frreal  |  April 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Beautiful, Richard. You have done the undoable.
    Thank you.

  • 319. Blue  |  April 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Very well said Richard. I definitely learned something from that. “Dichotomous thinking” is going to be a great way to understand some Christians I interact with, mainly family.

  • 320. Richard  |  April 28, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Wes- You’re welcome. Its what I do.

    Peace

  • 321. portwes  |  April 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Yes, Richard, hats off to you, from the “other” Wes!

    I didn’t think it could be done!

    Grace, I’ll answer your question this evening (Pacific time).

  • 322. Outsider  |  April 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Richard, you are commendable! Kudos!

  • [...] apologetics, doctrine, philosophy, polemics, theology, uncategorized Add comments In a recent discussion with a group of de-converts from Christianity the following objection was raised: Actually, my article *argues* that there is no objective [...]

  • 324. Thomas  |  June 2, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Love it. I deconverted more than 15 years ago and until today, I felt compelled to answer the question of whether I was “really” a Christian. I’ll be thinking of this one for a while, I’m sure.

  • 325. Quester  |  June 3, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Hello, Thomas! Have you been by before, or was that another Thomas (or another site)?

  • 326. Thomas  |  June 3, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Chances are it was another Thomas. I very recently posted a comment (as simply “Thomas”) on another site about a wordy deconversion story. Less recently, I read a lot on Daylight Atheism, but I don’t recall whether I posted a lot.

  • 327. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but now that I’ve had a few days to think about this, I’m starting to think that there’s a reason I will entertain the question of whether I was “really saved” before. It’s to counter the doctrine that Christians cannot be unmade and to counter the suggestion that I just need to give Jesus another try –“for real this time.”

    I might still use this analogy, but I’ll follow it up with my old standby that I was studying, on-fire, serving, walking with Jesus day to day, leading people to the Lord, and everybody who saw me back then (including me) was sure I was “really” saved. If I wasn’t saved back then, then nobody can be sure they’re really saved — not even you, dear Christian friend.

    Hey, maybe that would be the right time for the Jedi analogy.

  • 328. Dan +†+  |  June 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    What fruit will grow in a True Christians life:

    1. Repentance – A 180 degree turn away from sinful behavior and towards Godly behavior.

    2. Thankfulness – A thankful heart that is grateful for what God has done… and shows itself in a cheerful disposition.

    3. Good Works – A life that becomes others centered (helping the aged, feeding the poor, teaching children, etc.) Not self centered (all free time consumed in personal hobbies and interests)

    4. Fruit of the Spirit – An ever-growing capacity of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control in the life of the believer.

    5. Fruit of Righteousness – Doing the right thing according to the way God defines it in his word. Not according to the way man defines it in his own mind.

    We are here to get fruit bearing Christians not decisions for Christ to fill pews.

    If we understand the parable in Mark 4:3-13 then it unlocks the secret to all parables: Foolish virgin=false convert Wise virgin=Genuine conversions. The good fish, the bad fish. The man who built his house on rock and the man who built his house on sand. The one who built his house on sand is the one who hears the word of Jesus but doesn’t keep them. False Convert.

    6 characteristics of a False Convert:

    1. Mark 4:5 – Lack depth of understanding. Immediate results impressive changes occur quickly then false convert will fall away from their faith over time and the results and changes disappear.

    2. Luke 8:6 – False convert lack moisture in other words they lack the life-giving and life-sustaining power of God’s word. To a false convert the Bible is dry and uninteresting and struggles with daily devotions.

    3. Matthew 13:6 – False convert have no roots like a plant that dries up when the heat comes because it’s roots aren’t deep enough to reach water to sustain it. So is the false convert who’s faith dries up where persecution comes his roots of faith don’t run deep enough to reach the life sustaining water of God’s word and Holy Spirit.

    4. Mark 4:16 – False Converts receive the word with gladness. Hears the gospel message with gladness and really seems to latch on to it. He may express, for example, with tear filled eyes of joy. How this is the answer he’s been looking for. When any test or trials comes his way, excuses become his trademark he falls away from following Jesus.

    5. Matthew 13:20 – Repeats that same point false convert receive the word with joy (at first)

    6. Luke 8:13 – Because they do believe for a season this is the one that fools the most people because they do believe, for a short time, the Gospel message. These false converts walk and talk a very good game. They often sincerely believe the Vital truths. That Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death and rose from the earth and that he was fully man and fully God. they believe those things in their mind. When it comes time to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus into test and self sacrifice the false convert displays, slowly but surely, the truth that they never believed in their hearts. Never made that commitment to Christ and eventually becomes distracted by the worries and opportunities of life and lives for himself not Christ.

  • 329. Dan +†+  |  June 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Thomas (doubting),

    I wanted to first post that as a guideline, but secondly you’re right the only way to tell if you are a Christian or not is time itself. We get fooled sometime. I am sure Ted Haggard thought he was a Christian when he was doing lines off a male hooker’s butt also, but we ALL know better. Someone mentioned he is opening a gay church now. I digress.

    It takes many seasons for a new tree to bear the fruit. My avocados still haven’t come in and so far its been almost 3 years since the frost that killed the tree. Time is the tester then.

    If you see a very old Christian, a true Christian, it is obvious that they are. You see Christ throughout their life and you can obviously see the massive fruit bearing tree.

    If my avocado tree were a Christian, there would be plenty of fruit to this day. A little frost could not take it away. It would not be that fragile. Thomas, do need a jacket?

  • 330. Quester  |  June 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Chances are it was another Thomas.

    Well, then, Thomas, welcome to de-conversion. Things have been slow here over the last few months, other than the occasional exchange with belchers of biblical balderdash (on those times we just can’t resist feeding the theist trolls), but I still think we have a fair amount to offer here.

  • 331. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks Quester … and thanks to Dan Pluscrossplus for pointing out that as obvious as this Jedi parable is, that it’s still possible to miss the point.

    Dan +†+, No, I do not need a jacket — a bucket perhaps.

    I was a Christian for much longer than your advocado tree has been in recovery, and by all points you made here, I was a True Christian.

    At first I was offended that you would judge me (in Christian love, of course) as not being a True Christian, but then I realised that I was (and still am) doing the same to you. If, as you tell me, I was mistaken about being a True Christian, then you have no way of knowing that you yourself are one (as I said in my comment.) Worse, I am saying that you are like the deluded “Jedi master” in the story above who says that I was never a true Jedi. He doesn’t even realize how nutty that sounds, but you and I do.

    If I am right, you are not a true Christian.
    If you are right, you might be one, but you cannot be sure.

    Have a blessed day.

  • 332. Wes Widner  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Nice wordplay Thomas, but its not very accurate. Your line of reasoning seems to be: “I was sure I was a Christian” “Then I wasn’t.” “Therefore I didn’t know I was wrong.” “Therefore no one else can know that they are/were either”.

    Your deconstructionist argument ends up nullifying knowledge altogether.

    Try this: How do you know that you know what you now claim to know? Do you know? Or do you admit that you can’t even know what you claim to now know?

  • 333. Dan +†+  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Doubting Thomas,

    Like I said earlier “Being a “Jedi” (Christian) is determined by Yoda, or the counsel, (Bible) so you cannot just define it yourself. If Luke walked out of the training because he was too frightened then he NEVER completed the teaching to BECOME a Jedi. He is not a Jedi because he did not follow the Jedi mastering. You are not a Christian because you have yet to do what is necessary to become a Christian. It is not too late though.”

    The only way to determine if you are a Christian or not is through the Bible. Does the Bible say you were or are a Christan? No, then you are not and never was.

    Plus Wes makes an excellent point. Remember, if someone rejects Christianity they will end up, if they’re honest and consistent, at the bottom with radical skepticism.

  • 334. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Wes, my reasoning is:

    1 – I was sure I was a True Christian.
    2 – Dan +†+ is sure he is a True Christian.
    3 – Dan +†+ says that since I’m an unbeliever, I was mistaken back then.
    4 – Dan +†+ has not stood the test of time and might become an unbeliever some day. (Maybe even after death, who knows.)

    From 3 and 4 we can conclude that Dan cannot be sure that he’s just a False Convert. Statement 2 is not enough to override this because Dan +†+ has already rejected statement 1 as sufficient.

    You have an issue with Dan +†+’s reasoning, not mine.

  • 335. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Dan +†+, you need to read the original post again. We’re not talking about Luke. The premise is about a REAL person REALLY telling you that he once believed in The Force. Imagine that. Just for a second. Then imagine how silly it it would be for somoeone to REALLY say to this person “you don’t believe in The Force now because you weren’t a True Jedi.”

    By the way, I think it’s YOU who have not yet done what is necessary to become a Christian. Good luck figuring out what that is.

  • 336. Dan +†+  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Thomas that doubts,.

    1 – You were sure you were a True Christian but never took into account the evidence that would display a true Christian e.g. fruit of a Christian. Never understood the Parable of the Sower
    2 – I am sure I am a True Christian, as evidenced by the fruit.
    3 – I say that since you are an unbeliever, you were mistaken back then since the fruit was never examined or matured.
    4 – I have stood the test of time and bear the fruit of a Christian and I cannot ever become an unbeliever some day. That would be like saying there will be square circles someday. John 10:28-30

  • 337. Dan +†+  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Albertus Pieters in his book, Divine Lord and Savior, tells of a believer who was not well-educated, but who had a deep assurance of his salvation. Everyone called him, “Old Pete.” One day, while talking with Dr. Pieters, he said, “If God should take me to the very mouth of Hell, and say to me, ‘In you go, Pete; here’s where you belong,’ I would say to Him, ‘That’s true, Lord, I do belong there. But if you make me go to Hell, Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, must go with me! He and I are now one, and we cannot be separated anymore.'”

    Amen!

  • 338. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Dan +†+,
    What you are looking at are false fruits. The guy next to you is a True Christian, but you are not. You have not stood the test of time. How long have you been a Christian? Are you sure you’re going to be a Christian that many years from today? (Think carefully before answering – proverbs 27:1 — and while you’re there read verse 2 and meditate a little bit on Christian Humility and whether Jesus wants you to claim (falsely) that your fruits are true and mine were false.)

  • 339. BigHouse  |  June 4, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Thomas, I muist warn you that discussing this issue with people who have an eternal vested interest in their dogma being true is certainly not going to bear fruit (pun intended).

    Welcome to the forum and I look forward to more posts from you.

  • 340. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    BigHouse – thanks. I was starting to figure that out. :-)

  • 341. Quester  |  June 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Yeah, once someone actually comes out and admits that his learning from experience, additional knowledge or applied reason is as likely as square circles existing, there’s really nowhere to go from there.

  • 342. Wes Widner  |  June 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Thomas, the present evidence is that you no longer claim Christ. So, regardless of whether Dan and I’s theology regarding your ever having been saved in the first place is wrong, the fact still remains that our judgement of your fruitfulness and depth of roots is apparently accurate. The only way you could claim otherwise is if you attempt to prove that Christianity is both true and untrue at the same time.

    Additionally your bringing up Proverbs 27:1 simply puzzles me. True, we may not know tomorrow, but we do know the one who creates it. That is, we know that if our lives are demanded of us this very night where we’ll be.

    I wish the same could be said about you.

    Quester, It is admirable to learn from one’s experience. However it is foolish to think one’s experience determines reality. I’m sure, however, that you will prefer to go on claiming to know a universal negative. Good luck with that.

  • 343. Thomas  |  June 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Okay, last try … We’re not talking about *present* evidence, but about what we *were*. The day before my “spiritual crisis” begain in the early 90’s, I would have been right here with you and Dan stroking my own fruits. If you think you’re any different than I was, you’re committing the sin of pride.

  • 344. Wes Widner  |  June 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    And thinking you were where we are is committing a logical fallacy against the law of identity. The fact of the matter is Thomas that you are not us and no matter what fruit you might have claimed, ultimately what you are left with is this: You are no longer a believer.

    Therefore, we are well within our epistemic and theological rights to call into question the seriousness of your supposed commitment since it obviously did not hold.

    But there’s more. You see, in the Christian tradition we are told that once we make a decision to follow Christ, nothing can ever separate us from him again. Nothing can ever snatch us from his hands. Not even our unbelief.

    So for all you know, you may be dragged into heaven “smelling like smoke” (1 Corinthians 3:15)

    Finally; Claiming someone is sinning against a God you claim you no longer believe in? Weak. I expect better from you from now on.

  • 345. Richard  |  June 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Hey guys, just chiming in:

    Thomas – I like your style, dude. Welcome!

    Dan – It does my heart good to hear your fruits- theory. I could not possibly agree more that studying the matter empirically is the only way to go! Im very serious! Bravo! I think your hypothesis is perfectly reasonable, and worth testing.

    So, your suggestion is that “true” Christians will bear good, lasting fruit. So, what you need to do at this point is develop a measurement for this. Some test of “fruitiness”. You do this by demonstrating that twhatever you propose as a test is valid (really measures “fruits” and not something else) and reliable (multiple people can employ it with the same result).

    Then, tool in hand, you will be in a position to evaluate a prospective cohort of Christians and see whether, in fact, those who score high on the Fruit Scale really are less likely to deconvert.

    Now, to anticipate a potential protest, you may be inclined to think that such things as “fruits” in this sense are not amenable to quantitative measurement. And perhaps not. But the larger point remains: the issue is that you need to be able to identify **ahead of time** who has fruits sufficient to prove true conversion, and thus will never leave the faith, as distinguished from those who do not, and thus later leave. You can either examine the evidence and predict it in advance, or you cant.

    After all, as Im sure youll agree, if you are suggesting that only in retrospect do we know who “really” had sufficient fruit, then you are committing a No True Scotsman fallacy. Your fruit claim is not telling us anything about what we will find in the world; it is telling us how you define the term “true” or “fruitful” Christian” — i.e., one who never deconverts. “No Truely Fruitful Chrisitans deconvert.”

    And, of course, this is doubly problematic as long as “bearing fruit” remains such a loose metaphor. You yourself seem to admit it exists on a spectrum. So how do you know if you bore enough fruit to really be a True Christian? Why, if you never deconvert, of course!

    But, empiricism — now youre talking my language! For Im sure you’ll agree, if you are not solving this issue by just *defining* it to suit you, as above, then by exclusion you must be hypothesizing an *empirical* association between fruit and deconversion. Those are the only options, no?

    And that is, as I said,perfectly reasonable — as a hypothesis. But until you operationalize the terms and subject it to a test, it remains wholly speculative. Which means, right now, you really do not know at all whether it is true, or not, that those who call themselves Christians, and bear a certain kind of behavioral fruit, really do stay true to the faith.

    Either way, though, it seems to me to suggest that you dont really know whether you are, in fact, a Christian or not. If you define it in terms of bearing fruit, which is manifest in never deconverting, then all you can say is that you have not deconverted *yet*. You wont know for sure until your deathbed whether you are a real or false convert.

    Conversely, if you suggest an empirical association here, then we remain in a state of ignorance as to whether it is true or not, until such time as we perform these studies. Your current fruit in your life may indicate that you wont deconvert, but it might not, because the claim might be false.

    Fallibilism, I think thats what we are suggesting here. We all once thought we were sure, too. No one in our lives could, or did, ever pick us out at the time, saying “hmmm.. your fruit doesnt look mature…. somethings wrong here….” Just like you, Im sure.

    Feeling certain is just a feeling, my friend, not a guarantor of truth, much less Truth. Its a neural sensation; the mind’s assessing its own subjective confidence level. Nothing more. So, lets just all admit it: however painful we might find this, in the end we just cant be sure.

  • 346. Anonymous  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I like a good ripe avocado. But not too, too ripe. If they get too, too ripe they get those splotchy dark spots and discolorations on the inside and they just don’t taste right. Sucks when all your really wanted to do was make some heavenly guacamole for game day.

    Oops. Was that off topic?

  • 347. Frreal  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Welcome Thomas. Please stay.

  • 348. Frreal  |  June 5, 2010 at 12:57 am

    346 = Frreal.

  • 349. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 6:13 am

    Thanks Richard and thanks Freal.

    Wes has spelled out the problem quite nicely. Since the Bible says that no True Christian ever deconverts, a Christian only has a few options when faced with someone claiming to be a former Christian.

    1 – Admit that the bible is wrong.
    2 – Speculate that the subject was never really a Christian.
    3 – Speculate that the subject has not really deconverted.

    I’m actually surprised it took so long for us to come to a version of number 3. Looks like these Christians don’t know their bible very well. (More signs that they’re stroking false fruits and will deconvert some day – but not Wes … or Peter, but Dan for sure because he’s offered no more proof that his fruits are real than I have.)

    I’m done talking to Wes about this. He’s demonstrated his ability to hold contradictary thoughts by arguing a version of #2 for most of his last post, then suddenly switching to #3. After shutting down the computer last night, I meditated a bit on why I’m here reading this web page. I’m sure it’s not to debate Christians who are less committed that I was before my deconversion. It’s probably to find kindred spirits and common experience among the unbelievers.

    For what it’s worth, the Church I considered home taught that when a True Christian deconverts, God has the option of “bringing that soul home” before his testamony becomes a danger to the world. I’ve forgotten the exact scriptural justification for this — possibly 1 Cor 11:28-30 which says that taking communion with an unworthy heart will cause many to die early. The fact that my life has become even more fulfilling after my deconversion and that God hasn’t brought me home early tells me one thing:

    God thinks my anti-Testamony is unconvincing and I need to ramp it up. [Woah, I gotta lay off the Believe-in-God breathspray.]

  • 350. Dan +†+  |  June 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Thomas,

    >>proverbs 27:1 — and while you’re there read verse 2 and meditate a little bit on Christian Humility and whether Jesus wants you to claim (falsely) that your fruits are true and mine were false.

    You’re right. I was trying to use myself, as an example of a Christian, between just our conversation and that may have been wrong.

    I fully admit that I am not ‘holier then thou’ at all and I may have come across arrogantly, for that I apologize. I just want to say that for this wicked and wretched man, God has changed me forever as evidenced by my current desires and lifestyle. If God could change me then there is a God. I was the worst of the worse atheists…that’s all I really meant.

    Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:17-18 tells us how to treat people so that is what I do, and what you have done. It takes far more love to confront to ignore the situation, Perfect love is a constant confronter.

    I believe that only a friend will tell a friend that they have spinach in their teeth. An enemy would not do that. You correct me in love and I do the same. (Ezekiel 3:20)

    Thank you for being a friend, enough to rebuke me :7) Insert song here

  • 351. Thomas  |  June 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    At just about the same time as my deconversion (2 years after at the very most) I worked with a guy who had an awful temper. At night when jobs would fail on the system, he’d pound the keyboard and mutter about the “idiots” who programmed this stuff. He once showed me his old driver’s license photo from before he was saved. He looked the same only now his hair was short. I didn’t know him before. He’d say “If anybody says that Jesus isn’t real, I just tell them to look at me.” Maybe God was doing great things in his life, but with his temper, I’d hardly consider him the poster child for the transmforming power of Jesus Christ.

    If you (Dan) think Jesus makes you a better person, who am I to try to win this argument?

    You know, it’s funny you should mention spinach. Even though I am not a believer, I’ve acquired a reputation in the family as the guy who prays at weddings. At my sister-in-law’s wedding, I had everybody solomly bow their heads, gave thanks for the food, spoke some words of encouragement for the bride and groom, then ended with an invocation in Latin: Pater Noster, In dentibus anticis frustum magnum spiniciae habes, Amen.

    And all the people did say Amen.

  • 352. David (new)  |  June 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Is there a point to all this? There are people in the world who follow a non-Christian path and to whom this discussion is irrelevant. If the same energy and time was spent serving the less fortunate instead of engaging in pointless babble, this world would be a much better place. What would Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha or any of the the others have us do – espouse the righteousness of our chosen path ad infinitum or spent the commensurate time working in a soup kitchen?

  • 353. Quester  |  June 6, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Thank-you for your concern, David. I’m surprised you managed to find the time to share that concern with us. Slow day at the soup kitchen?

  • 354. David (new)  |  June 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Very slow. Moving to the gulf to wash seagulls.

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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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