Contradictions Part 8: The Crucifixion

The first post in this series can be found here.

The gospels are usually viewed as simply 4 equally true perspectives of the same events. But upon closer inspection, many of their differences are not just differences in perspective; often, they are contradictory. We’ve discussed a some of these issues already, but there are a few in relation to Jesus’s crucifixion that really stand out.

The Inscription
We’re told that when Jesus was crucified, he was mocked by a sign that hung above him, proclaiming him to be the “King of the Jews.” But the four gospels tell us that it said four different things: Mark 15:26 says, “The King of the Jews.” Matthew 27:37 says, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Luke 23:38 says, “This is the King of the Jews.” And John 19:19 says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Granted, all four of these versions mean the same thing. But if there was just one sign, then it only said one thing. Why are there four different versions of what it says? If these were accounts just written by men, then it would be understandable for them to remember them slightly differently. But Christians believe that the Bible is verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. Why would he give four different versions of the same sign?

Time of Death
Another discrepancy that might be surprising concerns the time of day that Jesus was crucified. John 19:14 shows us that Jesus was standing before Pilate when he was given the sentence of crucifixion, and the writer tells us that it was “about the sixth hour.” Of course, Jewish day started at sundown (or 6pm). They had twelve hours of night and twelve hours of daylight. So, when John 19 says it was “about the sixth hour,” Jews would have understood this to mean around noon.

Mark 15:25 says, “And it was the third hour when they crucified him.” Of course, this would have been at 9am. Verse 33 says, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”

The problem is apparent. Mark says they started crucifying Jesus at 9am, darkness fell across the land at noon, and at 3pm the darkness lifted and Jesus died. But John has Jesus standing before Pilate at noon. How can both accounts be true?

The common answer is that John is using Roman time, so that when he says “about the sixth hour,” he actually means 6am. This would certainly take care of the issue. However, there’s nothing in John to make us think that he’s using Roman time. Plus, John seems to use Jewish time in another place:

Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
– John 1:38-39

This passage really only makes sense when counting time in the Jewish format. The disciples deciding to stay with him indicates that it was getting late in the day. If we are using Roman time, then the time of day would only be 10am. Obviously, that doesn’t really fit the passage. We could say that it’s 10pm, but that seems highly unlikely for a culture without electricity (plus, it says they stayed with him that “day,” instead of specifying night). But 4pm, the Jewish 10th hour, fits the scenario very well. If he used Jewish time here, why would he change it in chapter 19 without telling us?

Day of Death
But even if we ignore the inconsistencies with the time of Jesus’ death, it’s harder to ignore the day of it. Mark 14:12 tells us that Jesus’ disciples went to prepare the upper room for him on the day that the Passover lamb was sacrificed. This would be the day before Passover. In verse 17, we’re told that Jesus met with his disciples that evening, which would have been Passover. They ate their meal, and Jesus was arrested that night. According to Mark 15, Jesus was tried before Pilate that morning, and his crucifixion was begun at 9am that day. He was dead by 3pm on the Passover (Mk 15:33-38).

But John tells it differently. John 18:28 says:

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

From this passage, it’s obvious that Passover had not arrived yet. In John 19 Jesus is receiving his sentence from Pilate, and verse 14 says, “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour.”

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover. John says it was the day before. I recommend taking your time to go through the different accounts. The implications are pretty clear.

132 thoughts on “Contradictions Part 8: The Crucifixion”

  1. Good point on the differing days. Exodus 12 & 13 describe the passover and the ensuing feats of Unleavened Bread, but I always found them hard to determine if the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the same day, or if they were the same feast altogether. Leviticus 23 actually clarified this question for me. It says that the Passover was to be observed on the 14th day of the first month, and that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was to be observed beginning on the 15th day of the first month and continue for 7 days.

    The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are right next to each other, but are two distinct feasts, occurring on different days. This codependency within the gospels is glaring.


  2. …one more thing, if I may.

    When reading the gospels accounts of this, it seems as if they saying that the Passover Feast actually took place in the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. “In the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread…” they were preparing or observing the Passover.

    I could just be reading it wrong, but after reading it several times, this is how it appeared to me.


  3. Hey Nate-
    So, I guess the Inscription doesn’t really bother me so much. Given that the writers were going from memory, it doesn’t surprise me that they would have slightly different wording of the same concept (I don’t hold to the premise that the text is inspired, word for word, by the Spirit – they were inspired to write, but I don’t hold they were dictated to by the Spirit).
    With regard to the time, I don’t see any problem with them going to the place where Jesus was staying at 10am, and then staying with him there for the day. Is there a reason you think that can’t be possible? Additionally, it doesn’t specify that they stayed at the place he was staying all day, just that they stayed with him all day. I think you’re stretching a bit.
    The Passover thing is a little more difficult. However, if you consider John was writing to a completely different audience there are some difference I think that can make sense out of this. Here’s a link to something I’ve read that makes sense:
    This points out the different ways in which the Pharisees and Sadducees would have arranged this week, and gives a couple of reasons why John would have used the Sadducee organization rather than the Pharisee organization. Anyway, this explanation makes sense to me.


  4. One other quick point. If the texts of the different gospels did match up on every point without variation, I think there are too many good investigators out there who will tell you eyewitness accounts that match exactly are almost always fabrications. I imagine, if there were no discrepancies, you and I would be having the opposite conversation – why they seem as though the writers collaborated before writing. From my perspective, as with the science discussion on the other thread, I think you’ve put the text in a position where it cannot win no matter what.


  5. Hi Josh, thanks for taking the time to read this and comment.

    One other quick point. If the texts of the different gospels did match up on every point without variation, I think there are too many good investigators out there who will tell you eyewitness accounts that match exactly are almost always fabrications. I imagine, if there were no discrepancies, you and I would be having the opposite conversation – why they seem as though the writers collaborated before writing. From my perspective, as with the science discussion on the other thread, I think you’ve put the text in a position where it cannot win no matter what.

    I see what you’re saying here, but I disagree. People can tell the same story in different ways without creating actual contradictions with one another. Yes, if they were word for word verbatim, I agree that might look suspect. But telling things in a way that even gives an appearance of contradiction is problematic for a book that is supposedly inspired by a perfect deity. And if that book is a vital avenue toward saving all of mankind, it’s extremely important to make sure it doesn’t have consistency issues that would create doubts.

    Let’s look at the time issue. As far as we know, if we exclude the gospel of John, every other book in the Bible uses time the way Jews counted it. If John breaks that precedent, and it was inspired by the same God that inspired the other 65 books, why doesn’t John explain that he’s using it differently? It would be a quick side note that would have made sense to the people of his time, as well as to everyone who’s come after. Instead, a straightforward reading of the gospels creates a major discrepancy.

    Personally, I do think John is still using Jewish time. For one, we’re never told he’s using anything else. Secondly, I think the passage in John 1 is talking about an event that would have occurred toward the end of the day. Why would they worry about where Jesus was staying at 10 in the morning? It seems to me that this passage implies the day was winding down, and they wanted to make sure he had a place to stay.

    There’s another passage in John (4:1-6) that refers to time too, and I think it further supports the idea of Jewish time:

    Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

    If he’s weary from his journey, it makes more sense that the 6th hour would refer to noon, not 6am.

    I’ll check out the link you gave for the Passover issue. Again, I’m initially skeptical that John was just using a different calendar, because that would have been easily explained in the passage. But I’ll definitely check it out.

    If you’re interested, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out all the posts I did in this series. Most of them are fairly short, and I’m curious about how they’d strike you. Before I wrote these, I researched them pretty well in various books and in sites like ApologeticsPress. I just had trouble finding convincing explanations.

    Anyway, thanks again for your time and your thoughtful replies.


  6. No problem, Nate. I love the dialogue.

    “But telling things in a way that even gives an appearance of contradiction is problematic for a book that is supposedly inspired by a perfect deity.”

    The claim is that the book is inspired by a perfect deity. The claim is not that it was originally written or transmitted over time, word for word, by a perfect deity (at least, the claim that I would make). I think, as I might have mentioned before, that you need to establish that the documents need to be perfect. I don’t accept your premise that, because God was communicating himself, he couldn’t have allowed any human error, mistranslation, etc into the passing down of the documents. This kind of thing happens in transmission of documents from that time. And, according to scholarship, it appears that the consistency of the NT documents is light years better than anything from the time. You clearly see it as a necessity that this kind of thing does not happen with scripture, but I will disagree with you there.

    Regarding the time again. My understanding of ancient story telling, and the documentation of those stories, is that they did not stick to strict chronological telling of the stories. It is possible Jesus is still tired from the previous days’ journey the following morning at 6am, right? It doesn’t necessarily mean that he was journeying immediately previous to sitting at the well. John, being an ancient writer, wouldn’t have cared about this level of accuracy, as you suppose he would.

    I think there are acceptable reasons to think John would have used different timing. And, if it is the case that he used timing that his readers would have been familiar with, then there would be no reason for him to explain his use of that timing. You have to remember, he is writing for the purpose of communicating to his particular audience. He is not writing to make sure his account squares entirely with other accounts, which his original readers likely never would have seen.


  7. I might have mentioned before, that you need to establish that the documents need to be perfect. I don’t accept your premise that, because God was communicating himself, he couldn’t have allowed any human error, mistranslation, etc into the passing down of the documents.

    The need for very reliable evidence comes down to what’s at stake. If the knowledge we get from the Bible makes the difference between Heaven and Hell, then we need to be able to tell the difference between what is really from God and what is just another man-made religion. As you said, “This kind of thing happens in transmission of documents from that time,” which is why I have trouble buying the idea that it’s not just another typical document from that time.

    it appears that the consistency of the NT documents is light years better than anything from the time

    Yes, but this is only because we have so many copies. And we only have so many copies because the vast majority of copyists were Catholic. It’s no wonder they copied the Bible. And we also know from history that the church did its best to do away with other ancient works that they weren’t as crazy about. So I don’t see anything miraculous in that fact that we have a lot of copies of Bible manuscripts.

    You have to remember, he is writing for the purpose of communicating to his particular audience.

    I think this is somewhat to my point. We are also his audience. Someone inspired by God would surely know that what he’s writing is going to be very important throughout the rest of time. To give no consideration to this later audience makes perfect sense if we’re just reading something written by some guy with no divine guidance. But for someone inspired by God, this would be puzzling, to say the least.

    As to the time thing, if Jesus had traveled the day before and was just getting started up again at 6am, why would he be tired? Didn’t he just wake up? He would have been used to making this journey — I’d be surprised if he was still exhausted from walking after a night’s sleep. However, if he had started out that day and came upon the well at noon, it makes perfect sense that he might want to take a break — it’s lunch time. Taking a break around noon makes much more sense than taking one at 6am. And if John didn’t care about this level of accuracy, why did he include it? He could have skipped the time completely.



  8. Fair enough, Nate. I think we’ll just have to disagree. I see and acknowledge the points you, and others, bring up. I think there are reasonable answers, just not ones that seem to satisfy everyone. I’ve heard the extraordinary evidence plea before, and I just don’t agree on those standards.


  9. Another line of questioning for you, Nate 🙂
    Maybe you have this in a previous post – I haven’t looked over the whole site – but, I’m wondering what your goal is with this blog. Are you trying to convince people that religious beliefs cannot be true? I’m wondering what you’re purpose is, and why, if you don’t believe, you care if other people do. In other words, what’s the harm in believing that is avoided by not believing? Thanks.


  10. Hi Josh — good question.

    There are a few reasons why I blog. For one, I used to use this blog to try to spread Christianity (the version I believed in, at least), and I didn’t feel like it would be consistent if I stopped blogging just because I changed my mind. I felt like I owed it to anyone who came across this site to show them how my thoughts on the subject have changed over time.

    Secondly, I enjoy it. Religion has always been very important to me, and I’ve researched it a lot over the years. It’s still a subject I know very well — better now in some ways — so why stop talking about it?

    Also, I don’t think it would be bad if more people left religion. There are many aspects of it that I find dangerous in politics, education, etc. While I’m not as opposed to some of the more liberal iterations of it, I find fundamentalism to be very harmful. One of the main reasons my wife and I decided to leave our church (we actually thought about remaining a part of it, even though we had stopped believing) was because we didn’t want the indoctrination to have a negative affect on our children. Teaching them that God wiped out the Egyptian first born, caused the flood, or commanded the Israelites to slaughter whole nations just seemed like bad parenting to us, since we didn’t believe any of those things.

    Finally, if nothing else, I think people should know why they believe certain things. So if someone comes across my site and gains new information about Christianity, I think that’s a good thing — even if they remain Christian. If nothing else, they’ll hopefully see that some of us “heathens” aren’t such bad guys after all. 🙂


  11. Good reasons. Thanks, Nate.
    And, no, I don’t think you’re a bad guy.
    I’ll read through the rest of these contradictoins posts, and I’m interested in your deconversion posts.
    Keep the conversation going!


  12. Noble reasons, Nate, noble reasons. The most destructive aspect of Christianity, in my mind, even more destructive than, at least to some degree, its uncriticalness is the concept of Hell. It disgusts me, and it should afflict the conscience of anyone provided with some element of culture.

    I finally replied to your email a few days back, not sure if you got it, but I am doing well and thanks for checking in. I hope all is well in Bham?



  13. Presto-
    I agree with you. I cannot accept the idea of hell. There are, actually, many things in scripture I have a lot of difficulty accepting, and hell is the hardest, maybe impossible. I am convinced, however, that God exists and Jesus is God. And, if God exists, it would have to be the case that there are things he understands that I never will, and things he does that offend me because I am not him and can’t understand. I believe the only way it would be possible for me to understand and accept him 100%, without any trusting in him despite not understanding, would be if he made me god as well.


  14. Hi Persto,

    Thanks for the comment! I couldn’t agree with you more about Hell. That was one of the first things that started to unravel my faith. And yes, I did get your email — thanks for the reply. Things are good here in B’ham. Our trip to the coast was awesome — the whole week. We should be back down again in a few months, and hopefully we can get together again then. I’ll let you know when we pick a date. 🙂


    I appreciate your comment here, and it’s interesting to hear more about your beliefs. I had kind of assumed that you were more fundamentalist than your statement makes it sound. When I first stopped believing in Christianity, I considered myself a deist. I still believed that there must be a God, but I could no longer believe it was the god of Christianity. I just got to a point where I felt that the Bible had way too many problems for me to think it was related to God in any way.

    Have you ever looked into deism? If not, I can’t recommend enough The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. Some of it’s a bit outdated, but it made a profound impact on me. You can usually find a free e-book version somewhere, if you look for it. Also, the site has some really good articles, if you’re interested.


  15. I have looked into deism a bit, in the sense that I think I understand generally what is claimed. I think I am at a bit of a different point than what might have been suggested by any one post. I believe we see errors in the Bible that are not actually errors, even if we cannot explain them completely. If there is a possible explanation, then it is not an error in my book. You’re looking at things from a different perspective from me – you seem to be persuaded that we must be able to clear all the smoke from over 2000 years of transmission and language and cultural change in order to square every detail of scripture with every other detail. I think you’re asking way too much here, as I’ve suggested in other comments about communicating across cultures.

    I agree that the Bible has problems I can’t understand, and records things that I disagree with. Where you and I differ is that I believe it is possible, actually required, that a God who is beyond human understanding would operate and communicate in ways I cannot completely comprehend. You may see that as a copout, but I think, if you ponder it, you would see that this would have to be the case in relationship between an ultimate, perfect being and finite, imperfect beings. Trust has to enter the equation.

    “lean not on your own understanding”

    “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might”

    “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Dodging? Maybe to you. I see it as the place where faith intersects with our doubts and inadequacies.


  16. Where you and I differ is that I believe it is possible, actually required, that a God who is beyond human understanding would operate and communicate in ways I cannot completely comprehend.

    I do see this as a possibility. But such a God, if he’s good, will not expect things of us that we’re incapable of giving. If we can’t all fully understand his message, then we can’t be held accountable to it, anymore than I could hold a first grader accountable to the rules of calculus.


  17. And Josh, I still cant help but wonder, what believer of any other religion couldn’t defend their own religion in such a way?

    I think anyone can say, “mistranslation here,” or “that only looks like a contradiction, but really isnt for reasons we’re incapable of understanding,” and the universal, “god’s ways are higher than our ways,” etc. These are not good explanations to errors, and we woudlnt accept them as plausible answers to any religion or idea that is foreign to us, would we?

    take that along with the fact that many of these bible errors and contradictions could have been literally erased if the phrasing had changed (thinking of the Mathew and Luke Genealogies as one example).


  18. They could, William. They all could, that’s true. I see what you’re saying, and, largely, I do not disagree with your perspective. To boil this down, there is one tenet of Christianity that I believe and hold to – the good news of the Messiah who became sin for us. God seems like a lot of things in the Bible, and apart from Jesus we have very little to go on regarding what God is like. In Jesus we have God choosing to limit himself to a human body, and taking on HIS OWN punishment for every mistake, every misstep, every misunderstanding, every hateful thing that any of us has ever done, and every loving thing any of us has failed to do. Without Jesus, I would likely agree with much of what you, Nate, and others are saying. However, given that God has taken on judgment in our place, we know that, no matter what else God is, he has reached out to us in a way no other God claims. Regardless of what misunderstandings we have about God, we can point to his suffering and dying in our place to prove what his position regarding us is. This is the only kind of God I want to believe in. Other faiths can claim some of the same things Christianity claims about their text, but they can show me nothing about who God really is. Whatever God is or has done, Jesus proves nothing that he does is because he does not love us. He took our punishment on himself in order to bring us to himself – a cruel, vengeful, hateful God would not do that. Even if scripture did not exist, Jesus is the representation of the only God I would care to believe in. We all (most of us) want God to love us, and forgive us for anything we may do wrong, and understand our weakness. Jesus is the only God who does this. No other God shows his love in any active way, and no other God gives us proof that there is concrete salvation available to all. Even if I don’t believe I can prove God’s existence, I can say this God represented in Jesus is worthy of worship.

    “In the long run, the answer to all those who object…is itself a question: ‘What are you asking God to do?’ To wipe out [our] past sins, and at all costs, to give [us] a fresh start…? But He has done so, on Calvary.”

    “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


  19. “…and no greater love hath any man, than to lay down his life for his friends.” I truly value these passages and can certainly relate to where you’re coming from.

    There were several things leading to my deconversion. some of them were a result of answering the above questions for myself. Another thing that did it for me was the realization that god has neither said nor given me anything directly – only men have done that. I then realized that my faith had really been in men all along, and not in god or jesus, but in what men said about them. and that knowing which religion to follow ultimately boiled down to raw faith, the next question was how do i determine which faith is superior if in each case absurdities and errors have to be tolerated or overcome?

    I wouldnt accept those supernatural claims from anyone today, but i had accepted it unquestioningly for many years from of an old collection of letters an books, of which we have no originals, written by men that i never knew.

    thanks for your honest response.



  20. Absolutely, Nate. I’m trying to get a little more honest, and a little less hard-nosed :). I appreciate your position, and I have to say there are times, in my doubts, that I am surprised I don’t end up there myself. Like I said, even if the scriptures are all made up, Jesus is still the only God I consider worthy of worship. So, I place my trust in that, not in the scripture or anything else.


  21. Hi Josh,

    I really appreciate your candor! I agree that the portrayal of Jesus in the Bible is way better than the portrayal of God in the OT. However, Jesus still teaches the doctrine of Hell, which I find to be pretty problematic. Do you struggle with those passages too?

    Also, what do you feel we need to be forgiven of?


  22. Yes, Jesus teaches the doctrine of hell. I do struggle with the idea of hell as I understand it, no matter who teaches it (even Jesus). However, whatever it was that he was actually teaching, whether I can understand and regurgitate the information or not, he was willing to die and go there in my place. No matter what hell is, he is still worthy.

    What do we need to be forgiven of?

    “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

    “There is no one righteous, not even one”

    I believe myself to be a “good person”, according to the world’s standards. But, I am a sinful person. I have thoughts, desires, actions, and words that I know represent my true attitudes: I am better than other people, more capable, and I can prove it by… I sin in my pride. I sin in my self-doubt. I sin in my judgment. I sin in my hatred. I sin in my jealousy. I sin in my need to prove everything, and to prove that I can prove everything. I cannot accept that God knows better than I do. If Jesus is God, I need his salvation desperately. No matter how much I try to become a good person, and I think there’s been some progress, I have very real evil intentions that lie in my heart. I hate them. I don’t want them there. But, they are there. I really hate to generalize this, but I think we have all seen what all people are really capable of at their basest. And, this isn’t just some people, I’m convinced We all need cleansing.


  23. I think that what you’re describing is the fact that we’re all human. We have good qualities, and we have bad qualities. Most of us want (and try) to do good. If you think about it, when we talk about the most heinous things that are committed (New Town, 9/11, rape, etc), the perpetrators usually end up having something wrong with them. Either some kind of delusion, or a physical malady in their brains that short-circuits their normal function. If you dig into specific cases, you find that this is usually the case.

    Even if the Christian god is real, how do we explain these cases? Does God judge a mentally handicapped person the same way he judges you or me? And if some of the worst crimes are committed by those who are handicapped in some way, do we still think they deserve some kind of punishment? Rehabilitation, certainly, but typical punishment? I think these kinds of things are more nuanced than we usually think.

    Also, what does this say about God? If people commit horrible crimes because they are mentally or chemically deficient, that’s not their fault — it gets down to the way they were made.

    So if we take those people out of the mix, that leaves the rest of us. Those of us who are “normal.” But again, when we make mistakes, that’s usually what they are — mistakes. We often feel bad about them afterward and try to make amends. My point is that I don’t think we should feel so bad about human nature. Should a dog feel bad for licking its own vomit? It might be disgusting, but it’s just a part of its nature.

    I’m not saying we can’t improve ourselves, or anything like that. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be such a given that we need forgiveness simply for being human. And don’t forget that all the passages you quoted to illustrate why you think we need forgiveness come from a Bible that you admit has problem passages. How do you know the ones you just listed are actually true? Is it possible that Christianity is trying to sell us a cure for a sickness we don’t actually have?


  24. @ Josh.
    The gospels ARE all made up. The innumerable contradictions are testimony of this. It is as if the compilers never really expected fully literate people other than those in the church would ever read them.

    Furthermore, the status of god was awarded Jesus by the church. He NEVER claimed it of himself, no matter what the church or christian apologists say. Never. Not once, not even an allusion.
    In fact, he expressly denied it, did he not? And I am sure you can recall the verse…..” why call me good…etc etc”

    The minute you accept that the bible is simply a book – even if you currently consider it to have some profound message – treat it to the same level of literary and historical criticism that you would any other ancient tome. Do this, and the ‘mystery’ that surrounds it falls away very quickly.

    Read it as a book and never let those who who tell you it is more than just a book nullify your commonsense.


  25. Nate-
    “And don’t forget that all the passages you quoted to illustrate why you think we need forgiveness come from a Bible that you admit has problem passages. How do you know the ones you just listed are actually true?”

    I admit it has problem passages in the sense that I can’t explain them in a way that everyone would accept the explanation. A possible explanation still qualifies, in my book, remember. Don’t take my words too far! I have to say that, if you do not believe the scripture I quoted accurately describe human nature, then you and I disagree on what human nature is actually like. And, I think your view makes sense with what you believe. If you don’t see humans as needing forgiveness and salvation from brokenness, then Jesus really has nothing to offer you. I don’t agree with that, but I can see it makes sense from the way you view humanity. We may have to just disagree on this?


  26. @ Josh.
    It truly is maddeningly frustrating and a little sad reading your latest comment.
    There is a stubbornness that you refuse to acknowledge the truth in what Nate is saying. It demonstrates more eloquently the damage caused by inculcation than anything else you have posted.

    You read and understand the bible as you have been brought up to read and understand. As you were told to understand. As we all were.

    We were not told to use the power of reason. We were NEVER encouraged to apply commonsense.

    Don’t you ever wonder why not?


  27. Ark-
    Thank you for being more respectful with your posts. It is appreciated.

    You are making a lot of assumptions about me, what I’ve read, what my journey of faith has been. I daresay there is no way could possibly know about me the things you claim in your second paragraph above. If I have come to the wrong conclusion about scripture it is certainly not for lack of pursuing doubts, reading counter arguments, and serious thought. If knowing the right worldview to believe is purely about reason and logical arguments, then I can only attribute my failure to a lack of intelligence. I have looked at all the things Nate is discussing and, in my opinion, I have given reasonable responses. Because they do not convince your or Nate doesn’t mean I haven’t done homework and that I have simply bought what I’ve been sold without inspection.

    That said, I also want to caution what appears to be more than disagreement with people who believe similarly to what I do, but something akin to hatred. I don’t know if you’ve been hurt personally by people of faith, but I certainly acknowledge the evil that has been perpetrated in the name of faith. I guess I just want to caution you that you, and other atheists I’ve interacted with, seem as though you are on the verge of doing the very thing you criticise: arguing for the weeding out of a group of people you believe to be contaminating the world. I don’t believe it is religion that corrupts people, though I know you disagree with that. It is people who corrupt religion. It is people who corrupt anything that has the potential to wield power over others. There is evil in us all, even if it is as yet untapped. I’d hate to see you begin to advocate the very things you are criticising so harshly about people of faith.


  28. By saying it is people that corrupt religion and not other way around assumes that religion is not corrupt in the first place. This is simply not true, Josh, I’m afraid. The basic tenets of all religion whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam or the Stripy Poisonous Tree Frog Cult of the Brazilian Rain Forest ALL, at some point, require humans to suspend commonsense and natural order.
    In the case of the Stripy Poisonous Tree Frog Cult ,suspension of commonsense is usually fatal, hence the cult doesn’t attract too many enthusiastic members. Well, not for long anyway.

    Part of this suspension of commonsense involves accepting the word of a holy man or his ‘descendants’ or appointed disciples /and of curse, the words in a holy book.

    You will note that the tone of the comment is veering toward satire and soon it becomes impossible not to smile..even if just a little.
    Yet while both of us would laugh and shake out heads at the South American Religious Society of Poisonous Stripy Tree Frog Worshipers, and if we had any shred of common decency we would send people there toot sweet to discourage this silly religion ASAP while doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to stop people recruiting among our children for a religion that teaches Hell, in one form of another, damnation for unbelief, has a book about murders rapes and all manner of horrors including genocide, includes a tale of Virgin Birth, dead people coming to life, and has spent a large part of its inglorious history at war over differences of opinion about THE SAME GOD.

    That Poisonous Stripy Tree Frog seems pretty normal all of a sudden, doesn’t it?


  29. @
    I was going to try to show why it is cultural pressure that often makes us arrive at these conclusions but I see The Far King has offered a better explanation.


  30. Far King-
    I assume, by common sense, you mean our natural understanding of the world, and only naturalistic explanations. I’m OK with having to suspend common sense. Any belief in the supernatural would, by default, require suspending common sense, no? Also, I don’t follow your argument that, because common sense must be suspended, that is why religion corrupts people. That doesn’t make sense to me. People corrupt all kinds of things: religion, politics, businesses. I think it’s much more sound to conclude that people corrupt things, not the other way around.

    Are you arguing that cultural pressure always dictates our beliefs? I would wonder, then, why cultural pressure does not dictate your beliefs as well as mine. It seems that would cut both ways. And, if it only dictates belief sometimes, how do we determine when that’s the case?


  31. Cultural pressure influences our beliefs. That’s why the majority of religious westerners are some type of christian and why the majority of religious middle easterners are some type of muslim. It’s also why the majority of football fans from georgia are bull dog fans while those from ohio are buckeye fans.

    the culture, the family, all the people, images, stories, etc strongly influence a persons growth and beliefs. Like a bonsai tree. Nothing the gardener can do will transform an oak into a pine, but the gardener can greatly and drastically change nearly everything else about it.

    This isnt to say that people are powerless against these forces. people can and do change, however it typically takes a strong will, and may necessitate the courage to rely on commonsense, logic a rational… at least to make the best decision. It can be a lonely and rigorous up hill battle.

    Just reread isaiah 7’s virgin birth prophecy, and continue reading through chapter 8. Then tell me
    1. why the hebrew word that only means “virgin” wasnt used, but the hebrew word that means “maiden” was.
    2. how could that be a sign to the king, that god would protect him from his attackers, when the “sign” wouldnt come till hundreds of years later, according to the gospels?
    3. When reading chapters 7 and 8 through, trying not to assume jesus is the fulfillment, see if it doesnt make more sense that the child born to a maiden in chapter 8 is the fulfillment of that “prophecy.”

    4. Are you looking at the bible with the preconceived notion that it is from God, making everything fit into that starting point; or are you looking at the bible to see if its claims are trustworthy?
    5. and are you using commonsense and logic, or are you abandoning them while making your evaluation?
    6. when you evaluate other religions, do you use commonsense and logic, or do you also start with the premise that muhammad is god’s one true prophet, making everything fit into that preconceived notion?


  32. @ Josh.
    So’s I don’t end up repeating everything, once you have read William’s comment, go back to the beginning and substitute my Gravatar.
    You are a product of your upbringing and surrounding influences.This can be changed.If you want to


  33. Ark-
    How is it that I am a product of my upbringing and surrounding influences, and you are not?
    Also, since you seem to know what my upbringing and surrounding influences were/are, would you please outline those aspects of my life for me?


  34. Hey William-
    “Cultural pressure influences our beliefs…”, and the following paragraphs. See my response to Ark above.

    Just reread isaiah 7′s virgin birth prophecy, and continue reading through chapter 8. Then tell me
    1. why the hebrew word that only means “virgin” wasnt used, but the hebrew word that means “maiden” was.
    2. how could that be a sign to the king, that god would protect him from his attackers, when the “sign” wouldnt come till hundreds of years later, according to the gospels?
    3. When reading chapters 7 and 8 through, trying not to assume jesus is the fulfillment, see if it doesnt make more sense that the child born to a maiden in chapter 8 is the fulfillment of that “prophecy.”

    Here’s a link to, what I believe, is a reasonable explanation of the ways in which this prophecy could be interpreted:

    It’s clear in the way NT writers used prophecies of the OT that they believed those prophecies often held more than one meaning. So, a double or triple fulfillment is not troubling to me. I know Nate is unconvinced by this, and I’m sure you will be as well. One other point is that I remain unconvinced that our ability to reach back in time and determine the exact nature and fulfillment of these prophecies should have any impact on my belief that Jesus is who he said he was. As I was pointing out to Nate, the NT documents stand up very well to historical scrutiny. He believes they must meet a higher standard, I do not. So, from my perspective I start with the NT documents, and can then work back to the OT documents.

    4. Are you looking at the bible with the preconceived notion that it is from God, making everything fit into that starting point; or are you looking at the bible to see if its claims are trustworthy?

    I try to look at the information objectively, but I guess I don’t think that’s really possible. I am comforted to know that there are atheists who have converted to theists and Christians, and also Christians and theists who have done the opposite. This tells me there is some ability to reasonably examine the evidence. I believe I started and continue to look at the information as objectively as I can, but I’m sure it is not completely objective and I can’t quantify what amount of my examination is objective, and what is not. Either way, as I said to Nate, I think looking at the evidence and coming to the conclusion that God exists is reasonable. I also think it’s reasonable to come to the conclusion that God does not exist. I wouldn’t agree with someone who said they could prove it one way or the other. Obviously, I believe the evidence tips in favor of God, but that is only one person’s assessment.

    5. and are you using commonsense and logic, or are you abandoning them while making your evaluation?

    I believe I am using common sense and logic. Once I am convinced there is a supernatural being such as God I am comfortable with the idea that he will defy my common sense. I think that is a completely justified conclusion, if God exists.

    6. when you evaluate other religions, do you use commonsense and logic, or do you also start with the premise that muhammad is god’s one true prophet, making everything fit into that preconceived notion?

    I think the evidence for Jesus’ existence and deity is convincing. I know you disagree, that’s fine. But, once I come to that conclusion it would take a lot more to convince me that Muhammad supersedes the Son of God. Because I am convinced of the evidence regarding Jesus I feel I am justified in asking that evidence for Muhammad’s claims must be significantly more convincing. They are, just on basis of historical evidence, much less solid. So, I don’t feel I have to start from the premise that Muhammad is god’s one true prophet.


  35. I did not say I was NOT a product. Of course I am. The difference is you believe in a supernatural deity and like it or not would prefer it if everyone else did to.
    Furthermore, I have no objection to you believing in this stuff. Truly I don’t..
    I may think that all religious people are completely batshit crazy but then you might think the same of me.
    But the difference is….I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t have a non-god or non-god inspired books that I claim were inspired by a non god .
    And doesn’t that sound oh so silly, just reading it? Of course it does!
    In fact it is just as silly as saying I have a holy book inspired by a god, called God.

    Now, if you were living in Saudia Arabia. you would likely be Muslim and that religion would feel oh so right to you.
    Or maybe India…and perhaps you would be Hindu.

    Now you can believe whatever you like. JI mean this with all my heart.
    Just do me a favour. Begin a campaign to ensure your religion disentangles itself from every single aspect of general society. Campaign that your religion has nothing to do or say about issues concerning sex, general education, laws, or even shopping hours.
    Campaign that every single registered religious organisation PAY TAXES. That the term God is removed from every National Anthem.
    That infant genital mutilation is banned…by LAW.

    Start with that – or at least agree to it up front on Nate’s blog and you will have my undying respect and I will champion your cause to believe what ever batshit crazy nonsense you want to and I trust you will allow me to do the same. And ne’er our paths shall cross on this issue.

    The ball is in your court.


  36. Ark-
    Ha! Thanks for your consent to my believing whatever I want!
    I agree that I would not be able to prove God’s existence. And, to be totally honest, I don’t believe I have to prove it. It is, I think, the questions of atheists that drive Christians to feel the need to defend Christianity. All I’m really trying to show by discussing these things is that there are reasonable people who believe these things (even if the ideas are ones you consider bat-shit crazy), and I do think there is reasonable evidence to suggest that we don’t have to be relieved of our faculties to believe it.
    I am in agreement with your assessment that religious people have way overstepped their bounds in politics and overall society. I think some of it is well intentioned, but a lot of it seems to be power grabs. I’d be in support of strict religious reasoning staying out of those conversations. I don’t know if I’ll start a campaign, though. We’ll see.
    And, yes, I will champion your cause to believe whatever bat-shit crazy stuff you want to believe as well 🙂


  37. Ah…that is what I call the theological two step. Almost a non answer. Unklee is a champion of this as is the likes of William Lane Craig.

    You DON’T have to prove your god’s existence. Just don’t try to inculcate others with the belief that it is FACT. Let them go nuts in their own time.
    Of course there are reasonable people who believe in religion…well, sort of reasonable.
    But I don’t want this brand of reasonableness on my TV screen, in my kids schools, in my National Anthem etc….I don’t want some celibate old man in a dress telling me about sex and that I should not put a condom on my willy. Do you want this old man in a dress telling YOU? Well, do you?

    Now , think how I feel having to suffer all the other religious crap…I mean stuff.

    Imagine if I were to stand outside your office playing Beyonce Music claiming she was the New God.

    So, I reiterate. I don’t agree with ANYTHING pertaining to Christianity..or any religion and their Companion Holy Book. But you can, by all means. You can read it until the next global flood, or until the release of Police Academy 97, or Rocky 14, or Jason and the Argonauts come back or until Yashua returns to take you away to sit with Him and his dad in Heaven or even…. the USA (men’s) soccer team win the World Cup.
    Just don’t proselytize in any form. UNLESS ( and here I am being MISTER REASONABLE), unless you can deliver the goods that you claim are true, and factual.
    Show me solid evidence that a man in a long nightshirt from 2000 years ago actually walked on water and I’ll be a believer.
    Then you can have access to my kids, my National Anthem, my shopping hours. Dammit,you can even have the tax breaks.

    But until then…..

    As they say in the library…Quiet please.

    So…you going to begin a mini Josh campaign, or are you going to wimp out?


  38. Is the “mini Josh” campaign the one where I try to convince religious folks to keep religious talk out of politics. Or, convincing people I’m the Messiah?

    So, if I want to discuss theological questions and don’t believe I’ll end up proving anything I should not discuss theological questions? I’d gather nearly 100% of us discussing on these blogs never end up proving anything to anyone else. At least, that’s my observation. Should we all just quit discussing?


  39. Discussing what?
    I am pretty sure there is enough info out there that an awareness campaign for your god is not really necessary any more.

    The rise in atheism is as a direct result of theism.
    If theism was not pushed for one or two generations it would begin to die a natural death.
    It will anyway, that’s a given, no matter what the likes of unklee would like the fence sitters to believe.

    I tell you what, let’s strike a compromise. You agree never to speak of your god/religion or bible etc to your children/any children. Starting from right now.
    I can live with this. You agree to that – I’ll take your word for it – no proof or swearing on the bible- and you can espouse whatever you like to adults and for we can forgo all the other stuff…

    Say yes, and you will have earned more respect from me than I have ever afforded any other religious person.
    Not that this should necessarily be considered such an accolade!


  40. just quickly, how cool would it be it God posted something here right now 😉 that would mix things up a bit. God has to have a sense of humour doesn’t He?


  41. Josh,
    The article you linked seemed to only discuss the issue regarding the translation of “virgin.” Did I miss where it talked about the rest of the issues with that “prophecy”? The child being born in the very next chapter? The fact that something happening hundreds of years down the road doesn’t serve as a good sign, while something happening in the next chapter would?
    I do agree with you, in that it is likely impossible to be perfectly objective, although we try. For me, I realized that I wasn’t treating the bible with fairness when I was younger. I gave it an edge. I trusted all those around me and I unquestioningly trusted the bible. It didn’t even dawn on me to ask if the bible was actually inspired by god.
    Falling out of faith in the bible doesn’t necessarily mean that you become atheist. Those aren’t the only two options, and the option of “I may not what it is, but I know what it’s not” is always on the table as well.
    You say that the NT is well supported by history. Which parts? I hear this claim often, but am not really sure what is meant by it. What is so well supported by history? Places and ruling governments? That’s hardly supporting evidence for the supernatural claims, for the miracles. Otherwise, we’d have to take the position that the Iliad was divinely inspired, with all of its mythology being true because the Iliad is supported by history. But I’m sure you’re aware of parts that seem to be refuted by history…
    And how is the bible’s history more compelling that of the Koran? Especially when we consider that we cant know all of god’s ways; we cant rely on our own reasoning. Who’s to say that both the Koran and the bible are not from god? We may not understand why that would be the case, but I’m sure if we try hard enough we could come up with a possible solution, especially since nothing is impossible for god, and since we shouldn’t question god, and since we’re probably not capable of understanding all of what he tells us anyways since he so much wiser, bigger, better than we are, right?
    I also realized that I was going about things a little backward when I was younger. I was using the bible to validate science, history and reason, instead of the other way around. Once I realized that, and tried to look at the evidence, and treat the bible on the same playing field as the Koran, etc, I quickly realized it was no more the product of a perfect being than the book of mormon or the unintelligible memoirs of a retired chimpanzee.
    There are many good aspects to the bible, but I’m afraid they just don’t erase the errors, contradictions, inconsistencies and moral horrors.
    You seem to already see many of the issues within the bible, but you are diligently holding on to your faith. Such stubbornness can be a good quality, but I wonder how long you can continue to ignore these glaring issues with hope that it all just works out somehow.
    Jesus appeared to Paul and Thomas, helping their faith; god sent angels and miracles to others proving his existence and power. For a god who isn’t a respecter of persons, he sure does pick favorites, as he has done none of those for me, for none of the people I know, and I would suspect he hasn’t done for you either. Either your faith is very great indeed, or you’ve been fooled by the “emperor’s new clothes.” It’s hard to tell where the line is…


  42. He could even post something in such a way that we could understand his post through taste and his dot points could be articulated beams of pure awesomeness. that would be a evening to remember. Isint it strange to think that if god exists he is listening (or rather reading) this whole thread BEFORE we write it : 0


  43. Either way, as I said to Nate, I think looking at the evidence and coming to the conclusion that God exists is reasonable. I also think it’s reasonable to come to the conclusion that God does not exist. I wouldn’t agree with someone who said they could prove it one way or the other. Obviously, I believe the evidence tips in favor of God, but that is only one person’s assessment.

    If it’s reasonable to fall on either side of this issue, what do you think of the Bible’s consistent claims that God will condemn those of us who fall on one side and reward those on the other. Does that also seem reasonable?


  44. Nate-
    I think it’s reasonable to come to either conclusion on intellectual grounds. The conviction of the Spirit is something that is not intellectual. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says –

    “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

    There I go using the Bible again. Now, the business of who has the Spirit and who does not, who had it when they died, etc. That is tricky. That’s not our place to judge. I just hope some discussion about what I believe might be useful to the Spirit in bringing others to that knowledge.


  45. William-
    “You say that the NT is well supported by history. Which parts? I hear this claim often, but am not really sure what is meant by it. What is so well supported by history?”

    The number of copies, and internal consistency of the copies, of NT documents.

    Re: the prophecy. I assented to the possibility of double fulfillment of prophecy, which would mean Isaiah’s prophecy could have been fulfilled both in his time, and by Jesus. Because a prophecy pertains to two events doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate.

    Re: the rest of the response. I think this goes back to why I would believe in Jesus if the scriptures were inaccurate. I answered that a while back in this thread. I’m pretty sure that, even if I could be convinced there is no reason to trust the NT, that Jesus is the only God I would deem worthy of worship, for reasons I went into earlier. So, I do recognize there are difficulties in scripture. I do believe there are some reasonable responses to those difficulties. I acknowledge that we won’t agree that those responses are reasonable. And, even if you could prove to me that none of them were reasonable, and my understanding of the historical evidence for the NT reliability was wrong, I am certain I would continue to hope in the promise that Jesus is who he said he was.

    So, maybe I’m just wired to believe? Maybe I am too biased to see the reality of the evidence (or lack thereof)? It’s often said that religion is a crutch for weak people. I’ve outlined that I feel I am weak and inconsistent as a person, and that I believe that a redeemer will come to make all the unfairness and suffering go away. So, I would agree that I place my hope on that crutch.


  46. How does one get the Spirit?

    Also, if you personally get some comfort from believing, then I suppose that’s fine. What I think becomes inconsistent is what’s at stake if Christianity is true. If God’s going to judge some as faithful and some as unfaithful, but the quality of evidence is such that people can honestly come to different conclusions about it, then God unquestionably cares nothing for justice. There’s simply no good way around that fact. Is that the kind of God you believe in? Personally, I feel no comfort in such a system. In fact, I’d have to describe it as horror.


  47. Remember, Josh, the point of the gospel is not whether or not you get comfort from it — the point is to offer an avenue of salvation for all people. I think it’s paramount that we consider its likelihood in achieving that. For most of our comments, you’ve agreed with me that the evidence is a bit murky and people could honestly fall on either side of the issue. So does that really sound like a good system?

    Not trying to pick on you at all — I like you and admire your willingness to discuss these things. But I think it’s important to keep calling our attention back to how high the stakes of this thing really are.



  48. Nate-
    I absolutely agree with that assessment. Which, is why I wouldn’t place the whole of the burden on evidence. I think it is rather obvious just by reading these blogs and other books that the evidence doesn’t convince everyone. And, even those who it does convince, I’d suggest there is more going on than just processing evidence. God is the one who grants the gift of faith through grace. I’m not above suggesting this could take a lifetime. And, I’m not above suggesting that some may “accept” Jesus while hating the Church so much that they don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus or the Church. Jesus accepted, forgave, and announced salvation to many who would never be allowed in a church. You and I would probably agree that there are some people who claim they are Christians who behave and treat others in such a way as to call that claim into question. If it’s true that they maybe have not actually placed their trust in Jesus (thus, treating people more compassionately, etc), then it could also be true that someone who misunderstands what Jesus claims, because of miscommunication by others, could actually have faith in what Jesus is without recognizing that due to their despise of his (admittedly imperfect, and sometimes terrible) representatives. I can’t fathom what all of God’s ways are – and I don’t think it’s unfair or a copout to claim that. His ways, if He exists, would be more than we can comprehend.


  49. Thanks for that reply. But it’s at this point in the rationale that it all falls completely apart for me. If you’re right, what’s the point of any of this? If faith comes from God, then there’s not much point in arguing with each other about what’s true, because those of us who don’t believe simply don’t believe because God hasn’t given us faith yet. And why did he inspire anyone to write the Bible? If faith comes from him, and the Bible isn’t enough to convince people, why have it?

    How could the same God who created the laws of physics and gave humans the ability to reason, simply throw out all logic and rationale when it comes to his “plan” (a very poor word to describe what we’re suggesting) which is supposedly more important than anything else?

    Usually, when we talk about something that makes this little sense, we rightly label it as “incorrect.” It’s frustrating to me that we seem unable to apply the same label to religion. I also find it rather insulting to the idea of God, when you get right down to it.


  50. @Josh
    No. I won’t agree to that.

    And now you know why atheist will continue to hammer religious people for the utter diatribe they espouse.
    And may your kids forgive you….


  51. @Josh
    No. I won’t agree to that.

    Fair enough. Then may I have permission to introduce your children to a Jehovah’s Witness ?


  52. Ark-
    ”Sure. You can introduce my kids to anyone you want.”

    Super. Thank you. Would you like to direct them to my post and i can take it from there?


  53. I will try to remember to do that when they can read. They are, as yet, nonexistent. So, I hope you’re still blogging then.


  54. Done. And when this meeting takes place I sincerely hope you are able to eat Humble Pie.
    Children are a LOT smarter than you think, given the opportunity to make a choice.
    Yopu and I …and Nate were not given this opportunity.
    If your future kids are you are going to have egg all over your face…I GUARANTEE it.


  55. I’m just curious if you have somewhere you’ve written down what you used to believe and what you believe now. I just thought it might give me a better idea of who you are. I’m really not asking so I can go there and argue with you. Just interested.


  56. Ah, see what you mean.

    I have nothing specific, as Nate does, but for what it’s worth….I hope Nate will indulge me. Thank you:)
    I was brought up in a very ordinary Church of England (Anglican) family. I attended Sunday School, went to church with my parents and brothers and sister, but not ‘religiously’ ‘scuse the pun.
    I always considered my self Christian more in a cultural sense rather than a ‘born again’ sense.
    I have read the bible (cover to cover) and to a lessor extent studied it. (and still do)

    I hardly ever attended church or really bothered about religion once I became an adult.

    My atheism became truly cemented after doing research for a piece I was writing – purely for interest sake – on Moses.
    At this stage I was ambivalent about religion, and my knowledge of biblical history was scanty and confined to what most Christians know. Easter, Christmas, Son of God, Pontius Pilate, Crucifixion, Noah, Adam & Eve etc…the main characters and events, in other words.
    I found There is nothing historical bout Moses for one to reference.(other than religious literature)
    At this point I was still merely curious, with no hard set beliefs and so I dug deeper. Still nothing.

    Then I looked at Egyptian history, for I was sure there would be something. Even if it were just an allusion. But no.Again nothing. There is no verifiable history to this character.
    And it was around this time that the bells began to ring and I was forced to say…”Wait a moment!”
    If there is nothing about Moses..not a single scrap of evidence for the Exodus or anything pertaining to this massive event outside of the Bible, is this character real?
    This caused some real problems, because if it turned out that he was more than likely a narrative construct, fictitious, what did this say about Jesus who refers to Moses on several occasions?
    Oh, boy…now we are treading n thin ice…
    Please understand, I had no idea that these topics were already ‘out there’ and had been for ages and ages. I was blissfully ignorant and completely naive.

    It was at this point that I decided to read the bible cover to cover. * my KJV has more red pen marks than an editor’s copy of a bad manuscript.

    After this I realised that it could not possibly be true. None of it.
    What bothered me most was that here was this book, the bible, that was open to anyone to read and yet they didn’t. Or not in the manner that I had just done.

    And I wondered what it was that could possibly keep people believing in this heinous rubbish
    ( sorry, but that is how I feel) and then TEACH it to children as if it is fact.
    I was horrified. Truly.
    And I made the decision there and then, that any time I came across someone espousing their religion I would demand of them to demonstrate their claim of its inerrancy.

    So far not a single religious person has been able to do this, which is why I continue to call people like you out.

    So now you know….


  57. LOL! Please don’t thank me…
    You and your believer chums have a lot to answer for. Only you can’t answer,can you?
    From pedophile priests, to talking donkeys, to Global floods, to feeding thousands with scraps.
    From virgin births to erroneous prophecies.
    You have NO answer. Nothing but myth and false doctrine.


  58. I love, love, love that this is here. I too have gone through the rigors of KNOWING the ”truth”, only to be thrown back by my stupid brain.

    Nate, thank you. Truly thank you for not only doing mad amounts of research to plant the seeds of coherent thought that seems to flow from you like a deep well, but also thanks for not allowing hatred, or pride to ruin your presentation. No offense to Ark, I like your thoughts as well, but the hatred you have for believers, masks your logic and reason. You’ll do much better if you exercise respect just a tad more. But trust me, I know where your coming from.

    My story is that I was raised in a united Pentecostal church. Born and bred by people who honestly practiced the bible way more than most religious circles. I was raised to believe that Jesus was god himself, and that to be saved, you must be baptized in Jesus name, and also must receive the Holy Ghost, not just through faith, but you must speak in tongues.

    This is all biblical, so seemingly to me was absolutely reasonable and the only possibility.

    My family was a little different in that we really didn’t follow other people much. This led to my brother and I being outcasts of sorts, because when all the other kids were speaking hasha kiado lama tse nova dingado and whatever else the spirit led them to say, we were trying our hardest to allow god to fill us, but it just wasn’t happening.

    Finally when I was 15 it happened.

    After years of going to the alter and crying my poor heart out because I knew how evil I was, with masturbation and such, I finally reached a point where I just did it.

    I let the gibberish out of my mouth.

    Honestly it was an amazing experience that I have yet to comprehend.

    What I’ve come to reason, is that when surrounded by other people, when you allow yourself to do something as foolish as speak in tongues, it’s highly euphoric, because you get a high from doing something so non-sensible. It is like how you’d feel if you ran through the mall on Christmas weekend naked. You’d feel pretty high.

    As I got older, I began to question things like modesty. We weren’t allowed to wear shorts, or shirtsleeve shirts, girls couldn’t wear pants, and their skirts had to be below the knee. They couldn’t cut their hair, at all, and the boys and girls were all but completely separated from each other. Cause we’d want sex and all.

    Made sense to me.

    Till I asked my pastor, “If the girls can wear skirts below the knee, why can I not wear shorts, if they’re below the knee?”

    This was my first and sooooo far from last deductible reasoning.

    I haven’t stopped.

    Another core thing for me is that I lost my hearing down to about 20%, at the age of 15. Now being surrounded every week by people who preached that healing was at the tip of their fingers, I was constantly being prayed for.

    This got personal.

    I invested so many tears, heartache, pure faith that tonight was going to be the night I got my hearing back.

    But no. God had other plans apparently. I didn’t have enough faith. God wanted me deaf. Umm…maybe I had sin in my life. That master bating again. Wicked wicked 15 year old boy.

    Healing has been the one thing that has proven to me it’s all hocus. Logic and reason tell me that if people really believe in healing, they wouldn’t just be attending a building weekly and driving around with their little families to Olive Garden.

    They would be in the hospital healing people. I mean, what kind of selfish prick has the ability to pray for someone, and just ignores everyone dying every day. Go to a hospital sometime and see how many people are there trying to pray for someone. There aren’t any. They’re too busy watching Fox News.

    Am I an atheist? No way. This life is way to complicated for there to not be a supreme being. That much seems painfully obvious to me, which allows me to understand agnosticism, but my mind simply cannot comprehend how anyone can be an atheist. No offense it just doesn’t make sense to me, that this is all happening, and whatever started it, is not able to still exist.

    I don’t believe god is love more than god is hate. I like to think of it more in terms of positive versus negative energy. Or maybe not even versus, but more a balance of.

    Thanks for your time and let’s all keep pushing forward, seeking truth at all costs, never conforming to comfortable ignorance, but keeping stoked the fires and desires of understanding. After all, we have a brain made to reason, if it were not so, we wouldn’t have captured flame.

    We are all evolving into something far greater than any of us. I believe god is in us all, regardless of belief.



  59. Just to clear it, I don’t believe I know who or what god is, which I guess would make many say I should be an atheist, however, if all there was was humans, I’d say we are god. It all depends on the definition of god, which I suppose has as many meanings as there are concepts of “god”, which in turn shows that none could be “true” but all are possible. So maybe all are true. Maybe as soon as we imagine a concept of “god”, its born into existence. I like possibilities.

    I like finding truth, I hate thinking I know truth,


  60. Hi Mark!

    Thanks so much for the kind comments! You’ve actually made my day — I love hearing from people like you. It always makes me feel good to know that others are finding their way toward reason and learning that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions.

    I really identify with your story. How long ago did your de-conversion take place? Is this something you’re still in the middle of? I’d really like to hear more of your story.

    Just a quick point about your current worldview. It seems to me that the term you’re looking for is “deist.” Just based on your description, I’d say that’s where you are right now. I’d recommend checking out — it’s a really great resource with tons of articles. And a frequent commenter here is kcchief01, who is also a deist. Great guy.

    I completely understand that position. I held it for a while myself, but I had trouble imagining the personality of God enough (or even whether or not there was only one god…) to really maintain an actual belief. So I finally realized (after reading The God Delusion that I more closely identified with atheism than anything else.

    Luckily, I think we’d both agree, that even if God exists, he probably doesn’t care a great deal if people believe in him or not. Otherwise, he’d make himself more known.

    So for me, the mantra I’m left with is the one Marcus Aurelius gave:

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

    Or for brevity’s sake, you can always substitute Bill & Ted’s:

    Be excellent to each other!

    Hope you’ll comment here frequently!


  61. Hey Nate-
    I do have a follow-up here. And, it’s a genuine discussion I’d like to have, not primarily a challenge to you. You said here:

    “Luckily, I think we’d both agree, that even if God exists, he probably doesn’t care a great deal if people believe in him or not. Otherwise, he’d make himself more known.”

    I think this is a rather common theme among a lot of the agnostics/atheists who comment on this site and others. There’s also a heavy reliance on evidence and reason. I may be wrong in the way I’m summarizing this particular view, so please correct me if that’s the case. It seems a lot of people hold the view that most, if not all, people would come to belief in God if he would just do a better job revealing himself. I think this statement would stand as a conclusion that needs to be supported by evidence. If that’s the case, then what is the evidence on which you base the conclusion that “most, if not all” people would accept/believe in/etc God if he did a better job revealing himself? Is it possible that some would reject him even in the face of such evidence? That some would delude themselves into thinking there is not enough evidence? That some would deceive themselves into thinking that one particular piece of evidence would be the “clincher” for them?

    If it is not possible that people could and would still reject or refuse to believe in God despite “enough evidence”, on what do you base that conclusion?

    Again, I’m just curious of your thought process here.


  62. Hi Josh,

    Thanks for the question! Do you know anyone that denies the existence of Barack Obama, even if they don’t like him as a president or individual?


  63. Nate-
    I appreciate your question and how it relates. However, I don’t think whether I know someone who denies the existence of Barack Obama is relevant to the question I asked you. I’m asking if you believe it is possible for someone, even after being shown evidence of someone or something, to deny, reject, or refuse to believe that person or things existence. And, if you believe it is not possible for someone to deny, reject, or refuse to believe in its/his/her existence, then what is the evidence on which you base the conclusion that everyone would accept/believe in/assent to its/his/her existence in that circumstance.


  64. Hmm, I guess I think my question back to you very much does apply. I personally don’t know anyone that denies the existence of Obama, and you probably don’t either. The reason is that we have tons and tons of evidence for his existence, even though you and I have never actually seen him in person. So even though there are a number of people who disagree with him, dislike him, or even flat out hate him, no one questions his existence.

    If God made himself known to each of us, there would be no denying him. Perhaps we would still choose to disobey him — the Bible is filled with examples of people who knew he existed, yet still rebelled. But no one could claim he didn’t exist.

    If given enough evidence, everyone would believe in God. He would be an undeniable fact.

    Do you disagree?


  65. I would contend that belief alone is virtually useless. So yes, it stands to reason that taking the giant question marks of whether or not god exists and if so, who he is, leaves the decision to the individual as to whether or not to serve and obey god. Merely knowing that god exists does not automatically mean that everyone would care. There will always be humans who are more concerned with pleasing themselves than any higher power. In the end, I wholeheartedly agree with Nate that if there were an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator, then any eternal consequence MUST be based on obedience and treatment of fellow man, not whether or not the existence and character of god was properly deciphered from an ancient book of inconsistencies.

    At least that’s my opinion.



  66. I think your question applies, Nate. I just don’t think it fully answers the question. Whether I know anyone who denies the existence of Barack Obama doesn’t tell me anything about whether people can continue to deny the existence of something for which they’ve been shown evidence. You don’t know anyone who denies the existence of Obama. That still doesn’t give me any real information toward my question to you. I’ll try to rephrase.

    Are you aware of anyone who has been given “enough evidence” about something, yet continues to deny that thing exists/has happened/etc? If so, then I don’t think you can make this statement

    “If given enough evidence, everyone would believe in God. He would be an undeniable fact.”

    Is this really true? Again, similarly to my question above, how do you KNOW that EVERYONE would believe in God if given “enough evidence”? I guess what I feel you need to do is show me that whenever ANYONE is given “enough evidence” for something they ALWAYS assent to the truth of the thing for which they’ve been given “enough evidence”. I’m wondering if you feel that this has already been established somehow and I should grant it to you? I don’t think you have established it.


  67. I think the burden of proof is actually on you. I can’t prove that something always happens without having access to every single person who has ever lived. Instead, if you know examples of people disbelieving in something for which there is adequate evidence, then please let me know.

    Even if we take the moon landing as an example, since some people think it was a hoax, I imagine even they would be convinced if they could be given more evidence. I can’t think of an instance where someone would still not be convinced of something if they were only given enough evidence. I mean, that’s what “enough” evidence means…

    Are you trying to say that evidence is irrelevant? Or are you saying it would be impossible for God to give more evidence of his existence?

    I think we may be making this more complicated than it has to be. When people first discovered America, if they had described a rhinoceros to a Native American, it’s likely the native wouldn’t be able to visualize what was being described. They might not even believe that such a creature could exist. But if they saw one, they would instantly believe. Why wouldn’t they?

    By the same token, if God actually made himself known to each of us, why would anyone try to deny it? What would be the point? It would be like denying Obama exists, or denying the existence of rhinos. It’s ludicrous to even posit such a thing.

    The only reason we can actually question God’s existence is that he’s completely hidden from us. Otherwise, blogs like mine would have nothing to talk about. 🙂


  68. Josh, maybe you’re making too much out of this. There is some evidence for alien abductions, But I don’t find the evidence compelling enough to believe even though Fox Mulder believes wholeheartedly.

    Are Fox and I privy to same evidence? Is Fox more trustworthy of the sources, etc? But Nate’s point isnt in points like that. That is where god is – up there with aliens and bigfoot.

    Some argue there is great evidences, but the evidences for such isn’t the same as it for the verification as to whether the president of the United States is a real person or not. He is saying that god presented himself at least as concretely as Obama had as president, then people wpuild indeed believe he is real just as much as they believe Obama is real. Obama is president of the USA and that’s undeniable.

    Whether or not they like him or would be willing to submit to him is another question. nate’s question retort makes perfect sense.


  69. Hey Josh,

    A few points here:

    1. If God were all powerful, all knowing and all loving then he would know exactly what it took to convince every one of his creation that He existed. Not only would He know, He would have the ability to cause those things to come about that would convince those people. This doesn’t destroy their free will – they still have the ability to choose to reject Him and not allow Him into their hearts. But they would at least be aware that that was actually a real choice they needed to make. According to your belief after one dies they will be fully aware of this (at least that’s what most Christians suggest when they ask “what will you say to God when you appear before Him?”) – why on earth couldn’t He make this clear now when we have the chance to make the choice. Better yet why not give us the choice after we die? But of course not – I’ll tell you why not – because this whole belief in afterlife is a very powerful fear factor that makes total sense of creating a great many converts. Why not have it as a part of your belief system. It all seems very human to me.

    2. Even if you have problems with #1, this whole question you ask really misses the main point that most of us are trying to make here. There are tons and tons of people in the world who definitely are not convinced that the God that you believe in is real. Do you really think that the vast majority of Buddhists really deep down know that Jesus is God and that they need to accept Him into their hearts?

    That He (your version of Him) has clearly not made Himself obvious to the world, but yet then holds people accountable when they doubt your belief seems so counter to an all powerful and all knowing God that loves His creation. Your agreement with knowing that you are probably wrong with about 1/3 of what you say you know and don’t even know what third that is also seems to run counter to this whole idea that this God would hold us accountable to these kinds of deep questions about metaphysical reality. Do you really think that these truths of metaphysical reality are more obvious than the existence of Barrack Obama or the existence of your friends and your family? For me they honestly don’t came anywhere near that level of certainty. It’s like night and day.


  70. Hey Nate-
    I don’t think the burden’s on me. You said “If given enough evidence, then everyone would believe in God.” That is a claim to universal knowledge made by you. Is it not? Therefore, in order to make that claim you have to be able to provide evidence that it is true. I’m asking for that evidence. I’m trying to play by your rules here, right? That, in order to make a claim to knowledge we have to be able to provide the evidence to back that claim up?

    I don’t think I’m making too much out of this. I’m just trying to focus in on one piece of the discussion here: the assertion that God has not provided enough evidence. Your statement that “everyone” would believe if given “enough evidence” presupposes that “everyone” always believes things for which there is “enough evidence”. So, you do have to show that everyone always does that. Perhaps it is true that you cannot prove that is the case. However, if you can’t prove that is the case, then you can’t rest a part of your argument on the claim that “if given enough evidence, everyone would believe in God.” Don’t you have to be able to back that up?


  71. Whoa… I just dont have the words.

    Josh, what does “enough” mean?

    So it’s your position that people wont believe something if they have enough evidence?

    Is it your position that everyone really believes in god, but just pretends they dont?


  72. Howie-
    You said a whole lot in that comment. I think what I’m trying to get at here is whether or not we know of people who have been given “enough evidence” for something, yet continue to deny it. One example I’m thinking of is evolution. I think there is an abundance of evidence for evolution out there. Whether people avail themselves of the evidence or not is up to them. However, there are people out there who have looked at all the evidence, and continue to debate whether evolution actually happened. Yet, the scientific community has largely landed on evolution as the best explanation for the evidence they’ve found. So, from my perspective I see that people are definitely prone to seeing the evidence “from their perspective”, and then denying that the evidence is really evidence because it doesn’t match up with their perspective. I think there are several other examples like this as well. So, what do we know from this? That people are capable of being shown pretty darn good evidence, and then discounting it as unreliable or inconclusive because of their perspective. If we know this about people, doesn’t it follow that the same COULD be true about the evidence for a god? Nate is saying the opposite of what I observe in people, so I’m asking him to provide some evidence that he is right in the face of what I think we all see in a lot of different groups of people.

    You said that the evidence for God doesn’t match up to that for Obama “for you”. That’s exactly the point I’m getting at. I still believe that I could be wrong about what I believe. What it seems to me is that Nate is arguing that he doesn’t think he could be wrong about what he believes. Just because a host of people don’t believe the evidence for a given event is valid and convincing does not mean that evidence is invalid. Like I think we can all agree, we see this in a number of different examples.


  73. I fully admit that my statement is a generality. In fact, there are people who refuse to accept reality when it’s presented to them, but we usually call that “insanity.” So, to limit our discussion to the sane, I think my statement is generally true. Can you provide examples of cases where substantial portions of a population refuse to accept things even when they’ve been proven?

    I feel more like you’re trying to nit-pick a particular choice of words so you can avoid the overall argument. Even if you don’t like the way I’ve phrased it, Graham, Howie, and William have all provided supporting arguments that I think are very sound.

    Since we’re all dancing around the issue, what evidence do you think God has provided that counts as “enough”?


  74. Could you be wrong that Obama exists? Only in the philosophical, “what if reality isn’t reality”, kind of way.

    But aside from all that, since you’ve noticed this tendency in people, does it seem reasonable to you that God would expect us all to figure out all the things Howie so eloquently stated? My whole point is that God could have made it all a lot simpler — surely you can concede that?


  75. Josh, you are one stubborn man.

    The Obama argument fits perfectly and seems to me as well, that there is plenty of evidence that, as Nate said, “sane” people do not deny the existence of things that are evident to them.

    Being punished for not having the right perspective seems far fetched for a being that desires community with reasonable humans, after all, god supposedly created us for companionship, why didn’t he just make us like dogs if he needed us to have the right perspective in order to believe in him perfectly? You can abuse your dog all you want and it will still be loyal, humans have a much lower tolerance for respecting a being that is abusive.

    Nate, thanks for your response, it made my day as well, my wife witness me laughing and nearly jumping for joy that I have finally found a forum to share the burdens of the metaphysical world with, it is a gem in the rough for sure.

    I have begun reading The Age of Reason and before I could get to page 5, I was already blown away with the observations of Paine, as well as stupefied at my own lack of making these observations myself, I tend to take pride in my bullshit radar. Thanks much for the reference, I will make good use of it.

    It’s hard to define when my deconversion took place. The questions began I would say around 17, I stopped going to church around 21 and now I am 31 so it’s a journey that has gradually led me to here.

    Now where is here? I would say I am a deist, if it weren’t for the word “abandoned”. I feel like if there is a god, there’s little evidence that there is any abandon. I would suggest that rather he has left us to rule this place and evolve into something more.

    However, I have trouble with any definition of god, as I can’t seem to stop saying “he”, or “him”, etc…

    I cannot say I am an atheist, at least as far as what I feel atheism is. I see as little proof that there is no god, as there is god.

    I looked at your 6 types of atheists and I definitely feel connected to seeker-theist.

    William, Howie, and Graham, you guys are awesome, I truly experience joy reading your insights, Josh, thanks so much for having the backbone to keep fighting for what you believe in, in the face of heavy opposition, good stuff!


  76. Examples of people ignoring evidence? How about people ignoring the warnings that multitasking while driving is dangerous. Many, maybe even the majority, of people do not believe they will cause an accident or die because their experience outweighs the evidence. “I’ve never been in a fatal accident” almost always outweighs the story of someone’s car getting demolished because they looked down to text.

    Someone who is addicted will almost always operate in opposition to the evidence. Nearly everyone ruining their loves with a substance will deny that the evidence – often people In their family telling them exactly what is happening – applies to them.

    I think we can be blinded and believe what we want to believe. I think the danger comes when we feel we are not blinded by something. I am afraid of not having enough information. I often believe I might be mistaken. I am always searching for reasons I should or should not believe. I think saying that I know god can’t be real because not everyone believes he exists is to underestimate the human ability to deceive ourselves or be deceived. Something can be true, yet the truth of it be denied by a large number of people.

    And, this is what scripture teaches. That we have all been led astray. We all have turned from God. You asked for evidence that I find convincing. I know I’ve said this before, but one of the main reasons I believe Christianity, on an intellectual level, is because of its description of human beings. I may not like to admit it, but much of the depravity described in scripture I can see plainly in myself. Christianity strikes me as true because of the bitter truth it communicates. It isn’t something I “want” to believe (who would want to believe they are utterly lost and cannot save themselves), yet it draws me powerfully with the picture of a God who welcomes all despite who we are. It just isn’t something I imagine making up – I’d imagine a god who punishes people and enjoys bringing judgment on those who disobey. This is not the God revealed in Jesus.

    I’ll dovetail on that last paragraph with a quote from Michael Spencer. I would’ve typed this, but he says it a lot better than me.

    “Ultimately, I am persuaded of the truth of the Bible by its presentation of Jesus. I cannot explain or unpack this reasoning, for it comes down to an encounter with a person. Those who are Christians know well what I mean. You know what it is like to see no evidence of God in the world, in the church or in the mangled mess of your own heart, yet to be drawn powerfully after the Jesus of the scriptures. You know what it is like for Christians to act completely contrary to anything resembling Jesus, and to be sickened by their mistreatment of people in the name of God, yet to know that you cannot abandon Jesus himself as flawed, because you know the resemblance between Jesus and those who claim to follow Him is superficial at best.

    The portrait of Jesus in the four Gospels towers above the paltry whinings of modernists, the thrown pebbles of critics and the repeated foibles of a scandalous church. Jesus is not the creation of any person or any tradition. He alone, of all the versions of a human soul, radiates the undoubtable evidence of “God with us” that other spiritual leaders only hint at. Jesus alone defies categorization and trivialization. He towers over history, culture and the human heart. This is no portrait of human longing or an exercise in wishful thinking about what we might become. This Jesus is, as John said, the Word made flesh.”


  77. Josh,

    I appreciate your bravery here. I think it would be very reasonable if you tried to grab some friends to “back you up”, because I don’t like that it’s 3 (or maybe even 4 or 5) on 1.

    I haven’t seen how any of your recent comments respond to what I drew out in my point #1 above. What part of what I wrote is incorrect? Is the God you believe in not able to know what would convince people of His truth? Or does He know and is not capable of causing those things that would convince to occur? Or does He know and also have the power to do those things, yet chooses not to do those things?

    Now I am going to guess at what your answer is based on this and previous threads we’ve had with you on this topic. I believe you would say “no” to all 3 questions above. I think what you believe is that He has done all of those things that cause people to know the gospel truth that you believe in (and by that gospel truth I mean all that would be required to be “right” with God, according to what you believe). It seems like what you are saying is that all people who say they do not believe this gospel message that you believe in are actually being dishonest. They actually believe it but are saying that they don’t because they prefer for some reason to reject it. All the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, Jains, Jews, etc. all really truly know that your belief system is the correct one but they prefer not to follow it so they say that they really don’t believe it.

    Josh, I just can’t believe that what I wrote in the last paragraph is actually true. Could I be wrong – sure, but is what I wrote really what you believe? If it is then we may just need to agree to disagree and give up on this one. At some point in a dialogue you kind of realize where the break-off point is between the 2 parties and I think this is where it is.

    But for argument’s sake, lets say that I could believe what I wrote about all those Hindus etc above. If I could believe something like that then it seems like I could also believe the same thing about the Jewish faith. Orthodox Jews believe that Jesus worship is polytheism, and worse idolatry because it raises a human up to be like God. If I am going to strain credulity by assuming everyone really knows your beliefs are true, then that would open it up for me to come to a similar conclusion – that all Christians (and others) are really truly aware of the truth of Judaism, but they say they aren’t because they have some reason to reject it. In fact that makes more sense, because there are more reasons to reject Judaism given that following it is not such an easy thing to do.

    Again I’ve written too much.


  78. Josh,

    I’d also like to quote Michael Spencer:

    “You know what it is like to see no evidence of God in the world, in the church or in the mangled mess of your own heart”

    Yes, I am taking it out of context to some extent, but this is exactly what we are trying to say, and even though it is taken a little out of context I think it still fairly shows some level of concession to the exact point we are making.

    My wife and I have some Christian and Catholic friends who are able to express their faith in a much more reasonable way. One friend of ours put it quite succinctly – “I can’t say that what I believe is the truth, and I certainly don’t believe it is obvious that it is true, but it works for me and so I don’t see a reason to not follow it.”


  79. Hey Howie-
    Wasn’t trying to ignore you. I’m not as good at following every response and answering it. I was trying to follow Nate’s. here goes.

    “Is the God you believe in not able to know what would convince people of His truth?”

    I believe God knows what would convince people who will believe. I also believe God knows who will not believe.

    “Or does He know and is not capable of causing those things that would convince to occur?”

    I do not believe God is capable of forcing someone to believe in Him. If someone is going to refuse Him, my belief is that God cannot alter that.

    “Or does He know and also have the power to do those things, yet chooses not to do those things?”

    I believe God reaches out to all in one way or another. I do not believe He can force someone to believe.

    I don’t believe people are being dishonest. I think they really believe the things they say, as I really believe what I say. I think your explanation of Gods’s judgment is an oversimplification. I do not believe God condemns people just because they believe the wrong things. After all, I think we all have at least some things wrong. Jesus’ picture of God is acceptance of even those who didn’t know or recognize Him as the Messiah. People from other groups whom Jews would have ostracized. People reacted to Jesus when He revealed Himself. Some accepted. Some rejected. The same for today. Who am I to say how, when, or in what way Jesus will reveal Himself. I would never judge whether another person has or will accept Him. I’m simply trying to describe Him the best I know how because I believe Him.

    I would agree with your friend that I don’t think it is obvious that Christianity is true. I see many more reasons to believe it than not. I can stand with him in that statement.


  80. Hey Josh,

    No worries, I didn’t think you were trying to ignore, just wanted to make clear my viewpoint.

    Your response is very good because the break-off point between us is not quite where I thought it was. Let’s continue if you’d like. The purpose for me in this dialogue and all others is not to show you why what I believe is right, but for us to learn a bit from each other and perhaps realize where the break-off points really are. There is nothing I love more than to have a good discussion and then agree to disagree in a respectful manner.

    First, I’d like to make clear what I mean by “gospel truth” – by that I mean what you personally believe all others need to “do” or “believe” or “whatever other thing” to be “right” with the God that you believe in. If you believe that this is an oversimplification of your beliefs, and that there really isn’t some “gospel truth” or that there is no such thing as being “right” with the God you believe in then please clarify.

    You said: “I believe God knows what would convince people who will believe. I also believe God knows who will not believe.”

    You wrote this response in an interesting way, and I’d like to make sure I understand you precisely and if you worded it specifically that way on purpose. It looks like you believe that there are some people who are completely incapable of coming to a knowledge about the gospel truth that you believe in. By that I mean that for whatever reason there is absolutely nothing that can be done, absolutely no evidence whatsoever that would ever cause the person to know that the gospel truth is real. And those kind of people are also not capable of realizing that they need to make some action or decision or choice about the gospel truth that you believe in. Is my interpretation of your response correct or is it a bit more nuanced? Or was your wording just not clear? Sorry not trying to be anal, but if we want to truly understand each other we’ll both have to ask each other specific questions. You can ask me stuff too.

    There are other important responses I have to other things you wrote but let’s take this in pieces.


  81. Keep going guys, I for one am enjoying each and every comment, even when they seem redundant, sometimes redundancy is necessary for clarification and understanding, so keep beating this dead dog till its dust. 🙂


  82. I agree with Mark. I had some points I was going to make, but I’m very interested in the direction of the conversation b/t Howie and Josh, so I’m just going to sit on the sidelines for now. Thanks, guys!


  83. I’m working on a response to Howie. One question for you, Nate. How do you get your quotes to stand out so nicely in your comments?


  84. Hi Josh,

    You can achieve cool looking quotes with some HTML goodness. Just put whatever text you’re quoting inside “blockquote” tags. I’m not sure if this will show correctly in the comment, so bear with me — it would look like this:

    <blockquote>Four score and seven years ago...</blockquote>


  85. Yeah, that turned out like I wanted. That will work.

    Similarly, you can do things like this:

    <em>italicize</em> -- the 'em' stands for emphasis

    Anything you want to do with text can be done with HTML.


  86. But Christians believe that the Bible is verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Verbal inspiration is a conservative Christian term. I certainly don’t believe that the words in the Bible were handpicked by God!


  87. Howie-
    Good stuff. Glad we got to a conversation instead of having a drop-off point. Apologies for anything I said making it seem like we couldn’t have an further discussion.

    “The purpose for me in this dialogue and all others is not to show you why what I believe is right, but for us to learn a bit from each other and perhaps realize where the break-off points really are.”

    I can get behind that. I freely admit there are times I’m trying to convince someone I’m right. Sometimes I just can’t help that impulse. It’s not always my intention in starting a conversation. Most of the time I’m really interested in the other person’s perspective, and it tends to turn into a grudge match of probing questions. I’m trying to get better about that.

    “First, I’d like to make clear what I mean by “gospel truth” – by that I mean what you personally believe all others need to “do” or “believe” or “whatever other thing” to be “right” with the God that you believe in. If you believe that this is an oversimplification of your beliefs, and that there really isn’t some “gospel truth” or that there is no such thing as being “right” with the God you believe in then please clarify.”

    Sure. I’ll do my best to clarify a bit here. What I believe in terms of doing something to be “right” with God is that God Himself has already accomplished everything necessary for us to be “right” with Him. Anything that was broken in our relationship with God has been reconciled in what God did through Jesus on Calvary. That’s a one-way action. Our sins are atoned for. Period. What do we need to do? Ours is to respond to God’s offer. It seems to me like you want to nail down whether there is specific information a person needs to know, understand, and assent to in order to be “right” with God. In a way this is true. God became human, lived the life we ought to live, suffered the consequences we deserve to suffer, and rose again so that we can share in the reconciliation He earned. You’re right, that is specific information I believe to be true. However, there are instances even in scripture where people did not have access to that specific information, yet we are led to believe they were made “right” with God. Abraham is one. Moses, David, Enoch, Joseph, etc. All of these people are, at the very least strongly implied in the NT, made “right” with God. So, I believe it is not outside the bounds to infer there will be many other people from many other times who are made “right” with God, through some other means, despite not having direct access to the information we’re talking about here. The OT (Daniel) and the NT (Revelation) both teach that people from “every tribe and tongue” will be present at the renewing of all things. So, I do not believe that someone has to have the information about Jesus, understand it, acknowledge it as true in order for God to have reached that person. It doesn’t seem to jive with scripture, so I don’t see why it has to be necessary for the sake of discussion.

    So, jumping off from there I would say that God can reach any person of any time in any culture in order to evoke a response. What happens then is our choice, and our choice alone. However God reveals Himself, we can either accept that or reject it.

    “You said: “I believe God knows what would convince people who will believe. I also believe God knows who will not believe.”

    You wrote this response in an interesting way, and I’d like to make sure I understand you precisely and if you worded it specifically that way on purpose. It looks like you believe that there are some people who are completely incapable of coming to a knowledge about the gospel truth that you believe in. By that I mean that for whatever reason there is absolutely nothing that can be done, absolutely no evidence whatsoever that would ever cause the person to know that the gospel truth is real. And those kind of people are also not capable of realizing that they need to make some action or decision or choice about the gospel truth that you believe in. Is my interpretation of your response correct or is it a bit more nuanced? Or was your wording just not clear”

    You are correct. I wrote that in a specific way on purpose. Again, I don’t think what happens can necessarily be fully described by “coming to a knowledge about the gospel truth”. That is certainly part of the process in may cases, but I don’t think it’s scriptural, or common sense, to say that is the only way God can operate, and the only way a person can accept His offer. And, I wouldn’t say that someone is “incapable” of accepting God’s offer. I would say that they have the choice to accept or reject – again, in whatever form the revelation takes – and that some people will reject it. That might seem like splitting hairs, and maybe it is, but I see a bit of a difference there. Also, I wouldn’t say that “those kind of people are not capable of realizing that they need to make some action or decision”. If I’m right about God being able to reveal himself to anyone, then I can follow that and it makes sense that every person, then, has the opportunity and the capability of responding to God in the way He reveals Himself to that person.

    Footnote. I want to make clear that I believe what Jesus lived, accomplished, and continues to do now on our behalf is actually true. By what I’ve written, I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter whether any of Jesus’ story is true. What I am saying is that His actions opened to door for ALL of humanity to have access to God without the barriers that were there as a result of our turning from God. If someone responds to God’s revelation in a way that does not involve their direct knowledge of Jesus’ life and works, that does not negate Jesus’ life and works. It is not, and was never, our knowledge that saves us in the first place. It is God who saves, always has been that way, and that was represented in Jesus. To say that we have to have knowledge of something, understand it, and assent to it is to put all of the onus on us (and this, after reading in scripture that we have imperfect understanding, and we only see through a foggy mirror, and we all have turned away from God, etc). That we provide the vital piece to salvation is not the broad teaching of scripture. God alone saves. We respond to the offer of salvation.


  88. So in your belief we can be acceptable or right with god whether or not we believe in him or have knowledge of him? …because god has already fixed what was broken?

    If man can do nothing to show himself saved (because god does all the saving) is there anything that a man should do, or can do to be right with god? Or, is everyone already right with god through Christ, whether they believe him or not, and what we figure out through these discussions has no bearing to anything of value?


  89. Hey William-

    “So in your belief we can be acceptable or right with god whether or not we believe in him or have knowledge of him? …because god has already fixed what was broken?”

    Not necessarily without having knowledge of Him. I think we can have knowledge about Him without necessarily being aware that we have that knowledge, or that it’s about Him.

    “If man can do nothing to show himself saved (because god does all the saving) is there anything that a man should do, or can do to be right with god? Or, is everyone already right with god through Christ, whether they believe him or not, and what we figure out through these discussions has no bearing to anything of value?”

    I think these discussions do have value because I believe that this kind of interaction is the way that some come to revelation about God. I also think they have value because wanting to find the truth is something most of us seem to strive toward. With regards to the first half of this paragraph, I’d say we are already made right with God by what He has done through Jesus. We do have the option to choose not to accept that, I believe. That is our part in this. There’s nothing we can do in terms of “earning enough gold stars to get into heaven”. We’re offered the opportunity, and it’s my belief that we can choose to refuse it. What can we do now? I believe those who have come to a revelation about God can, and usually do, communicate that to others. Whether that’s through discussions like this, helping people we come across who are in need, giving of our wealth to help those who don’t have enough, or whatever. I don’t think a person “needs” to do these things to “earn” salvation, but I’d wager that someone who would refuse to do these activities has likely not yet met God or has refused Him.


  90. Hey Josh,

    What you express is quite confusing and I think William’s response to you shows how confusing it really is. You seem to be dancing between Universalism (the belief that we are all saved by God because he is so loving) and the more conservative evangelical viewpoint.

    You say there is nothing we can do, but yet in the same breath you say that we need to respond and accept the offer. Response and acceptance are actions and things that God would require of humans to do to be right with him, so you can’t also say “God did it all, period” and then go on to say that there is something we need to do. It is very difficult to respond to that, because frankly if God requires absolutely nothing of us then that would mean that he does not hold us accountable for anything we do or don’t do. If that is the case then the particular argument that I have been stating doesn’t really apply to your belief – but that isn’t quite what you believe. You need to settle on something clearly because this may possibly be important – do you believe there is anything you need to tell others that they need to do (and the word “do” includes things like accepting or responding) in order to know that they are right with God? You seem to be saying yes in some sense. And you are also saying that it isn’t really all that clear exactly what people must do (or accept) to be right with God. But it seems like this is just way too vague for something that is so incredibly important as our eternity. And that is the whole point of the argument. If there is something that needs to be accepted or responded to for our eternal welfare (and I know you don’t believe in a physical hell, but I think you do believe in some form of badness and goodness in the afterlife depending on peoples choices) then why doesn’t God make that clear?


  91. Howie-
    I appreciate what you’re saying, and I know Nate has told me the same thing in various discussions. I think I just disagree that “accept” constitutes “doing something” to “earn” salvation. Maybe we have reached that point that is an impasse?


  92. That’s fair Josh. That may actually be something we can kindly agree to disagree on. I’m cool with that.

    But I’d like to try a little bit more to clarify things here because I’m not so sure we totally disagree on that one. First I am ok with not using the word “earn”. But let’s see if we at least agree on the following description of your belief: If people choose not accept something (unfortunately it isn’t really clear what the something is) then they will not be right with God.

    Do you agree with that statement?


  93. Not to add too heavily to what Howie posted or to be too repetitive, but i’d like to ask the same basic question another way.

    *How does one accept god or Jesus?

    I know how i used to answer this question when I was a believer, but I dont think my version of christianity was the same as yours.


  94. I don’t want to disrupt the conversation here, so just treat this as an observation — one that doesn’t even have to be commented on.

    Josh, I think you are being torn between your conscience and scripture. You know that the Bible teaches that people should serve God. In the Old Testament, this meant following the Law of Moses — in the New Testament, it’s accepting Jesus as the Christ. This is what fits into the “acceptance” portion of what you were describing above.

    At the same time, as a conscientious, moral, intelligent person, you realize that if God expects us to respond to his invitation of salvation, then we must all understand the invitation. So when you look at the world around you and see so many thoughtful people who aren’t Christians, you’re left in a quandary.

    A more hard-lined Christian would say that non-believers actually know that Jesus is the son of God, but for some reason, they don’t want to accept him. Of course, you understand that there are some logical inconsistencies with that position — after all, why would anyone willingly take God’s displeasure over simply accepting what they already know is true? Especially since Christianity is not a burdensome religion?

    But to take the alternative, that these people sincerely don’t realize that Jesus is the son of God, leaves two other big problems. One, if these people are simply ignorant, yet they still must believe in order to be saved, why doesn’t God do more to overcome their ignorance? The other possibility is that they don’t actually have to believe in Jesus, because God will save them anyway. But this position runs counter to many passages, and it makes everyone wonder what all the fuss is about. Why spend so much effort teaching people about the gospel when they’ve already been saved?

    I think Howie’s right. It seems like you need to pick a particular path, because right now, it feels like you’re stuck in limbo about it all. You don’t seem to know if people need to respond to Jesus or not, you don’t seem to be clear on what that response should even look like, nor are you clear about what repercussions there are for not responding in the right way.


  95. So I’m going to step in at this point and be very blunt. I’m sorry if this is offensive, but since Nate’s blog is about “Finding Truth” I want to put it out there.

    @Josh, what you “believe” is ludicrous. It has no basis in any religious text. Based on what you have posted on many threads here (I read everything that is posted, I just rarely post) it seems rather obvious that your belief structure is comprised of what you think sounds nice and safe. And given that I don’t believe in the veracity of the Bible, I’m ok with that. Until you begin to evangelize your own beliefs and debate points in a forum like this. Then I just don’t understand your reasoning. When I was a Christian (same vein as Nate) any time i was involved in a religious discussion, I used as many examples of chapter and verse as possible to strengthen my stance. I could still do that today – if the Bible were internally consistent. But if God has preordained who is saved (which is silly to me) then evangelism and debate are completely pointless. At MOST you contend that we could gain knowledge of God. But from where? You seem to pull most of your answers from your own opinion (even more than the oft-criticized atheists/agnostics with “it seems that God would…”

    “I think we can have knowledge about Him without necessarily being aware that we have that knowledge, or that it’s about Him”

    What?!? Where do you get this idea? And how in the world can you actually believe it?

    I’m sorry. I know this post is a pretty blatant attack. But I just don’t understand your endgame.


  96. Josh,

    What is true is not determined by vote, and I am never persuaded by something just because a whole bunch of people agree – I’m sure there are a bunch of people reading on the sidelines hoping you can somehow get through to us stubborn agnostics. 🙂 But I do think it’s important for you to try and work out what you believe on this in a bit more clear fashion, because it seems to be of utmost importance. Even if there isn’t an afterlife if a God exists I would still put it at utmost importance to try and make clear what it is that has to happen for me to be right with that God.

    If you would still like to continue I’d learn more about your belief if you respond to my question and William’s as well.

    And Nate’s last comment expresses very eloquently exactly my own viewpoints on this.



  97. Covering the last few comments:

    I think you all are right. I was trying for something specific in my answers and I think I just muddled everything up. Let me try to clean up at least a little bit of the mess.

    First let me say this: my understanding of who God is and how he behaves comes from Jesus’ example. He alone is the representation of God in human flesh. It is clear from His teaching that it is possible for people to completely misunderstand God despite being intimately familiar with scripture. He told the Pharisees this all the time. Jesus was constantly reaching out to, healing, eating with, touching, and offering salvation to people the Jews wouldn’t associate with. Jesus showed how far God’s love and grace is beyond even our wildest imagination. He was always telling parables of ridiculous generosity and outrageous grace and salvation. I start there. All other scripture is valuable for many other purposes, but Jesus Himself teaches that they must be understood in view of Him and His revelation of God (Road to Emmaus discussion). Outside of an understanding of Him, scripture is easily misunderstood and misapplied. It always has to be centered on Jesus, and the unfathomable love and grace He showed that God has toward us.

    I was purposefully vague because I was trying to answer a question that I thought was underlying some of what Howie was asking me. That question is “What about people who never hear of Jesus in their life on earth?” (If this was not underlying the questions, then I really was off the mark. Apologies for that) God is gracious and merciful, and reaches out to the lost and marginalized throughout scripture. So, if we can all agree that there have likely been some people who never hear of Jesus, then I believe it is consistent with Jesus’ character that He would still reach them somehow. As to what exactly they must know, my inclination from scripture is that a person must at least acknowledge that they are in need of salvation and they cannot provide it for themselves. If that seems unscriptural, then we have different views of Jesus.

    I may have been wrong in aiming at this issue, so let me branch off.

    Now, what about those who have heard the gospel message. You’re all right. In that scenario we have been given more of the complete revelation, so we then are responsible for responding to more of the revelation. I don’t believe it is consistent to say that someone who has never heard of Jesus is rejecting Him because they haven’t demonstrated they’ve accepted Him by saying “I believe in Jesus”. That seems totally counter to who Jesus is. However, for those who have knowledge of who Jesus is and what He’s done, this they must respond to.

    Howie: must we respond? Yes, we must respond. I can get behind your statement that “if people choose not to accept salvation they will not be made right with God.” I was trying to make a particular point with what I was writing, but I think I got a little out of hand.

    William: How does one accept god or Jesus? By acknowledging their need for a savior, and recognizing that savior must come from outside themselves (generally and vaguely speaking). For those who have been made aware of Jesus’ life and work, accepting Jesus as savior is the response.


  98. Graham-
    What I believe may be ridiculous. I can accept that. I’m not in any way trying to be safe. I’m trying to balance what I know about Jesus with what I know about the world. I think reading scripture in a vacuum without consideration for what actually takes place in reality is ridiculous. Just quoting scripture with people who don’t find it consistent or reliable doesn’t really seem to get us anywhere, does it? I guess I don’t understand why I would just stick to scripture in a discussion like that. Seems silly. And, yes, I try to extrapolate what I know about scripture to the world. After all, if God exists he created us and this world. I can’t just read a text written 2000 years ago to another people and assume it applies directly to everyone with no thought for what is different about the world and people. Sometimes holding onto scripture in favor of all other options in a discussion like this just doesn’t make sense. That’s my opinion. And, I certainly might be wrong (about that, or everything). Finally, why do I comment here? Because we’re all searching. If I don’t put my beliefs put there for discussion, how will I ever be able to examine them honestly. If I don’t seek any feedback or critique I’ll never get outside of my own head.


  99. I have to say that, for a collection of people who think there are a lot of problems with scripture, you all are very committed to keeping as close to it as possible without allowing it to “breath”. I find that interesting. Thought I’d share. 🙂


  100. Ok Josh I think that is clearer and maybe we’ve gotten a little off topic, but I think it helps to at least clarify things. The main point is that you believe people are held accountable for not choosing to accept salvation, and are not right with God.

    I’d like to take this back to the original statement that you questioned Nate on. Nate said this: “even if God exists, he probably doesn’t care a great deal if people believe in him or not. Otherwise, he’d make himself more known.” Now I agree with this and I think Nate worded it carefully by saying “probably”. You challenged this by saying that in order to make that argument we need evidence that “people would accept/believe in/etc God if he did a better job revealing himself” But I believe the argument is not dependent on that.

    So I’m going to give another shot at explaining my view on this, and I’m going to give a shot at an analogy. The analogy isn’t meant to be perfect, but it is just to illustrate one point in this discussion:

    There are several speed limits in the city I live in that I believe are set too low. For example there is one that is set at 30mph which I think would be very safe if it were set to 40. Now I would very much like to ignore that sign and drive 40. But even though I want to ignore the sign I would never attempt to say that the sign doesn’t exist or that it really says 40. The certainty level I have about the sign existing and saying 30 is so incredibly high that I would not fault anyone for calling me insane if I said that I believed the sign didn’t exist. My free will has never been violated in this circumstance. I am totally free to not observe that sign. In fact I am even free to take on some strange philosophical argument that says “well we don’t really know anything so I’m going to say that we don’t really know that the sign exists”. But I don’t because again my certainty level about the sign is so incredibly high.

    So again, going back to my original argument: if God is all knowing then He would know exactly what it is that causes me to have that level of certainty about things. It’s not just the speed limit sign. It’s the existence of my family, friends, enemies, and even political leaders who I may not take a liking to at all. I wouldn’t say they didn’t exist, because it goes way beyond reasonable for me. If God is all knowing He would know exactly what things would need happen in order for me to have that level of certainty about His existence… He would know this for everyone who He has created. If He was all powerful He would have the ability to cause the things to happen that would cause people to have that level of certainty about His existence. Free will does not come into play here at all. He would not be forcing me to accept Him. I could still reject Him. He would not even be forcing me to believe that He existed. I could still take on a strange philosophical viewpoint that says I don’t believe He exists because we don’t really know anything at all.

    And the point that I think we all agree on is that the evidence for His existence is not at the level of the evidence we have to believe all the other examples of things that we believe with extremely high levels of certainty. For me it is night and day…. I realize it isn’t as big for you, but your Michael Spencer quote (and I read the page link too) concedes that there are reasons to doubt. You’ve admitted yourself that it’s not that obvious.

    So if there is a God who is all knowing and all powerful then it does seem given the above that “He probably doesn’t care a great deal if people believe in him or not”.

    To be honest, the whole idea of accountability that I brought up is really an extra part to this argument – it says that God couldn’t be loving if He holds us accountable to doubting His existence when there are reasonable arguments for doubting it.

    My story is that a while back I really believed that Jesus was God and that he died for my sins. My first year after I became a Christian I believed that very strongly. The next 4 years was a growing bag of doubts as I continued to find more and more problems in the bible and with the proofs that I thought were so solid. During this entire time I sought after God intensely and asked many fellow believers what I was doing wrong, because I didn’t seem to feel like God was anywhere and my doubts were growing. In the end the hiddenness of this God was a big factor in my finally concluding that I couldn’t honestly claim that I believed in the Christian message. There were other reasons but that was a very big one. The problem of evil didn’t even come into play interestingly enough (although now I do understand the difficulty expressed by that argument as well).


  101. Yeah, Howie. I see the points you’re making. Thanks for bringing us back to that point. I know God has revealed himself in ways that are not totally obvious. I also believe that, as humans, we can take evidence of something and deny it. I don’t think I was totally off with what I was saying, but I agree it wasn’t as strong as I was initially thinking.

    Glad you read the article. I love Michael Spencer because of his brutal honesty. Something I wish I could find more of among Christians.


  102. Yeah, I did actually appreciate Michael’s brutal honesty as well. It’s Christians like you and Michael that I can respect even though we do disagree on some pretty important stuff.


  103. […] The brand of Christianity I came out of used fear to great effect. We believed in a literal Hell, and nothing sells Heaven better than a literal Hell. You can’t afford to deeply question your beliefs if it’s going to land you in a never ending barbeque. And this is where the strange duplicity really comes in: Christianity tells you you’re important because God made you, he loves you, and he has a plan for you. At the same time, you aren’t smart enough to understand some parts of his plan, like why he would promise to destroy Tyre so that it would never be rebuilt, but then didn’t do that. Or how Jesus’ genealogy could be given 3 different ways. Or how he could die at two different times on two different days. […]


  104. the biggest issue with the day of jesus’ death, to me, is that John says, and keeps saying “Day of preparation” which was the day before Passover, the passover feast. The other gospels say that it was Passover day.

    I dont think jewish time v roman time explains that.

    and just FYI, as suspected, the Romans viewed days as we do. I guess there is some discussion as to whether their started at midnight or sunrise, but I think for our purposes, we can safely say it was like we do now and be close enough, if not exact. So in order for jesus to spend 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb, he’d have to be buried sometime Thursday morning, as John says the ladies got to the tomb before sunrise Sunday morning and it was empty, so Saturday night was the last night, and I dont think we count Sunday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday – day and night each day.

    that would mean that in john, the day after his death would not have been a typical Sabbath. could have been the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, except that that day follows the passover, and John repeatedly says jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the passover – the day they killed the lamb.

    so if Thursday was the day of prep, then Friday was the passover (which they had to be clean for) and the following day, Saturday, was the high sabbath of the 1st day of unleavened bread feast and also the typical sabbath.


    i just dont see a sensible reconciliation. if you reconcile the differing hours of jesus death by saying john used roman time, but if he did, the roman day doesnt fit – does it?


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