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« The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism (Video) | Main | The Holy Spirit's Job »

August 16, 2011

Comments

I dunno, it was a pretty poorly written paragraph. Just the usual atheist dribble.

I don't really care if God is evil or not. If he's evil that just means you should pray to him harder -- so he doesnt do anything mean to you.

I became an atheist because I didn't see enough proof that Jesus Christ was the creator of the cosmos.

>> "Next, you must read the Bible all the way through. Over and over. And over."

There was an interesting experiment regarding American POW's who were ordered to write essays on communism. Again and again and again. After a couple years, their opinion on communism vs capitalism dramatically softened.

The easiest way to see something as true, is to just keep going over it, keep chanting it, keep writing about it, and keep hanging out with friends of similar beliefs. Every year you do this, you will believe (in whatever youre trying to believe in) more and more and more.

Tony,

Perhaps the POWs softened their view on Communism because they actually learned about the good intentions behind it when they were forced to write about it. You didn't say they abandoned Capitalism in favor of Communism, all you said was that their view of Communism softened.

The easiest way to see something as true, is to just keep going over it, keep chanting it, keep writing about it, and keep hanging out with friends of similar beliefs. Every year you do this, you will believe (in whatever youre trying to believe in) more and more and more.

As above, I think it is a great thing to learn adequately about a certain POV if one is going to consider accepting it as truth. How many Americans do you think actually understood Communism prior to writing those essays?

I find your articles very refreshing, thank you. Often times when I seek information regarding my belief in God, and studying more about his words, and what he wants of us and myself, I find what others have written, well, it just isn't all that relative to the way my thinking process works. But I really grasp what you have to say with a lot more clarity, so thanks again.

And I very much enjoyed your article about unicorns and atheists. There are unhappy people of all beliefs, but from my personal experience, I've always noticed that my atheist friends and acquaintances, were almost always, the most unhappiest of the group. In my belief, it seemed that since there was no belief in God, and no higher being to believe in, well I always viewed that as so much more of a lonely life, just believing in the power of ones self. And not to equate atheist to satanist, but I've read one of the core beliefs of Satan worshipers was believing in the power of yourself, that you yourself are a God. And it made me think that maybe as an underhanded move, Satan was fueling the atheist mindset, without the atheist even being aware of this subterfuge. They at least seemed like they could have a connection, somewhere down the line.

I agree completely with your short reading list, Amy.
Reading the Bible over and over and over is so important. You don't solve all the difficulties that way, but you start to understand God so much better and get to know Him more intimately. I also find myself getting a handle on the mindset and intention of His human authors.

ToNy,
>>> The easiest way to see something as true, is to just keep going over it, keep chanting it, keep writing about it, and keep hanging out with friends of similar beliefs.

Isn't this how the education system works? Seems to me there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. What matters is why you think the things you learned are true.

Tony, that comment wasn't about a way to know that the Bible is true, it was about the way to know the God of the Bible more completely. Obviously the way to do that is to thoroughly and often go over the material written about Him.

I found the comments by ex-beleiver to be refreshingly honest. But I wonder.. did ex just lose the taste for Christ or did ex gain, incrementally or in a sudden rush, the taste for something else... or both. My guess... an idea took hold - be it New Atheism dogma, relativism, scientism or any one of many other possibilities, and, as that idea became more acceptable, or better tasting, the other (Christianity) became bitter. When you argue that there is no wisdom in the Bible, just oppression, you overstate your case in a way that even many secularists or adherents to other religions would not support (New-atheists notwithstanding). Ex has accepted a different worldview, one that has tainted the taste of Christianity. The only real question is which worldview is right (if any) and to which one will we give our allegiance. Many of us, after years of inquiry and misadventure, have found the taste of Christianity to be the sweetest and most nourishing of all.

This may be an unpopular thing to say, but I become more and more convinced that the only reason a lot of people remain Christians is because the don't know the true God of the Bible. Nobody CAN love God unless God changes that person's heart. That's why some people read the Bible, find out what God is really like, and Lise their faith. When they discover the true God, they despise him. Other people grow in love and awe of God as they delve deeper into his character as revealed in the Bible because God has changed their heart.

I wonder what sort of ‘fountain’ Exbeliever is drinking out of now? My question is, how can it not be foul? Does he live on this planet?

That's the problem with these types of arguments - how can he show me something sweet and refreshing? I know the world. And the world likes foul.

Sam, I completely agree.

Although, to clarify, I would say we can't love God without His help not because He's unlovable, but because we are utterly corrupted by our own sin.

I like water when I'm particularly thirsty. Otherwise, I'd rather have a soda. Thank God for spiritual thirst.

Reading that quote it's hard to imagine what Bible or what God he is even referring to. It's not the Bible I have, nor the God I see revealed in its pages.

Someone like this was never born again to begin with. I'm willing to bet that at the heart of it all, at the root, is some sin or some bitterness over a circumstance in his life that he will not let go.

I never comment in Internet posts, but this is a fantastic piece, and I'm about to recommend it to my whole discipleship group from church.

Patrick, you'd be amazed at some of the stuff that Amy writes.

I lived the majority of my life as an unwitting agnostic. The combined bitterness of my angst and intellect, narcissism mixed introduced to the catalyst of "higher education" created an atheist out of me for longer then I care to recollect. Sometime ago, I found a video in a thrift store about intelligent design sponsored by a Christian production company. Normally, I would have just scoffed at it, but something provoked me to give it a shot. I sat there and watched a professor explain how he saw undisputed design in a bacterial flagellum and I began to have what I would liken to a panic attack. I felt my chest tighten up and I started crying. This was the moment that I woke up and it quickly spiraled into a staggering and profuse series of tearful apologies into the air. In that moment, God broke though to me. The ring of truth was resounding and I no longer had the strength to ignore its cries. In an instant, I was changed.

The Holy Spirit is alive and kicking in the author of this article. Reading a piece like this reminds me that God truly is all things to all people who are open to seeing him. All he needs is that one little opportunity. As Christians, it is our duty to stay vigilant and make tasteful dents into the psyche of the non-believer. To change the taste in their mouth. It can happen in one divine instant if the moment is crafted in accord with an abiding love to perform God's will. Such an inspiring piece. Thank you for sharing it.

Melissa, your testimony reminds me of a line in Sgt. York with Gary Cooper.

Thank you for sharing, Melissa. That was a great, great comment.

I agree, SteveK. I love the encouragement of others' testimonies.

I think it's great that we have the Bible available to us to read freely, every day if we want. However, this has been the case for only about 400-500 years, probably less; only about 25% of the church's existence. For the majority of time the Church has been around, only a select few have had access (or means) to read the Bible. There has to be another, better way to know God, since even during Jesus' time on earth, "The Bible," as we know it today, did not exist. Jesus Himself simplified faith to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." According to Jesus, if that's all we have, that's enough.

To Perry,
http://mikeboldea.blogspot.com/2011/05/eight-reasons-you-should-read-your.html

Psalm 1


1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

The Bible in the Middle Ages:
http://www.defendingthebride.com/bb/proctaim.html

The illiterate ought to visit church daily to hear God's Word:
http://haligweorc.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/early-medieval-expectations-for-laity/

Amy >> I have a very difficult time understanding how someone who has known and interacted with God as a Person could later deny His existence, and I can comprehend even less how anyone could go from loving to hating Him.

I'm sorry, but I really don't see why it's hard to understand. Is God a Person, or just an idea or a character? Nobody knows for sure, right? So it's all opinion, some more informed than others. People have different opinions, and sometimes they change for any number of reasons. In fact, are you not in the very business of getting people to change their opinions about God?

From the quote, it is easily deduced that Exbeliever had a change of opinion. He no longer looked at God as a Person, but as an idea, a character, a tool, and a weapon. He DOES NOT hate God the Person, he hates the endless stories that people make up about God.

Perhaps his writing isn't as clear as it could be. He says "the fountain wasn't a being; it was a religion. It was just dogma." He had a change in opinion about what he was drinking, and found it to be distasteful, and felt like a fool for having taken in so much.

I remember once when I was happily eating a bowl of cereal. Then I noticed it had ants in it! I was revolted, and quickly spat it all out. My taste didn't change, just my knowledge about what I was eating.

Do you dislike when people make up stories about God and the spiritual realm? I'll assume that you do. Does it ever anger you? Do you sometimes even begin to hate the stories and inventions that people have about God, and how they use it to gain their own following for their own purposes? Do you dislike when people are misled and fooled by others? Do you dislike when people wallow in ignorance and superstition because it brings them comfort and order to their existence? Do you dislike incorrect doctrine and how it leads people to believe and act? Do you dislike when people have certain beliefs just because of social convention or pressure? Do you dislike when people fabricate supposed scripture?

Exbeliever, and most ex-religious people like him, have all the very same dislikes! I'm sure you have a lot in common.

These are just some of the issues that get ex-religious people all riled up. For them, it's against all religions, including their former one. For you, I'd guess it's against every religion but your own.

Losing one's religion is often a long and agonizing experience. It's also very complex and poorly understood. I sometimes wonder if religious people really want to understand it, or instead desire to quickly push it aside.

In fact, lumping Exbeliever in with "Hitchens, Harris, etc." is just an example of this. An outspoken New Atheist is very different from an ex-Christian, and they often have very different views for very different reasons.


Amy >> at the core, the difference between us is a matter of the way God tastes to us, not the intellectual question of His existence.

The atheist would probably say the same thing! To you, the character named "God" tastes good, and brings you sweet comfort and order to you life. Deep down, you know it's just pretend, but you push those ideas away for the benefit of the comfort and order.

This is merely a classic case of having very different definitions for the same term. You view God as a person, others view him as a character.

How can an atheist hate or dislike a person he doesn't even believe exists? He doesn't dislike the person, he dislikes the character, and often times wishes to illustrate to believers that perhaps the character is flawed, inconsistent, etc., as a means of changing their opinion. Maybe that approach is taken in debates because it's more fun or entertaining.

An atheist hating "God the person" makes as much sense as you hating the Grinch, Dracula, or the Angel Moroni. It makes no sense! Surely you are not intentionally trying to misunderstand them.

Christianity and God and the Bible is vile to everyone, until you read about the death of Jesus on the cross and His taking your place in death.

Nobody can understand it until you have accepted God's word and invite Him into your life to save the 'worst of sinners' and experience true salvation.

Until you do this, I can sympathize with God looking a mean ogre. That is what I once thought. I still have to remind myself of this often.

But when you see your desparate situation and conviction of true moral guilt, and eternal life comes into view, God taking your place in death on the cross then becomes most clearly Divine Grace, no matter if it 'tastes' good or not.

Jesus Himself simplified faith to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."

Perry, that wasn't how He simplified faith, it was how he simplified the Law.

Amy, thanks for the clarification/correction.

I have nothing against the Bible, or reading it every day. My issue is that even if we do that, we may be simply hardening our incorrect views of Scripture. My point is that we must go outside of the Bible, and outside of our personal dogmas, to try and understand God. Even then, we will come up short. One of the offensive things Christians convey to unbelievers is that "I'm OK, you're not." The cocksure-know-it-all attitude of some Christians as to their understanding of God must be tempered. We must be humble enough to realize we will land on ambiguity far more often than rock-solid yes/no answers. No matter how often one tries to explain the Trinity, for example, it's never crystal-clear.

I believe people get the impression from many Christians that we have all the answers, and are more concerned that others have all the right answers, than we are about how we treat them.

I do believe, however, that how we treat people (or more specifically, the attitude that drives it) is ultimately more important than having our theology correct. Otherwise, I do not believe Jesus would have emphasized that point over and over (those he praised as having faith were not clearly on-all-points correct in their theology; i.e., the Roman centurion, children, etc.)

@ Perry Shields

"My issue is that even if we do that, we may be simply hardening our incorrect views of Scripture."

Why do you assume that?

"My point is that we must go outside of the Bible, and outside of our personal dogmas, to try and understand God."

Again, why? And where shall we go, exactly?

"One of the offensive things Christians convey to unbelievers is that "I'm OK, you're not." "

No Christian that I have heard of would have that attitude. Quite the opposite: the more we read the Bible, the more we get to know the God presented there, the more we will see our own faults and shortcomings, and the more we will see how unlike this God we truly are and that we need His mercy and help every moment of our lives!

"I believe people get the impression from many Christians that we have all the answers, and are more concerned that others have all the right answers, than we are about how we treat them."

We may not have all the answers, but we do have some, especially the basics of salvation. Those are given in Scripture and there is nothing wrong with being certain of them, and communicating that to others. In fact, that is what we are commanded to do in Scripture.

"I do believe, however, that how we treat people (or more specifically, the attitude that drives it) is ultimately more important than having our theology correct."

Treating people nicely but giving people incorrect biblical theology is useless. The person remains as lost as ever.

"My issue is that even if we do that, we may be simply hardening our incorrect views of Scripture."

Why do you assume that?

Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, etc. They may read their Bibles a lot, yet follow a faulty hermeneutic.

"My point is that we must go outside of the Bible, and outside of our personal dogmas, to try and understand God."

Again, why? And where shall we go, exactly?

Science, history, other religions...knowledge about God is everywhere, not just in the Bible.

"Treating people nicely but giving people incorrect biblical theology is useless. The person remains as lost as ever."

I disagree. Jesus emphasized merciful treatment of individuals over theology. It's the gestalt of His teaching. Besides, I can only share my imperfect theology with people through my personal filter and let the Holy Spirit do the "saving." I can control how I treat them, and carefully choose my words, but I cannot save them. Hence, I believe treatment of people needs to take a paramount position.

Hi Perry,
I'm perceiving a shift in your argument here, I think.

When you first commented you said:

For the majority of time the Church has been around, only a select few have had access (or means) to read the Bible. There has to be another, better way to know God, since even during Jesus' time on earth, "The Bible," as we know it today, did not exist.
I think it is false that only a select few have had access or been expected to know the Bible. I think I've supported that quite well.

Now you seem to be saying, quite apart from these first claims, that we need to be nice to people.
I think this is a given but I don't see how it is in any way a continuation of what you had first stated.

Could you clarify the point you are making, your contention on the subject of the OP and in what way you are disputing it? Thanks.

http://www.chacha.com/question/how-many-times-did-jesus-say-%22it-is-written%22

I'm not really disputing anything. I'm saying that, for a majority of the Church's existence, reading the Bible regularly (every day) was not feasible. It's a great idea that only recently became possible. Therefore, there had to be something else during that long period of time by which people could learn theology. Sure, it was carried out in Church, through theater, oral and aural tradition. I think we take it for granted that we can just pick up the Bible and read it regularly, when for the majority of the past 2000 years this was not the case for most people.

"Being nice to people" is a watered-down generalization, and kind of a tangent of the OP. Let me paraphrase that over Hallmark-ed passage, 1 Corinthians 13. We can know all the right things, and have our theology straight, but it's pretty useless if we are a-holes. This might, in a small way, tie back to the title of this post.

http://www.citw.org.uk/use.htm

Therefore, there had to be something else during that long period of time by which people could learn theology.
There was. They were to come to church daily, or as often as possible - weekly for sure - to hear the Word being read to them and the taught from.
We can know all the right things, and have our theology straight, but it's pretty useless if we are a-holes. This might, in a small way, tie back to the title of this post.
I agree completely. I think that is Koukl's point as well when he talks about being winsome ambassadors. We preach the Gospel with our actions as well as our words and it was definitely Christian charity, respect for persons, commitment to justice, etc. that helped people to accept the Word they were sharing throughout the ages.

But lots of atheists and JWs and Buddhists are not jerks. Being not a jerk doesn't do the world much good if you are teaching them heresies.

I am a newbie to Christianity and I have been "One of the above" at some time in my life having actively practiced and believed in most of the world religious views, including New Age and atheism. I also have an MA in Comparative Religion. I have a few core observations of why people don't enter the Christion world, leave it, or hate it:
1) They just don't like having someOne telling them what they should do. This is the "we don't want to bend the knee" problem we all face. It is the hardest of all obstacles to live with and contrary to our sin leaning natures. We just want to have fun, regardless of the consequences and will do anything to avoid responsibility.
2) Many people accept the anti-Christian propaganda without further investigation. Ignorance and laziness take their grievous toll.
3) Many Christians get obsessed with silly legalisms and religiosity specific to their tradition and snobbishly judge others negatively, even fellow Christians, if they do not agree with their own views -- this is a most unattractive, repulsive quality. It's the stereotypic "hypocrite" we hear of all the time from outside critics. I also hear this from good Christians who lament the unChistlike behavior of their brethren.
4) The authentic Christian life is demanding; it is not just an intellectual exercise or belief. Rather, it is the practice of discipleship. It requires continual self-examination and study and effort.
5) The world will hate you because it hated Him first. What human being willingly invites being hated?

Only God's Grace can overcome these gargoyles. Count oneself fortunate-blessed if you have not been fatally trapped by the world.

Amen.

You can argue until the cows come home, but the unbeliever is always going to have to deal with the person of Jesus Christ and His alleged resurrection.

The evidence for the Resurrection is so overwhelming to the unbeliever if he would just devote as much time to studying it as he does to his 401k plan, hobby, family or career, he would come to a different conclusion.

The Resurrection is the pesky stone that never leaves the shoe of the unbeliever. Until one comes to grips with it, all the arguing in the world never settles anything. After all my years of study, I say "He has risen. He has risen indeed."

For those Atheists who argue that "God leaves a bad taste in my mouth" and then proceed to argue that the ultimate ethic is love, or ought to be love, or that love even matters at all, I feel your distrust of the Law of the Old Testament, and of the Wrath of it, and, I will point you towards the Final Frustration which that whole Experience was supposed to produce, and, what that Frustration was given to lead us towards, namely, not Law, nor Letter, nor Knowlege, but Life, and Love, to the God who Is-Love.


The Bible tells us this of the Old Testament. It is Good, and Valid, and Real, yet, it would ultiimately Frustrate Mankind. Hence the strong distaste it leaves us with. I know. I taste it too. Wrath. Fire. And all of that. It tastes bad, foul, and doesn't produce any final good. It tastes foul, but not for the reasons we think.

I will offer this from another page here to brige the gap from the Old to the New, and, when Love comes in, as Love comes in, there comes with it the Pleasing Taste of Something-Better, the taste of a Final-Good:

God Is-Love:

When we say that a Triune Personhood is either not possible, or is a contradiction, we begin to betray our own limited Perspective, and we come across as one who argues that our Universe has only One Dimension, rather than Three Dimensions and, therein, our listeners begin to wonder how it is we have eyes but do not see. And, further, and even worse, when we say that a Triune Personhood is not possible, or is a contradiction, we then begin to say that Love Itself is either not possible, or is a contradiction. For those who have loved, who have been loved, seeing this comes easily. For those who have not known love, this is more difficult to see because here seeing really means a kind of tasting.


Within this thing called Love, called Us, called Marriage, called Wedding, called the Collective Body, all of which Christ points us towards in His explanations of what Real “is”, we find, or I find, I taste, I experience, something that is three and yet one, and by this I mean that I find within Marriage a very real and a very unique and a very distinct “We” or “Us”, and, I also find housed within this Love a very real and a very distinct “I”, and a very real and a very distinct “You”. This Movement Among and Between Real Selves is the “experience I taste as love” and it not only is comprised of Me, but it also surpasses Me, exceeds Me, improves upon Me, and brings Me to Something Beyond the purely One-Dimensional “I”, and into the I-You. Love is We. And if we make the argument that this “Fabric” of I and You and We is either “not possible” or is “a contradiction” then we make that argument against the very “pattern and fabric” with which we describe the Felt Reality we call Love. A Love that is void of a real I is not Love as we taste Love. And, a Love that is void of a real You is not Love as we taste Love. And, a Love that is void of a real Us, a real We, is not Love as we taste Love. Love is both Pleural and Singular by default within our Felt Reality. The Intellectually Described Reality with which we describe this Existential/Felt/Tasted Reality comes in various forms and this quote by C.S. Lewis is one among many of those, and all of this eludes to the nuance that it is only a Perspective, a Vantage Point, a Mindset, that is too small, too limited, too un-exposed, too One-Dimensional, which insists, and really believes, that there can be no such thing as a Second Dimension or a Third Dimension:


“A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make a figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways --- in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels…….. the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings --- just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there we find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a Being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And, when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something “super-personal” --- something more than a person......” C.S. Lewis


And, to again offer, the Language is unmistakable. John 17 clearly shows an I and a You reality / movement between Father/Son, and the Son who was with God before the World was. John 1 echoes the same. Genesis 1 and John 1 and John 17 echo the Us/We/Our, which is Pleural, but is One-God. We/Us (pleural) are One (singular) and back and forth all over Scripture. The Spirit "is God". The Son "is God". The Father "is God". And All are addressed "as such", and yet Each is also addressed as I/You and My/Thy and even as We/Us/Our. We find in God the odd Patterns and Movements of I, and You, and We. Which is simply nothing more than what Love "is" which is that Dance of Movements Among and Between Real Selves. He points us to Marriage, to Weddings, to Love, and anyone who has tasted Love has tasted a kind of Singular-Entity which houses within it the very real I, the very real You, and the very real and Singular We/Us. Love is in itself Triune and as we draw near to that God who calls Himself Love we are not surprised to find such language with that One-God who houses within Himself an I, a You, and a We. God is Triune not because He is Triune, but because He is Love.


For those who argue that the “Ultimate Ethic is love” I would point you towards the Final and Eventual Bedrock of “the Ultimate Reality is Love Himself” which is the only Bedrock that can ultimately/finally support the weight of such an incredible claim, and, also, I would point you towards the One God of Whom it is said, “God Is Love” and, within that Triune Fabric, within His Eternally Sacrificed Self, you will find all the necessary constituents with which to build such an Ultimate Reality.

Within Christ's Cross we find that Self who Eternally gives Himself away unto and for the Other, and herein we find Love Manifest, For Love Himself does what Love-Does, and gives away the Self for Other, and, within this Eternally Sacrificed Self, within the Triune Patterns of Love's Movement Among and Between Real Selves, we find our Felt Reality validated ultimately within the God, the Ultimate Reality, Who Is-Love.


Yawn.

I could write something similar about Scientific Naturalism.

I have little doubt that the response would be that I was merely too stupid to understand the truth when I saw it. My reasons would be deemed irrelevant to the fact that I was "wrong" and my explanations dismissed as pseudo-intellectual tripe with no merit worth responding to.

The "It isn't true because I don't like it" is no more a valid reason than the argument that Christians believe what they want to be true. The fact that this person has decided that he has a philosophical issue with Christianity has no bearing on whether it is true or not. When you look at the mass of people and their preferences, it seems silly to dismiss a position because someone says they don't like it.

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