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January 25, 2014

Comments

It's come to this? "Role playing seminars" for arguing yuppies into the faith?

Why not train them to be freethinkers? Train them in how to examine ALL ideas equally rather than "providing students with the truth" pre-packaged and pre-argued. If the Christian world view is the truth then trust that they will discover this through critical thinking rather than training them to enter the marketplace of ideas with their answers already in place and their conclusions pre-determined. The objective is that they find the truth, not that they find the "correct" truth, right?

Critical thinking means allowing yourself and your students the possiblity that the opposing beliefs might be true.

Unless you're not so sure...

Claire, how can you teach people critical thinking skills without teaching them that certain rules of logic and inference are true?

Hi Sam, I agree completely. That is what I'm advocating: teaching students the rules of logic and inference so they can go out and apply them to the worldviews put in front of them. Not, as is put forward above under the title "Arm", providing them with a foregone conclusion and arguments to rebutt any and all alternatives.

That is just teaching them confirmation bias.

Claire,

I START with the opposing positions and encourage students to read all the books and articles written by skeptics. I think I own everything (or close to it). Then I respond to the arguments of the opposition one by one with the Christian perspective. I would never ISOLATE students. Logic is a critical and important part of this process, just like the importance of understanding the rules of evidence.

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/arming-christian-students-with-the-truth/

No, don't teach students to be "freethinkers."

Do teach them how to think logically, though.

Thanks for the response Jwarnerwallace. I applaud your encouraging the students to read all the books and articles written by skeptics. I'm not sure what you mean by owning everything (maybe a cultural language thing) but I wonder do you allow the possibility that the skeptics might be right and Christianity and/or Theism could be untrue? I know that for the more than 20 years that I spent studying apologetics from being one of those Christian youth to being a youth teacher that I did not and my fellow teachers did not. I considered myself quite radical encouraging the reading of dissenting opinion but always with careful control so that they would not be at risk of seeing any kind of plausibility in it.

I was indoctrinated and I in turn passed that indoctrination along.

I've read your series of articles and I come away with an impression that this is all based on the fear that Christian teenagers and young adults might be convinced of any other point of view if not carefully fed the "correct" interpretation of what they read and hear. Which makes sense since you believe that if they get it wrong they will literally burn in hell! With such a big stick it would seem that it is impossible to approach the search for the truth without presupposing the outcome.

Mike Westfall, when I say the word freethinker I mean someone who is free to think beyond the claims and beliefs of their peers or authority figures and so can question traditionally held beliefs in the search for truth. A skeptic, a question-asker. I have just done a little more research into the dictionary definitions of the word and I see that it has a more specific meaning against religion. That is not the definition I intended, I agree with your comment :)

Claire, it must have come as a surprise to learn that you were never a true believer. Coming to believe that you were some poor soul who was simply "indoctrinated" and could not stand up to the challenges of skeptics led you to swap sides--the very thing we're talking about here via the OP. The conviction of the Truth of Scripture must be the foundation before one can attempt to defend the faith. Being open to the idea one can be mistaken about that Truth is not open-minded, it's an oxymoron.

Scripture is replete with admonishments to lean the Truth and then train up others in it. Try reading Eph. 6:4, Prov. 22::6, 2 Tim. 3:14-15, 2 Tim. 4:3-4. Nowhere is there mention in Scripture to learn from it and then hold to a skeptical position.

The reason the young "Christians" are leaving their faith after going off to college, is because they have never been truly regenerated to start with. They were raised in a church where the modern gospel message has been preached and taught, if they have not truly repented and truly trusted Christ as "Lord" and Savior, they will always fall away once they get out in the "world" on their own. I have been a member of a church for the last 8 years that preaches expository type preaching, we do not have a "Children Church," nor a "Youth Pastor" the children attend the same service I attend with their parents. We have seven year children that will put most adults who have attended the topical preaching modern gospel church to shame when it comes to bible knowledge. In the last eight years we have had "many young adults" leave for college and the military service or marriage and as of to date they "all" are still walking with the Lord and actively serving in a church somewhere. When it takes two years for the pastor to preach verse by verse through the Gospel of John. These children are exposed to this kind of teaching twice on the Lord's Day and on Wednesday nights Bible Study every week, and they are catechized at home, as well as family devotions. Most come the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus at a very early age, and learn to live out their faith long before time for them to leave home.

Hi Carolyn, wow, those are quite some assumptions about me...a poor soul who was never a true believer (and not even a Scotsman either) who didn't have the ability to stand up to those skeptics so I "swapped sides". What was your objective when you wrote that comment to me? Maybe to make sure I knew my place? Not ever a real Christian so anything I say can be disregarded.

I wonder, do you think I was faking my belief all those years? Or was I deluded into believing I was a Christian in a relationship with God from when I was a small child all through my childhood, teenage years, twenties and thirties, when really it was all what? A mistake? On whose part? I didn't know it, my family didn't, my fellow bible students, my missionary partners, my pastor, my brothers and sisters (oops, they weren't really that at all?) in my congregation? So I and all those people thought I was a Christian among my family of the church and we all had a relationship with God together...except God knew I didn't really and one day, after 40 years of belief I was going to get that memo.

If this is true to your belief, that I went through so many years deluded and not actually belonging there at all, then I put it to you that you should look around the next time you are at church and realise that not a single person there can be sure of their status and neither can you. No matter how secure you might feel in your relationship with God, that you love to read his Word and you feel his presence and maybe you even hear his voice. You love him and you know that nothing can separate you from his love... well I thought that too.

@wmlegg...sounds just like my home congregation that I grew up in and attended up to last year. A lovely place full of wonderful dedicated people. I didn't leave because they did anything wrong, I left because Christianity turned out to have insufficient evidence for belief.

Hi Claire,

Nice response to the dangers of assumptions.

If you feel like sharing, I'd be interested in hearing where you found the evidence lacking for Christianity.

It may be off topic, but you can't end a post with a sentence like that and leave everyone hanging!!

Hi David, I'd be happy to share, I quite enjoy talking about it all still (old habits of a missionary die hard) but I'm afraid it might be too difficult for me to explain in this little comment box. I'd like to be able to tell the tale succinctly but there is no one thing, or even two or three things that are the definitive reasons why I no longer believe. I liken it to the death of a thousand paper cuts, there is no way to say well, A,B and C didn't make sense to me therefore I rejected it. I also must confess that I'm a bit wary that if I say it was this argument or that question then someone might feel obligated to try to answer it for me. I apologise if I've got that all wrong but please excuse me not wanting to go there in this venue.

Let me put it this way. For many years as a Christian I was concerned with finding arguments to back up our side, that's what brought me here to STR way back when. As I got older I could see that this was not honest and one morning last March I resolved that I should stop looking at the search for knowledge and truth as a battle of sides, them and us, and rather that I should try to find the best evidence and follow where it led.

Atheism followed quickly after that.

Hi, Claire,

It seems to me that my comments were not assumptions at all, but a summation of what you presented. You identified yourself as a skeptic ("freethinker" in your definition), who previously was indoctrinated and then methodically passed that indoctrination along. You differentiate between "truth and correct truth" which is, indeed an oxymoron. You claim that none of the Christians sitting in church can "be sure of their status" (i.e. the truth of their convictions about Christ) but clearly, that is not a Christian perspective at all! And now you tell us that all along you've been deceived because there simply isn't enough evidence for the truth of Scripture.

So my "assumptions" are actually spot on. We can all see that the things you've written are not the position of the true Believer in Christ. Did you not say you wound up believing you had been indoctrinated? Did you not say that you decided that Christianity couldn't compete with challenges against it and that you eventually joined those who have come to believe there is no basis in fact for Christianity? Did you not then go on to describe your many years in what you avowed to be the Christian life--and share with us the many "proofs" of it--i.e. raised as a Christian from the time you were a young child--that your parents and friends and people in your circle accepted you as a true Believer, that you spent forty years in that posture, etc.? None of those things, however, is a litmus test for Christianity. Did you not then suggest that I look around in church and realize that no one else can know Truth either, because you couldn't?? And are you not now saying you know it was all just indoctrination from the start, void of a basis in evidence?

Well, I call that NOT being a Believer--and I repeat that it must have come as shock to you to learn that you had spent so much time in delusion. I can't know what you were exposed to growing up, what kind of church you attended, what their tenets of the faith were, only you are in the know about those things. But don't lump all other Believers into the mold that you were in because that is just YOUR assumption!

Rigorous thinking is, of course, necessary to examine the Truths of Christianity! No one argues that. But a careful and committed Christian can take on all pointed questions against his faith and still come to the conclusion that Christianity is as true as it says it is, that the Truth is the Truth and can withstand all assaults against it. It is GOD who draws us, nurtures our faith, and empowers our thinking. That you found it lacking can never be the fault of God or the veracity of His Word.

If your mind has not been permanently closed against Christianity, (evidenced perhaps by the fact that you're posting here??), then let the lost forty years go and get the foundation and grounding you need to begin again.

You wrote to J. Warner Wallace and said:

"I've read your series of articles and I come away with an impression that this is all based on the fear that Christian teenagers and young adults might be convinced of any other point of view if not carefully fed the "correct" interpretation of what they read and hear. Which makes sense since you believe that if they get it wrong they will literally burn in hell! With such a big stick it would seem that it is impossible to approach the search for the truth without presupposing the outcome."

Christians Believers should never club people to death with the "Good News" of salvation. Paradoxically, it is not the fear of burning in hell that is the Good News, it is the relationship with God and the loving salvation He has provided that make us bow the knee to Him in unbounded thanks.

I hope you have the desire, deep in your heart, to unwind the past and weave a new future with Christ.

Carolyn

Claire,

No worries. You strike me as someone who has thought through and reflected on things over a period of time rather than made a spur of the moment decision, so I was not expecting a detailed account of where you are at now in your thinking, although it would have been food for thought.

I understand the reluctance to state some of the specifics as you'd have to expect a bunch of questions and suggestions coming your way. That was not my intention. I was hoping though to have some general areas to reflect on that were important to you in your journey.

Knowing now that you visited STR looking for answers to give more backing to your beliefs, I assume that you didn't find any of the arguments or reasoning ultimately compelling enough. Did you have doubts then about what you believed or were you confident in your beliefs but were finding it difficult to present a reasonable case to others? Or was it something else?

Also, I wasn't sure what you meant by "best evidence" but if you followed the evidence to where it lead, I guess I'm surprised that atheism followed so quickly afterwards.

All the best.

Carolyn, I read your comment and I kept thinking, "I did? I said what?" either I misrepresented myself badly or you misunderstood my comments. One thing I've discovered over this past year is that de-conversion is a difficult thing to explain to someone who is still a Christian. On the one hand, I want to defend my former self because that person truly believed, she didn't think she was indoctrinated or that nobody could be sure of their salvation, she fervently believed the opposite. I don't know how much clearer I can be with that.

On the other hand, from my standpoint today, I see that my old self was wrong, mistaken (deceived suggests intent on the part of my fellow Christians but I don't believe that to be true), so in a way you are right. I wasn't a true Christian, I never had a relationship with God because he doesn't exist, so in that case nobody is a true Christian. Was it a shock when I discovered I'd been wrong all that time, that the relationship I thought I'd had was actually me talking to a non-existent being...well, shocked doesn't really cover it! :D

I can see that you are firm in your belief that no true Christian can become an ex-Christian so no matter what I say you will not believe that that is what happened to me. Stalemate. As for my mind being changed, well, I will always examine new evidence and follow where it leads but I doubt I'll be able to un-ring this bell.

Re my comment about the carrot and the stick, you can make as much as you like of the carrot, talk about how pretty and orange and tasty it is, but that doesn't mean the stick isn't there.

David, thank you for understanding my wariness and for your interest, it is refreshing to be asked!

It certainly wasn't a spur of the moment thing, it started as a desire to learn more so that I could strengthen my own faith and give better answers to others but at some point along the way the scales began to tip. I can't even tell you when that happened it was so gradual.

General areas that played on my mind and that I kept coming back to would be efficacy of prayer (this was one of the first and most tenacious), the doctrine of hell, the seeming immorality of the God of the Old Testament, the reliability of the scriptures, both old and new, and finally the other crucial piece, creation. I studied evolution and found it to be undeniable and here I agree with Greg Koukl. Evolution and Theism are incompatible. There were many more but these were the biggies.

I started listening to STR when I returned from the mission field in the late 1990's, I was attracted to it because I liked the stated philosophy of belief through reason. I was not suffering from any real doubts at that stage, I treated it as a way to continue my studies in apologetics which I had begun at Bible college. I have listened to nearly every episode and read extensively through the articles on the site. Ironically I have STR to thank for helping me to develop my critical thinking skills. I believed that Christianity was true and therefore strong enough to withstand my questions and if I just kept looking the answers would be forthcoming. Slowly I went from an enthusiastic ambassador for Christ to not feeling like I could say anything with any certainty. Ultimately the more I looked into and read about these things, the more that the arguments for God gave way to the arguments against. This was not what I wanted, I was not happy about it at all and I fought it for a good few years past when I should have.

However, once I admitted that I no longer believed it was a like a weight lifted and the cognitive dissonance I had been living with for so long was gone. That moment was quick but really the whole process was very long indeed. I'm much happier now.

Thanks again for asking, it's a rare thing that any Christian has wanted to know any of this since I left the church.

Hi, Claire.

Thanks for sharing. You mention “the doctrine of hell” being a factor for you. I’m curious; what did you believe about Hell when you were a Christian and what do you believe now?


Claire,

Let me clarify:

I know, now, you believe Hell doesn’t exist – of course. But what did you believe about Hell when you were a Christian and how do you assess the doctrine from the outside looking in?

Hi KWM, like I said previously to David I am wary of getting into too many specifics of the areas that led to my atheism and I'm also aware that we've wandered completely off topic!

To try to briefly answer your question, I would have said something along the lines of it being a state of eternal punishment for all those who were not covered by God's grace as achieved through the sacrifice of Jesus. I was uncomfortable with the torture side of things so I tended to try to soften it by saying it was separation from God and that was torture enough.

Now, I see that this was me watering it down and Scripture does indeed teach that the lost will experience active torment and agony for all eternity. While this no longer holds any kind of fear for me as I don't think it exists, I find the doctrine itself to be abhorrent and kind of embarrassing. Like telling someone you believe in witch doctors or the underworld. Love me or I will torture you for eternity.

Funnily I am more hardline about what I believe the Bible teaches now then when I was in the last years of being a Christian. Does that answer your question? Is that what you meant?

Claire,

Your situation strongly resonates with me. Did you ever write out your deconversion story on-line? I greatly appreciate reading these circumstances.

Thanks, Claire. I appreciate the response.

As for being off topic, I think this is much more on topic than meets the eye : )

I was uncomfortable with the torture side of things so I tended to try to soften it by saying it was separation from God and that was torture enough.

I hear you. It’s the reason I asked the question. This doesn’t necessarily apply to you, but I think this is an area that many Christians just don’t have enough confidence in (or knowledge of) to discuss in a meaningful way.

I hear from so many Christians that 1) they don’t believe in Hell, 2) that they don’t know if Hell exists or not (a more soothing way to say you don’t believe in Hell), or 3) that even if Hell did exist it wouldn’t be that bad.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily apply to you – I’m just making a general observation of what I hear from Christians and former Christians. Hell is always up there. If it’s not, the view of Hell, of the former Christian, is most likely questionable (from a Christian perspective anyway).

I feel confident that if it was possible to poll Christians before they rejected the faith (i.e. while they’re still Christians and before they know they will reject the faith) Hell would be one of the first things to go.

As Christians, we don't like to talk about it. To our detriment.

@DaGoodS No I've not done that, I've thought about writing down my story just to work through it myself but I also find value in reading other people's stories. What strikes me so often are the similarities.

@KWM I agree, and I do think I spent time in all 3 of your examples as I made my journey away from faith. If there was a subject that was guaranteed to make me squirm it was talking about the after life, I felt on much firmer ground when I could keep the conversation on life on this side of death whereas when I was in my teens and early twenties I was on fire and anxious to talk about those things with anyone I could get to listen.

I think what you are observing is that the path of a person's deconversion often tracks with a movement from conservative beliefs to more liberal ones as they neutralise the tenets of Christianity while still feeling able to say they are believers. As to which causes which, well I would say that it's the deconversion causing the liberalism, you might say the other way around.

@Claire,

So, first you were certain that you were a "true believer", and then God became a liar and His Word was riddled with lies because some of what it said was abhorrent and embarrassing to you, and then "poof," He didn't really exist at all? And coming to that conclusion lifted a huge weight off your shoulders and you're "much happier now"? And you call this "deconversion"? It sounds more like leaving one man-made-up "religion" to another one of your own creation. The former one was devoid of the foundation of the Living God and the latest one simply feeds your desire to have things your own way, and to be happy at all cost.

There is still time to learn the Truth and know the love of God that you've missed. I urge you to begin again on bended knee.

Hi Carolyn, yep, you got me, that's exactly what happened!

...no not really.

It's ironic to me that just a few posts up from this in the discussion on Frank Beckwith's article we find this statement:

"Whenever something like this happens, I’m amazed that people are more willing to believe that half the country is made up of hateful bigots than to consider that either they’ve missed the arguments sincerely being made or they’ve failed to take them at face value."

Substitute the words "hateful bigots" with your characterisation of me and my testimony and that is my response to your comments.

Carolyn,

I fear you will never understand why the words, “I urge you to begin again on bended knee.” are ineffective to deconverts. Perhaps to those who were not Christians, or have never heard of Christianity, such words would be useful. But not to us; never to us.

I wrote about this some time ago. I will provide a link in the hopes some lurker who believes as you do may…just may…get an inkling of why your words are hollow.

http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com/2007/03/cant-win.html

DagoodS: (Regarding bending the knee to Christ)

I did, indeed, read your blog posting and all the gyrations and preparations and such you went through to "defend Christianity". You numbered fifteen things in that piece reflecting the gist of the areas you covered in your efforts to be thorough, and mentioned that, invariably, someone would pounce on any one of them and ignore the others--especially number 15. Each person thought the one they pounced on was their "Aha!" moment to show you where you were erring. You particularly did not take kindly to people questioning number 15; yet it seems that number 15 was the straw that broke the camel's back for you. You wrote:

"I would wake up at 2 a.m. and the wheels would start spinning. I’d creep out of bed, go into the living room and pray. I wasn’t interested in reading, or writing or even thinking. All I wanted to do was pray. And I only prayed for one thing—that God would show me he existed. I didn’t care which God, I didn’t care whether he did it in the form of a vision, or a miracle, or the right book, or a phrase or a person or a quote—or whatever."

You wanted something concrete, something that was incontrovertible, so you could be sure. Yet the 37 years of studying Scripture and supposedly learning about the wonder of our Great Uncreated God wasn't sufficient?? His Word rang hollow in your intellectual brain and you wanted something more tailor-made for you?? Sure sounds a lot like those who demanded that Jesus give them a special sign, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." They didn't get one. And God said, "No" to you, as well. But He did say that those who repent of their sins and believe in Him and believe He is who He says He is, are fully equipped with all they need.

Where was the repentance in your thorough list? Where was the humility to recognize the cavalier way you addressed the Great I AM as if He could be just any god at all--but you still wanted a special favor of Him--a specific sign all for yourself?? You had been consorting with naysayers and buying into their doubts and chipping away at anything of God, but you wanted Him to perform for you?? So I repeat, you have to begin on bended knee.

You say, "Perhaps to those who were not Christians, or have never heard of Christianity, such words would be useful. But not to us; never to us."

DaGoodS, thank you so much for the link to your story, I read it last night and have been thinking about it ever since. Your experience and mine are similar in so many ways and your writing is excellent. If anyone wants to gain an understanding of the experience of deconversion I encourage you to read DaGoodS story.

Ah…Carolyn.

This was but a small part of my story. As coincidence would have it, I wrote regarding repentance, too. Again, any lurkers interested:

http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com/2007/09/my-deconversion-story-in-which-we-learn_20.html [part of a very long, very verbose telling of my deconversion process.] I understand—I truly do—you believe there must be some error, some niche, some discrepancy whereby I (and all the other deconverts) failed. And if only we had done “it” (whatever that “it” may be) correctly, then we would remain Christians.

The very proof we did something wrong is the fact we are no longer Christians.

What is sadly ironic is how you apparently fail to recognize your own liability in the problem. This pervasive attitude one cannot question God—the “Great Uncreated God;” “the Great I Am”—regarding something as basic as his own existence caused us to internalize and mask our own doubts. We dared not share them with people like you—not only do you fail to have the study necessary to address our problem, your critical wounding spite shames us into keeping silent. How could we dare approach other Christians saying, “Hey, I am really struggling here” when they only suffocate us with telling us it is our fault. And no solution. No methodology to implement, no subject we have missed, every stone we have worn smooth by overturning it.

In the process we feel wounded—with self-inflicted wounds. We do not need the Carolyns of the world finishing off the job! You utterly fail to empathize with those who have prayed and prayed and prayed with words and deeds and mind and heart…all to no avail. To arrogantly fling out, “Try praying.” is so useless, you only fortify the insufficiency of prayer. You demonstrate to us you have nothing to offer.

While I appreciate J. Warner Wallace’s attitude and desire to train young Christians to avoid deconverting, as long as attitudes like this prevail amongst other Christians, it will forever doom his efforts. Because the church continues to bleed members. Oh, the general numbers are only slightly decreased, but where is the depth? You have churches enjoying huge numbers of attendees who get their coffee, socialization, and words of encouragement. But no sustenance. No support.

I know my words hold no meaning to you Carolyn. I am not writing to you. I am pleading with any lurkers desiring to understand why one deconverts.

Try some empathy.

@DagoodS:

There are some very singular things which are part of the redeemed life. We put the old man (self) to death and are made new in Christ because of HIS work on the cross. When we enter into that personal covenant with Christ and are filled with His Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit who now lives in us. Our focus is changed from self, me, mine--to Him, His, God's life through ours. We are clothed in Christ, exhibiting His likeness in our life. We are a NEW creation. Scripture goes so far as to say that our OLD man was crucified with Christ on that cross. When we repent and submit our miserable selves to Christ, we give Him our full permission to change and mold us into HIS picture of holiness and wholeness. We completely turn away from doing things our way (faith included) to doing it His way. The result is not something WE do through will-power, intellectualism, legalism, or anything else. ONLY the Spirit of God empowers us to lead transformed lives; Jesus came as the maker and model of this transformation. It is impossible to bring the old man to life again--to become an enemy of God when we have been transformed by Him.

You and others call yourselves "deconverts"--a misnomer by God's standards. HE provides the means for us to be regenerated, the POWER to regenerate us, the DESIRE to regenerate us, and PURPOSE to regenerate us! HE does the work. It's not about how educated we are or well-studied we are, how many youth groups we attend or mission groups we get involved in, or choirs we sing in or any other "Christian" stuff WE DO. It's all HIM. So for you and others to call God's very existence into question after 30 or 40 years of "belief" (when He has presumably redeemed and transformed your lives) points to something very fundamental missing from the very beginning.

It doesn't matter to me that you chide me for failing to understand your plight. There is nothing more to understand. That it was a heart-wrenching experience to realize there was never anything there is to be expected. Sad? Yes, of course! But you cozied up to those who questioned God's existence and found some friends among them--others who could encourage your journey to indulge in your own intellect, the power of your reasoning ability, the desire to live the way you want to. You told 'god' that you learn a certain way, that you can only make sense of things when all the pieces fit into a nice progression. And you wanted a special sign that some 'god' exists. As you suggested--a book, a verse, a word--anything. The Living God was gracious enough to hear your prayer and say, "No! I already gave you the Book, the verses in it, my very WORD". He has drawn you to this blog and there is Truth here. But you're here looking for lurkers who can sympathize with your situation?? Why? So you can assemble a force of "deconverts"? Is there such solace in numbers that it comforts you to hear that others missed it all, too? You said you looked for "sustenance and support" within the church? Not because you were experiencing a dry spell of relationship with God, but because you couldn't come up with a reason to believe He exists! Anyone there would tell you that if you've spent 40 years thinking you were a believer and you now can't offer a single reason to believe He even exists, you need to go back to square one! You PREFER to see that as lacking empathy, not as proper counsel.

I can hear it now--this woman is so cold, so unfeeling, so mean! She doesn't sympathize with us at all! And I respond to that by saying that the time is short. A pity party won't get anyone anywhere. There is still recourse for this situation--it involves abandoning pride. It involves humility. It involves repentance. It involves bending that stiff knee to Christ--same answer as before.

Carolyn, “HE provides the means for us to be regenerated, the POWER to regenerate us, the DESIRE to regenerate us, and PURPOSE to regenerate us! HE does the work. It's not about how educated we are or well-studied we are, how many youth groups we attend or mission groups we get involved in, or choirs we sing in or any other "Christian" stuff WE DO. It's all HIM”

If your God does all the work, then you are really addressing the wrong person when you tell me (or Claire) we should be doing something… right? Shouldn’t you be talking to the person who does all the work?

If it is “all HIM,” it will make no difference whether I bend my knee or my elbow. Whether I am proud, humble or hungry. Whether I repent, recant, recycle, regurgitate, release, re-let, return, or reunion. Perhaps you should be asking HIM to provide the means for us to “regenerate.”

Oh…wait….that is exactly…..what……we…..did……….. And you chide us for doing so.

You don’t even understand how much you contradict yourself in your own statements.

Bitterness won't get you anywhere, DagoodS. He DOES do it. And, no, that is no exactly what you did.

Correction above: "not" exactly

Hi Claire,

Been busy the last few days and looks like I've got some catching up to do on this post!

I don't think I thanked you for expanding upon the areas you wrestled with, so thanks for doing so.

It's interesting how we can share similar struggles yet arrive at different conclusions.

Thanks again for giving us an insight into your journey.

Disclaimer: This has absolutely nothing to do with Claire or DagoodS specifically.

I think there is a presumption among many “former” Christians (please excuse the quotes), who are now atheists, that they somehow have extra authority. That because they’ve been Christians, they know the faults, the secrets, the tricks, the errors, etc. of Christianity.

This is wrong.

Typically, they have a lot of valuable personal experience to speak of, but no extra authority. Personal experience is wrought with emotion and subjectivity as we all know.

The arguments stand on the merits.

Dagoods & Claire, I have been thinking about your comments the past few days as there was a time I struggled with many of the things you struggle with. Dagoods, I read your post and the 15 areas of study you focused on and most of them were things I focused on as well. However, I came to the opposite conclusion that you came to.

And I think the reason that happened is what J. Warner Wallace talks about in his book Cold Case Christianity which I finished reading today. He talks in the book about the standard of reasonable doubt which is the highest standard required in criminal cases in the United States. Juries are instructed that they must evaluate the evidence and come to a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. Wallace talks about how juries are not to make decisions based upon the notion of 'beyond all possible doubt' because it is an impossible standard. There is always going to be some kind of possible doubt when evaluating evidence.

I vacillated so much as I read atheist arguments and then Christian arguments. I finally eliminated all religion from the equation and just focused on the logic behind whether or not there was a God. Did it make sense for matter to come from nothing and ultimately for non-living matter to turn into living matter and living matter than develop consciousness?

My atheist friends would point out Dawkins point about who created God as I headed down that path but in my mind if there was ever anything in the history of the universe that would be self creating it would be God. That wasn't my question....my question remained was is it reasonable to assume that our world that we live in and our lives that we live in could have just 'happened' from nothing?

The more I researched that question, the more I sided with 'there is some intelligent being / God' out there. Anthony Flew's autobiography, 'There is a God' published in 2007 helped me finalize that decision as I had read many of his atheistic texts during my search. He came to a belief in God for scientific reasons, specifically due to DNA as well as the probabilities behind life just happening. Can I eliminate all possible doubt about God? No. But based on the evidence available from the fine tuning of the universe to expansion from beginning point to the incredible complexity of even the simplest cell.....from those scientific things I believe it is reasonable that God exists as the designer of life.

Once I got to that point then I started tackling many of the other things in your list of 15 including studying many other religions. This process took many years and this post is getting long so I will just say that as I read more and more about the evidence for the life of Jesus, the veracity the Gospels, the evidence for early writing of the Gospels, the extra Biblical confirmations about Jesus' life and some of his teachings, the fact that all the disciples scattered around the world, lived hard lives and ultimately died violent deaths proclaiming this story about Jesus....they didn't die for their faith. They were eyewitnesses....They knew the truth and yet they willingly died rather than renounce what they had been preaching.

There wasn't any one of those things that led me to believe Jesus is exactly who the Bible says he is; it was the totality of the evidence. At that point I believed there was a God. I believed Jesus Christ was exactly who the Bible said he was but I was still racked with doubt about young earth vs old earth, was everything in scripture really accurate? What about seeming contradictions (as brought up by many atheists)? I was uncomfortable with the concept of Hell etc etc.

The doubts were still there. But I got to the point of simply getting on my knees and saying "God, I still have all these doubts and I don't know the answers....but I believe you exist and I believe in your Son Jesus Christ and give my life to you and am going to walk in faith despite these other doubts I have"

I wouldn't have used these word at the time but essentially I had been satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists and Jesus Christ is who the Bible says he is. If my standard had been to eliminate 'all possible doubt' then I would very likely have ended up choosing the route you have chosen.

Interestingly, it was after I made this decision that all the 'signs' I had been praying for started to happen. Maybe faith is part of what God desires in us?

If you are interested, you could watch this video of one such instance that happened a few months ago on the day my 14 year old daughter nearly died http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nSKlgBgXEM but there have been many other things like this...and at this point there is nothing anyone could ever say to me to make me change my mind about Jesus.

Finally, I ran across this article today from Wallace that shows two brilliant men (one being the mentor of the other) who looked over identical evidence and came to opposite conclusions. In the end I think one was seeking to overcome reasonable doubt and the other was seeking to overcome every possible doubt. Perhaps that explains your situation as well.

http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/theres-a-difference-between-evidence-and-proof/

Regardless, I wish you and Claire well and hope each of you will re-evaluate the evidence with a reasonable doubt standard in mind. Wallace's book is a good place to start.

Ironic given the primary focus of my post last night Re: reasonable doubt versus possible doubt that this was the first thing I saw on my twitter feed this morning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZqoLzqzAks

I see your point KWM, I know you said this wasn't about me or DagoodS but you have reminded me of something that would bother me when I was a Christian talking to some of the atheists I met, that it felt like they presumed I hadn't given much thought to my own beliefs. I will have to check myself to make sure I don't do the same.

@Andrew. Thanks for sharing your experience, I do think it's very interesting to see how someone can have a similar journey but land in a different place completely.

"The doubts were still there. But I got to the point of simply getting on my knees and saying "God, I still have all these doubts and I don't know the answers....but I believe you exist and I believe in your Son Jesus Christ and give my life to you and am going to walk in faith despite these other doubts I have""

This prayer is one I prayed for many years, this was were I landed and lived as a Christian for probably most of my twenties and thirties.

I've been giving it a lot of thought over the past day and I don't think I would only have been happy with overcoming all doubt. I would have been a dreadful juror, I was so obviously biased in favour of finding the defendant guilty (of existing) that I would have been kicked off the jury! For me, when it got to the point of having to pray a prayer that says, look, there's not sufficient evidence for me to believe but I'm going to believe anyway, I had to realise I was going beyond reasonable doubt.

I will check out the video you link to.

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