Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | March 2, 2016

What If the Bible Is True?

(5 Minute Read)
The Battle is not over evidence but over the interpretation of evidence.

The battle is not over evidence.
The battle is over the interpretation of evidence.
Worldviews drive interpretations. Thus conflicts
need to be resolved at the worldview level.

Today’s blog article features a guest essay by Rick Walton, a clear-thinking Colorado friend of 30 years.

The impetus for Rick’s essay was a guest column in The Gazette of Colorado Springs on February 11: Life from an Atheist’s Perspective.

Larimore Nicholl, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University, Pueblo, authored the column.

Early in his column Nicholl challenges the Christian position:

“Even children have difficulty believing the wild and outlandish stories contained in the ancient holy books like the Bible … How can they [people] believe that the cosmos was created by a supernatural, anthropological God who swooped down from the sky, picked up some dirt, and magically made the first human? Then took a rib out of him and made the first woman? How can even children believe that a man lived for a while in the stomach of a large fish, then came out alive? Or that two of every living thing could fit into a ship of any size at all?”

Possibly Nicholl overlooked that Jesus believed what the Old Testament teaches about these things, and very few would dispute His philosophical expertise. Jesus refers to Creation, Adam and Eve, Jonah and the great fish, and Noah, among other OT people and events. (See for example Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 12:38-41; Luke 17:26-27 and Did Jesus Believe in Adam?)

Nicholl says Christians “Cling to their own Bible and God as absolute, never justifying why they pick one holy book or one god over the others.” Nicholl goes on to attempt to justify his position as an atheist. His arguments are weak and poorly grounded — far less than what I would expect from a university philosophy professor. It made me wonder how he taught students to analyze and evaluate philosophical arguments.

My friend Rick Walton responded to Nicholl’s column with his What If? essay in which he justifies the Christian position and challenges Nicholl to rethink his own position. Rick is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, an Air Force Major (ret’d), and a retired American Airlines captain. He also has a Master’s degree in Apologetics from Biola University.

Rick submitted his answer to Nicholl’s column to The Gazette. But as of press time for this blog it has not been published. I hope the editor is someone with some depth who can recognize the value of a thoughtful, logical, and irenic reply to Nicholl’s column, especially since Nicholl presents a viewpoint contrary to what a large segment of the population believes about essential matters.

Here is Rick’s essay answering Professor Nicholl.

What If?
By Rick Walton
Feb 29, 2016

 
I must confess that my initial reaction to Professor Nicholl’s column, “Life from an Atheist’s Perspective,” was irritation at his shallow and trite treatment of such momentous issues. Following that was only sadness for him. “Emeritus” – nearly at the end of his career and life and yet still blind and indifferent. Have science and incredulity “eclipsed” belief in God? I think not.

I believe that God, by a process not yet clear to any of us, created the universe and everything in it. Certainly that is the biblical claim but what of science? Current cosmogony – the Standard Model (Big Bang) – holds that our universe – space, matter, and time – came into existence from nothing at a finite time in the past. As one Christian apologist has noted, “A Big Bang needs a Big Banger.” Whatever produced space, matter, and time would necessarily be spaceless, immaterial, and timeless. As the source of the universe it would most likely be outside it, outside the natural world – Super-natural. It is doubtful to me that “the natural forces of astrophysics” could produce the cosmos because there was nothing upon which the forces could act prior to the Big Bang. Either our universe came from something or it came from nothing. I think the universe came from Something; I would presume the Professor would think it came from nothing. Who has the more difficult to believe story?

Similarly, the universe seems to be strangely fine-tuned to produce or allow for stars, planets, and life. Scientists have identified at least several dozen physical constants that had to be “just so” or nothing significant would exist. Some materialists deny fine-tuning (anti-science), or resort to multiverse theories (with no evidence), or claim that we are “just lucky” (incomprehensibly improbable), or like Hume claim that it must be so or we wouldn’t be having this conversation (unjustifiably incurious). I think the Creator wisely prepared the universe for life; what is the materialist’s explanation of fine-tuning?

Life – what about that? The professor claims that we were made by the natural forces of genetics. The genetic code of even the simplest creature is a vast storehouse of information. What is its source? Modern information science holds that information comes only from intelligence. Evolutionary biology, disregarding this science, claims that the genetic code came about by an unguided process. Where should my incredulity fall, upon the science-denying claims of the evolutionists, or an intelligent Source? Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has, persuasively to me, argued that presuming naturalism and evolution to be true leads one to the inability to rationally believe anything. Brains evolved for survival and reproduction may not be any good at all in evaluating propositional truth so that one is not justified believing anything, including naturalism or evolution. Here again, who is it who is following myth?

Mid-way through his essay the professor quotes philosopher Bertrand Russell and his faith-destroying question, “Who created God?” Really? By definition God, if He exists, is an uncreated being – that’s the “God job description.” Russell’s question is nearly a category error, along the lines of “How much does the color blue weigh?” Let’s rephrase Russell’s question: “Who created the being who is by definition, uncreated?” Nonsense, even in the hands of experienced philosophers, is still nonsense.

Is morality derived merely from practical necessity as the professor claims? His offered ideas of Utilitarianism, Rationalism, etc., prompt the question, “Sez who?” We humans seem to feel a sense of moral obligation, why? Who made these rules and why should I be obligated to follow them? When I break a moral principle and feel guilty afterward, to whom am I accountable? A divine Law-giver explains my sentiments very well; all the God-denying alternatives only lead one to subjective morality with which I may or may not feel obliged to comply. Whose explanation satisfies?

Nonsense, even in the hands of experienced
philosophers, is still nonsense.

What if? What if the biblical story was true? What would that look like from overhead? It would begin with a trinitarian God existing timelessly and in perfect communion and love. Out of that happiness arose a desire to create beings with whom the love could be shared. For those creatures to exercise and experience that love, they would necessarily have to be free. Granting freedom involves risk. What if the Creator knew in advance that his free creatures would rebel and spurn his love? What if he lovingly created anyway? Following the rebellion the Creator initiated his rescue plan. The biblical record, in just its third chapter, reveals God immediately, yet somewhat cryptically, disclosing the solution He would bring about. The “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent. We typically think of, and the biblical writers most assuredly wrote of, “seed” in terms of the man. Here we have one born only of a woman, a virgin birth. From the onset of man’s worst problem, God began to prepare for someone very special to come and solve it. This prediction was repeated again nearly 800 years before Jesus when Isaiah wrote that a virgin would bear a son and he would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Many other predictions and preparations followed so that the man Jesus came in a particular way at a particular time to a very particular setting. His coming is referred to as the Incarnation, God taking flesh.

Though he seemed to his hearers just a man, Jesus made the outrageous claim that He was also God. He asserted that each person’s eternal destiny depended on what he or she believed about him. And critically, he asserted that God would vindicate his claims by raising him from the dead. For this apparent blasphemy of claiming to be God, the Jewish leaders got Jesus crucified by the Romans. Strong historical evidence indicates that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is exactly what followed. The revelation of Jesus as God, confirmed by his resurrection, rocked his disciples and the world. Things have not been the same since.

Jesus is the unique individual of history. He had to be a human to bear the penalty humans deserved. But he also had to be God for it to contingently (one must believe) apply to all humans. [Jesus also had to be God for it to apply to all humans who choose to believe.] He had to live a sinless life or his death would have only paid for his own sin. By both pedigree (God and man) and performance (perfect life, death, and resurrection), Jesus did what no other could do. He solved our sin problem so that we could have peace with God. This is the gospel, the good news. What if this story is actually true? I accept this story primarily because it is the best explanation of reality I have found.

Will this satisfy the professor as justification for my choosing this particular God and holy book over the alternatives? I hope so and I hope he will rethink his own views. The stakes are high. As 17th century philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal observed, “I should be much more afraid of being mistaken and then finding out that Christianity is true than of being mistaken in believing it to be true.”

Comments

Paragraph Five in Rick’s essay is a masterful answer to the “Who created God?” question — clear, down-to-earth, and understandable by anyone. And I loved the paragraph’s concluding sentence, which applies quite well to much of Nicholl’s article:
Nonsense, even in the hands of experienced philosophers, is still nonsense.

Many people revere Bertrand Russell as a philosopher. But his question “Who created God?” shows that his thinking skills were handcuffed by his worldview. And I don’t believe Russell stopped believing in God when he heard that question, as Nicholl reports him saying. Russell had already refused to believe. That question was just a catchy, convenient excuse for him.

And it’s a catchy, convenient excuse for many today. It’s sad that even professional philosphers cannot think past that question and see that it’s vacuous.

I very much liked Rick’s penetrating questions scattered throughout the essay. Most paragraphs even ended with a question designed to stimulate thought.

The Gazette published a good response to Nicholl’s column on February 14 by Jerry Fogltance, a retired Air Force chaplain and lieutenant colonel. Here is Col. Fogltance’s reply to Prof. Nicholl: Disputing the Claims of Atheism.

What If the Bible Is True?

C. S. Lewis spoke to the issue of whether one’s belief is true:

“But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why, then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn’t deserve. Your error would even so be more interesting and important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?”
(C. S. Lewis letter to Sheldon Vanauken (23 Dec 1950), quoted in A Severe Mercy, 1989, p.92).

If the Bible is not true, then it does not matter what one believes. Whether one is an atheist or Christian is irrelevant.

If the Bible is true, then it matters a great deal what one believes. Atheists end up in Hell and Christians in Heaven. That’s an enormous difference.

Choose wisely!

Questions to Ponder
  1. What if the Bible is true, but you don’t believe it? What are the consequences for you?
  2. What if the Bible is false, but you believe it to be true? What are the consequences for you?
  3. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday March 2, 2016 A.D.

“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

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Responses

  1. What if the bible is true? Then best-case scenario, at least two thirds of the Earth’s population that ever lived is condemned to Hell. Literally billions of “beings with whom the love could be shared” tortured for eternity with most of them their only sin being born in the wrong part of the world. Hundreds of millions of victims of smallpox dying in poverty then sent to Hell.

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    • It is not clear to me that for “most of them their only sin [is] being born in the wrong part of the world.” I trust the Judge of all the earth to judge righteously, as Abraham said (Genesis 18:25), even though I do not know all that is involved in His judgment. It’s arrogance of a rather high order to question the judgment of the Creator.

      It does seem to be true that more people go to Hell than to Heaven according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14:
      Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      I am glad that Yahweh has blessed you with a knowledge of the truth, so that you may choose the narrow way that leads to life.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    • Well Jack, let’s think about this. When I first contemplated a response, I was going to ask if you were truly inquisitive or if you just wanted to throw rocks. From your subsequent post I’m going to guess the latter. That’s okay – I have on my helmet and visor and perhaps someone else who is actually curious is looking in on us.

      Seems like your comment involves two issues – the problem of evil (smallpox, poverty) and the problem of access to the gospel (time and geography). Actually, I think there’s a third – God “torturing” people for eternity. Let’s give them a look.

      Problem of evil: How could an all powerful and all knowing God permit all the evil we find in the world? I suppose I could first observe that if there is no God, then there really isn’t any evil; it just is what it is. We may not like it but to whom do we complain? But since I maintain that there is a loving God; how do I answer? Let’s go camping. (Credit this to Alvin Plantinga – you should read him.) At the campsite I ask you to go look in the tent to see if there are any St. Bernard’s in there. You look, don’t see any, and report, “Nope.” Good call. But what if I ask you to look in the tent to see if there are any “No see-ums”? No see-ums are little bugs that are small enough to go right through screens and bite you and you can’t even see them! You look, don’t see any, and report, “Nope.” Good call? Maybe not. Point? When some people look at the evil in the world, they cannot see any good reason for all of it – and conclude that there is no good reason. If there is a God, how can you be sure that His reasons for permitting the evil that He permits are more like St. Bernard’s than No see-ums? If He is big enough to make the universe, He might be big enough to have reasons that you can’t imagine. Do I like the evil in the world? No way – and I am sure that God hates it, but He permits it for purposes we are most likely unable to apprehend, though allowing for human freedom is involved.

      Access to the gospel: When I was studying the rock-throwers, I mean atheistic philosophers, in grad school, it seemed like they were usually railing against some abstract “Big guy in the sky” and not the God of Christianity. Defending God without bringing in the life and mission of Jesus is like boxing with an arm tied behind your back – no thanks. So to begin this section let’s get a handle on God’s point of view on salvation. In Second Peter 3 verse 9 it says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Then there’s First Timothy 2 verses 3-6, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.” The end of that verse brings in Jesus and the famous line in John 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God doesn’t want anyone to perish; He wants all men to be saved; and He sent His son to DIE so that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish. Whatever else we may say or think about the arrangements here on earth, it is unreasonable to say that God does not care. We’re talking Christianity here, as explained in the Christian scriptures – can you still reasonably deny that God does not care?

      But what about those who never hear the gospel? Do you suppose that God, having given His only Son so that people could be saved, would leave any stone unturned in getting the gospel to everyone who would respond positively? Let’s play some more “What if?” What if God’s omniscience includes something called counterfactuals of creaturely freedom? (Credit this to William Lane Craig – you should read him too, but be sure to buckle up.) A counterfactual is an “if-then”. If Jones was rich, he’d buy a Lexus. Not a Mercedes or BMW – if this, then that. What if God knows all the counterfactuals in all the possible worlds (universes) that He could create? What if God created a world that would yield a sufficient population in Heaven and have the best possible ratio between the saved and the lost? Well, why didn’t He create a world in which no one was lost, you ask? What if that world was not feasible, considering creaturely freedom? What if God created a world in which the only people lost would have been lost in any possible world? (Called transworld damnation – why would some people be like that? I don’t know!) That is, for reasons not clear to us puny humans, there are some souls that would not respond to the gospel in any possible world. What if that is actually what happened? It doesn’t seem that far-fetched considering God’s attitude about salvation. What then if God in His sovereign providence (controlling stuff while we still freely choose) created a world where anyone who would respond to the gospel if he heard it, did hear it, so that no one was lost due to accidents of geography or time? Isn’t that at least possible? And if it is possible, why would God – again considering His attitude about salvation – do anything else? Closing caveat: I am not saying that this is how it happened. What I am doing is demonstrating a “reasonable” possibility that could be how it might have happened. God for sure has a better imagination that I – but it shows that there can be a reasonable explanation for the way things are.

      Torturing for eternity: How could a loving God… You should listen to Tim Keller (go to YouTube). I have not found an even slightly disappointing message from him yet – and I have been bingeing on Keller. He has one titled, “Hell: Isn’t the God of Christianity an Angry Judge?” Thirty-five minutes out of your life – might be worth it. I have heard more than one theologian opine that the fire imagery in descriptions of Hell is metaphorical. Keller does this but quickly adds that it should not be a relief because the reality is most likely far worse than fire – bummer. But what is the reality? More “What if” – what if Hell is terrible because of the people who are there and the God who is not? Some characterize damnation as banishment from God’s presence forever. What if it will be “hellish” to have seen God (at the Judgment) and realize that you have lost Him forever? Should everyone go to Heaven, even those who have consciously rejected God or would have had they been given the gospel? Is it loving for God to force people who want no part of Him to be in his presence forever? Atheist turned Christian C.S. Lewis said, (loose quote) “Either the person says to God ‘Thy will be done’ or God says to the person ‘Thy will be done’” That is, you can repent of your rebellion against the sovereign of the universe, be forgiven (due to Jesus), and enjoy him forever. Or you can have it your way – Lewis thought that those who chose this would not like it. He wrote a really interesting book, titled, The Great Divorce. It’s a pretty small book and worth a reading. Upshot: The inhabitants of Hell (a great gray city) are allowed to visit Heaven and are welcome to stay if they wish, but they don’t care for it. You should check it out.

      In the first chapter of Romans verse 18 it says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven…” I had always thought, “Well, that can’t be good…” Recently though I have read a different take on that. Later in the chapter it says that “God gave them up.” Note, it does not say that God gave up on them. It would appear that “God’s wrath,” in at least this instance, is letting people have their own way. Have you ever thought of wrath that way? It kind of goes along with the Lewis quote above. God lets the rebels have their own way, but they end up not being very happy with it. Wouldn’t that make sense? You can follow the ways of the Designer of the universe or you can do things differently – God will allow this, but you might not like the result.

      I think God and Christianity are a little more nuanced than you might have imagined/feared. You might want to give it another look, laying aside your old preconceptions.

      Or you could deny God and go with atheism. That should work out okay… There’s another Keller message titled, “A Reason for Living.” What if atheism is true? You are an accident with no purpose or meaning and then you die – and it will be as if you had never lived. Read or listen to the atheistic philosophers who really grappled with this (some on the Keller message). If this life only ends in the grave and the universe is heading for heat-death, everything about our existence is absurd and meaningless. It doesn’t matter what you do or how long you live or even if you lived. Some try to construct their own meaning for life but that is merely piling delusion atop absurdity – good luck with that.

      This is already way too long so I’m going to wrap it up. As is usually the case, it is easier to stir things up than to sort them out. You only had to spend a few words while my response was more costly. If you reply, I will read it to determine your intent. If you are willing to actually engage with the ideas I have offered, I will reply. If you just want to throw more rocks, probably not. Ball’s in your court Jack.

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      • Hi Rick ,I’d recently decided not to post here anymore as throwing rocks seemed a bit disrespectful but the tone of this guest contributor appeared to be inviting a response, rather than BSG’s usual Sunday School-style articles. So don’t worry, I won’t be here beyond today besides mostly to read and refute a few scientific inaccuracies.

        The no-seeums example perhaps applies if we are talking about man-made evil but smallpox and tsunamis can surely not be part of God’s plan, if it is a good plan. I might even grant you that God wanted one of his angels back if these happen in America or Europe but considering most victims are non-Christians they are therefore headed straight for hell. Even with my no-seeum view of the world, it is clear that if a Muslim child lives in poverty, dies in a tsunami then spends eternity in hell, no matter how complex God’s plan, that is a bad plan. Imagine the victims of the Holocaust reawakening after the gas chambers then realising that Yahweh that called them his chosen people had banished them to hell. I don’t need to know God’s plan to know that calling that good is logically and morally unsound.

        God can assert that he cares as much as he likes but that doesn’t mean he does. How could a pre-Columbian American possible believe in Him if he has absolutely no way of knowing about Him? I’m not sure if the smallpox blankets were the fault of God’s creation or European intervention but for 1500 years before, every person born in the new world was sentenced to hell. How is that possibly a caring God? Surely Jesus could have made a stop in America on the way back to heaven to introduce himself?

        Are you sure WLC devised the Transworld damnation bit? It sounds more like the KKK. Justifying why the Jews, the Muslims, the Native Americans, and most people that are not of European descent couldn’t be saved no matter how God tried smacks of racial supremacy. Don’t sell yourself short, you’re not just a puny human, we can all see what is wrong with that argument.

        If you want to argue that Hell is not literal then I have no problem with it. Most of the arguments above still apply if a non-fiery Hell is just as bad but I’m happy to say that Jesus probably didn’t expect me and my entire family to burn forever. But this would put you in the minority of Christians and require an interpretation of the bible that conflicts with almost everything on this website at least. I’ll watch some of the Keller videos, the no-hell interpretation is something I do find interesting although I would probably also go further and strip out a lot of the NT that wasn’t spoken by Jesus himself.

        I am content to make my own meaning of life. Mine is essentially to follow the golden rule and make sure that the interactions I have with other people, animals and the environment leave them in at least the same and hopefully a better state than before. I will eventually go to the grave and my body will no longer be here but I hope that the way I have brought up my children and treated my neighbours will filter down through the generations. My grandparents died years ago but the lessons they taught me that they had passed on to them by our ancestors that I never knew will even benefit my children and their descendants. I have no interest in going to heaven or knowing god but that does not mean my life has only a shallow meaning nor that it will mean nothing when I am gone. DarkMatter2525 does an interesting video on youtube called Afterlife is Meaningless Without Afterafterlife if you have a spare six minutes.

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        • Jack,

          Sigh… While I am gratified that you read my offering, the only interaction with the ideas that I can detect is a search and destroy mission for all things God. Maybe I just didn’t explain myself all that well. Let’s try again.

          I am somewhat baffled at your opening comment about ceasing your postings. You responded to me due to my invitation and my alleged non-Sunday school-style tactics. So you are withdrawing from the conversation with me because you liked my tone but you’re going to input from time to time to refute others, but that’s not throwing rocks? Help me here – doesn’t make sense.

          No see-ums and God’s plans: Perhaps another way to approach this is to consider why people end up going to Hell. You’re going to hate this: The only people who go to Hell are the ones who deserve it. Dwell on that statement a little bit. When you come down from the ceiling, resume with me. The Heaven/Hell thing is really unfair – does that help? How? It is unfair in that some people, who also deserve Hell, instead enjoy the grace and love of God forever. But the people who go to Hell deserve it, they get precisely what they have coming to them. People do not go to Hell because they didn’t hear about Jesus and get a chance to repent. That’s like saying you wouldn’t have died if you had gone to the doctor. The disease is what kills you and perhaps you might have recovered had you gone to the doctor, but the disease is the culprit. Similarly, people go to Hell not because they didn’t believe in Jesus, but because they have rebelled against the Sovereign of the universe and for that rebellion are banished from His presence forever.

          Perhaps you might say that they are convicted of crimes for which they had no notice; they never got the rule book. But actually they did. Remember, I can only defend Christianity, and the Christian scriptures (Romans 2:14-15) say that God has written His rules on everyone’s heart. This is why you feel an obligation to follow the golden rule and treat people, animals, and the environment well – it’s written on your heart; you’d feel bad otherwise. That’s why atheists can be very moral people and often are. Getting philosophical, their problem is they have no way to ground the morality they feel – without a law-giver there can be no objective law, and yet everyone feels it, except for sociopaths.

          This brings to mind your comment about God’s plan being “logically and morally unsound.” Whose morality are we using here? Is this just your opinion? How are you determining what is right and wrong? You are holding God to some sort of standard; what is the grounding of this standard? If there is no God, no law-giver, how do you decide right and wrong? Things just are what they are; there is no good or bad. This is a big deal in philosophy! The atheist Sam Harris wrote The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. He argued that good and bad are determined by how they contribute or not to human flourishing. Makes sense, except what is “human flourishing”? Harris cheated; he smuggled in a moral concept from theism. In a purely materialist world human flourishing may or may not be a “good” – some think that humans are the worst thing to happen to the earth. There’s an award-winning biologist in Texas who thinks the best thing that could happen to the world would be a 90% kill of humans by disease or whatever. (I presume he expects to be in the surviving 10%.) By what standard do you judge God and, critically, why should any of us pay it any attention?

          Back to the rebellion: If people freely choose to rebel against God, does He owe them the story of Jesus? Is God obligated to save anyone since all are rebels? It’s funny (peculiar, not ha-ha), but nonbelievers often criticize God for not saving everyone, but the story in the Bible is about how God can make it so He can save anyone. He couldn’t just wave a wand and cancel all debts; His perfect justice does not allow that. Can you agree that if your kid was to rebel against you, that would hurt and be a pretty big deal? But if your kid rebelled against the government, he could be imprisoned for life or perhaps even executed. Why the difference? The seriousness of the crime depends upon who is offended. So how big a deal is it to rebel against the sovereign of the universe? Might be a pretty big one… By rights God could have washed His hands of the whole mess (that we made), but instead He chose to become a man and pay the penalty that men deserved. The sovereign of the universe came to the people He created in order to save them – our contribution: we killed Him. Nice work, humans.

          I suppose you could argue that God should have never created if He knew that all these free people would rebel against Him and merit banishment. That’s like saying that you wish you had never been born. I’m still trying to figure if you are mad at God or are denying him – perhaps both, like the late Christopher Hitchens (“God does not exist and I hate him!”) If God does not exist, it will actually, eventually, be as if you – and everyone else – had never been born. All will be lost in the eternally enduring heat-death of the universe. Your attempt to “make my own meaning” will make as much difference as if you had made no attempt.

          To WLC: I must have really blown the explanation of his idea because a primary impetus for writing it was to explain what to think about those who due to time or geography never heard the gospel. Again: his upshot is that they would not have responded positively even if they had heard the gospel – that’s why they were where they were when. It is not about racial or any other supremacy. Followers of Jesus are or should be in continual amazement that they have been brought to faith and forgiveness – because they know what they deserve (Hell). I also think that there is a lot of history to demonstrate that followers of Jesus did not regard “others” as somehow undeserving – Christian missionaries have spent and given their lives at the ends of the earth to reach these folks with the gospel. This goes back to something I think you still don’t or won’t see: God’s great love for people as demonstrated by the sacrificial death of Jesus for them. And I reiterate: if God did that, it is inconceivable that he would not arrange history to ensure that anyone – Any. One. (!) – who would respond positively to the gospel, hears it. Inconceivable! (“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya) Perhaps you should read the article yourself. Here’s the link: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html If you understand it completely before the sixth read-through, consider yourself smarter than I am.

          Some clarifications:

          I did not say that “Hell is not literal!” What I said was that the fire of Hell may be metaphorical while still being most likely worse than fire. The metaphorical crowd may well be wrong, but everyone agrees that it will not be a picnic. I object to your statement, “I’m happy to say that Jesus probably didn’t expect me and my entire family to burn forever.” You are deliberately ignoring God’s self-disclosure about His attitude toward His image-bearers – us. You are of course free to hold whatever opinion you like about God and His plans, but it seems a bit disingenuous to make claims about the nature of the Christian God contrary both to what He has revealed in scripture and what He has done in giving Himself for the sins of mankind. You are maligning a god of your own making and not dealing with the reality in front of you.

          Smallpox and tsunamis – When Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, things really got messed up. You surely know that there are bacteria (and viruses?) that are useful (in septic tanks, in our guts). If things got messed up, bacteria and other things are easily included – the world is not as God wanted it. Tsunamis are the result of tectonic action, a necessary feature of a life-sustaining planet. Now if people live on coastal plains, is God supposed to restrain tectonic activity to prevent tsunamis and their resulting death tolls? Earthquakes happen all over the world but kill lots more people where poverty reigns. Is it God’s fault that poverty reigns in the world He made capable of sustaining everyone? Isn’t it human sin that causes hoarding, that stifles generosity, that causes indolence?

          I watched the DarkMatter2525 video. My wife was listening from the other room and inquired as to what was up. She thought it was a bit sophomoric; I agree. There is more to Heaven and Hell than such a simplistic portrayal. As I said above, hold whatever opinion you care to, but this is not Christianity you and they are condemning.

          I will close with Dirty Harry: “Are you feeling lucky, punk?” (His words; I don’t think of you as a punk or any other pejorative.) If there is no God, this conversation and everything else we do ultimately does not matter. If there is a God, the Christian God, you are making a very big wager. Talking bravely about being happy going to Hell does not change what most likely will be an awful future. You owe it to yourself to seriously engage the issues and the God revealed in the bible. A certain humility will be required – one must come willing to learn instead of stand in judgment. What will you choose?

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      • The throwing rocks bit, I guess we have a different idea of what that means. I assume we aren’t using it in a biblical context? Pointing out scientific inaccuracies seems reasonable to me, debate is part of the process. But I’m not planning to tell old ladies that they aren’t going to heaven, which is cruel and more likely a waste of time. And I should get this out of the way – no I’m not mad at God any more than you are angry at Vishnu. Nor am I angry at Christians, I live in a fairly non-religious country and the small number of Christians I know are very nice people. I just find religion interesting from a cultural/psychological/anthropological point of view. I once responded to a BSG article about the maths of how many people lived at the time of Noah and now foolishly like an addict, keep reading posts when they arrive in my inbox. I should probably unsubscribe.

        I have trouble responding as you bring up a number of conflicting ideas and I can’t pick out what you actually believe. I don’t want to dwell on what might have just been conjecture. The idea that God’s rules are written in our heart surely cannot be true otherwise we wouldn’t be arguing about what must be the most fundamental aspect of Christianity – is it good for a chosen few to go to heaven while the majority of humanity perish in hell? I argue no but you believe we all deserve what we get. How can people with no knowledge of god be rebelling against him, especially if he has written his rules in their hearts?

        I don’t really want to get side-tracked by the written-in-their-hearts bit but evolution can fairly easily explain why humans and most successful social species tend not to murder or even steal. Most murderers end up in bad situations that don’t promote procreation, usually dead or ostracized, and overall it’s bad for and therefore shunned by the tribe. An equilibrium is found where the majority act for the greater good. I can’t say that I’ve seen any evidence that keeping the Sabbath or not making graven images are particularly written in anyone’s hearts, especially not for one billion Catholics!

        I’m still struggling with your view on the pre-Columbian Americans. On the one hand you say they deserved hell but on the other you say missionaries dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel because they were not undeserving of heaven. Were the missionaries wrong or god was? On top of that, the WLC argument sounds a lot like predeterminism. God created a population of people that he simply couldn’t make heaven-worthy so he put them in a place where they would never hear the gospel. Does that mean God has a plan, there’s no freewill and therefore whatever you do is meaningless as it’s all preordained? Was I also destined for hell from the start and that’s why I was placed in a family of heathens? Our creator seems to have a production quality problem.

        Plate tectonics is not a satisfactory answer. I barely even know how to react to you blaming these people for living near the coast. Your belief in God’s unquestionable judgement has forced you into a very unsympathetic position. I’ll stick with Sam Harris’ view on wellbeing/happiness being preferable to suffering/pain. For everyone, regardless of their religion.

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        • Hi Jack,
          You have been on my mind all day.
          My mother hated God and would read Scripture and would ask me how I could love a god that would…. a lot of the things you say.
          I loved her, I wanted the best for her, at the end, when she was in her 90’s I took care of her and loved her. She had a stroke and she could never seem to get over hating God. I was not trying to make her believe in God. She spent her time trying to convince me that I should not believe in God. It was a very sad and strange relationship. God put me in the position where I was the only one of her children who would take care of her. God gave me the patience to do it in a loving and kind way. This is just history.
          The question I want to ask you is this.
          When they asked about God, I had to answer truthfully. If I did not, then they were putting me in a position to deny God and I could not. My brother finally ended up believing in God and my mother hated Him to the end.
          All of that is just history. The question I want to ask you -because you seem to have thought all of this through – is this:
          I know why I have no option but to tell you about Jesus because it gives you the option of eternal life and I have been given the mandate that I must tell you, no matter how much you hate me and abuse me for it, even if you kill me.
          Could you please help me understand why it is so important to people who do not believe in God at all to try to convince people who do believe that God does not exist.
          My Mother would read the Bible to find ways to trap me into hating God.
          If there is no God, I see no harm in believing that He cares about me and gives me the love and patience to deal with people who He has put in my care so that I can treat them in the way He would want me to.
          If you believe that you are made out of nothing and are a failed project who is being completely changed over of billions of years into something you can’t even conceive of, and headed toward nothingness, why do you care what I believe?
          I believe that God created me. He has a purpose and a plan for my life. I must treat the people He has put in my life with loving kindness and patience so that He will be shown to them through my care and might come to Him because they saw something in my love for them that reflected His love for them.
          Why does that make you hate me. Who did I harm?
          If you succeed in making people hate God, what do you achieve?
          What is your goal?
          If you can explain to me why she hated me for loving God, it would really help me.
          Thanks,
          Elizabeth

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  2. Jack, I would recommend that you make an effort to know God before you judge him.
    We are born into this world and unless we come to know God, we will die as a product of this world. You are given choices: God or Satan, Heaven or Hell, Light or Darkness, Life or Death.
    As a Christian, you receive a new mind, a new heart, eyes that can see, ears that can hear, eternal life and you begin to walk in the light. Your perspective is changed from a very limited one to an eternal one. You grow and develop as a Christian, but from the moment you are born in the Spirit, you will never be able to see things the same again.
    Believing God makes a total difference in who you are and how you think. It changes your life experiences completely. It is every bit as much of a change as being in the womb and being born into this world.
    Your life changes here and now and you walk with Jesus in this new world and continue to walk with him into the next world.
    If you tried to explain to a baby that was about to be born, what this world is like, there would be no way to do so. The baby has no method of communicating with you and it has no experience of the things you would describe. It just comes into this world unprepared and learns and grows in the new environment.
    If you finally decide to believe God, you will come into His world. It is so much better than the one you are born into originally but there is no method of communicating that to you; you just have to be reborn into it.
    Jesus did not come to save everyone; He came to give us a choice so that we can function as family and not as slaves.
    You have no idea how much He loves you. I hope you decide to find out.

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    • I have made an effort, perhaps not to know Him but to at least know his works. And that is why I am comfortable judging him. Even if I thought that God existed and therefore believed that he had condemned so many to eternal torture as you must, I would not want to go to heaven, worship him or have anything to do with him. There is nothing loving, forgiving or great about a deity that decides to send almost the entire population of China, India, pre-Columbus America and billions of others, to hell for the sin of not knowing him. I’m happy for you that you feel saved but I’d rather burn with the rest of the unlucky ones, the children, the paupers, the lepers, the six million Holocaust victims, two million of Pol Pot’s victims, and everyone else from the rest of the world that Constantine’s descendants never conquered.

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      • And, by the Grace of God, that is your choice. I believe that God offers each person a choice and that it is their right to choose.
        I don’t “feel” saved. I am saved. I was saved from myself. I was saved from judging God. It is so far beyond a “feeling” that it cannot be explained. It is the pearl of great price and I guard it with my life.
        Most of the people I have known who hate God feel exactly as you do. They would rather be in hell with all the others who feel like they do and if they got put into heaven by default, they would do all that they could to turn it into hell in order to prove God is a liar.
        I know that you do not really believe in hell, because if you did, you would not find it an attractive option.
        I hope that you change your mind. We live once, we die and then the judgment.
        We are never in safer, more loving hands than God’s hands because He is the God of Love. When he judges us, we will concede that his judgment is fair and right. There is no love without justice. There is no justice without a standard. Jesus is that standard.
        I have considered the idea that since we exist in eternity, there will be plenty of time for each person’s life to be watched in detail, including their thoughts, and that the whole cloud of witnesses will observe it in loving sympathy. Even the person whose life we are watching will learn all the things that were happening in the background that they never knew while they were here. When Jesus makes the decision about the person, every knee will bow and say Amen, including the person who is judged with righteous judgment.
        He did not come here to judge you, He came to save you. He did not come to take away your life, but to give you life.
        I think you are inclined in His direction because you are angry. He says he would rather you be hot or cold than lukewarm. You are definitely not lukewarm.
        My brother would mock me and pick fights with me about God over and over. I did not want to fight with him, I loved him. After 15 years of that, my brother got bronchial cancer, the laser treatment caused him to have a stroke and lose the use of the left side of his body. I laid down my life and took care of him the first month while his grown children made arrangements to care for him. He lived a year after that. During that year, he came to know God. It was the strangest thing to watch a man who had everything to be grateful for and hold God in contempt to change into a man who lost even the ability to go to the bathroom unattended, eventually become a Christian and be so amazed by what a difference it made in his life and be grateful to God. He apologized to me for all the grief he had given me but I always knew it was not me he was fighting with, it was God that he was resisting and God brought him home at last. He spent that year creating a close, loving relationship with his children and got to see his first grandchild. It was the best of times and the worst of times. He said it was worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • May God have mercy on your soul.

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        • Thanks Elizabeth, I am listening to the Tolstoy reading, or at least the first part of it, it will take me some time! I notice that I also got a bit confused with all of the different threads and responded to you instead of Bible Science Guy with regards to reading the gospels.

          I wouldn’t say I’m looking for God but am interested in Christianity/Islam from at least a historical perspective. I do also appreciate what Jesus said and believe that living by his words would lead to kindness and happiness. I don’t believe in God or an afterlife though so can’t treat Jesus any differently to any other philosopher though. I think of him more like a Luther/Calvin for Jews. It also means I view Jesus and the words as were recorded as fallible. I can pick out the pieces I like but ignore the ones that can at least be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) as what I would consider less than appropriate today.

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        • I hope you find Tolstoy interesting and helpful.

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      • I would like to understand your motivation.
        What is the purpose of trying to get a Christian to deny God?
        My motivation in offering some of my thoughts on why a person should believe in God, is that I want to share something that I know changed my life for the better and might help someone.
        Several of my relatives hated God and would try to get me to hate God. They would say terrible things about God. Instead of making me doubt God, it jus made me sad that they felt compelled to attack him.
        An Aunt of mine was on a rant one day calling Christians all sorts of names like crazy, stupid, etc.. I let her go on a while. Finally, I said, “I am a Christian. What do you think a Christian is?” She paused and said, “I think they are nice people trying to do the right thing.” She did not change her mind about God and she committed suicide a few months after that discussion. I found it odd that she could hate God so much and wanted others to join her in that hatred.
        I do not push my beliefs on others. If they ask questions, I try to explain what I believe and why. I believe God has given them the right to choose their own beliefs.
        If we are all just failed products of evolution who came from nowhere and are going nowhere, then why does anything matter? Why waste time thinking about any of it? Why try to change anyone’s mind when they might actually be the more highly evolved creature and we are just not there yet. If we don’t know where we come from, who we are or where we are going, why bother?
        I am hoping you can explain this to me. They are all dead now. I loved them and tried to understand them, but it still makes no sense to me. Because I am a Christian, I ended up being the one that cared for them when they became sick. I was the only one they had that would do it. They were still abusive sometimes, but I just loved them and helped them to the best of my ability and prayed for the grace to care for them and prayed that they might change their minds before it was too late.
        If God does not exist, then why do atheists care what I believe as long as I do nothing to hurt them. Somehow my existence seemed to be an affront to them.

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        • Why do I “hate” God? Why did your Mother hate God? I’ll answer the first one then give you my best guess at the second. The answer to why do I hate you is simple, I don’t. I would like to say though, I have no interest in making someone like you deny God. I can only assume religion has had a positive impact on your life and wouldn’t want to take that away from you (although I know a post on the internet wouldn’t do that anyway). But you appear to have spent a lot of time and heart writing so I will respond, even if it perhaps looks a little blunt.

          I’ll give you some background first just to make sure you don’t mistakenly think I hate God because of some bad personal experience. I grew up in a non-religious home but in a culturally Christian country. I was occasionally sent to Sunday School with the neighbours, perhaps my parents wanted us out of the house, perhaps they wanted to instill some Christian values in us, I’m not sure. We also had Bible studies once per week at school. It was informative but I wouldn’t say I took it seriously enough for it to have any positive/negative effect on me. I read part of the Bible as a child but unfortunately read it chronologically so I struggled really to get past all the stonings, sacrifices and laws about menstruation. It just seemed unreal to me. By about the age of about ten or so I realised that, no offense, but it really just all seemed like a fairy tale to me, the way an Indian religious text might to you. As I’ve gotten older and learnt more about religion, I’ve realized how sure I am that God doesn’t exist and even if he did, that the Christian interpretation, particularly the Catholic one, seems unlikely to be the right one.

          So, if I’m so sure he doesn’t exist (obviously I can’t claim to know but it seems highly unlikely) why don’t I just forget about God? Well, I would love to forget about God if only he would forget about me. I don’t spend any time thinking about Yahweh, Apollo or Brahma but God and Allah seem to be a little more visible.

          When I’m talking to religious friends about Christianity or Islam, they don’t try to convince me their god exists and I don’t try to convince them he doesn’t. We do talk about it sometimes but in the same way you might ask a foreigner what their national dish is rather than asking someone how they could possibly support Donald Trump. Most of the Christians and Muslims I know are very nice. If only all religious discussions could go that way, no one offended, no one affected.

          Personally, I don’t mind what you do on Sundays or which animals you choose not to eat but the moment religious organisations try to infringe on the way other people live their lives, then I have a problem. A man in Russia (which may seem far away to you but is on my doorstep) has spent the last month in a psychiatric ward and is about to be charged for breaking, what is essentially a blasphemy law. In Europe!! The conversation we are having would be illegal if I lived not too far to the East or the South in fact. The Christian opposition to gay marriage in developed countries terrifies me, with the only real objection being “because God”. The reason I post on Bible Science Guy’s blog is for similar reasons – using the bible to convince people that the Earth was created 6,000 years old sounds harmless enough until you realise that it shapes people’s thinking on climate change, stem-cell research, animal rights, vaccinations, gay rights etc etc etc. That is why I jumped in to point out the error in BSG’s maths when he tried to calculate the population of the Earth at the time of the flood using modern-day population growth. This is not a religious question but one of simple logic.

          None of the above is relevant to why I posted below this article. I’m not sure what Jack’s positions are on science. I simply responded because the article addressed atheists, of which I am one. I think in particular I was responding to the BSG’s questions below the article though – that points out that Christians will go to heaven and atheists to Hell. I just wanted to highlight that it’s not just atheists but billions of followers other religions.

          Considering your belief in God and heaven, I do understand the reason you would want to tell everyone what they are missing out on. I imagine it must hurt knowing that some of the ones you love are in hell right now (actually I can’t imagine how that would feel, I feel sad and miss people after they die but accept it could be no other way. Believing in hell must make that unbearable). So yes I understand your motivation but as an unbeliever, if I had family members pestering me constantly about the afterlife, I would also grow to hate the god I don’t believe in. Perhaps that is why your mother felt that way and tried to convince you otherwise. Perhaps she resented god for putting you in a position where you chose, what she considered an imaginary, powerless phantom, over her. If one of your children married a Muslim and converted, you would perhaps learn to hate Allah even if you didn’t believe in the god portrayed in the Koran.

          I don’t hate any gods, I don’t even slightly believe in any of them. But I do dislike what religion sometimes makes people do to others. I won’t approach people on the street to turn them away from god and most harmless people I’ll leave to their own devices. But I will respond when someone starts talking about my afterlife in hell or spreading obviously false scientific information.

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        • Thank you for taking the time to answer me. My father was a 33rd degree mason and my mother was an intellectual. They both believed that they were god. They allowed me to go to church with neighbors, primarily to get rid of me for a few hours. I got saved at 11 at a 2 week summer camp. I had no one that I could even talk to about it. We moved. I was always moving. I have lived in 5 states, 19 cities and 35 homes. I am used to not having “roots”.
          I am 74 now and the people I loved are dead- my husband, both children, father, mother, brother and almost all of my friends.
          When I was 17 a teacher introduced me to philosophy and I studied philosophy until I was 50. My mother was a big influence and was always despising god and I really did want her approval. My dad was more of a positive thinking, motivational kind of a man and did not give me the grief she did.
          I even took courses like EST training etc. but nothing actually went anywhere in changing my life. I was successful for 25 years in CA, a leader in business and actually still own and run my own business in NC. All of it fell short of what I was looking for.
          In 1991, my daughter, who was diabetic got very sick, my husband of 26 years that I thought was straight, left me for a gay man in 1984, and I was in an abusive relationship after that in 1991. My dad died in 1990 and my mother asked me to come back to NC and bring my daughter and live with her. She had never cared anything about what happened to me and I really wanted to find out if all the things I had learned about dealing with people had helped me.
          I came back to NC in Dec 1991. I was crying for the 13 hour trip back. On the way, I promised God that I would read the Bible and assume it was correct and if I could not understand why he did what he did, then I would assume it was my inability to understand and not his error. It changed my life. My daughter died in Dec. 1992, My son came in 1999 and he died in 2004, my younger brother died in 2007, my mother died in 2011 and my business partner of 7 years died 5 months later in 2012.
          I have spent my time here since Dec 1991 learning about God. I did not want to argue or even discuss Him with them because I was not on firm ground. I was learning. The more I knew and understood, the more I loved and respected Him. I did not want to say anything to them that would drive them further away from Him and so I really tried to stay out of those kinds of conversations with them. They would bring it up to argue with me. It broke my heart and my heart was constantly being broken. In Scripture, God says He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Mine surely was and I was subject to the horror of both of my children dying and my family spitting in my face while it was happening to me. Not one of them put their arms around me and said they were sorry for what happened to me. Of all of the losses I have had, my children were the most painful.
          Before my Mom had her stroke, she said to me, “you think I am going to hell because I don’t believe in God.” I did not respond. I had not said that to her. I was not trying to torment her in any way. I could not say that I did not think she would go to hell. I read somewhere that a man who did not believe in God said that if I believed he would go to hell when he died, then why wouldn’t I do everything I could to keep that from happening to him. That was the thought in my mind when my Mom said that. She was extremely intelligent and so was my Dad. I really don’t understand why they did not really believe in God, but they did not. When my Dad died, I went through his things and he had his 33rd degree book on masonry and a Koran. He was supposedly a nominal Christian. A Koran is not Christian. It broke my heart again, but I was getting used to it by now. I got rid of all of his masonic crap and felt better when it was out of the house.
          I can tell you that since I committed to God and learned to know Him better, that I have never felt so loved and understood in my life. He never wanted to hurt any of us. His offer was always to love us, provide for us and take care of us. We are the ones who killed Him and said we would rather do it ourselves because He did not meet our standards of what a loving God would do.
          I think He put me through all of that so that I could see that no matter what I did, no matter how much I loved someone, no matter how much I wanted to protect them, I did not love them more than He does and if He could not save them, then I could not. It is a hard thing to know that no matter how much you love someone, you cannot save them from themselves.
          I am fine now. My brokenness has healed. He has opened up whole new areas of my life that could not have been available to me.
          I understand that going forward means letting go of that which is behind. I am in a totally new understanding of who I am and where I am going.
          At 74, I have a whole new life in front of me and I am excited and looking forward to finding out what all of this preparation will bring forth.
          I am Protestant, but I can’t go to church because I take God way too seriously and that scares people.
          Thanks again for trying to explain how you feel about it. It hurt me so much that I could not help them. I needed to try to understand and I can’t ask them anymore.

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        • It truly sounds like you have had some tragic times, I am so sorry to hear. I don’t think there is terribly much I can say besides that you shouldn’t blame yourself in any way for not managing to convince your parents about Jesus (I guess that’s what you mean by not being able to help them). If they were anything like me, trying to convince me that god exists, that Jesus was divine and that there is an afterlife would be almost impossible. I’ve spent plenty of time researching the bible and Christianity and just can’t imagine anything that would change my mind short of seeing Jesus himself on the road to Damascus. Not because I won’t listen but I just haven’t seen anything even slightly convincing up until this point. Everything I see points in the opposite direction. If I do find myself in hell after I die, I certainly won’t be blaming any human for not making a convincing argument about the message of Jesus. Even Paul and Thomas were not convinced without seeing Jesus in the “flesh”. If I end up in Muslim hell, I’ll blame myself for not even trying to find their way.

          Also, regarding the Koran, I wouldn’t assume your father had any Muslim leanings just because he had the book. I plan to buy a Koran at some point for the sake of flicking through it but am in no way Muslim. Perhaps your father was just interested, especially if he was so intelligent and probably inquisitive about everything. I don’t claim to know his situation though.

          I’m glad to hear that you have healed and wouldn’t argue that believing in god in these situations can certainly help some people. I’m happy it has helped you.

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        • Jack, I agree that trying to convince you “that God exists, that Jesus was divine and that there is an afterlife would be almost impossible.” However, I’m curious about something that may convince you. Have you ever read the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – in their entirety? Even if you have, I urge you to read them again – with a thoughtful, open mind. Read them as historical documents giving four different contemporary perspectives on Jesus of Nazareth. After you do this, I’d be interested to know what you think of the man Jesus. How do you account for Him? How do you explain His miracles? How do you explain the Resurrection accounts?

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        • Jack,
          I have enjoyed our discussions. If you respect anything I have said to you at all, then please, please, please listen to the first 20 minutes of this and see if it touches your heart as it does mine.

          I am listening to it again because of you and it restores my soul. If you despise it, then I have just wasted 20 more minutes of your life. Forgive me.
          Thank you so much for your time and consideration
          Elizabeth

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        • Thank you for your answer. I think you are sincerely looking for God. I spent a very long time in that search and most of what I found was just disappointing and confusing. It seemed that everything I studied went nowhere. I was reading the Bible again and finding a lot of Scripture that was really helping me grow but the confusion remained. I am Protestant in the sense that I am not Catholic, but all of the churches I have attended ignore Jesus. They teach in direct contradiction to His words. I read a lot of theology and found the same problem.

          When Mom died, I was all alone. For the first time in my life, I considered getting a gun. I actually got the permits and training. I thought a lot about it and realized that if I had a gun, I would be afraid. I would look to the gun for protection instead of looking to God. I was 70 and God has protected me all of my life and if He can’t protect me, then I can’t protect myself. That was the most in depth I have gone into the idea of self-defense.

          If you read the words of Jesus, he says to Resist Not Evil. Read the 4 Gospels and Acts to the point of His ascension. It is fascinating once you get past the lies we have all been told. I consider myself a Sermon on the Mount Christian. The churches all say that those are nice thoughts, but no one can live that way in this world and so we should just ignore what Jesus said.

          Jesus is entirely about truth and love. The world cannot be changed by murdering each other. Jesus is all about changing the world with truth and love. I know you would like that. I think that before you can actually see who Jesus is, you have to get rid of pretty much everything you have been taught by all of the people who are trying to make God in their own image.

          In 2014, I found “What I Believe” by Tolstoy and saw that I was not the only one that noticed the disparity between religion and believing God. The book is free on line and here is a link to the audio version.

          I think you would really enjoy it.

          Jesus Christ changed everything. The change was so important that the calendars were changed dating from His birth.

          The standards you are expressing such as wanting everyone to be saved from the miseries of life and death are directly from Jesus. He actually came to offer that very thing. Since He died and rose again, we are gradually making some progress in that direction. The ideas are entrenched in many of us now and they are spreading more and more. Jesus actually laid down His life for us. He told us to follow His example but people are too afraid to trust Him. If you are going to follow Him, you actually have to step out in faith and find out what happens.

          Most Christians are upset by me because I trust Him so much. I don’t defend myself because He protects me, I don’t go to doctors because He heals me, He provides for me, He teaches me. They worry about me and I understand that they mean well, but I just tell them that they can put on my tombstone, “She trusted God too much”. The worst case scenario is that I get to go home and I know that I need to learn to trust Him even more.

          I am still working on “Be careful for nothing.”, “Take no thought for the morrow.” and “Fear not.” Most of the time I can do that pretty well, but I still get caught up in things and have to turn myself back over to Him and relinquish control. I really have never had a day when I knew I would be alive tomorrow, so why I think I can control things is sort of silly. He says, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” I pray and remember to ask. He knows everything so He knows what I need. The asking seems to be more of an aid for me to recognize His working in my life.

          The control that I have in my life is to trust Him, exercise patience, bridle my tongue, don’t resist evil, forgive so I can be forgiven, don’t hurt others and always search for truth and love in every situation so that I can be salt and light in a very dark and corrupt world.

          When my brother apologized to me before he died, he said, “I watched you and no matter how you were mistreated, you always did the right thing.” That to me was a high compliment.
          .

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        • I don’t want to try to convince you that the bible is not true but there’s probably not much chance of that anyway if even your church friends think you take it too seriously. But I’ll give you my perspective seeing as you asked.

          I have read the gospels, in order and side by side. Some of the sayings attributed to Jesus are very nice and a wonderful model to live life by. The trouble I have is not believing Jesus existed or that he tried to make positive changes to Judaism. But finding evidence that he was divine and was resurrected is where I struggle. I would need to believe that Yahweh would for thousands of years protect the Israelites, defeat their enemies, reveal his law to them and call them his chosen people. He then decides to walk amongst his people, the creator of the universe, for thirty-plus years, performing his greatest miracles to convince them that he is Yahweh, come to update the law. The Jews shrug their shoulders, unconvinced, then forget about him once he is gone. David Koresh probably had as many followers. Yahweh instead of coming back to do a better job, appears to Paul, leaving the Jews to pogroms and the Holocaust. Either the miracles were unconvincing or they probably didn’t happen. Stories of healings are common today in all cultures. Why Jesus’ ones are more special than those seen today, I don’t know. The virgin birth stories only appear in two of the gospels and even they don’t seem to agree with each other. They try too hard to fulfill the prophecies. Again, virgin birth stories are not uncommon for deity legends. The resurrection stories all conflict with each other. Besides, it seems that resurrections were not particularly uncommon at the time – Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, all of the saints – I don’t see how resurrection is proof of divinity. There are miracles in the Koran and Book of Mormon attested to by many but I don’t believe them either and I would guess you also don’t. It seems more likely that Jesus tried to reform Judaism and a legend built up around him.

          Don’t worry about trying to defend any of the above, that’s not why I wrote it. I’ve read plenty of explanations but just wasn’t convinced. I understand that we view the bible from two different perspective – I start by assuming miracles don’t happen unless there is proof, you have assumed that the bible is true. If the bible has given you strength in hard times, then who am I to tell you it’s not true. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the only trouble I have with religion is when it interferes with other people’s lives. I get the feeling you are not one to force your religion on others so I have no anger towards you.

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        • I don’t have any church other than talking with someone like you sometimes.

          I actually believe God and that is hard for people to understand. They say that they trust him for their eternal life, but they don’t trust him for a minute here. Most of the Christians I have known, even the leaders always turn to the world for a solution to their problems. I turn to God first, and so far He has managed to handle things in ways I could not have expected or imagined.

          I believe in Creation and I believe that I am a miracle and I live in a miracle.

          I like talking with you. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind. It is hard enough to change my own. I talk to clarify my own thinking and to find the weaknesses in it. If you raise a doubt in my mind, I study it and ask God to show me and He really can do that. When I get through the process, I am standing on firm ground. I look for the truth and once I find it, it stands the test of examination. If I can still break it into conflicting thoughts, then I know I have not found it in that area yet. To me, it is about integrity. If I talk the talk; I must walk the walk.

          If I think I am upsetting someone, I don’t continue the conversation. Cognitive dissonance is very difficult for people, and there is no point in continuing the conversation because they will harden their heart. The fact that I upset someone means that a seed was planted, and I need to just walk away and let it grow. Someday they may be able to deal with it.

          I am separated from most everyone now. Christ says to come out of the world, but the fact is, the more you believe God, the more the world rejects you. The world rejected Jesus and the closer I walk with Him the more I am rejected. I am never lonely but I spend a lot of time in solitude and silence. The silence with Him is dynamic, and I want to pay attention to the process and not be distracted by meaningless trivia.

          The Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the only way the Jews can be forgiven is to turn to Jesus and repent. Repent actually means to change your mind. Christianity is not some sort of continuation of a Jewish religion. It is the antithesis of it.

          Jesus turned the world upside down. That is why the calendar was changed.

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    • Hi Elizabeth, I’m four hours into the Tolstoy reading. I’m enjoying it and I’ll finish it over the next few days. So far it’s fine from an atheistic perspective as it talks about what Jesus said about living and hasn’t yet touched on anything supernatural and barely mentioned Paul (which usually makes me switch off). I can see why some of Tolstoy’s views might upset some mainstream and in fact fringe Christians but it does appear to my uneducated mind that it is a more pure interpretation of the gospels. I would argue that some of what he proposes is unrealistically idealistic but a good aspirational target. His suggestion that we should dismantle the justice system couldn’t work today but working towards it makes sense – abolishing the death penalty, focusing more on prevention and rehabilitation rather than the current system in the US that ignores the contributing factors to crime then imprisons and executes an inhumane number of people. I have always found it odd that the most vocal Christians in the US are Republicans when Jesus would have been a socialist like Tolstoy. I guess that is opening up political arguments that probably I shouldn’t start!

      The trouble I face though is that as nice as Jesus’ teachings are, if I ignore the resurrection and promise of eternal life or interpret both metaphorically then Jesus is no different to any other philosopher, which of course is not the Christian belief. Unfortunately I’m naturally skeptical and require evidence before I can believe something like this.

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      • Jesus is not a philosopher. He is telling us how things were created to work. I studied philosophy and history for around 30 years and I still study history and theology.

        When I was in my 20’s, I kept being drawn to Jesus words and they do not mesh with any of the things we are taught. I used to say, you can’t be good unless you are good for nothing. I was not doing it for eternal life or to stay out of hell.

        The saddest thing was that many times when I thought I was doing good, I wasn’t.

        When I was 30, I chose one of Jesus precepts ” When someone tells you to walk a mile, walk two.” I thought it was a very odd thing to do, but I started doing it. It caused amazing changes. If I am working for someone and they give me a job description, I simply do that and then do more. I help other people, I learn other things and I found that as I did that, instead of being their slave, I became my own master. I was frequently promoted and got a great education while I was being paid. I did the job long before I was promoted and paid for the extra knowledge and work. People would say, you don’t have to do that, they don’t pay you for that and they will never appreciate it. When I would get promoted and get raises, those same people would say, “You are so lucky.”

        I stopped resisting evil and that was amazing. I would just be silently passive and when they would run down after getting no reaction, they would usually just walk away or apologize.

        If someone took things away from me or stole things, I just forgave them and let it go. I found that the Lord would give me better things. There is nothing anyone can take from me that God cannot restore to me.

        If I didn’t judge people, I discovered that many people I would never have spoken to before turned out to be wonderful people.

        I learned to love my enemies and to forgive the people who despitefully used me. I learned to return good for evil.

        I learned to let the Lord Jesus defend me instead of trying to defend myself. I am totally safe with Him.

        I learned that when I loan money, I consider it a gift and just let it go.

        When I don’t need things anymore, instead of having a yard sale, I simply give it away and in the long run, I always get better things.

        I have literally given away my last dollar and He has managed to provide for me. I have never been hungry or had no place to sleep. I have depended on Him and not on other people. Most of my life, I have supported other people. I can only do that because He supports me.

        I am 74 now and there have been so many unexpected blessings. People who had been hateful to me would come back years later and apologize for things I had forgiven and forgotten. Some would show up and hand me money and I would look confused and they would say it was money I had loaned them years ago and had completely forgotten about. I thought it was interesting that they had not forgotten and apparently felt the need to make it right.

        Jesus is not really telling us supernatural things that cannot work. He is telling us how things actually work.

        I don’t know if you are familiar with the parable of the vineyard.
        Matthew 21:33-46 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

        33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

        God set the world up to work His way. When people insisted on doing it their way, He sent teachers, then He sent Jesus and they killed Him.

        God owns everything. There is nothing at all that you can give Him or do for Him except obey His rules and help others do the same, by setting an example.

        Tolstoy taught Gandhi about non-violence. He also has another book called “The Kingdom of God is Within You” which is excellent.

        Tolstoy is the only person that I have found that actually tried to live by the rules Jesus taught.

        I read St. John Chrysostom. He wrote in the late 300’s AD and I got a lot out of it, but Tolstoy took things to the next level for me and validated what I have been practicing for a long time now. I found Tolstoy in late 2014.

        Tolstoy says we can’t really know what His world will look like and we will have to learn as we go. I agree with that. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been totally surprised by the results of doing things His way.

        Somehow, I thought Tolstoy might strike a chord with you. He certainly did with me. Enjoy!

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  3. Mr. Atheist, if you want a mango tree in your garden. Do you wait for the evolution to take it’s time to form a tree in your garden? Do you not plant a tree?
    So stop the crappy evolution thing and believe in God and He will reveal to you his secrets. (Jeremiah 33:3)

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  4. Jack,
    Throwing rocks, old ladies, and anger at God: “Methinks thou doth protest too much…” No, no one is getting stoned, though I live in Colorado where it is exceedingly easier since legalization. Throwing stones in my context is hanging off at a distance, never truly engaging with ideas on the table, merely contenting oneself with long distance tosses of invective, and thereby preserving one’s sense of moral and intellectual superiority. I have explained numerous concepts in multiple ways but have yet to detect any engagement on your part other than picking out surface meanings of deep concepts that you then malign. I hope this makes you feel smart. I am just sad for you. Your mind seems thoroughly fixed; I hope God breaks through to you.

    And you don’t want to trouble old ladies about heaven, though you seem to revel in doing just that. Elizabeth’s questions were spot on. Why do you even bother? If I became persuaded that there was no God, I would be off on adventure – eat, drink, and be merry, and all that. Why bother with the poor deluded ones? And yet, here you are – but it’s not cruel or a waste of time…

    “I’m not mad at God any more than you are angry at Vishnu.” I am somewhat ambivalent concerning Vishnu who is either completely made up or perhaps a demon fooling many, sadly. You have accused God of torture, illogic, immorality, and falsehood (rejecting his self-disclosure as untrue). I haven’t checked your other posts for additional anti-God pejoratives. Not mad?

    It is not my intention to bring up conflicting ideas. Could it be that your cherry-picking of ideas for derision is the source of the conflict? God’s rules written on our hearts – heard of conscience? Of course, chapter and verse are not written, but the basics are there in every human heart. This is hardly debatable; people everywhere have moral sentiments. In fact if someone does not have a conscience, we consider them defective, a psychopath. The details vary slightly but the basics are there – no murder, rape, theft, etc. A full blown morality requires revelation, which God progressively provided.

    It is not the case that people have no knowledge of God. Consider this passage from Romans chapter 1, verses 18-20. I mentioned this previously in terms of “God giving them up” or letting people do as they please.

    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    God is giving people up to do as they please with the objective of their coming to their senses before it is too late, before “Thy will be done,” that is, before they get their wish to be free of God forever. In what has been made – the world, the universe, life – God has made it plain, has clearly revealed his power and divine nature, but in wickedness men have suppressed that truth and end up without excuse. Sadly on judgment day, everyone who rejected God will admit that, yes, they did know He was there. There will be no one who “had no knowledge.”

    You seem to be an advocate for evolution. Evolution to me is a perfect example of truth suppression. I have been studying this issue for nearly forty years and am convinced on scientific grounds (philosophic too) that macroevolution is nonsense. The more that is learned the worse it gets, and the worse it gets the louder its advocates scream that it is a FACT! (Protest too much…) Over thirty-years ago Australian microbiologist (and non-theist) Michael Denton wrote, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, a complete dismantling of the evolutionary paradigm. I recall, as I was reading through it, thinking, “What is he going to say at the end, we give up”? No, the last chapter is titled, “The Priority of the Paradigm.” The upshot is that scientific theories endure until something better comes along. Trouble is, the “better” involves divine action, which is unthinkable – or, call it “truth suppression.”

    Similarly, Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box was vigorously opposed and maligned. Yet less than a year ago I heard Behe outline the attacks on the book, the worst concerning the blood clotting cascade. Much had been made of researchers eliminating a step in the cascade with no apparent harm to the mice they manipulated. This was thought to undermine Behe’s central argument of irreducible complexity. Turns out that opponents completely misread or misreported the findings of the world’s top expert on blood clotting. The expert admitted that the “step-elimination” experiment had failed. Upshot: Behe’s book has stood against vigorous attempts at rebuttal for nearly twenty years and none have succeeded. And yet the suppression continues…

    I anticipate that you will go bonkers over evolutionary denials but consider this. I wrote of this in my original post – if materialism/naturalism and evolution are presumed true, it is positively irrational to believe anything. So your thoughts (activity of brain chemicals?) about God, morality, fairness, butterflies, or anything else are perhaps interesting but nothing more. C.S. Lewis wrote wonderfully of this in The Weight of Glory, the chapter titled “Is Theology Poetry?”

    If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance that the sound of the wind in the trees.

    In that original post I attributed the argument to Plantinga, though Lewis came before him. The only semi-viable objection to this argument that I have encountered claims that the success of modern science gives us confidence in the deliberations of our brains. But this argument falters because philosophy is logically prior to science so that if science encounters something inexplicable within its paradigm, it must default back to the philosophy behind it. According to the naturalist/evolutionary paradigm, our brains are optimized for survival and reproduction. As such there is no reason to suspect that brains are any good at all evaluating propositional truth, including beliefs in evolution or naturalism. The fact that we do discover truths that can build on other truths to form theories and such does not fit within naturalism/evolution and ought (ought!) cause us to rethink our assumptions. Our ability to discover and build up knowledge points to something beyond mere naturalism/evolution (N/E). The “beyond” is a God who designed us with the ability to apprehend, however incompletely, truth about the world and ourselves. Clinging to N/E ought to be seen as irrational – suppression at its finest. (Romans 1).

    Can evolution fairly easily explain morality, as you say? First though, let’s dispense with the Sabbath-keeping and graven images. Of course that is not the data that is written on every human heart. As I said above, God revealed additional rules as His plan unfolded. If you look at the Ten Commandments, they can easily be distilled into love God, honor mom and dad, and do right by others. Over a thousand years after Moses received the big 10, Jesus summarized them by love God and love men, the loving men part being exactly the Golden Rule you claim to follow. These are all principles that everyone knows: there is a creator who merits and requires our allegiance and we are to treat our fellow image-bearers as we would like to be treated. But we don’t care to do this; we want things our own way, so we suppress the evidence about God. God will allow this but you won’t like the result.

    Even if it was the case that mankind could be said to have apprehended morality through an evolutionary process, this is very problematic. Without a law-giver, morality can never be anything more than subjective. That being the case, why am I obligated to obey my genes? Evolutionary psychology has made many interesting flights of fancy but where is the proof? Geneticist H. Allen Orr wrote, “The ugly fact is that we haven’t a shred of evidence that morality in humans did or did not evolve by natural selection…in the end, a thought experiment is not an experiment. We have no data.” A great example of the difficulty came with the publication of the book, The Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. The two authors made the claim that rape is not a pathology, biologically speaking. One of the authors, appearing on NPR, was deluged with angry calls. He insisted to the callers, “the logic is inescapable. If evolution is true, then ‘every feature of every living thing, including human beings, has an underlying evolutionary background. That’s not a debatable matter.’” On another NPR show the author was confronted by feminist Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Wills. She was somewhat in disagreement… But why would anyone object to “inescapable logic” unless a more deeply felt morality was at work? Brownmiller no doubt bought into the evolutionary paradigm (doesn’t everyone?), but somehow she knew it was wrong about this. As for your “the majority act for the greater good,” who decides? Majorities have been tragically wrong before. If majorities are to rule, what do we do with moral reformers, who seem to merit our approval while defying the majority? Morality is a tough nut; you need to read more. Evolution is not going to get you there.

    Pre-Columbian Americans (PCA) and missionaries: It is so obvious that you have made no attempt to understand the argument. You just want to throw rocks. It is not just the PCAs who deserve Hell, it is everyone, clear? Why would missionaries go to the end of the earth to “seek and save what was lost”? Because we don’t get The Roster of who will believe and who will not! Another “What If” – What if God in his sovereignty and omniscience knows and directs affairs such that certain of his followers are inspired to travel to particular areas and peoples in order to bring them the gospel? To whom are the missionaries sent? To those who God knows will respond. God gets his followers to anyone, anywhere who will respond if given the gospel. Everybody else, though they might indeed be given the gospel, are not open to it. That is, some people (including one must suppose PCAs) never hear the gospel, but it wouldn’t have mattered to them anyway. There is a wonderful story about five young men who were seeking contact with what they called Auca indians in Peru in 1956. They are now referred to as the Huoarani or Waodani. These people slaughtered the five young men on a sandbar near their village. The men did not resist though several of them were armed. A few months later one man’s widow returned to her husband’s murderers and lived among them. After some years many of the Waodani became Christian believers. When the missionaries were teaching them about hymns, they were surprised and said, “Oh! That’s what those men in white were singing in the treetops the day we killed your men.” Anyone, anywhere…

    Falsehoods in your paragraph: God created a population of people that He simply couldn’t make heaven-worthy, there’s no freewill, whatever you do is meaningless as it’s all preordained. It is not the case that God can just “make” people heaven-worthy, apart from their surrender to Him – He made them free. The plan is absolutely dependent on free will, God expects people to make a decision to surrender from their rebellion. What we do is meaningful – for eternity, in a way that humans cannot entirely apprehend, we are allowed to choose freely and yet God works all things according to His own will. (I can only imagine what you will say about that…)

    And finally, I did not blame people for living near the coast. But then, who is to blame? Is God to blame for them living there? Is God supposed to issue fair warning? Oh wait, He did – this is not the first nor the last earthquake/tsunami. And yet we still live and build in earthquake and flood zones. Perhaps the message is that life is fragile and one is wise who seeks peace with his Maker while there is still time. Someday (soon!) you may get your own way and then not like it.

    I will finish Jack with a few thoughts based on your most recent post to Elizabeth. You seem quite perplexed, quite offended by a number issues, particularly when people “infringe on the way other people live their lives.” Then there’s blasphemy laws, gay marriage, climate change, stem-cell research, animal rights, etc. If you are to be consistent as an atheist, you ought to acknowledge that all of your concerns are simply your own opinions and nothing more. No one, unless they care to, need pay them any attention. And yet I think you think there is more to your views than just that. But your worldview has nowhere to anchor those views. If there is no God, we are just accidents of space and time, destined for the grave. Nothing any of us does will make one whit of difference. The Titanic is sinking; it doesn’t matter if you go down hugging or mugging. If atheism is true, it doesn’t matter if people infringe on the way other people live their lives – might makes right! But you and I both know that is not true. I know why and so do you, but you won’t admit it. Perhaps your years of obstinance have made you so that you are unable to admit it. And I am sad.
    Rick

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  5. Jack,
    I just listened to a Tim Keller message titled, “The New Heaven and New Earth.” It is a direct counter to your DarkMatter2525 video that I watched for you. Give it a look – there’s more to heaven and earth than dreamed of in your philosophy.
    Blessings, Rick

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    • Thanks Rick, I’ll have a listen to the Keller message. I may need to get back to you in a couple of days – we have broached the whole gamut of topics here!

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  6. Jesus never claimed to be God and the Bible is very clear about him not being God, but being a son of man and the son of God.

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    • The claim: Jesus never claimed to be God and the Bible is very clear about him not being God, but being a son of man and the son of God.

      From your blog I see that you are Christadelphian, brothers of Christ. Seems very similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses. As such, you have a well developed, though poorly supported, theology, and it is not likely that you will be easily moved. The comments that follow are more for the sake of any others who might see your comment. The claim is sadly mistaken and unsupported by Scripture, as we will see. Can you be a brother of Christ while denying His essential nature?

      Let’s take this piece by piece…

      Jesus never claimed to be God + son of man + son of God:
      John 8:58-59 – “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (Here we have Jesus taking the same Name given in Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself to Moses. “I am” – the eternally existing One. This is surely a claim to deity and was evident to the Jews present who picked up stones. Why pick up stones? To punish blasphemy, a mere man claiming to be God. Unless He is God…)

      Son of Man – This term (the Son of man) is used eighty-four times in the four gospels but only by Jesus and only to speak of Himself. It is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Acts 7:56 where Stephen refers to Christ as the Son of Man. What was Jesus trying to say? This term has its background in the vision in Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Here we have one “coming with the clouds of heaven…given authority, glory and sovereign power…all peoples…worshipped him…His dominion is an everlasting dominion.” This someone is of heavenly origin, given eternal rule over the whole world. He is also worshipped, but wait, only God is to be worshipped! (Just one example: Rev 22:8-9: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow slave with you, your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’”) When Jesus applied this term to Himself at His trial (Matthew 26:64), He sealed His fate with the Jews, who immediately concluded the trial due to His (apparent) blasphemy. He didn’t claim to be any old “son of man” but “the Son of Man”. He claimed to be God; they put him to death. If Jesus did not make numerous claims to be God, why would the Jews have plotted to kill Him?

      Son of God – While “son of God” can be generally applied, there are instances where more is claimed for the term. Matthew 11:27 – “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” It seems like Jesus meant a little more than a general application here, more of a special relationship as Son. Similarly goes Matthew 17:5 – “While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!” Not just any old “son of God” indicated here.

      Jesus exercised divine prerogatives such as forgiving sin. In Mark 2:5-11 Jesus forgave a man’s sins. When challenged (“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”), He responded by healing the paralyzed man and said, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” If only God can forgive sins, it would appear that the Son of Man is actually God. If you read the passage you will also notice that Jesus knew their thoughts – omniscience? Another attribute possessed only by God.

      Old Testament prophets declared, “Thus says the LORD.” But Jesus frequently said, “But I say to you.” (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44) Jesus spoke with the authority of God because He is God.

      I could pursue several other lines of reasoning about Jesus’ claims for Himself, but these few at least ought to cause someone to question the underlined claim above.

      The Bible is very clear about him not being God:
      Prophetic:
      Immediately following the sin of Adam and Eve, God addressed the serpent:
      Genesis 3:15 – “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” The Bible pretty consistently refers to the “seed of man/men.” What does “her seed” mean? Could this be the first hint of a virgin birth, of a special person? I think so.

      Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” Care to guess the percentage of the population of Earth who know that “Immanuel” means “God with us”? Who then is Jesus?

      An aside from NT times: The gospel writers picked up on this in Matthew 1:20-23 – “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.’” Seems like Matthew knew Jesus’ identity as God. But there is more here – He is to be named Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. “Jesus” is the Greek form of “Joshua” which means “the LORD (or Jehovah or YHWH) saves.” Let’s reword things then: “he is to be named “YHWH saves” because he will save his people from their sins.” The LORD saves; Jesus saves – who is Jesus?

      Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” If this is not a foretelling of Jesus, of whom does it speak? Child, son – and then Mighty God, Everlasting Father – if this “Mighty God” is not Jesus, for whom are you waiting?

      Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins (Hebrew: goings out) are from of old, from ancient times (Hebrew: from days of eternity).” Here we have born in Bethlehem one whose “goings out” are “from days of eternity.” Who but God has “days from eternity”?

      This is but a small sampling of the prophetic material concerning Immanuel but unmistakably shows His identity, if one has eyes to see.

      New Testament times:
      John 1:1-3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Echoing the opening words of Genesis, John makes clear that he is talking about something that was true before the world was made. Jehovah’s Witnesses (and can I presume Christadelphians too?) claim that verse one should end, “and the Word was a god.” This interpretation is followed by no Greek scholar anywhere. A JW argument about this issue acknowledged that standard Greek rules should apply here but that the context should decide between “Word was God” and “Word was a god.” But then instead of arguing from the context, the JW piece argues for “a god” by stating their conclusion “the testimony of the entire Bible is that Jesus is not Almighty God.” This is known as “question begging” – presuming your conclusion to make your conclusion. And, as we have already seen, the testimony of the Bible does not support this view. (See Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, pages 233-235)

      John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of this Word, we have this verse. Can it be any other than Jesus? Can anyone other than God have the “glory of the One and Only”? And yet he is different from the Father, having come from Him.

      John 20:28-31 – “Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Notice Thomas’ proclamation – did Jesus tell him he was wrong in calling Him God? The context seems to indicate that Jesus, and John writing the gospel, approve of Thomas’ testimony. John follows this with his purpose for writing the gospel – he told these particular stories so that people would believe and have life in Jesus’ name. The gospel was written to persuade others to imitate Thomas in proclaiming Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

      Hebrews 1:1-3 – “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” “The exact representation of his being” – here is the issue of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The controversy came down to a single word: homoousios or one substance. Was Jesus of the same substance as the Father? Here in this passage we have that Jesus is the “exact representation of His being (Greek: substance).” Jesus is the exact representation of the substance of God. That is, everything that is true about the divine essence of the Father is true about the divine essence of the Son.
      But there is even more in Hebrews 1. You should read it.
      Verse 6 – “And again, when God brings His firstborn into the world, He says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” Only God is to be worshipped…
      Verses 8-9 – “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’” “About the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God.’” Can it be any clearer? “Therefore God, your God” – two persons with the identity of God? Seems so.

      As in the prophetic section, this is just a small though determinative selection of passages that show the divinity of Jesus.

      Final thoughts:

      When I examined the blog “Relating to God,” the title of the page was “All about love, not needing disasters.” The first line in the article said, “When we go looking for God we should realize that God is all about love.” Yet this obviously unitarian belief system suffers from a fatal flaw regarding God’s love. If God is a unitarian being and prior to creating, who does He love? Many aspects of love require community, yet this god, apart from creation, is all alone. (This aloneness also (just as fatally) affects the Islamic conception of God.) As a result, love cannot be an essential element of His character. He can only fully express love in relation to creation, making Him dependent upon it. The Trinitarian God, as revealed in salvation history and Scripture, is a community – one essence, three Persons. This community eternally exists in a loving and other-centered state. This God can be and is Love. This God can actually love, apart from creation. The Trinity is a solution, not a problem.

      Christadelphianism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and others all arose in the early decades of the 19th century when some in the religious community caught the fever that rose out of the American revolution. The rise of democracy was thought to be a “new order of the ages.” Why not apply the same principles to the church, throwing off the forms and practices that had developed in the church over the ages and return to the “primitive church”? This entailed denouncing creeds, confessions, ceremonies, and ecclesiastical structures as “violations of Christian liberty that must be stripped away.” (Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey, pages 280-281) Out went the deliberations of councils such as Nicea and its affirmation Jesus being the same in divine substance as the Father. As Pearcey put it, “It was an approach doomed, almost by definition, to anti-intellectualism and theological shallowness.” And that is where they are – Jehovah’s Witnesses are forced to publish their own bibles to support their errant views, though no reputable scholars support their version. They have fallen for the Arian heresy of the third and fourth century – and don’t even know it. Their view must affirm, tacitly or not, that the Holy Spirit was not affecting theology throughout the centuries – a somewhat unthinkable notion. I can only imagine how, if they answer, they will twist the meanings of the verses offered above. But they will; they must – or their view collapses.

      Final note – the claim took a mere twenty-eight words, but the rebuttal consumed nearly one hundred times as many. Such is the nature of apologetics – it doesn’t take much to stir the pot, but unstirring does.

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      • “before Abraham was born, I am” is logical because it was long before Abraham was born that God decided to sent a Messiah to offer a solution for the fall of man. It was already in the Garden of Eden that Jesus was foreseen.
        You write that Jesus was taking the same Name given in Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself to Moses. “I am” – the eternally existing One, but here and at other occasions Jesus saying “I am” like still many say today “I am” does not denote that he or they are God, but just announce that he is that one spoken of. By saying such thing, a person sayin he is or “I am” that he is God makes you a god when somebody asks you if you are so and so! (Perhaps you would like that , but we are afraid it is not so.)
        You also take an element (the word and perhpas also wisdom) to be a person and as such you make the speaking of God to be the personalisation of Christ. The “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” is the speaking of God, as the promise given in the Garden of Eden, becoming a reality, Jeshua coming on earth as a man of flesh, bones and blood, to be seen by many. According to the Scriptures God is an eternal Spirit, who has no bones, flesh or blood and can not be seen by man.

        How do you explain Exodus 33.20:
        Exodus 33:20 (RNKJV)
        And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

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        • A response:
          John 4:23-24 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

          We have to see Jesus as He is. We have to speak the truth about Jesus. Do you ever get bothered by the word games you must play to support your view? Do you worry about the Day when you will stand before Jesus and have to admit that you denied Him? Seems like there are the folks who just take God at His Word and there are those who must twist and mistranslate the words because they cannot conceive how God could take flesh. Our abilities for conception of difficult notions does not limit the actions of God. After all of the arguments I offered, this is your retort?

          I am: Laying aside the prophecy of someday God being with us (Immanuel) and Micah 5:2 with one who’s “goings out” are from eternity, just consider the scene. Jesus made a claim; he said, “I am.” What was the reaction? If Jesus was merely answering an interrogatory (“Dude! Are you Jesus?” “I am.”), why did they try to stone him? You know why. He was making an extraordinary claim and the Jews were mightily offended. Does this not make you afraid? It is too clear to ignore. Why do you try to explain it away?

          You wrote: “You also take an element (the word and perhaps also wisdom) to be a person and as such you make the speaking of God to be the personalisation of Christ. The “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” is the speaking of God, as the promise given in the Garden of Eden, becoming a reality, Jeshua coming on earth as a man of flesh, bones and blood, to be seen by many.”

          So when Jeshua came as a man, that was not “God with us” as prophesied? Are you still waiting for someone else? In the Old Testament God promised to come and be with us, born of a virgin, Immanuel. If Jesus was not the fulfillment of that promise, what was He? You are trying to have it both ways – claiming the Messianic parts while denying the divinity. I would be very afraid.

          You asked: “How do you explain Exodus 33.20 (RNKJV):
          And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”

          Exodus 33:11, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” How do you explain this? It would seem that under certain conditions one can actually see the face of God and live. Moses survived it. When the second person of the Trinity took flesh, he did so in a manner that was survivable for those who looked on him.

          I have other things on my plate just now so you don’t get to enjoy provoking a hundred to one ratio of response to scurrilous stirring. Reread the previous post and stop nit-picking. The evidence for the divinity of Jesus is there for those with eyes to see. I pray He will open your eyes.

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