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Engaging Atheists

Dave Bish has some good advice here.

And here's a recent foray I made into the atheosphere.  That's not an invitation for you to join that particular discussion.  The thread is dead and I'd ask you not to reawaken it.  Join another more recent discussion if you feel like you've got a day or two handy! :)

One thing that re-occurred to me is that "law-gospel" is very handy to keep in mind.  In the context where they demand "evidence" for Jesus (and insist on the kind of evidence they're prepared to accept):

LAW: Jesus is the Truth.  To take Him seriously you either begin again with Him or you reject Him.  What you don’t do is treat Him as a possible player in amongst a cast of other, more certain, truths.  If you did so, you would not be treating Him as He is.  Therefore you would not be seeking Him.  

Put it another way: He is not in the dock, the “evidence” does not stand over Him, and you are not the prosecutor.

That's the law.  It flattens us and gives us no grounds for hope in ourselves.  But here comes the gospel...

GOSPEL: There is good news!  The Truth has sought us.  He has come into the world explaining Himself.  He became flesh, was witnessed, was handled, was even dissected on full view of the world.  The word written, the Bible, will show you Him at full strength.  This is far more than a scrap of evidence.  This is far more than Him showing up in a laboratory.  He hasn't just submitted Himself to experimental conditions, the Truth has given His very Self to us.

The cross stands between law and gospel.  It insists that: Here is the living God!  This is where to look and nowhere else.  Jews look for signs, Greeks look for wisdom, we lay a stumbling block in their way - the cross.  That is law.  But if, by faith, the stumbling block becomes the Rock on which they build, suddenly the cross is complete gospel.  There is good news: the Truth is given to us utterly - far more than we ever demanded as naturalists.

What kind of responses does this get?

Well one person on the thread quoted from me and then responded:

[I had said]  If you start with Jesus (and there’s no way to take Him seriously unless you do) then *He* is the Truth.  

[He responded] That’s probably your problem then. No-one here takes him seriously.

If you ask me, our role is presenting Christ such that people see they are accepting or rejecting Jesus and not just a world-view.  We must never give the impression that the evidence is only "very good" or that Jesus is merely "the most logical option".  If we believe that a person's fundamental issue is their personal orientation towards Christ Himself then that's got to be the pivot on which the conversation turns.  We confront people with Christ, it's His rejection or acceptance that is at stake.  And that ought to be front and centre.

Lots more to say.  But those are just a few thoughts...

 

0 thoughts on “Engaging Atheists

  1. Cat

    Wow Glen, hat off to you on that discussion, I didnt understand half of it and I would of be buried in their attack if it was me. It seemed quite frustrating at points, but how did you feel it went?

  2. Glen

    Frustrating at times but clarifying for myself. Especially on the issue of how truth, reality and method are all linked. We have faith commitments regarding reality we test the truth of them via a certain method, but you need to know what you're seeking to know how to go about it, and the nature of what you are seeking shapes the way you seek it. Or, as Jesus put it, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.

    They were less aggressive in this conversation than others. There is some frightening ferocity in the atheosphere - survival of the fittest eh?

    Essentially I just want to hold out Jesus and say "No you are not Truth seeking, Truth has shown up. Stop lying to yourself that you are this neutral scientific observer of reality, You are aggressively going after your own vision and refusing to even consider evidence to the contrary. You have decided in advance what evidence you will accept therefore you have decided in advance what truth you will encounter. Here's Jesus and He's offering Himself to you again.

    At points I thought I had them agreeing that we are both closed because we already have pre-commitments to what kind of world we inhabit. But no sooner do I think they agree to that than they appear shocked that I would bring the word of God as evidence to them.

    Which just goes to show that the vast majority have not begun to consider what it truly means to engage a Christian who actually believes that Jesus is Truth. And, unfortunately, that's probably because they haven't met that many.

    I don't think I "got anywhere" with the discussion but I sowed some seed. And the Sower still sows on stony ground! :)

  3. woldeyesus

    The authorized way to engage overt and covert atheists is to present them with the unique "death Jesus suffered" culminating in his "going back up to the place where he was before" together with his believers (John 6: 62-64; 12: 32-33; 19: 30-37)

  4. Pingback: Ending the Engagement | Unreasonable Faith

  5. James S

    "No you are not Truth seeking, Truth has shown up. Stop lying to yourself that you are this neutral scientific observer of reality, You are aggressively going after your own vision and refusing to even consider evidence to the contrary. You have decided in advance what evidence you will accept therefore you have decided in advance what truth you will encounter. Here’s Jesus and He’s offering Himself to you again".

    I'm with cat in that I didn't understand a lot of what either of you said. But the above quote from your response to her summed up everything very well. People are so blind to that fact, that they really are not truth seekers at all but are more or less truth suppressors. If they really were truth seekers, they would not be so pre-antagonistic towards Jesus Christ before they have even considered Him or His Words.

    It is depressing to see this, but it is the most common reaction I see here in the US.
    So common in fact, the peoples minds blinded, that I sometimes wonder if the symbolic 1000 years has ended and satan has been let out of his bindings from not being able to blind the minds as he used to before Christ defeated him.
    More likely though, is that The Lord has closed some doors on some formerly well-evangelized areas like the USA or Britain and as it says in Romans 1:24, given people over due to their continual hardening of their hearts (ala Hebrews 3:7).
    When people's minds are so tightly closed to even reading or listening to Jesus' Words, it points more towards real-time judgment upon them for their continued rejection, so that they now "love a lie".

    Yet we are still seeing, Praise Lord Jesus, that in places like China and Iran there ARE open minds to Jesus and people are coming into His kingdom in droves, and even in the face of terrible persecution.

  6. Si Hollett

    I understand what you are saying Glen (sorry, pride getting in there) and totally agree with you here - anything else is like cutting down a tree and putting it in someone's front room - there's no foundation, no root - the tree, if it manages to stand up, withers and dies quickly as it's divorced from it's root. The gospel is Christ, so it's all about acceptance or rejection of him - anything else is just fluff.

  7. Yoav

    Glen, you say:

    The word written, the Bible, will show you Him at full strength. This is far more than a scrap of evidence. This is far more than Him showing up in a laboratory.

    However the Bible doesn't even agree with itself over some rather big point let alone with the observable universe and historic record, which is why we atheists don't accept it as a reliable source and question the historicity of Jesus based on the complete lack of extrabiblical contemporary accounts of his existence. Unless you can provide any evidence that Jesus actually existed and preached what the bible claim he preached, any discussion regarding the meaning of his words is equivalent to arguing over the implications of Dumbledore's death on the coming elections.
    As for revealed truth, if you're honest with yourself, can you explain why is christian revealed truth more reliable then this of other faiths? Would you grant the same unquestioning acceptance you request for the veracity of your personal experience to a muslim who would tell you how he feel a connection to allah every time he recite the shahada?

  8. James S

    For the "atheists"* who refuse to even read through any of the bible's four gospels of Jesus Christ and consider His Words here is a some very helpful advice for your future from the pen of C. Michael Patton at the Parchment & Pen blog.

    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/10/how-to-prepar-for-hell-a-just-in-case-letter-to-my-unbelieving-friends/

    (I don't believe in actual 'atheists', I agree with God Who writes through the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans, chapter 1, that all humans know in our hearts that God is the real creator and God has provided enough evidence for us to easily see it, but that people who don't like this truth suppress it. It's never a problem of not having enough information. In other words its a moral problem, not an intellectual one.)

    [Feel free to delete me, Glen, if I have overstepped my bounds here on your fine blog. This is all my doing and Glen had nothing to do with my reply here].

  9. Mogg

    @James S - how about those of us atheists* who were Christians who finally had to concede that there was no evidence for the God we sometimes desperately wanted to be real? Lots of the regular posters on Unreasonable Faith are in this category, including ex-ministers ordained or lay, and at least one academic theologian.

    *I do believe in actual atheists, having gone from believer to not myself. It's not a matter of not liking the idea of the existence of God, but I can certainly say that there is not enough evidence for me, at any case, to continue to believe it.

  10. Glen

    Hi Yoav,
    The bible is, hands down, the best historical source for that time and place.

    http://visualunit.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/nt_reliability.jpg

    In addition, your "complete lack of extrabiblical evidence" is utter nonsense.

    You want to deny the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth?
    You want to liken Him to Dumbledore? And the authors of the Gospels to fantasy novelists? It's hard to take your position seriously when you make such ridiculous claims.

    Christian truth is "more reliable" than other sources because Christ reveals the *only* God of whom love can be predicated. The others are monsters. And you are right to reject them. But you've been swallowed by a monster of your own called naturalism. But Jesus still loves you.

  11. woldeyesus

    Si Hollette,

    If the gospel is Christ, as I know it is, its preemptive acceptance or rejection discourages discipleship training. (Matt. 28: 18-20)

  12. woldeyesus

    Glen,

    Christians are paying an exceedingly high price for their consistent circumvention of Christ's continuous self-revelation in his death on the cross.

  13. James S

    Mogg -
    I can't buy that any christian would ever reject the faith from lack of evidence, because all christians have the witness of the Holy Spirit, the best evidence there could ever be. In other words, the so called 'christian' who rejects the faith due to lack of evidence was never really a christian to begin with.

  14. Mogg

    @James and Si: nevertheless, that is the story that many atheists tell. Including me. Are we all liars? How would you tell if someone was never a Christian, anyway? From the inside experience and external observation I was certainly one. I was certainly sincere in my longing for God, the real God, not a God of my imagination. I just never got an answer from him.

  15. Yoav

    @Glen

    The bible is, hands down, the best historical source for that time and place.

    So did Joe and Mary used to live in Bethlehem and had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod's order to kill all babies, a major event that somehow went completely unnoticed by any of the contemporary historians, before moving to Nazareth as Matthew claim. Or did they used to to live in Nazareth and had to go to Bethlehem because the Romans, who were generally very practical people, made everyone go to where their ancestors used to live a 1000 years earlier to register in a census, again with no one else noticing all these people zooming around the country to their ancestral towns, as told by Luke?
    As for your chart, popularity is not the same as reliability, what period is covered by the number 24,000 copies? they're obviously not contemporary to the time of Jesus but do the number include manuscripts later then the adoption of christianity as the state religion by Constantin?

    @James S
    That's a very popular logical fallacy known as the no true Scotsman, It's very popular among religious apologists trying to skate around hard questions such as people who used to believe and lost their faith or when a member of their religion is caught with their hand in the cookie jar (or with something else in an alter boy).

  16. John B

    @Yoav

    Your rejection of the historical reliability of the Bible is that which no *true* free thinker would believe anything else. (Or if truly free, might they?)

    I agree that to deny the possibility of apostasy is to invoke the "true Scotsman", as there isn't a clear consensus within Christianity about the faith of those who have fallen away.

  17. Yakamoz

    James S:

    I don’t believe in actual ‘atheists’...all humans know in our hearts that God is the real creator and God has provided enough evidence for us to easily see it,

    all christians have the witness of the Holy Spirit, the best evidence there could ever be...In other words, the so called ‘christian’ who rejects the faith due to lack of evidence was never really a christian to begin with.

    So those of us who thought we were Christians and now think we're atheists know in our hearts that God is the real creator, because he's provided enough evidence for us to really see it, but at the same time, we clearly were never Christians, because Real Christians (TM) have "the best evidence there ever could be."

    The only conclusion, then, is that God has deliberately withheld "the best evidence there ever could be" from a large portion of people, including Christians.

    He does this because...why? Is he just a jerk? And how is that my fault?

  18. Johan

    @James S

    It astonishes me that a Christian would deny the existence of atheists when nonbelievers are mentioned in the bible. You cannot have it both ways. Your bible says we exist so to deny our existence you are denying the word of your god.

    So you are either lying about atheists not existing (protecting a fragile ego?) or you are not actually Christian. Those who are unable to even admit the existence of those who disagree with them must have a horribly fragile faith.

    Either way, to deny something so self evident makes me question your sanity. The lengths believers must go to in order to rationalize their irrational belief system is astonishing, but denying the very existence of nonbelievers takes the cake.

  19. James S

    Mogg -
    You simply thought you were a christian because you didn't know what a christian is. You were a christian by society's terms not the Bible's, and they are world's apart. Christianity is supernatural. The Holy Spirit is a person Who can only be known through direct meeting, and once one is met by Him, it is nonsensical to then say He is not real. I don't deny that one may turn their backs to Him after meeting Him, but never on the basis of there not being evidence of His existence. One would turn their back on him because they don't like the truth that He asserts.

    Yakamoz & Johan -
    A christian is someone who has come to know God and have a relationship with Him, (through the only means possible, the finished work of Christ).

    What you call the only conclusion is not the only conclusion to be had. I stand by everything I said. Yes, those of you who believed youselves to be christians but never really were did not KNOW the God of the bible.

    God Himself makes this charge, I am simply reiterating. It is not merely my opinion. If you came to know him in the first place, yet turned your back on him afterward and then said He is not there, you were fooling yourself in the first place when you said you came to know him. Read 1 John 2:4 - 'The one who says "I have come to know Him", and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him'.
    That's a christian by the Bible's terms right there.

    Add to this 1 John 2:19 - 'They went out from us but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us'.

    Yes, he leaves enough evidence in his creation for one to know in their heart He is responsible for it. Yet His Holy Spirit is the greatest evidence and witness, but until one is truly a believer, they will not know Him. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.
    Once they are a believer, He comes in to them and makes his home in them. It is impossible at that point to then say He is not real.

    I dont say the BEST evidence exists for one to know in their hearts He is the true Creator, but ENOUGH exists. The ones who claim to reject on the basis of "not enough evidence" are fooling themselves. They have enough evidence they needed, but are suppressing it, whether they know they are suppressing it or not. Paul's letter to the Romans lays it all out in the first chapter starting from the 18th verse through the end. I can't stress this enough.

    There are unbelievers, yes, but they are unbelievers on the basis that they don't love the truth. It is not that there is not enough evidence, it is on the basis that they don't like it or the implications of it.

    Yakamoz, who can blame God for with-holding His Spirit from someone who He knows is not coming to Him in truth? God knows and judges the hearts of everyone even better than they know their own hearts. God knows every motive even if we ourselves don't.

    Johan, I am not saying that there are no unbelievers, I am saying there are no unbelievers who can base their unbelief on not having enough evidence. Their unbelief is real nonetheless. In fact, God Himself hardens peoples hearts so they wont believe. But only after they have chosen to not believe by exchanging the truth for a lie, and refusing to acknowlege the truth.

    I pray for each of you and ask that all christians reading this join me, that God will make Himself known to you and rescue you from his coming wrath. I myself was once blind so I know that if it were not for God opening my own eyes, I would still be lost. I can't boast because it was all God's doing, and I am forever grateful.

    With Love,
    James

  20. Mogg

    @James S:

    given that I live in a secular society (Australia), I can dismiss that argument out of hand. One does not spend 20 years going _against_ the flow of society if one does not believe, because from experience I know it is very difficult to be the only believer in school, university, and the workplace.

    If I never met the Holy Spirit and he is real, it's certainly not for my lack of wanting or trying to meet him. I have no reason to think that I was "doing it wrong". The Holy Spirit is reported to be given to anyone who asks. When many, many years of genuine asking and believing didn't get me anywhere, why should I continue? It would be like me spending decades pining for a relationship with someone who cared nothing for me, a father or lover who had long abandoned me or only ever loved me in my imagination. I see no love of God in that, he's either acting cruelly towards me in direct opposition to the description of the loving god of the Bible, or he's non-existent. If I were talking about a human relationship the most healthy thing I could do would be to move on with my life, along the way working out why I was so pathologically attached to something that was never real so that I could face the world sane and healthy. And that's what I've done.

  21. woldeyesus

    James S,

    Only a spirit different from the Holy Spirit, viz.: a false spirit, speaks on his own behalf as you pretty much described. Where is the Holy Spirit's ultimate work of revealing "the truth about God" (without all of the altruistic language and "figures of speech" about the Father) in Christ's unique death on the cross? (John 16: 5-15; 25-26; 19: 30-37; 2 Cor, 11: 1-15)

  22. Yoav

    John B:

    Your rejection of the historical reliability of the Bible is that which no *true* free thinker would believe anything else. (Or if truly free, might they?)

    My rejection of the bible reliability is, as I pointed before, based on it's internal inconsistencies and the inconsistencies of many bible stories with historical (and biological and geological) evidence.
    Glen:

    In addition, your “complete lack of extrabiblical evidence” is utter nonsense.

    The only one I keep getting from theists is the mention of jesus in josephus which is considered by many scholars to be, to put id mildly, of questionable provenance.

  23. Mogg

    Maybe I should add that the lack of consistency of biblical "truth" with everything else that I experience and know was a contributing factor to my leaving the faith as well. Why is free thinking only free if it leads you *towards* faith? In fact it was a major effort for me to free my thinking enough to even be able to look at the evidence provided and realise that the Bible didn't stack up. The only evidence I was "suppressing" (to use James S's phrase which I didn't address) was the evidence that the claims of the Bible don't work in the real world, and I suppressed that because I wanted to stay a believer.

    And yes, the Josephus reference is generally believed to contain a couple of much later additions to the original text. Read without the additions, Josephus makes no claims about either the divinity or the resurrection of Jesus, only that he was a reputed wise man, teacher and miracle worker who still had followers after his death.

  24. Johan

    @James S

    The fallacy you use has already been mentioned by name. Those who knowingly use such fallacies show their intent to deceive. Do you know that is a fallacy, did you know before you used it? If so you are using deception to defend your religious beliefs, which would only be necessary if you were well aware that only deception could be used to defend your beliefs.

    I am an atheist. I have never believed in the supernatural in any form. I never believed in Santa. No gods of any kind. You deny my existence using fallacies that make you appear to be either an utter fool or a liar. Which is it?

    If you knew that you were using the no true scotsman fallacy then you have revealed yourself as someone who lies to defend their religion. If your religion were true and you were a true believer then you would never have to lie to defend those beliefs.

    Such a conundrum!

    Time to face the facts. Better thinkers than you have been over this for thousands of years. If your denial of the very concept of atheism had any merits it would be accepted worldwide by countless philosophers and religious scholars. It is not, which ought to send you a message.

    Be a fool if you wish, but don't use deception to defend what you presumably believe to be truth.

  25. John B

    Yoav:

    Your faith in naturalism has its own holy trinity: In the name of My Human Reason, the History, and the Science. Amen.

  26. Yoav

    @John B
    That's just running a way from the actual point, if you didn't already believe the bible is reliable would you find it to be reliable without any additional corroborative evidence?

  27. Johan

    Faith has several definitions, John B. One of them is confidence and another is religious faith, which does not rely on evidence. Deliberately switching between those definitions is a trick and using trickery implies a lack of confidence (faith?) in your ability to discuss your own faith.

    Don't play word games and use misdirections. Such tactics imply weakness. Why else use trickery?

  28. Mogg

    @ John B: and where is the problem with that? It allows for changing of opinion on nature based on evidence and corroboration. Also, snarky comments phrased as a catechism which many atheists will be unfamiliar with is hardly "engaging".

  29. Johan

    John B, honest people can respond openly to points raised during a debate. I raised points and you respond with... what? A prayer rather than a dialogue?

    If you cannot respond honestly and openly why do you bother having a blog?

    I can only see your response as an attempt to pretend to continue the dialogue while actually changing the subject. That shows a remarkable lack of confidence in your ability to engage in rational dialogue.

    I think you use trickery and deception to defend your religious beliefs because you are well aware that those are the only things left to you once you abandon rational thought.

    Please respond honestly or not at all.

  30. Yakamoz

    John, so your main criticism of atheists is that we're religious. This is a valid criticism cause being religious is, in your view, a bad way of looking at the world.

    QED? Are you a poe, or did you just not think this through?

  31. Yakamoz

    "Yakamoz, who can blame God for with-holding His Spirit from someone who He knows is not coming to Him in truth? ... God knows every motive even if we ourselves don’t.

    I can. I can blame God for God's choice to deny me the best, most undeniable evidence of his existence. Why has God chosen to do this? How can you blame us for not believing, when we can't possibly know whether we're "coming to Him in truth," according to you? I'm amazed that you don't see what an asshole your God would have to be for this to be true.

  32. John B

    Mogg, atheists really should try to familiarize themselves with biblical content, especially when given to raising so many objections to it. Even if you reject the Bible as divine revelation, its historical importance and huge impact as a cultural artifact, at least, are really undeniable. Many also find that it has great literary value. "No man is an island entire of itself..." (Donne not Bible!)

    Johan, at the risk of violating your rules for dialog, prayer is more important. We all begin with prayer and do what we do in the name of our gods. And if we would be in communion with him, we'll pray without ceasing. (p.s., I'm just a fellow-commenter, not a blogger.)

    Yakamoz, religion stinks.

  33. Johan

    @John B

    I see, I thought for a moment you were the guy behind this website. It doesn't change the fact that you are playing games instead of engaging in honest debate.

    I engage believers in honest debate all the time and your behavior is quite common. You avoid the points I and others raise and respond with garbage that you pretend is an answer.

    Using those tactics implies that you cannot respond honestly to honest questions. That in turn implies that you are either a liar for Jesus or that you don't actually understand your own beliefs well enough to discuss them. Either way, your words reflect badly on those who choose to actually engage atheists.

    To put it simply, you make your fellow believers look incompetent and deceptive. If you truly believed what you claim to you would NEVER feel the urge to lie or run away from honest debate.

  34. Johan

    To all:

    A truly and deeply held belief system will never require a follower to lie or trick or play word games. The truth will stand on its own without the need for such cowardly and deceptive tactics. Claiming Jesus is the truth while needing to lie to back it up is standard Christian apologetics.

    Believers who read sites like these often see that their side engages in dishonest debate tactics and some of them stop believing because of it. Believers who engage in internet debates either learn to stop lying through their teeth or stop discussing their nonsensical beliefs openly at all... or they moderate the comment threads to stop their fellow believers from having access to honest debate. I've seen it countless times and I'm guessing the believers here have also, as well as felt the shame at needing to use tricks and deceit to discuss their own beliefs.

    If you can't handle honest questions, that is a sign. A very very large sign.

  35. James S

    Johan,
    I didn't enter this as a debate. I'm not an apologist, just a christian offering what help I can give people who hold unbiblical ideas about what they think christianity is.
    And out of compassion I want to help people escape God's wrath.

    My positions arent debatable. I state all that I say as fact and point to the bible. Your argument is with the Word of God, not me.

    I don't know what you mean by tactics. I stand by all that I have said. I'm just telling you what I know.
    My main point being that God does not recognize atheism. He says that everyone knows He is real and suppresses it because their deeds are evil. He says that light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because of their evil hearts and deeds that flow out of their hearts.
    At no point in the bible does God ever debate with anyone who claims He doesn't exist, and I agree with his decision. I won't debate it either because it is not debatable. God says people's unbelief is not from a problem of not having enough evidence. He is obvious to all, without excuse, and people are merely suppressing the truth that He is the creator and real and they just won't to obey him, and are unable to obey him. And in the process of suppressing the truth, God gives them over to a feeble darkened mind so that they can fool themselves into thinking He isn't real, and causes them to make wrong conclusions. As people insist that He is not real, He will even help them to fool themselves further by making them love a lie.

    I pray that God will do a work on your heart and anyone else reading who wants to have a relationship with their creator, and pass safely through His coming judgment and wrath.

    This is all documented in His revealed, written Word of God.
    A good article that lays out exactly what Christians believe concerning the bible, so that we are all on the page here, is D.A. Carson's 'Approaching the Bible' which is available as a PDF at:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/1994_approaching_the_Bible.pdf

    If that link doesnt work it can be accessed from this web page: http://thegospelcoalition.org/index.php?/resources/name-index/a/da_carson
    It is # 32 "New Bible Commentary 21st edition" on the list, just click it for the pdf.

    Peace,
    James

  36. John B

    @ Johan

    You complain repeatedly of a lack of response to honest questions. Here are the actual questions that you've posed during this thread:

    1. You asked a commenter about his awareness of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    2. You asked a commenter if he was "either an utter fool or a liar".

    3. You parenthetically asked a commenter if his lying was for the purpose of "protecting a fragile ego".

    4. You asked if my use of "trickery" was due to anything else than weakness.

    5. You asked rhetorically if my response was "A prayer rather than a dialogue".

    6. You asked me "why do you bother having a blog".

    You've asked six questions and there's not an honest one in the bunch. That's a pretty big sign that you're not looking for a genuine dialog.

  37. Glen

    Man alive. What a lot of yuck.

    Yoav, the 24 000 is the number of manuscripts up to the invention of the printing press (15th century) - the figures for the other documents are for that same period. State religion certainly helped protect the Christian communities and aided (in some ways) the spread of the gospel (thereby necessitating the copying of the Scriptures), but "the Romans" did not produce the manuscripts. However they came about, the more the better from a historians point of view, right?

    And Matthew makes no mention of their place of residence before Jesus was born. There's not even a "harmonisation" to be made. Luke and Matthew agree entirely. And like I said above, the Gospels are the most reliable sources of history for that time and place. They judge the extra-biblical material, not vice versa,

    Also, on Trinity, I would comment back on UF but I said I'd leave you guys the last word and I just know someone will blast me as a "liar" for commenting. (What is that all about by the way? I've been called a liar on atheist blogs for the equivalent of typos! It's very bizarre!) Anyway...

    Trinity means the eternal communion of Persons bound in loving relationship. A unitarian god has no-one and nothing to love in eternity past. Such a god might "love" itself, but we generally call that narcisism, not love. It is a profound difference and in Christian history has always been *the* marker of the true God as opposed to false gods.

  38. Yoav

    Glen.
    We already know that christanity was a common affliction leading to the production of many copies of its holy book and as the dominant religion its manuscripts had better chance of surviving. Under these circumstances the large number of copies say absolutely nothing about the reliability of the gospels as historic document. Counting 14th centuries copies as if they date to 50-70 years after the event is not just inaccurate but deceitful.
    As for the trinity, you just declare that the characteristics you assign your god are what a true god would be like, what are you basing that claim on, you may not approve of a Unitarian god but doesn't justify the claim that only a god of the kind you like can exist.
    OK i'll give you that Mathew doesn't specifically say joe lived in Bethlehem but he obviously doesn't feel a need to invent a census where people travel to their ancestral town in order to have jesus born there so he can be shoehorned into jewish messianic traditions. And what about the other points such as the mass murder of babies?

    And like I said above, the Gospels are the most reliable sources of history for that time and place. They judge the extra-biblical material, not vice versa,

    Repeating this claim again and again is not going to making any more real.

  39. Johan

    @John B

    I am perfectly familiar with the questions I asked. Why are you afraid to answer? Anyone who hadn't used trickery would deny it rather than try to avoid answering and change the topic. Your answer reveals that you knew you were behaving deceitfully. Don't even pretend you want a dialogue with me when you respond to honest questions with cowardice and dishonesty. Even your fellow believers will see the deceit in your comments.

    @James S

    Like it or not, we are in a debate. If you didn't want one you wouldn't have responded to me at all, so give the lies a rest. Pretending not to be in a debate won't change a thing. Claiming that your positions aren't open to debate is another lie. All positions are open to debate. People can debate whether the universe exists or whether the moon is made of cheese. Only someone who is afraid of their ability to defend their position would claim that it wasn't open to debate. Again, your fellow believers will see that dishonesty and ask themselves why a true believer would ever need to be dishonest. The very claims you make, you would disregard out of hand if people of other religions (or even variations on your own) made them. If you stand by a fallacy, as you claim, then you admit to lying. You have to lie to convince other people that you have the truth and you admit to that lie in the very comment where you claim again that your truth isn't open to debate. Such sloppy thinking! You should be ashamed of yourself.

    This is why the internet age is creating a generation of unbelievers. People see such incompetent lying from believers in ALL religions that they can safely conclude that none of them are real.

    Don't bother responding if all you have is more lies. You just convince more believers to leave the flock.

  40. Glen

    @Yoav, nothing in the document or in my comments give the slightest impression that the 24000 figure applies "50-70 years" after the event. Where did you pluck "50-70 years from"? It was a like-for-like comparison with other ancient documents, all of which were measured up until the 15th century. These are the kinds of documents you would gladly quote from if they happened to disagree with the bible.

    On Trinity - it is not simply that I don't like unitarian gods, but a) there is a obstinate incoherence to the claim that such a god "relates" to the world and b) it's the explanatory power of persons-in-relationship that recommends it - and recommends it beyond both Allah and atheism.

  41. Glen

    @Johan - So the question tally now stands at...

    1. You asked a commenter about his awareness of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    2. You asked a commenter if he was “either an utter fool or a liar”.

    3. You parenthetically asked a commenter if his lying was for the purpose of “protecting a fragile ego”.

    4. You asked if John B's use of “trickery” was due to anything else than weakness.

    5. You asked rhetorically if John B's response was “A prayer rather than a dialogue”.

    6. You asked John B “why do you bother having a blog”.

    and now...

    7. You ask John B why he's afraid to answer.

    **sigh**

  42. Mogg

    @John B:

    "Mogg, atheists really should try to familiarize themselves with biblical content, especially when given to raising so many objections to it. Even if you reject the Bible as divine revelation, its historical importance and huge impact as a cultural artifact, at least, are really undeniable. Many also find that it has great literary value. “No man is an island entire of itself…” (Donne not Bible!)"

    I have no problem with that. I am quite familiar with the Bible, and I do think it has had a profound influence on western society so it would be foolish to ignore it altogether. Nevertheless, the Lord's Prayer, one very small quote from a large volume, is not necessarily instantly recognisable to someone approaching the Bible from outside, as it were. Why should it be? It sounds like an irrelevant ritual if you don't have any Christian background, and comes across as condescending. And if I recall correctly, the bit you were using is not in the Bible in any case, it's a formal ritual ending which was added later.

    "Johan, at the risk of violating your rules for dialog, prayer is more important. We all begin with prayer and do what we do in the name of our gods."

    Say what? I suppose it depends on how you define prayer. If you define it as a ritual which helps to concentrate your mind on a particular topic and shape your way of thinking, I suppose that could be a valid comment. If you mean imploring some kind of higher being or power to influence actions done in its name, that's completely ridiculous.

  43. Mogg

    @James S:

    "I didn’t enter this as a debate. I’m not an apologist, just a christian offering what help I can give people who hold unbiblical ideas about what they think christianity is.
    And out of compassion I want to help people escape God’s wrath.

    My positions arent debatable. I state all that I say as fact and point to the bible. Your argument is with the Word of God, not me.

    I don’t know what you mean by tactics. I stand by all that I have said. I’m just telling you what I know."

    That's all very well, but it only stands up if all parties in a conversation subscribe to the notion that the Bible holds any value as a decider. If the person to whom you are speaking does not subscribe to that idea (and something like 3/4 of the world's population don't, so atheists are hardly in the minority here), then you need to reframe the conversation if you want to have it at all. You know, engage.

    "At no point in the bible does God ever debate with anyone who claims He doesn’t exist, and I agree with his decision. I won’t debate it either because it is not debatable."

    God is not recorded as doing so. One assumes that if a human were having a conversation with God it would be fairly clear that God exists. (Sometimes, anyway - Samuel wasn't sure.) But how about us humans? I'm sure you wouldn't claim that you are God? There is at least one instance of humans debating and discussing the existence of the biblical God recorded in the Bible. How about Paul and the Athenians?

    I'm not going to bother commenting on the rest of what you wrote there, as there doesn't appear to be any way for a non-Christian to engage with any of it in a sensible manner.

  44. Mogg

    @Glen:

    "Yoav, the 24 000 is the number of manuscripts up to the invention of the printing press (15th century) – the figures for the other documents are for that same period. State religion certainly helped protect the Christian communities and aided (in some ways) the spread of the gospel (thereby necessitating the copying of the Scriptures), but “the Romans” did not produce the manuscripts. However they came about, the more the better from a historians point of view, right?"

    No, more is not necessarily better, if the majority of those documents are only later copies of the earlier ones. Sure, it documents that Christianity was popular from about the third century onwards, but the documentation of the actual life of Jesus, if he really existed, is only found in the early church's own documents, and even then the earliest date to decades after Jesus' death. No documents outside of the NT exist which do anything other than say essentially "there are a bunch of people who believe that some guy called Jesus was pretty awesome", and no non-written archaeological evidence that can be used to verify his life. The early church would have had have rather a large vested interest, wouldn't you say?

    "... the Gospels are the most reliable sources of history for that time and place."

    I'm no historian, but what I've read tends to lead me to believe that that's not exactly true.

    "They judge the extra-biblical material, not vice versa..."

    Why?

  45. Glen

    @Mogg,

    "No documents outside of the NT exist which do anything other than say essentially “there are a bunch of people who believe that some guy called Jesus was pretty awesome”

    Which is exactly what you'd expect for an unschooled Rabbi who had just 3 years of public ministry before being executed. Additionally, the fact that there's a bunch of people insisting on this guy's resurrection only confirms the bible's account.

  46. Yoav

    Glen, The chart claim the earliest copies are 20-40 years after the original (50-70 was me remembering wrong) Lumping all the copies up to the 1500's can have no other aim other then to deceive making it look like there are multiple independent sources. The oldest manuscript is a small fragment of the gospel of John known as P52 that is dated to ~125CE the earliest fragment of the other gospels are from around 250CE, if we buy the claim that the originals were eyewitness accounts than that put the earliest existing manuscripts 200 years away from the original rather the 20.

    “No documents outside of the NT exist which do anything other than say essentially “there are a bunch of people who believe that some guy called Jesus was pretty awesome”

    That still can't explain no one outside the bible mentioning the killing of every baby in Judea or everyone having to travel to their ancestral town, both would cause quite a stir. Also if the miracles attributed to Jesus did happen they were likely to have been noticed, not to mention the graves opening and zombies walking the streets of Jerusalem when he got himself nailed to a stick. Your argument would work for a Jesus that was just one more crazy apocalyptic prophet in a period where you couldn't throw a stone without hitting a crazy apocalyptic prophet, but somehow I doubt that's the image of Jesus you try to paint.

  47. John B

    It's very difficult to do, but I think that willing atheists and Christians can have authentic dialog. But at the outset we need to acknowledge the defining convictions that each group has about the other. Christians believe that atheists are spiritually blind by nature from birth, and that Jesus restores sight to the lost. Atheists believe that Christians are deluded (fools is a good biblical word) about Jesus and the unbeliever's lack of true vision. Blind men and fools can talk to each other.

    OTOH, if Christians see spiritual blindness or sight too strictly as a matter of God's sovereign decree, there's really not much that we have to say about Jesus to atheists. Likewise, if atheists see Christians as willful and deceitful manipulators, rather than merely foolish, the door closes on dialog. Fatalism or deceit, either real or supposed, derails genuine discussion.

    "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." ~Steve Jobs

  48. Josh VB

    Sorry to interject a genuine question here:

    Mogg, Johan and Yoav: what's _your_ reason for wanting to convince Christians they are wrong?

    That's certainly not a criticism for you being here: Glen would hardly have written this blog post if he didn't want atheists to engage with him.

    If all we are are atoms in a meaningless world, why would you want to change someone's opinion on who Jesus is?

    - Are you concerned for the other person's well being and want to rescue him from his own deluded self belief? If so why?

    - Are you fearful of Christians, and what they might do, and so want to reduce their power/number? If so, what are you fearful of?

    - Are you just so convinced of your own rightness that you want to engage with a fight and prove you're better in argument? Again, if so, why?

    As a christian I think the Bible gives me very good reasons why you'd be engaged in such a debate (in fact, the existence of such a debate is yet another encouragement for me to take the Bible seriously). I'd love to know what reasons you have for taking part in this conversation.

  49. Mogg

    @ Josh VB:

    thanks for asking a question, instead of declaring that what you think is the only way to think :-)

    I'm only speaking for myself here. I suppose my motivation is that it's incredibly annoying to have people make assumptions and declarations about my experiences, thoughts and beliefs without bothering to ask or listen to me. Nobody likes to be treated rudely. As for this particular discussion, I found it annoying that someone would come to "engage" with a particular group but refuse to converse on a ground where that group could have a conversation, and not even see that that was not engagement.

    I'm an atom in a world which is ultimately meaningless, but at the atomic level is full of the meaning we atoms give it. I'm not sure that I wish to change anyone's opinion on who Jesus was, I do want it to be understood that other people have opinions with very good reasons for them, and dismissal of atheists as "never a true Christian", "deluded", "denying the evidence of God because they want to continue to sin" and a half-dozen other assumptions is not the real story. Get rid of those assumptions and you might actually be able to have a real conversation.

    Yes, I do want to rescue people from deluded self beliefs. Why? Firstly, because I have seen how much damage it has caused me and my family, and don't want people to suffer in the same manner. Secondly, because I think society would be better off if people made important decisions based on reality, not delusion. Humans are very prone to making decisions based on delusion, and it is not for our betterment, whether that delusion be that women are so prone to sexual desire that they must be covered up for the sake of the honour of their male family members, or that a particular race is inherently better than any other, or that health can be restored by immensely diluted poisons, or that our personalities and fates are determined by where the sun and moon are in relation to the stars at the moment of our birth, or that Jesus is going to return sometime soon and so using up all the resources of the Earth as quickly as possible doesn't matter.

    I am not fearful of Christians, except where they forget that imposing Christian values on everyone via political power is not Christianity. In a country where, just for example, an atheist Prime Minister is so afraid of losing the support of conservative Christian politicians and lobby groups that she will not consider giving gay people the right to marry despite multiple state political parties endorsing it and a clear majority of the population in favour, yes, that is a problem. (and no, I'm not gay, just annoyed that a group of people can be excluded from the societal and practical benefits of marriage solely because of their sexuality). By all means, be a Christian if you wish, but please do not force me to live by the rules of a religion that I do not believe in. Provided that what I do is not harmful (in a manner which is measurable in the real world, not some "spiritual harm"), I don't believe it should a matter of law if I do not adhere to the practices of the faith of my next door neighbours.

    I am not necessarily convinced of my own rightness, although I come across Christians all the time who are so convinced of theirs that they can declare things about me without even bothering to know anything about me and my life. I hope that if someone were to give me some really convincing evidence which challenges my view that I would look into it - after all, I have done this before :-) I'm not really one for winning a debate at all costs, but I would like people to at least listen to me before they decide what I am. And yes, this can be said of some atheists as well! That said, atheists tend to get a lot of Christians come along and say the same things, whereas in my experience Christians tend not to interact with as many atheists, so it's possible that some Christians receive the backlash of irritation of having to refute the same arguments and assumptions yet again.

    So, that's me. Others may have completely different reasons. I don't think the Bible gives me any reasons to be in any conversation, because I found the Bible was not accurate in so many areas of my life it was useless as a practical guide. Your experience apparently differs for reasons that I may not agree with, but that's okay. We can talk very well provided that you don't try to force me to converse on an assumption which as a non-believer I can't possibly hold.

  50. Mogg

    @Glen

    "Which is exactly what you’d expect for an unschooled Rabbi who had just 3 years of public ministry before being executed. Additionally, the fact that there’s a bunch of people insisting on this guy’s resurrection only confirms the bible’s account."

    Yes, that is what I would expect of an unschooled Rabbi with a 3 year ministry. If that Rabbi had anything like the effect that is claimed by the NT on both his own culture and the Roman occupiers (who were pretty good record keepers), I'd be wanting to see *something* other than the writings of his followers a couple of generations later to support the claim that he was extraordinary. In fact, if such evidence were ever found I'd consider it very good reason to rethink. If a bunch of people were insisting on his resurrection in documents dating to around the time of his death, I'd consider it. But documents from decades to centuries later, nope, not convincing, any more than the stories of King Arthur are convincing. Both Jesus and King Arthur may have been real, but the stories about them appear to be exaggerated in the telling, and without further very good evidence it is not reasonable to believe that the stories are literal truth.

  51. Yoav

    @ Josh VB
    Personally I find these discussions entertaining, at least until I run out of ways to say, because the bible say so is not evidence that the bible is true. I only came to this site because Glen turned up at unreasonable faith and started a discussion there and I then followed him back otherwise I would have never bothered to go on his site. If christians (and other theists) kept their faith to themselves and didn't try to legislate it or inject superstition into the science curriculum I would not try to debate them unless they asked me to.

  52. Josh VB

    @ Mogg - thanks for the reply. Sorry to hear that you and your family have been hurt by what you see as deluded beliefs. You'll know that whatever you say about it is liably to be picked up, dissected and proved wrong by a whole host of people - and frequently this will be done in a way (has been done?) in a way that would be totally unhelpful for you. I hope and pray though that your experience can in some way be turned around and used for good.

    @ Yoav
    Are you suggesting that Christians should not be allowed to act in accordance to the way they see reality, but atheists should? To impose such an idea (belief) on someone surely demands very high levels of proof. Can you supply it?

  53. Yoav

    @Josh VB (Anything to do with the Australian beer BTW?)

    Are you suggesting that Christians should not be allowed to act in accordance to the way they see reality, but atheists should? To impose such an idea (belief) on someone surely demands very high levels of proof. Can you supply it?

    Where did I say that? However you can't have it both ways, if you choose to try to force your magic book of bronze age fairy tales into the political process, or insist that science ignore everything we learned in the last 2000 years so you can keep your (extremely arrogant) delusion that the whole universe is there just for you, you forfeit your right to cry foul when people point and lough.

  54. John B

    Glen's online foray among the Philistines, err, uhh, I mean the atheists, has been a real eyeopener for me. After following this thread and the ones at Unreasonable Faith, I'm thinking that Aquinas' Five Ways regarding the existence of God is the best approach to dialog with these folks. After all, they're *A*theists, so why not concentrate on the classical theistic arguments? Thomas' natural theology is entirely within the bounds of the only playing field that the atheists will allow, so I think his apologetic is perfectly fitted to the task at hand. Even though they disagree, the cosmological argument shouldn't be offensive to atheists. Sure, Dawkins attempted a preemptive strike against Thomas in The God Delusion, but, the Doctor Angelicus is not so easily brushed aside by Dawk the Hawk. I'd pray that the LORD would use Thomas' Five Ways to illumine the hearts of atheists.

    I'm totally unqualified to handle such a task, so I'm off the hook for enlisting on this one.

    O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 136:2)

  55. Josh VB

    @Yoav
    Sorry if I misread you.

    Hope you won't mind if I object when teachings from the "Preservation of favoured races" form the basis for social policy.

  56. Mogg

    @Josh VB,

    You've pretty much nailed it :-) I'll add that while I do get sick and tired of the unhelpful types, I've also had some really wonderful Christian people in my life who have been anything other than unhelpful. Thanks for the good wishes.

    @John B,

    I'm sure there are a million formal philosophical arguments to be had about the Five Ways, but I am not a philosopher. I can give you what I think about the Five Ways, though.

    1. The Unmoved Mover and 2. The First Cause seem to be very similar arguments. The both seem to assume no beginning to time and no change to the laws of physics. No doubt someone has come up with an argument to say otherwise, but to me it appears that these arguments hold no validity in the universe as we currently understand it - one with a beginning which at the instant of its beginning did not have the same laws as are in operation now, and before its beginning had no time or place to have anything. We don't know what, if anything, was before the Big Bang - to use the word 'before' is possibly meaningless, as there was no time to be before in. Just because we don't know what was there doesn't mean it was God. Incidentally, I seem to recall from having to write an assignment on him in uni that these two arguments were originally put forward by Aristotle some 350 years before Jesus was born.

    3. The argument from contingency, or "Why is there something instead of nothing?" assumes that there must be a reason for everything. I have no idea why that should be the case. I'm perfectly comfortable with the concept that there may not be a reason for existence. I don't have any feeling that I have an outside-determined grand purpose in life, and truly don't understand why not feeling that way is assumed to be depressing. I'm alive in a beautiful universe! I don't really need a reason, and I find it irritating when people try put to a meaning on something that is wonderful as it is.

    4. The argument from degree puzzles me. It does not follow that because there is a gradation observed in the nature of things that there is an infinite gradation leading to a "most" or "cause" of that nature in all things which exhibit it. If I line up all the people in the world according to height, there is not an infinity of people getting taller and taller, with the height of each person somehow deriving from the most infinitely tall person.

    5. The argument from design, or teleological argument, is one which contributed to my leaving the faith. To me it is quite clear that the physical world is not designed, and that there are many many processes which occur without any intelligent input.

    Taken altogether, even if I accepted the five ways as valid arguments for a god, they don't indicate which one (or more). If anything, Aristotle's version of the Prime Mover/First Cause are anti- the trinitarian model of God, as he proposed a perfect being or force which was completely satisfied with self-contemplation. At best, these are arguments for a deistic god, one who created the universe and then had no further input. I guess it's possible that such a being exists, but it's a far cry from the God of the Bible, and I can't see any reason why such a being would care about our actions or our opinion of it.

  57. Dominic

    Dear Mogg,
    I echo Josh VB's comments above and, having read your recent reply to him, please don't feel that, in replying to my comments below, you have to share anything of a personal nature that you are either not comfortable with or that wouldn't be helpful.

    I'm sorry to hear that you found that "the Bible was useless as a practical guide".

    What I write below may not be at all similar to your experience. But, in a fumbling way, will you permit me to use my own example to illustrate that, speaking personally, I do find that the Bible is a good practical guide?

    For many years as a Christian I tried to live as upright as I possibly could. I tried with all my might to live in an upright manner and to live beyond reproach.

    It was only when I messed one particular thing up, however, that I realised how wonderful the gospel is. I saw (partly through this website, actually) that Jesus is my High Priest who represents me perfectly before the Father and I needed to realise that what makes me acceptable to God is not how uprightly I lived, but that He is upright and He represents me before the Father.

    I'm sure what I've written above is something you've heard many times before. But the point is that, when I see how Jesus lived and how compassionate and selfless He was, I realise, deep down, that the world would be a lot better if I lived like Him. In that sense, I find the Bible to be immensely practical. But, more importantly, when I realise that not only do I not act like Jesus did but, worse, deep down, my heart doesn't even have the right motives, then I find the Bible to be immensely practical - I find myself to be exactly what the Bible describes - somebody utterly helpless to try to live like he should but thankful that my standing before God depends not on how I live, but on how Jesus lived.

    Again - apologies - I'm acutely aware from what you've written above that this will be familiar to you. But, speaking personally, I find the Bible to be the most "real" book I've ever read.

    With best regards,
    Dominic.

  58. Yoav

    Josh VB

    Hope you won’t mind if I object when teachings from the “Preservation of favoured races” form the basis for social policy.

    C'mon, not that old junk again. First Darwin uses races in a way that we now use verities or species not as designation for different skin colors of humans. Humans are barely mentioned in the Origin of Species and while some terms he used in the Descent of Man will strike us as racist according for today's standards they were accepted as normal in the late 19th century. For centuries christians have used the idea of the curse of Ham (Noah's son not the creationist ding dong) to justify slavery, the massacre of native populations and their sense of superiority. The difference is that while christians, even when they try to pretend the bible doesn't say the things they don't like, have to at least pay lip service to claiming that it is the best source of morality and that every single word in it is true and binding. Darwin's work on the other hand is not scripture, our understanding of evolution has came a long way in the 150 years since the origin was published and anyone who actually understand the science will have no problems with pointing to the errors Darwin made based on his lack of information about things such as genetics and plate tectonics. That's the difference between science and superstition, you would rather hold to your book regardless of the facts while science look at the fact and if the current theory can't explain them it will be modified. It's an important point that seem to be lost on many theists, you modify the explanation to fit reality not the other way around.

  59. James VB

    @ Yoav -

    I think we're getting somewhere. You look at Science (a methodology to observe the world - I'll try to capitalise it when refering to Science as a methodology as distinct from science, refering to scientific findings) as absolute, whereas we look to the Bible as absolute. In the past we're both happy to accept that different scientists and theologians have used their repected tools and come up with wrong results - hence you're happy for some of Darwins's work to be discarded in the light of Science, just as we're happy for the Bible to correct and shape past errors made by people who claimed to use the Bible for their support.

    Now if you gave a scientific reason for why Science should be held supreme I'd accuse you of circular arguments, just as if I gave a biblical reason for why I think the Bible is the best way of looking at reality.

    That's the progress - I think there's much greater clarity on the problem. How would you propose to resolve the log-jam? (And since you can't hear the tone of my voice here, I'm not saying that you're the one who has to do it, or accusing you of inadequacy if you're unable to resolve this problem - I do want to know if you see the problem in the same way and whether or not you've got a good way of dealing with it).

    As for me, I'm unsure whether I take the line that Christians need to simply preach the Bible and trust God to work through it, observing that it has changed millions of people's lives, or whether it's possible to go from a position of recognising this problem and try to convince you that the Science approach is insufficient (and therefore, why not try the Bible approach, as the areas Science seem insufficient are places where I think the Bible makes sense of the world).

    What are your thoughts?

    PS - Just looked up VB and Beer on google. Never knew it existed! Hope it tastes good.

  60. blotonthelandscape

    Hi Glen, finally got around to reading this, and many of the comments below, and just wanted to interject on a couple of lines, both in your post and in the ensuing conversation.

    Re. your concluding remarks, make no mistake that we do reject Jesus, in the sense that we dismiss (not lightly) the claims made about him and his divinity. However, in terms of our dialogues, we are forced into considering world-views, because (oddly) Jesus doesn't actually take part in these conversations. Thus we are always talking about Jesus from the perspective of the onlooker (both you and I), and hence we must consider our own internal biases and the way we interpret the world (our worldviews). In a sense you're right; that Jesus himself isn't "in the dock". It's your conceptions, your beliefs, and the claims made in support of those beliefs which are being judged. Because that is the fabric of the bag out of which one "sows" (forgive my extension of the metaphor).

    Also note that, while Jesus need not be "merely" the most logical option, he must be at least that, and he must be that before we consider him to be anything more. Anything less makes his existence incoherent and inconceivable. Establishing that Jesus' existence and the claims made on his behalf by the authors of scripture are logical should be a first-port-of-call. It by no means establishes his 'truthiness', but it is a minimal requirement for truth. Even if we state that logic comes from him, surely then he should be the epitome of what is logical (ontologically speaking, the "most logical")?

    Regarding the No True Scotsman, just in case it hasn't been discussed thoroughly enough; I, like Mogg, abandoned my faith, some 3 years ago now. I may not have fit your particular definition of a christian, but I had what I considered to be an experience of the Holy Spirit many times, I read my bible, sought God; prayed, fasted, argued for my faith with non-believers, and managed to convince my wife (who is still a christian) of my sincerity (she would never have married me otherwise). Most importantly, I believed, unwaveringly, in Jesus and the Gospel. For someone to say that I was never a christian is for them to so narrowly define what a "christian" is that they may as well exclude everyone but themselves. It isn't so much insulting to me as it is arrogant and ignorant. Naturally I no longer believe that my "experiences of the Holy Spirit" were really that, but only as a consequence of no longer accepting claims without evidence. I believe the same thing regarding anyone else who claims an "inner witness" or somesuch. (As an aside, I have met plenty of christians who believe "Christ is the Truth", indeed my whole family would declare this. That you believe isn't a free pass to make whatever claims you like without scrutiny, nor would our "ignorance" grant your position any credibility. I'm not lying to myself. On the contrary, it was in being honest with myself ABOUT myself that I came to relinquish my belief. I have yet to pick it up again. Your "sowing on stony grounds" metaphor would be more appropriate if seeds made stone thicker).

    To say "that all humans know in our hearts that God is the real creator and God has provided enough evidence for us to easily see it" is likewise arrogant and ignorant. I "know" no such thing, indeed I believe the contrary and see infinitely better explanations for the evidence that supposedly points us unambiguously toward god. This is another reason I rejected my belief in the first place).

    Regarding historicity, see Richard Carrier's "Formation of New Testament Canon". This is by far the most accessible and rigourous discussion of "why things are in the bible" that I've come accross. (It's certainly accessible to your readers). It gives little reason to trust them as historical, even if we have little else to describe that time and place due to the Jewish War.

    Note as well that christian treatment of canon is inconsistent not only with scholarly treatment of them, but of the scholarly treatment of ANY text from that era, because the methodology for recording events and preserving texts in those days was unreliable and hugely prone to bias from personal or political motives. The treatment of the bible as divinely authoritative shows a lack of awareness for the actual state of knowledge, the progression of canonicity, and the actual consequences of the fallibility of the authors.

  61. John B

    Hi Mogg,

    At best, these [the Five Ways] are arguments for a deistic god, one who created the universe and then had no further input. I guess it’s possible that such a being exists, but it’s a far cry from the God of the Bible, and I can’t see any reason why such a being would care about our actions or our opinion of it.

    This, from the end of your concluding paragraph, which is the best concise summary of the Five Ways that I've ever read. Your entire analysis of the Five Ways is great. Thank you for it!

    This is why I hope that atheists will not restrict their dialog with Christians to just science and nature, ruling any discussion of the truth and reality to be seen in revelation as simply out of bounds. If you limit the conversation to be about nature only, then the best that Christians will be able to offer is something like an updated version of the Five Ways. A more fruitful way forward is for both atheists and Christians to let down our guards a little—long enough to try on each others eyeglasses for a while, and see how the world looks through that different perspective.

    As you noted, there's a lot of Aristotle behind the Five Ways. That's fine, but I think we need to include Plato in the mix as well. His Allegory of the Cave vividly illustrates his view that nature is only a shadow land of forms, and is real and true only so far as it reflects that which is perfect and ideal.

  62. Glen

    Hi Blot,

    Thanks for the "Carrier" recommendation, I'll definitely want to look at that.

    Your 3rd para seems crucial to me.

    I'm not saying that Christ is anti-logic. He is the Logos. And He doesn't come to oppose human logic but to redeem it. Yet because our reasoning stands in need of redemption, we cannot start with it and conclude with Christ. But we can begin with Christ and continue rationally. (Colossians 2:8-9).

    The Christian position is *not* that Christ is anti-logic, it is that we are. We have an inveterate confirmation bias which traces back to our determination to self-justify. We start with ourselves and judge everything by us. That is our illogicality, no matter how much we claim our methods to be rational.

    A prime symptom of our irrationality is the fact that we look for some kind of "omni-being despot-in-the-sky". The divine reality that humanity either does or doesn't believe in is actually incredibly ugly - it bears no relation to the One who showed up on the cross. But the One on the cross says 'Look here when you want to see divine power. Look here if you want to see divine wisdom.'

    If you can see the bleeding God as wise and powerful you've had your rationality recalibrated by Christ - you've been born again. If you see the bleeding God as stupid and weak, you're stuck in humanity's natural folly. But Jesus is not going to come as the Sky-Despot to fit in with our natural irrationality. Instead He seeks to win our hearts and minds in self-giving love.

    Like I say, there's plenty of rational thinking-out to be done from the centre of Christ. (And there's plenty of peripheral rationality that can think-around matters of lesser importance.) But there's no rationality that can go from us to Christ. The direction of revelation is always coming down from above.

    If one says it ought to be otherwise, one is simply restating a dislike for the kind of Jesus Jesus is.

    I still maintain that the atheist position is similarly closed (and nothing in hundreds of comments has put the merest dent in that assertion). The atheist position insists on a bottom-up approach to the question of God and therefore cuts itself off, a priori, from a top-down God (which is the God revealed in Jesus).

    But again I would say that the discussion does not end once we've identified the circularity of our two world-views. What recommends our views of reality is their explanatory power. And, to me, sacrificial love as ultimate reality explains life better than any other set of "goggles."

  63. Yoav

    @James (Josh?) VB
    The key difference between science and theology is that the scientific method contains an internal editing function. When a scientist make a claim that a certain element of the currently accepted model, for whatever it is he works on, need to be modified he should be able to provide a verifiable chain of reasoning as to what new evidence he have that contradict the old explanation as well as why his proposed model is better then the old one or from other alternative models. Theology on the other hand make the conclusion first and then go to the bible looking for ways to justify that conclusion. That's why in the past theologians found that the bible supported slavery or burning witches but now when society have moved on and got to consider these thing abhorable theologians find that the bible is against them as well.

    and therefore, why not try the Bible approach, as the areas Science seem insufficient are places where I think the Bible makes sense of the world

    (this is also relevant to John B's question about considering reveled truth)
    Why consider the bible and not the koran or the book of mormon or any of the thousands of other religious revelations believed by people throughout history? This is something I been asking theists for years and never got anything resembling an answer, how do you tell which revelation is a real one from god and which one is coming from that satan dude or is just a delusion, how do you determine which bits of the bible are to be taken literally and which are meant as metaphor. As long as you can't come with a better way to tell true revelation from false one then considering reveled truth as evidence is not going to be very productive.

  64. Mogg

    @James VB (Josh? Or are there two people here with the initials of a fairly horrible beer?)

    "I think we’re getting somewhere. You look at Science (a methodology to observe the world – I’ll try to capitalise it when refering to Science as a methodology as distinct from science, refering to scientific findings) as absolute, whereas we look to the Bible as absolute. In the past we’re both happy to accept that different scientists and theologians have used their repected tools and come up with wrong results – hence you’re happy for some of Darwins’s work to be discarded in the light of Science, just as we’re happy for the Bible to correct and shape past errors made by people who claimed to use the Bible for their support."

    The two are not analogous, in that the scientific method is also open to scrutiny and modification, where the Bible is not to those who take it as an absolute. If we were to come up with a method for finding things out that produces better results, then the scientific method itself would stand to be replaced (although taking into account the human tendency to cling to what we are familiar with, it would no doubt take a lot of time and angst). However, the scientific method has for centuries shown itself to be a very good method for exploring reality, with inbuilt corrective functions in the form of open debate and the peer review system which tend over time to fix mistakes in earlier reasoning.

  65. Mogg

    @Dominic

    I guess all I can say is that our experiences differ :-) Which is fine, even if we disagree. Do you care to expand on what you mean by living like Christ? There's a lot of need for people who work, love and support their families, and generally lead a normal life, and not so much room for itinerant preachers. I'm not sure why the second is more selfless and compassionate than the first.

  66. Glen

    Hi Mogg,

    But no Christian here denies that the scientific method is useful for discovering all kinds of truths. The contentious issue is the further claim that the scientific method is best placed to adjudicate the question of God. And this issue cannot be answered by the scientific method itself.

    Put it another way: You can claim all you like that science helps us discover reality (I agree). But the claim that all knowable reality is known via science is a totalizing grab for power and one that is not made on the basis of "the scientific method." Science itself just generates scientific knowledge (which is great). But science doesn't tell you that scientific knowledge is the only knowledge, or even the best, or the ultimate. It just keeps on generating knowledge. It's the naturalist who claims that such knowledge is all there is was or ever shall be.

    You say: " If we were to come up with a method for finding things out that produces better results, then the scientific method itself would stand to be replaced."

    A) The Christian doesn't want you to "replace" the scientific method, they want you to supplement it will something more ultimate.

    B) No you won't replace your method until you change your view of reality. Of course you'll look to the natural sciences as the ultimate source of knowledge if you're a naturalist! That's not just confirmation bias, it is the closed-ness of the atheist position (parallel to the Christian closed-ness over the self-authentication of God's Word). You will only change your ultimate source of knowledge when you see a different ultimate reality - it's called conversion. To the degree that you're open to conversion you are open to changing your method of enquiry into reality. But then... if you're open to conversion. Pick up a Gospel and pray to the Father, "Show me Jesus as Ultimate Truth."

  67. Mogg

    @Glen

    "A prime symptom of our irrationality is the fact that we look for some kind of “omni-being despot-in-the-sky”. The divine reality that humanity either does or doesn’t believe in is actually incredibly ugly – it bears no relation to the One who showed up on the cross. But the One on the cross says ‘Look here when you want to see divine power. Look here if you want to see divine wisdom.’ "

    Actually, I could possibly believe in an irrational despot-in-the-sky. It's the God that loves that I have a problem believing in. It doesn't match with either objective observation or my own experience.

  68. Glen

    @Mogg - You said "It’s the God that loves that I have a problem believing in."

    Good point. My phrase was far too abstract. The 'God the loves' is the God that suffers godforsaken and accursed death on the cross. It's the suffering of the cross that reveals the God of love. And without that, then your observations would indeed tell against some abstract 'God of love'. But God in the concrete is the suffering God. And while suffering might disprove a thousand gods - it can't disprove the suffering God.

  69. Josh VB

    Oops. So much for the name I use when I want to remain anonymous.

    "Theology on the other hand make the conclusion first and then go to the bible looking for ways to justify that conclusion." That sounds like the type of science I did for A-level physics practicals. Just because some people abuse the system, doesn't mean the methodology is wrong.

    I think Mogg's description of possible changes in the scientific method can help explain some of Yoav's questions on interpreting the Bible. I could approach the Bible with any interpretive framework/methodology I like - I simply need to be willing to change that method in the light of what the Bible teaches. If I come to the Bible assuming it's just fairy tales, I need to read things like the beginning of Luke's gospel and realise that my approach to the Bible is wrong and alter it accordingly. The principle is that the more we know what we study, the more we're able to know how to study it.

    As for why consider the Bible and not, say, the Koran:
    The Bible is probably the easiest to dismiss. If you're going to work through all the religious texts, why not start with the one you can eliminate quickest? If you can convince yourself that the resurrection of Jesus didn't happen, you can dismiss the Bible. (You'll have to come up with a convincing reason why, in a culture that saw the body as a prison for the soul, a large movement arose which celebrated the fact that we would be resurrected with new bodies).

  70. Josh VB

    @ Mogg - sorry to hear that VB Beer isn't very nice.

    " It’s the God that loves that I have a problem believing in. It doesn’t match with either objective observation or my own experience."

    Sorry if I'm prying in on sensitive areas or assuming things about you: if there is a God of love, then any pain we've experienced is rightly painful, and proof that there is something deeply wrong with the ordering of the universe. As Glen mentioned above - the Christian God has and is dealing with it through suffering himself.

    If there is no God, and the universe is simply a clash between the weak and the strong, with the strong overpowering and conquering the weak, then I see no reason why we should be surprised or saddened at loss, grief or pain.

    I'm studying Psalm 88 at the moment - it's full of pain and loss, and the anguish is real since the author knew that God was a God of salvation. If atheists are right, then such pain is meaningless and anguish has no reason for existing: which goes directly against everything we sense.

    Sorry if that comes across as completely impersonal. Ultimate reality is personal: and trying to reduce everything to purely rational arguments risks going against the grain of what makes us human.

  71. Dominic

    Hi Mogg,
    In response to your post (at 9:49pm) to mine.

    By living like Jesus, I wasn't so much thinking of his preaching, but his character. For example:

    1. He loves the poor and the oppressed. So, for example, He eats and socialises with lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors.

    2. He lives selflessly. He is not materialistic and does not set out to acquire wealth or power. Indeed, when Satan tempts Him with worldly acclamation and power, He refuses. Most selflessly of all, he loves others so much that He even laid down His life for them.

    3. He shows great humility. He came to earth from the glory of Heaven, knowing that He would be punched, mocked, rejected and humiliated. He is content to simply say to His Father "Yet not my will, but Yours be done".

    4. When He suffers - and suffers unjustly at that - He makes no threats (1 Peter 2).

    5. He loves his enemies. When Judas comes to betray Him, He calls him "Friend". When He is hanging on the cross, He prays "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

    Not only do I not live like that, but I can't pretend that I even have the right motives.

    With best regards,
    Dominic.

  72. Mogg

    @ Glen,

    "But no Christian here denies that the scientific method is useful for discovering all kinds of truths. The contentious issue is the further claim that the scientific method is best placed to adjudicate the question of God. And this issue cannot be answered by the scientific method itself.

    Put it another way: You can claim all you like that science helps us discover reality (I agree). But the claim that all knowable reality is known via science is a totalizing grab for power and one that is not made on the basis of “the scientific method.” "

    I'm not entirely certain that all possible truth can be discovered by the scientific method, mostly because some information is difficult to get into the right format for that method. But how is the scientific method not suitable for investigating claims of God's interaction with the physical world? We are physical beings. Our definitions of the attributes and actions we can discern of God cannot be anything but physical, because we couldn't perceive them if they weren't - even abstract concepts have to be explained in terms of physical perceptions. The Bible makes claims about evidence for God and actions of God which are discernible in this physical plane of reality.

    If there is any truth at all to the concept of God, it has to be truthful at all levels. Given that the physical evidence of the Biblical claims of God's actions in the physical world doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of the best method we have for investigating physical truth, I can't see any compelling reason to go to another level and supplement it with anything "more ultimate".

  73. Mogg

    "To the degree that you’re open to conversion you are open to changing your method of enquiry into reality. But then… if you’re open to conversion. Pick up a Gospel and pray to the Father, “Show me Jesus as Ultimate Truth.” "

    Many, many times I have done that. No answer but echoes. It adds up to rather compelling support for either a God who isn't the God of the Bible who hears our cries, or for no god at all.

  74. Mogg

    "...The ‘God the loves’ (sic) is the God that suffers godforsaken and accursed death on the cross. It’s the suffering of the cross that reveals the God of love. And without that, then your observations would indeed tell against some abstract ‘God of love’. But God in the concrete is the suffering God. And while suffering might disprove a thousand gods – it can’t disprove the suffering God."

    Hmmm... I think you may have got onto the wrong track there. I wasn't making a comment about suffering, although that is a common argument used against the idea of a loving god. It's that I know what love is, what it looks like, how it behaves, the effects of well- or badly- expressed love in affection or discipline. Most people have experienced it, and some have studied it in some form or other in a more formal manner. God does not show the characteristics of love to humans. A loving god would not behave like a delinquent parent who occasionally sends news or instructions home via an acquaintance but never calls in person, while the kids muddle along doing their best or worst. Discipline is not loving and also ineffective if the receiver is unaware of their wrongdoing, the wrong person is punished, or the punishment is inappropriate in scale or timing. Sacrifice is often a characteristic of love, but it is pointless if the sacrifice makes no discernible difference to those who choose to take advantage of it in comparison to those who either don't know of it or don't have the vital characteristic that would allow them to take advantage of it.

    This is supposed to be a god who made us, knows us, and is all-powerful. If he's loving, he's obviously unable to show it effectively. If he's all-powerful, he clearly doesn't love most of us, or else doesn't know us well enough to communicate in a manner which we can understand.

  75. blotonthelandscape

    Where to start...

    Why does human reason require redemption? What has it done wrong?

    I'm specifically not saying that christianity is *anti-logic* (although thus far the claims I've come accross are illogical). On the contrary, I'm saying it would have to be logical in order for it to be true, irrespective of what god does or doesn't look like. A genuine (sincere) christianity would take logic seriously.

    God need not be a "despot-in-the-sky", although such is the picture most people would give to him.

    Claims made about him, irrespective of him, are still subject to scrutiny via human reason and logic, because only humans are involved in this conversation. You can't keep pretending that you are him, nor that your words carry the weight of God, which is in effect what you do by trying to elevate your position out of skeptical reach. As I said before, Jesus is always welcome to weigh in on this discussion, but until then we only have our words to go on. It is only our presence that is felt in this conversation.

    "Look here when you want to see divine power. Look here if you want to see divine wisdom." Look where? Again, just us, mere mortals, making claims. No divinity on the internet I'm afraid.

    If by "here" you mean the words attributed to Jesus in the scriptures, you'll have to do a lot better than that. Contrary to popular opinion, most internet atheists have read the bible, some of us sincerely; many were pastors, theologians, christian scholars. I was raised in a "bible-soaked" household, and still I have a bible in every room in my house (except the kitchen). Again, understanding the journey that led to the formation of christian canon, the prejudice, political machinations, the poor methodologies, the sheer timescale, and the controversies which still go on today, leads to the realisation that it is not "divine" by any standard. They bear all the hallmarks of human fallibility and human construction. If it was divine it would be unmistakably so. That a majority of the worlds population fails to perceive this is damning evidence against such claims.

    If by "here" you mean the "inner witness of the holy spirit" or something similar, note that you are essentially appealing directly to confirmation bias as a valid justifcation for belief. This same claim is made by people of all religions in some way, shape or form to justify the "obvious" inconsistencies and incoherencies in their beliefs; i.e. those that are apparent using human reasoning alone. You don't get exclusive rights to an argument because yours is culturally dominant.

    "If you can see the bleeding God as wise and powerful you’ve had your rationality recalibrated by Christ – you’ve been born again. If you see the bleeding God as stupid and weak, you’re stuck in humanity’s natural folly."

    Now who's putting God in the dock? I don't see god. Until I do, I have no reason to judge it wise, powerful, foolish or weak, male of female, except hypothetically, based solely on your words, your claims, your methodology. By "your" I mean both you specifically and the religious mind in general.

    "Re-calibration" of reason is a misnomer. As I said, logic is a first port-of-call (clarification: in lieu of something with substance). And the logic would not change in light of the actual fact-of-the-matter. The reasons would stay the same, they would just point to something which exists in reality, rather than merely the abstract. Hence Jesus could only validate our logic, never invalidate it. How would gods existence (or non-existence) invalidate the status of "1+1=2" or "All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal"? And if god cannot fulfill even this most basic of criterion (that it is a logical entity), how can it be said to exist in realty?

    "I still maintain that the atheist position is similarly closed (and nothing in hundreds of comments has put the merest dent in that assertion). The atheist position insists on a bottom-up approach to the question of God."

    Where else can we, mere humans, start? We are closed not willingly but only by the limits of ourselves as discrete entities in a universe of possibilities. It's all well and good positing a being who "comes down to us", but when that being doesn't show, we are left to our own resources. If he has not shown up for me, that leaves two real possibilities; he has shown himself to no-one, and effectively does not exist, or he has selected the ones he has shown himself to, and deliberately excluded himself from others, and there is no point in seeking him. This is an intellectually honest approach; to claim that we must accept god to find god is, by contrast, intellectually dishonest (again, a direct appeal to confirmation bias as a valid way of knowing).

    "What recommends them is their explanatory power" I said something about this on UF, I'll say something here. The extraneous addition of "persons in relationship" explains nothing about observable (experiential) reality that isn't already explained well by naturalistic explanations, and naturalistic explanations are preferable to "persons-in-relationship" explanations because "relationships" between "persons" are fully explainable as interactions between physical beings, and because the naturalistic approach is readily comprehendable and sensible (it's simple, or parsimonious). If you want to claim otherwise, you must describe how a relationship is somehow unexplainable via naturalism, and then describe how you explain it, AND THEN how it in turn justifies your belief in Jesus-as-God. You can't just assert it, you must justify your assertion. Thus far all you have done is assert things as given, completely ignoring the requirement to be comprehendable or addressing your assumptions and internal biases, which is frustrating for a truth-seeker like myself.

  76. Tim Vasby-Burnie

    "All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal."

    But here, surely, Jesus is invalidating your logic? Jesus is a man and he now lives forever.

    You disagree, of course. But on what basis? Surely not because the resurrection and eternal life of Jesus is illogical or unreasonable, because that would be to assume what you assert. The claim of Jesus is a challenge to your starting assumption.

    Similarly, the claim of Jesus challenges your starting assumption "If he has not shown up for me." The claim of Jesus is that he did show up for you. And die for you. And now lives forever as Lord and Christ.

    Again, I imagine you disagree with this. But I hope you would not disagree because you believe God doesn't exist, since that would be to make an a priori assumption before considering the claim, i.e. it would be a refusal to listen to Jesus.

  77. Yoav

    @Josh VB

    If I come to the Bible assuming it’s just fairy tales, I need to read things like the beginning of Luke’s gospel and realise that my approach to the Bible is wrong and alter it accordingly.

    Once again, the bible saying the bible is a reliable source doesn't mean the bible is a reliable source.

    You’ll have to come up with a convincing reason why, in a culture that saw the body as a prison for the soul, a large movement arose which celebrated the fact that we would be resurrected with new bodies

    Actually traditional judaism doesn't have a concept of an afterlife similar to modern christianity. so physical resurrection was always the way judaism saw the messianic times so the story of the resurrection fit with the concept of jesus being the jewish messiah.

  78. blotonthelandscape

    "But here, surely, Jesus is invalidating your logic? Jesus is a man and he now lives forever."

    If Jesus lives forever then he is not merely a man. Besides, logic isn't found in the definition of "man" or "mortal" but in the "if...then...ergo...Q.E.D"; i.e. the process. That is the basis for my disagreement. See the video "Logic is Logical, or Flatulence Farts" by the Youtube atheist DasAmericanAtheist for a very accessible yet thorough introduction to logic, and it's relation to god.

    "Similarly, the claim of Jesus challenges your starting assumption “If he has not shown up for me.”The claim of Jesus is that he did show up for you. And die for you. And now lives forever as Lord and Christ."

    You misunderstand (dare I say deliberately misunderstand). Jesus apparently appeared as a man 2000 years ago, in a superstitious era without cameras or smart-phones, never actually wrote anything down himself, and then any possibility of secular corroboration (of the fantastical claims made on his behalf by others no less than 20 years after his death from the other side of the mediterranean) was destroyed by the Jewish War (at the very least, such secular corroboration does not exist, but far be it from me to speculate that it never has). Jesus doesn't appear to have claimed anything of the sort. The scriptures make that claim; the church makes that claim; you make that claim. Jesus, for all his immortality, remains silent. Hiding your assertions behind a veil of divine authority makes you intellectually dishonest, so unless you'd care to back up your assertion that "The claim of Jesus" was really a claim made by Jesus, I suggest you stop making such silly and apparently vaccuous claims on his behalf. Look up the article I mentioned above by Richard Carrier before you attempt to argue for the authority of the bible.

    In statistics we would call "God does not exist" the "Null Hypothesis" and in this case we would "fail to reject" it.

    When I say "Did not show up for me", I allude to my personal journey from christian to atheist. I relinquished my belief (initially) on the condition that I believed for intellectually dishonest reasons, and would resume belief only if I could meet the criteria of intellectual honesty. Everything I have read or learned since has reinforced that position. The only thing that could possibly render belief intellectually honest is for god to reveal himself to me, personally, unambiguously, in the present. Reliance on scripture, on prior belief, on the ambiguous personal experiences I had previously relied on, were rendered obsolete.

  79. mande

    “But here, surely, Jesus is invalidating your logic? Jesus is a man and he now lives forever.”

    If Jesus lives forever then he is not merely a man.

    Right, He ist not merely a man. He has been on the earth as "man AND God" in one personality. He has not been only a man, but also God.
    So where is the problem that he exists forever?
    (Not only from 2000 years ago forever, but outside of time eternally in His preexistence)

  80. Josh VB

    @blotonthelandscape/lovedbythecreator

    why do you assume logic never changes? Is it possible for there to be another universe where logic works differently? How could you know?

    Did logic exist before the universe? Was it the same as it is now? At the moment the big bang happened, did 0 + 0 = everything?

    More importantly, who has made you the one who gets to decide what proof you'll accept or not for God?

    Your world is built on sinking sand - which is very sad to see.

  81. John B

    @Yoav

    You wrote:

    "Why consider the bible and not the koran or the book of mormon or any of the thousands of other religious revelations believed by people throughout history?"

    Thousands? Not sure that's a good statistic. The number is actually quite small. But if you presuppose that each individual is the criterion of truth, then there could be as many texts of divine revelation as anyone chooses to so designate. I wouldn't want to have to sort through all of them! In the specific examples that you cite, it's interesting that both Muslims and Mormons regard the Bible as divine revelation, and their own sacred books as additional testaments.

    The term "people of the book" is of Muslim origin. There are some Christians who accept this as a self-designation, but many others who wouldn't. I'd describe a Christian as a follower of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, to whom the Scriptures bare infallible witness. The medium *isn't* the message, it's just, well..., a medium. Jesus Christ is God's revelation to man. The Bible is a divine account of reality that is subject only to the Truth as it is made known to us in Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. It isn't just that he's trustworthy by the validation of some external criterion. He's the definition of Truth. Truth is a person, not a concept. Things are real or false only as they're like Christ, "And he is before all things". The Bible isn't a self-contained Holy book. It's a true witness to the person of Christ, and of his work "to reconcile all things unto himself". The resurrection validates the Bible and not vice versa. Until the disciples recognized the risen Christ, they didn't understand the Scriptures.

    The gospel we proclaim is that all things find ultimate meaning and fulfillment only in the living and risen Christ, our triumphant champion. If Christ is risen, then arguments about the historical and scientific validation of the Bible are quite pointless. If I believed that Jesus was dead or had never existed, then for me it'd be back to playing golf on Sunday mornings.

    I know that our perspectives about the Truth are incompatible. That's understood. But, for me, if you see Christianity as essentially a religion of the book, you haven't actually tried on Christian spectacles.

  82. Yoav

    @John B
    That was a really long way of saying absolutely nothing. Jews don't accept the new testament, the koran or the book of mormon as true revelations, christians accept the old and new testaments (accept the parts they don't like not eating bacon cheeseburgers) but not the koran or BoM, muslims don't accept the BoM while mormons don't accept the koran. Hindus and followers of other non-abrahamic religions don't consider any of them as true etc. etc. Can you give a reason why your selection of texts are the only true ones and every non-christian's selection isn't that wouldn't boil down to because I said so, an argument most 3 year olds find unsatisfactory.

  83. John B

    @Yoav

    Now here's a really *short* way of saying absolutely nothing:

    Yes, I can eat bacon cheeseburgers!
    Yes, I can eat bacon cheeseburgers!
    Yes, I can eat bacon cheeseburgers!
    The Bible tells me so.

    And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Act 10:15)

    And before you go knocking us three-year olds, remember:

    "James James
    Morrison Morrison
    Weatherby George Dupree
    Took great care of his mother
    Though he was only three."

  84. Si Hollett

    Yoav, your argument here sounds like an 8-year old I know who keeps on banging on about Greek gods - if the God of the Bible is true, then Poseidon must also be true. It's a childish fallacy of 'similarity means equality' that you are using here, and that is why 3 year olds find John B's response unsatisfactory, because they are childish (for the obvious reason of being a child) and haven't learnt to spot that fallacy yet.

    We accept the New Testament, because the Old Testament has a pregnant unfinishedness that Christ fills. We accept the Old Testament as Christ did. We reject the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc because they don't speak of Christ, only pretend to and nor do they fit with the existing revelation by Christ, of Christ (or history, come to that).

    It's as simple as that - just as you reject books as not-true because they don't fit with your Truth, we reject books as not-true that don't fit with ours.

    Yes it's circular, Christ is the truth, because Christ says he's the truth. It's no problem - you have to have a circular thing - your highest authority must be self-authenticating, or it's not your highest authority. I see someone above suggesting that watching a youtube video called "logic is logical" - indeed it is, but the question is "can logic be the foundation of our thought, or is it just a tool, subordinate to the ultimate Truth?".

  85. Yoav

    @Si Hollett

    if the God of the Bible is true, then Poseidon must also be true. It’s a childish fallacy of ‘similarity means equality’ that you are using here

    You should work on you reading comprehension, The point is that there is an equal amount of evidence of jesus and apollo (that will be none) and therefore it up to you who makes the claim to justify why jesus is real and all the other gods are not.

    It’s as simple as that – just as you reject books as not-true because they don’t fit with your Truth, we reject books as not-true that don’t fit with ours.

    No, I reject your book because it contradict reality as well as itself. If you produce any evidence in favor of your book I will be happy to reconsider my position.

    you have to have a circular thing – your highest authority must be self-authenticating, or it’s not your highest authority.

    No it doesn't, if we held to the need for some ultimate authority we would still be burning witches and life expectancy would be 25. Every thing should be up for scrutiny and verification is done against other known references you don't need an independent absolute reference point and you definitely don't want this reference point to be based on nothing but wishful thinking.

    We accept the New Testament, because the Old Testament has a pregnant unfinishedness that Christ fills. We accept the Old Testament as Christ did. We reject the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc because they don’t speak of Christ, only pretend to and nor do they fit with the existing revelation by Christ, of Christ (or history, come to that).

    You obviously have the right to hold that position just don't expect anyone to seriously and be prepare to be mocked for being a joke.

  86. Mogg

    @ Dominic

    Thanks for responding. The trouble with the characteristics you list is that all of them bar one do not require a belief in any kind of god and are demonstrated by many non-Christians while simultaneously being absent in many Christians. The other is an assertion about Jesus which comes only from the Bible and Christian tradition, the validity of which is of course the topic under discussion.

  87. Mogg

    @Tim Vasbie-Burnie

    oh look, another person with the initials VB. How... interesting!

    " “All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal.”

    But here, surely, Jesus is invalidating your logic? Jesus is a man and he now lives forever.

    You disagree, of course. But on what basis? Surely not because the resurrection and eternal life of Jesus is illogical or unreasonable, because that would be to assume what you assert. The claim of Jesus is a challenge to your starting assumption.

    No, the disagreement would be that the claims are extraordinary, *and* therefore requires some very strong corroborating evidence before being considered, particularly when the claim is already suspected to be biased and some of the claims have not been corroborated by even some who were biased to find in the positive. That 'and' is extremely important.

  88. Mogg

    @ John B

    "... The medium *isn’t* the message, it’s just, well…, a medium. Jesus Christ is God’s revelation to man. The Bible is a divine account of reality that is subject only to the Truth as it is made known to us in Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. It isn’t just that he’s trustworthy by the validation of some external criterion. He’s the definition of Truth. Truth is a person, not a concept. Things are real or false only as they’re like Christ, “And he is before all things”. The Bible isn’t a self-contained Holy book. It’s a true witness to the person of Christ, and of his work “to reconcile all things unto himself”. The resurrection validates the Bible and not vice versa. Until the disciples recognized the risen Christ, they didn’t understand the Scriptures.

    The gospel we proclaim is that all things find ultimate meaning and fulfillment only in the living and risen Christ, our triumphant champion. If Christ is risen, then arguments about the historical and scientific validation of the Bible are quite pointless. "

    And here we go in the circle again! That is exactly the claim which Glen originally made, and which requires evidence to back up. Truth has a commonly accepted definition, it is meaningless to define it as a person unless all involved in the discussion know and accept your re-definition, which atheists don't. Without some coherent reason, supported by evidence, to back up the re-definition, there is no reason to accept it and good reasons to reject it. Which is a very short way of summarising the entire thread, and possibly indicates that we have all been wasting time. Especially if all along we have only been talking to one person with half a dozen names!

  89. blotonthelandscape

    @Mande, the problem is the claim that he was more than a man. You'll notice the big ol' IF prefacing that statement. The contrapositive of my statement is that "If Jesus is merely a man, then he is not immortal". I could have said either; logically speaking they are equivalent.

    @JoshVB

    Firstly, if 0+0=everything, then you are identifying everything with nothing. This isn't illogical, so long as everything does not exist (0 is a placeholder for non-existence). Hence if, before the big bang, there was literal nothingness, then pre-big-bang reality still conformed to logic.

    As is said in the video I recommended, "We don't use logic because it is logical [that's a tautology], we use it because it works".

    Note that it doesn't matter if the logical process produces a different set of results in a different universe. Also note however that any claims about what happened before this universe/outside of this dimension are purely speculative, and carry no importance in the discussion of what goes on in this universe/dimension. We cannot assign a truth value to these claims because we are unable to access these realms. Hence your speculation about these things are as good as mine.

    All we can assess are the impacts such speculations have on our dimension; like 2D beings trying to comprehend a cube, all they really have to go on is a square. If they developed Mathematics and Logic, they may be able to speculate that it could be a cube, or that it could not be a sphere, but they could never know with any certainty any more than the length and width of the sides that interact with their dimension. They could specify the mathematical formula of a cube, but they could never perceive "depth" or "volume". Likewise, we can mathematically account for the shape of an n-dimensional hypercube, even if we can't perceive the physical ramifications on those dimensions of the existence of such a shape. There are more variables in a model of the universe that cn realistically be accounted for in a mathematical model (at the moment), but hypothetically there's no reason why we can't do the same to pre-big-bang universes/other parts of a multiverse. See, for example "Brane Theory".

    To extend my 2D analogy into this discussion, it appears to me as if we're talking about squares, and you're insisting it could be a sphere. When I say "no, the corners show that it could not be a shere", you say "ah, but the Sphere chose to appear as a square in our dimension, and once you accept the truth that it is a sphere you will realise this Truth. You only trust your 2-dimensional reasons and are closed to the Truth that is obvious when you see the Sphere on It's own terms. You see, the Sphere came to our dimension as a square to redeem your corners and conform them to It's Perfect Roundness. Perhaps in the 3rd dimension squares become Spherical! Your logic cannot account for that, because it's a mere 2 dimensions."

    Although I have specific things which would verify/falsify the existence of a god/godlike being, I would never place limits on an omnipotent being, who knows exactly what it would take to convince me and is able to do it. Note, however, that no-one in this conversation is omnipotent; your limits are known, and as a statistician with a passion for the social sciences training I am intimately aware of those limitations and their implications of your ability to prove the [quite frankly, ridiculous] claims of your religion.

    My view is built merely on what I can perceive. Any speculations about the invisible must conform to those perceptions in order to be possible, but they must also explain some perceivable phenomenon which is unexplainable by other perceiveable phenomena in order to be considered "true". A point in 2D space which gradually increases in radius to become a circle, then fades back to a point at the same rate, could realistically be accounted for by a sphere passing through the plane on which the 2D beings reside. We could derive evidence for the existence of a sphere in spite of being unable to perceive it as a whole; we could indirectly perceive the effects of volume and depth, like we 3-dimensional beings can perceive the "shadow" of a 4-dimensional hypercube.

    This is no sinking sand, it is merely operating within the limitations of my self. Any more is presumptuous, vaccuous, and intellectually dishonest.

  90. mande

    @JoshVB
    Firstly, if 0+0=everything, then you are identifying everything with nothing. This isn’t illogical, so long as everything does not exist (0 is a placeholder for non-existence).

    That's wrong, "0" is no placeholder of non-existence, please think of "0" in "10", and "0" in "100", and in... and in...

    Hence if, before the big bang, there was literal nothingness, then pre-big-bang reality still conformed to logic.

    Your words are a contradiction in themselves, if there really would have been a big-bang AND there was literal nothingness, then the latter implies (better to say: would imply) that there can not be a big-bang. Out of nothing there cannot happen anything; or in other words: if something happens, that means that there are circumstances which influence things which happen.

  91. mande

    @Mande, the problem is the claim that he was more than a man. You’ll notice the big ol’ IF prefacing that statement. The contrapositive of my statement is that “If Jesus is merely a man, then he is not immortal”. I could have said either; logically speaking they are equivalent.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, please be so nice to say why you think that Jesus is not living forever.

  92. John B

    @ Mogg

    ...and possibly indicates that we have all been wasting time. Especially if all along we have only been talking to one person with half a dozen names!

    I don't know about all of the others on this thread, but I know myself, and I'm just me. So there's at least three of us here. If the Christians are just one person speaking in different modes, the same might be said of the atheists. On your question of blogger Sabellianism, I'm an agnostic.

    For me, the discussion hasn't been a waste of time at all. It's helped to clarify the respective views, which was what I'd hoped initially to learn from it. You write that, "Truth has a commonly accepted definition..." Thus the ultimate validation of truth is from below, arising from a human consensus. The "atoms" constitute their own meaning and fulfillment. But where you see truth as common, the Christian sees the Truth as the perfect and ideal who is revealed from above. Truth in both cases is circular in that it is an ongoing recapitulation of the ultimate. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Rev 22:13)

    For my part, I leave the last words to the other modes of being here and close with this:

    "In our favored version, an Eastern guru affirms that the earth is supported on the back of a tiger. When asked what supports the tiger, he says it stands upon an elephant; and when asked what supports the elephant he says it is a giant turtle. When asked, finally, what supports the giant turtle, he is briefly taken aback, but quickly replies "Ah, after that it is turtles all the way down."" ~Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court in Rapanos v. United States

  93. Josh VB

    Sorry Mogg - Tim's my brother and, as far as I know, not so foolish to have multiple names. Having lived in China I've had times when I've wanted to have some net anonymity.

    @Blotonthelandscape/lovedbythecreator

    You've not yet explained why you think logic is right. The closest you've come is saying "because it works". That's why many Christians have come to believe what they believe.

    You seem to view logic as this thing that transcends all time and space, is utterly unchanging, and is intimately involved with absolutely everything that happens within this universe and acts as an arbitator of what may or may not conceivably exist. You have built this view "merely on what I can perceive" yet seem to have failed to take seriously the fact that your perception (at best) is just a minor subsection of what you've experienced, which is just a tiny fraction of time, based on living in a very few places on a small planet in a little galaxy in this universe.

    You have not abandoned faith, you've replace one faith with another which, conveniently, has you in the centre as the arbitator of truth. Now the question is, why did you change your faith position?

    I agree completely that Christians need to take logic seriously, but I can only do say because I believe that the one who sustains everything doesn't change.

  94. blotonthelandscape

    @mande, even in the case of 10,100,1000 etc, the zeroes represent "no units", "no tens" "no thousands" etc. It was an Indian invention to use a symbol as a placeholder for "nothing" in mathematical equations some 5,000 years ago. Other number systems just left a gap, or had 11 leading straight on from 9 or whatever.

    " "Hence if, before the big bang, there was literal nothingness, then pre-big-bang reality still conformed to logic."

    Your words are a contradiction in themselves, if there really would have been a big-bang AND there was literal nothingness, then the latter implies (better to say: would imply) that there can not be a big-bang. Out of nothing there cannot happen anything; or in other words: if something happens, that means that there are circumstances which influence things which happen."

    You're arguing against something I never said. My interest in Josh VB's "0+0=everything" remark was to demonstrate that logic was still working as it should EVEN IF literal nothingness preceded the Big Bang (I happen to agree with you that it didn't). So my words weren't contradictory, but rather I was presenting a "logically false" argument to show how logic can be applied in a situation Josh VB felt it couldn't.

    Regarding your question on "why [I] think that Jesus is not living forever", I am what might be called a methodological naturalist, which means essentially that I reject the use of words like "supernatural" or "non-physical" in describing real phenomena; I believe that everything in reality is explainable as a natural phenomenon, and it is only intellectually honest to believe in things which can be explained/described understood in naturalistic terms. See my discussion with Glen on the blog post he linked to above (Alien Gods), as well as my other posts in here, to understand why I take this position. As to what this means for belief in Jesus' immortality, there is no way of validating this assertion that he resurrected using naturalistic methodology, and the claim itself is at odds with verifiable evidence (people don't generally come back to life when they die, and when they do, they usually die permanently on a later date. And people who claim to be god in the modern age turn out to be charlatans/mentally ill; Jesus wouldn't be the first or last person to be posthumously deified and have his stories turned into legend). As a final nail in the coffin, the hypothesis that Jesus is immortal and rose from the dead adds no explanatory power to our understanding of the universe; i.e. it is an unneccessary belief. Glen differs with me specifically on this point. He feels that Jesus (bound up in his "persons-in-relationship" metaphor) explains something about reality that a naturalistic worldview doesn't account for (I'm not sure exactly what; that's something Glen needs to explain).

    I should point out that, should verifiable evidence of Jesus' resurrection and immortality present itself (e.g. a "Doubting Thomas" experience), I will change my position. I'm not arrogant enough to presume that I have all the answers; indeed, naturalism is an attempt to humble myself by not assuming any more than I absolutely have to in order to seek truth. However, it is important that the evidence be unambiguous, verifiable, and tangible. I simply don't trust myself enough to go off anything less.

  95. mande

    blotonthelandscape wrote:

    I’m not arrogant enough to presume that I have all the answers; indeed, naturalism is an attempt to humble myself by not assuming any more than I absolutely have to in order to seek truth.

    To make it short, I want to ask you this question: Do you think that the bible contains only truth, or don't you think so?
    Would be fine your answer simply is only Yes or only No.

  96. Mogg

    Hi Josh VB,

    I'm glad that we weren't been wound up. Maybe for future anonymous internetting you should call yourself Josh Coopers, and then at least you'll sound like a drinkable beer :-)

    John B:
    I don't think we can really find a common ground there. I don't think there is any evidence to support the idea of an ultimate _anything_. the Allegory of the Cave is not self-evident to me. Nevertheless, I agree that it hasn't been a wasted conversation, even if it's been a bit frustrating at times and our assumptions and prior positions tend to cause us to talk past each other if we're not careful. This thread seems to have died a natural death, but maybe we'll bump into each other somewhere else.

    And doesn't everyone know that the turtle doesn't need anything to stand on? It swims through space. ;-)

  97. Glen

    Good one Mogg :)

    Been run off my feet at the moment and not able to read or engage stuff, but thanks for all you've written and the tone of it too.

    All the best.

  98. pat herd

    jesus was not god nor was moses. god does not shy from evolution nor is he not the E in the MC2 of this universe. jesus teachings have been corrupted and the path made crooked

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