How Convincing Are Miracles?


I like the above image, because it’s so absurd. Not that the miracle itself is absurd, but that someone could see such a thing and still dismiss it.

A while back, we had a discussion on this blog about the effectiveness of miracles. Not the “oh, my aunt has a friend that knows someone who had back pain until it was prayed over and now it’s gone” variety, but amazing, in-your-face miracles that simply can’t be explained. Like seeing a man walk on the sea. Or seeing someone whose legs are atrophied because he was lame from birth suddenly begin running and jumping on legs that have been fully restored. Or seeing an ocean separate before you so that you could walk on dry land between two walls of water. In other words, the kinds of miracles talked about in the Bible.

What would it be like to witness something like that?

Before we tackle that question, let’s consider the actual purpose of miracles in more detail. Take, for example, the account of Peter and John healing the lame man in Acts 3. Here, Peter and John encounter a man at the gate of the temple who had been lame from birth. He asked for alms, but Peter replied that he had no silver or gold; instead, he commanded the lame man to walk in the name of Jesus. Of course, the lame man was then able to leap up and run around. This was a marvelous thing to do for a lame person — and obviously, one of the main reasons Peter and John healed him was because they had compassion on him.

But it’s also apparent that the miracle served another purpose:

And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people…
— vs 9-12

Peter suddenly had the attention of everyone who saw the miracle or recognized the lame man. And that’s no surprise. Just imagine how you’d feel if you had witnessed such a thing — if you had seen the atrophied legs grow and take shape. Wouldn’t you be inclined to listen to whatever Peter and John might have to say? You’d already be inclined to believe something fantastic, because there’s no natural explanation for what you would have witnessed with the lame man. And as we see in verse 4 of the next chapter, many of the witnesses believed what Peter and John said and became Christians.

The Bible is actually fairly consistent in its use of miracles. For instance, John 20:30-31 says this:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In Genesis 41, when Joseph has an opportunity to decipher the meaning behind Pharaoh’s dreams, he first recounts the dreams back to Pharaoh (something he couldn’t have known on his own) as a sign that God is speaking to him. Centuries later, when God tells Moses to go to Egypt and deliver the Children of Israel, God performs miracles so Moses will have faith in his power. During Moses’ discussions with Pharaoh and the subsequent Exodus, miracles are used many times to show people God’s will. Gideon was shown miracles so he would trust in God’s instructions. In the New Testament, Jesus performed many miracles to show people that he had been sent from God, and his apostles later followed suit. Thomas was allowed to touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, since he was having trouble believing what he was seeing. Paul was given a miracle on his way to Damascus to show him that his persecution of Christians was wrong.

Throughout the Bible, miracles are used as evidence. They are used to convince people who were not convinced by other means.

So if that’s how God operated in the Bible, why don’t we see miracles today? Again, I’m not talking about the anecdotes you hear about someone’s back pain going away. I’m talking about real, immediate miracles that can be witnessed. There’s a book and website called Why Won’t God Heal Amputees? It’s a great question. Just imagine what a game-changer it would be if you turned on the major news networks one day and saw a person’s limb grow back through the power of prayer. And not just that person’s, but many others as well. How could such an event be explained away?

So why doesn’t God do that? If he performed miracles in the past so that people would believe, why doesn’t he do it now?

Some believers will say God doesn’t do those kinds of miracles today, because they don’t convince many people. To illustrate this, they point to the episodes in the gospels where Jesus performed a miracle, but it failed to convince the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day. But really, how likely is this? If you were to witness an amputee’s leg grow back, would you really deny it? What would you have to gain by doing so? If someone demonstrated that kind of power, wouldn’t you want to know whatever message they had to give?

And if that were true about the Pharisees and chief priests, etc, why did Jesus bother doing the miracles? And why does the Gospel of John say that the miracles were performed so that people could believe? Obviously, the miracles must have been at least somewhat effective — and if God wants everyone to be saved, wouldn’t even one additional person’s belief be worth doing those kinds of miracles today?

In fact, if you really think about it, when the gospels repeatedly say that Jesus’ miracles failed to convince the religious leaders of the day, it probably says much more about the quality of the “miracles” being performed than it does the mindset of those who weren’t convinced.

When it comes down to it, most people are not obstinate enough to deny reality when it’s staring them in the face. Think of every movie you’ve ever seen where one character is trying to convince another of something fantastic. Let’s take Back to the Future as an example, since most people should be familiar with it. When Marty was trying to convince Doc Brown that he was from the future, Doc was very skeptical. Even when Marty tried to prove it by saying who was President in 1985, etc. Those were all details that could have been made up. But once Marty could explain how Doc Brown got the bump on his head, Doc realized Marty could not have known that through sheer intuition. And finally, the most logical explanation for everything was that Marty was telling the truth and had actually come from the future. But if Doc had held out and refused to believe even if Marty showed him the DeLorean and took him on a trip through time, the story would have lost its believability — and not because of the time travel premise.

In the same way, if it became a known fact that prayer could visibly heal people of egregious injuries, there would be no rational reason to dis-believe it. In other words, to answer our original question, miracles would be very convincing. And there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why God would refuse to use them. So the fact that they don’t happen is very good evidence to me that the Christian god is simply imaginary.

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137 thoughts on “How Convincing Are Miracles?”

  1. I came from a Southern Baptist background. The Southern Baptists believe that miracles ceased at the “end of the age”. They died with the disciples along with prophecy and speaking in tongues and a host of other supernatural acts. They use scripture to prove this, though I don’t remember right off hand which ones. As with anything else scripture can be twisted and manipulated to prove anything you want. They want. We don’t see these miracles anymore, so that must be the explanation.

    My former pastor preached a sermon on this. I remember wondering why God would stop doing miracles just because twelve men died. Made no sense to me. But just like the rest of it I lapped it right up because it supported why we don’t see miracles and I could keep believing.

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  2. Hey Nate, hope you have been well.

    Great post you have here. I think you will run into a problem with the theists who happen to frequently visit your site and have read a little philosophy. The conclusion that the god of christianity is imaginary doesn’t follow from the premise that miracles no longer happen.

    The problem I have with miracles is twofold; why would god need miracles? And what does it benefit god to alter the laws of nature, laws he must have felt confident were good? If this god has any omni-capabilities, why would it need to resort to tricks to convince mere mortals when he could achieve this end through other subtle means?

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  3. Why I love your posts is because you have been on the front line , so to speak.
    Your voice is so much more convincing than someone like me.
    Whenever I get bombarded by the type of fanatic you claim you once were I think of you.
    It makes me think that perhaps there still is hope for some of these nitwits.

    I wrote a piece a long time ago about belief in god and miracles (re the Holocaust) and it concluded :
    ”However, if the Jewish people have understandably struggled to forgive the
    perpetrators of these crimes they have, unconditionally forgiven God, which is
    quite amazing, all things considered.”

    That was one miracle god chose not to perform.
    Excellent post, as always, Nate.

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  4. I think I disagree with you on the tendency for people to believe part. I do think people would give up their stubborness quickly enough if they experienced whatever event first-hand, but its quite possible that a large number of individuals be convinced of something fantastic and the modern joe still find it hogwash. Heck, we do it all the time. So I think the bible taking a jab at its time’s unbelieving religious rulers can still be logically consistent. We are (or at least we westerners) quite stubbornly bound to hold to a current overall paradigm for a bit unless overwhelming evidence or direct experience pushes otherwise.

    Now on the other hand if miracles are happening today, I dont think it would be comfortable to think theyre done for evidence. This may sound contradictory to what I just said but I do think miracles with free reign to be done for evidencd would indeed give us that overwhelming evidence (by now). Id expect to see more and more consistently.

    But i cant put out that miracles dont happen because they dont happen for proof. That would be a narrow Christian-only focus thing to do. Still if they do… well Ill scratch my head either way.

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  5. Oh and I might could think of a couple anti-miracle postures for god, but I feel like theyd be only in reply to the Christian dogma here. And to me, i think once we’ve jumped off into those scary truth waters, Christianity is just some booey way off in the distance next to a bunch of other strange things at sea.

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  6. Perhaps not you or I, but for many? Oh yea, no affect.

    The first thought would be a squint of the eyes and a “how did you do that?!” statement, followed by an investigation for mirrors, light, wires, or some sort of magician’s trickery. For others, it would be a breaking out of the proverbial slide-rules in an attempt to quantify and qualify said miracle. And for the theists (for there would be many itching to discredit the new upstart in their midst), it would be the “power of the devil!” or some other such nonsense.

    The rational reason? Pfft! As if most people act primarily out of rational motive! No, most act out of what they love most: power, ideology, religion, or just the safety from the fear that comes when one’s worldview is suddenly and violently shifted (which is also why hallucinogenic drugs are so dangerous for many).

    In the end, the reactions would differ, but the answer would be the same: “I don’t know how you did that, but it ain’t no God!”

    Cue Ark, to tell me how stupid I am (as if I was listening to him). 😀

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  7. Hey Nate ! Glad to see your new Post. As a Deist I don’t beleive in Miracles nor do I need to . I am however continually amazed at God’s Creation and am happy to be a part of it. I remember watching an HBO documentary in 2001 called, “A Quest for Miracles” It was a very sad movie showing the scams of Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bunnke. Why don’t we ever see actual Doctor’s reports (preferrably 2) detailing these miracles ? They promise to provide them but never seem to get around to it.

    I too have watched youtube videos from whywontgodhealamputees. He certainly makes some valid points. profmyth is also a youtuber to watch.

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  8. Thanks to you all for the great comments!

    D’Ma — sounds like your background was very similar to mine. The church of Christ also teaches that miracles are a thing of the past, and like you, I always felt like the verses they pointed to in support of that could have been read many different ways. Thanks for weighing in!

    Ark — thanks for the kind words!

    Don — I actually have to disagree with you. I do think there are plenty of people who would remain skeptical if they did not witness the miracle first hand. And even if they did witness it, I know there are people who would be looking for tricks, illusions, etc — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Put them in the “Doubting Thomas” category, if you will. But once we’ve ruled out deception, I think it would be difficult for anyone to dismiss watching a man’s amputated limb regrow right before their eyes. How could something like that be faked? Maybe you could find a very few individuals who are as stubborn as you’re describing, but I really don’t think the problem would be as widespread as you seem to. But maybe God will take us up on the challenge and regrow a limb or two so we can test it out, eh? 😉

    Thanks for the comment!

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  9. Hi kcchief1, I wouldn’t want to base my conclusions on Benny Hinn! But there are quite a few “actual Doctor’s reports” around if you search for them. Here are a few:

    1. Of all the thousands of claimed healings at Lourdes, an International Medical Commission found that about 60 had sufficient medical evidence to say they were miracles.

    2. An experienced medical researcher investigated a bunch of apparent healings in the US, obtained the medical documentation, talked to the doctors involved and submitted the cases to recognised specialists for second (or third) opinions, and found many that couldn’t be explained by natural means.

    3. An experienced emergency team in a well equipped US hospital worked for 40 minutes to revive a heart attack victim, unsuccessfully. After the man was officially pronounced dead, the leader of the team, a specialist heart surgeon, prayed for the man, applied the paddles one more time, and he recovered without brain damage.

    4. A New Testament scholar, married to an African woman, saw and heard of healings in her native Congo, so he decided to investigate how common such reports were, and how plausible they were. Some reports have been verified by doctors, many have not, but what the reports lack in full verification, they make up for in sheer numbers. His book, Miracles, is referenced in great detail.

    5. Philosopher Phillip Wiebe investigated reports of people seeing visions of Jesus, some of which included healing. Bart Ehrman says of his book: “I should stress that Wiebe is not a religious fanatic on a mission. He is chair of the Philosophy Department at Trinity Western University, which is to be sure, a Christian school, but it is not a place for wackos. And Wiebe is a serious scholar. His book is published by Oxford University Press.”

    These are just examples I have found time to trace, and they required me to do a lot of internet searching, find the books, purchase them and read them. To paraphrase someone better than me, you have to be willing to seek if you want to find.

    I am a member of the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees forum Nate refers to, though I’m not active now. But some time back, when I first came across the story of the heart surgeon mentioned in #3 above, I invited other members to join me in researching this matter, in an attempt to have people on both sides of the question attempt to prove or debunk the claim. Not one person was interested enough to join me in doing the research.

    I disagree quite strongly with Nate’s conclusion. I agree with those who say that miracles, whether in the NT or now, are not primarily intended as proof for the sceptical (any more than the existence of the universe is primarily intended to furnish grounds for the Cosmological argument), but I think the occurrence of miracles with good eye-witness and medical support is one of the strongest evidences of God’s existence and interest in us. I have even applied probability (Bayes Theorem) to the matter to show that they make God’s existence overwhelmingly probable.

    I don’t think we can expect God to beat us over the head with these things, but I have read enough to be convinced that an honest enquirer can find enough to make them think again.

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  10. This is my take on miracles: They are real to those who believe God exists. They are less than real to those who don’t believe God exists.

    In my personal research, I have found the cited “proofs” of healing miracles generally come from individuals who tend to believe in God to start with. (They may not be “christians” per se, but the underlying belief in God is part of their psyche.)

    I do concede that in many cases, as unkleE puts it on his blog, “something very unusual happened.” But I am more of the opinion the human mind has powers and abilities that have yet to be discovered. However if, as a result of prayers, a missing limb was restored, or severe burn scars instantly became normal skin, well, I guess I would have to concede a miracle had taken place.

    As for the parting of the Red Sea, the sun standing still, a man walking on water, and other Bible miracles, I refer readers back to the beginning of this post.

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  11. Nate!
    Glad to see you posting again.

    I agree with you in that I think scripture is pretty consistent in its presentation of miracles, and in its insistence that some people did not believe even though they saw them. Interesting that I come down on the opposite side from you on this – I think it actually lends credibility to the writers that they recorded that some didn’t believe. If I were making things up, as some claim was done regarding miracles performed by Jesus, why would I write that some people didn’t believe it? To me, that makes absolutely no sense unless it were true. If I were making up a religion, I would not make up one in which my divine representative couldn’t convince people he was divine. Even the disciples didn’t believe all the time – after nearly every miracle that’s recorded it’s said that “and they believed”, or something like it. That probably means they stopped believing sometime between the last miracle and the present one. This is a downright terrible way to represent devoted followers of your religion’s founder. Now we not only have a divine being who can’t convince people he’s divine, but we also have loyal disciples who nearly always fall back into not believing him after he “performs” a miracle. If I wanted people to follow my religion, this is the absolute last direction in which I’d take my primary protagonists. So, for me, that’s one cue that it probably is not made up.

    Just my two cents 🙂

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  12. unkleE, I did look at all of the links you provided in your previous post and only found more reports of reports. I couldn’t find 1 medical document . As I clicked on more links of links many of the sources were “no longer available” Maybe I am missing something here. A report means very little to most people. We have numerous reports of UFO sightings and of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster too. If these medical reports were true, I would think there would be reams of documents to go along with reports. The Medical Field is big on paperwork if you have ever been to a hospital and looked at your medical record.

    Speaking of the Medical Field, the Cardiologist ( Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall IV ) you mentioned who prayed for and revived a heart attack victim was also a proponent and practitioner of a very lucrative treatment, Chelation Therapy and called the treatment a “Medical Miracle”. The National Institutes of Health called Chelation “One of the Top 10 Health Frauds” in 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2438277/ You might want to cite another Doctor who doesn’t use the term “Miracle” so loosely.

    Speaking of Medicine and Doctors, many people receive “Medical Miracles” simply through taking a Placebo. Placebo is a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect. I attribute these “Miracles” to the will of the mind. Are Placebos from God ?

    Last but not least, The Healing at Lourdes. Articles I have read describe many of the recipients as belonging to the Catholic Faith and attibuting their healing to Mother Mary rather than Jesus. Where is this found in Scripture ? I have read many articles about how the Catholic Religion attributes healings to many of their sacred relics including pieces of the cross. If all Churches actually had a piece of the original cross as they claim, there would be enough wood to build Noah’s Ark. 🙂

    In closing, I think if God really does perform miracles He causes greater harm to His Name than good. For every 1 person who receives a miracle there are surely hundreds who say, “Why not me ?” If you could perform 1 miracle and 100 people needed it, who would you choose ?

    As always , I appreciate your comments unkleE though I agree with few of them.

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  13. Hi kcchief1, Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you appreciate my comments, sad you rarely agree, but I guess 1 out of 2 is a start!

    My references didn’t have the medical documentation, but if you read the books or websites I quoted, you’ll find them discussed there. I have only seen a small amount of the documentation myself, but the references report it.

    I’m sorry some links were not working – the internet is never permanent – but I will check them. I’ll also check what you say about Chauncey Crandall, because when I checked his credentials a few years back they were very good.

    Finally Lourdes. I am not a Catholic, and I recognise there are many things believed by some Catholics that many other christians, as well as non-christians, would think of as superstitions. But the Medical Commission rejected several thousand reports and accepted only 68, so we can have some confidence they eliminated the sort of cases you refer to.

    Thanks.

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  14. Hey kcchief1,

    I did a check of Chauncey Crandall, the heart doctor who reports a healing miracles, and you have made a mistake.

    Chelation is a procedure patented by Howard Crandall, and is “not recommended” by Chauncey Crandall. Your reference on chelation doesn’t mention him.

    So that objection to the miracles doesn’t stand. I must say I’m somewhat relieved about that!

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  15. unkleE, we do agree on one very important thing. We both believe there is a God. As a Deist, I just eliminate all of the religious dogma . He made me, I’m here to make the best of it, and if He provides an afterlife with better living conditions , all the better !

    I wouldn’t think it would be necessary to do a lot of searching or buying of books just to find Medical Documentation for Miracles. They should be available all over the Internet.

    I clicked on a link of a link you listed for Lourdes Miracles and found a little more detailed explanation about how this process works concerning the “International Medical Committee”
    In a word, the cure must be unexplainable, that is, there is no human or natural factor which could have effected the cure. (The doctors at Lourdes speak only of inexplicable cures, not “miracles.”) If, in the opinion of the International Medical Committee, there is no natural explanation for the cure, the case is then referred to the bishop of the diocese in which the individual resides.”

    So now we know the rest of the story. The International Medical Committee does not refer to the inexplicable cures as “Miracles” They turn their findings over to the Bishop of the Diocese who in turn calls them “Miracles” . http://www.doxa.ws/other/Miracles2.html

    Again there is no natural explanation for a Placebo either. It is referred to as a Phenomenon .

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  16. unkleE, I never mind being corrected with the facts. I was scanning the Link I sent to you and the Last Name matched and they were both Cardiologists. What are the chances of that ? I will try and remember to read not scan next time I send you a link. Thank you for correcting me. I never like to make mistakes like this.

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  17. kcchief1,

    I should make one thing clear. I am not trying to make you or anyone else believe healing miracles occur, and if you check my comments you’ll see this is so. The most I said was: “there are quite a few “actual Doctor’s reports” around if you search for them” and “an honest enquirer can find enough to make them think again”. Those are pretty modest claims.

    Of course I personally believe that they occur, and I said that too. But those quotes above are all I was attempting – to show that plausible and documented claims are available for anyone who wishes to check them out. Your conclusions are for you to decide, not for me to argue.

    Best wishes.

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  18. PS. No worries about the mistaken identity, it is easy enough to do when presented with a lot of info. I just wanted to set the record straight. Thanks.

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  19. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I have found new links to replace a couple of those that were busted, including this Fox News account of the emergency room miracle recounted by Dr Crandall.

    Do you suggest this is a Placebo effect? What other explanation would you give? What more evidence would you (or anyone else here) want before you might give the account some credence?

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  20. Since the beginning of time there have been thousands of reports of people dying and coming back to life. It’s no longer “Front Page News” . Before the concept of embalming became more accepted in the Modern World, it was more easily explainable. A few short centuries ago, people requested a bell be placed on their tombstone with a string going down to the casket just in case this actually happened they could signal for help. Through Science we have developed instruments over the years which can detect when “Most” people are truly dead. A mirror to the nose and mouth was state of the art in the 1800’s. The instuments we used just 50 years ago weren’t as accurate as the ones we use today. My question is are the instuments we use today accurate enough to determine when ALL humans are truly dead ? Are you certain we have reached this point ? Through the advancement of instumentation we are discovering sub-atomic particles we didn’t know existed just 30 years ago. I think knowledge is an evolutionary function of living. I embrace knowledge. I think it also enhances my already deep belief in a Creator. I also think knowledge diminishes the things we once believed.

    When I was a member of a Church, my Pastor told a visiting Missionary that he had a very educated congregation. He warned him to make his stories from the Mission Field believable or he wouldn’t be invited back. He couldn’t help himself and he never was asked back. Don’t know why but thought I would throw that in for free. A very true story.

    Flog that Horse unkleE. It’s OK 🙂

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  21. I’d like to hear comments from others in the group as well. I apologize for making it appear to be a kcchief1 / unkleE Blog.

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  22. Thanks for all the links, UnkleE. I’ll check them out.

    As far as the story about Dr Crandall that you mentioned, it does sound amazing. But the patient’s heart still didn’t begin beating until they applied the defibrillators one more time. Why would God need that kind of help? I still don’t see that as being at the same level of regrowing a limb, etc. But again, I’ll check out the other links you supplied as well.

    And thanks, kc, for all your comments as well. I’ve been too busy lately to spend much time on the blog, so I appreciate all you guys stepping in! 🙂

    Nan, your comment sums things up beautifully. I couldn’t agree more.

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  23. Josh, thanks for chiming in! Good to hear from you 🙂

    In reference to my point about the gospels, you said this:

    I think it actually lends credibility to the writers that they recorded that some didn’t believe.

    I appreciate your perspective, but I still disagree. I think the writers were forced to explain the opposition against Jesus. If Jesus were this amazing miracle worker (as they claimed), why didn’t the Jewish leaders become his followers? They needed some way to explain that.

    If Jesus really performed the kinds of miracles that were attributed to him, and the Jewish leaders really witnessed them, I think the overwhelming majority of them would have become his followers. That’s how I see it, at least.

    Thanks again!

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  24. Now for a more general comment, while I’ve got some time:

    If miracles are not given as evidence but solely for the benefit they provide, how do we explain all the cases where they’re needed, but never given? Walk into any children’s hospital and you have to wonder about the morality of a god that could easily heal these children but chooses not to. Which one of us, if we had a cure for cancer, would not use it as liberally as we could?

    My wife reminded me of a song called “Thank You God” by Tim Minchin, where he sings about a guy named Sam that claimed God healed his mother’s cataracts. Here’s a bit of it:

    This story of Sam’s has but a single explanation:
    A surgical God who digs on magic operations
    No, it couldn’t be mistaken attribution of causation
    Born of a coincidental temporal correlation
    Exacerbated by a general lack of education
    Vis-a-vis physics in Sam’s parish congregation
    And it couldn’t be that all these pious people are liars
    It couldn’t be an artifact of confirmation bias
    A product of groupthink,
    A mass delusion,
    An Emperor’s New Clothes-style fear of exclusion

    No, it’s more likely to be an all-powerful magician
    Than the misdiagnosis of the initial condition,
    Or one of many cases of spontaneous remission,
    Or a record-keeping glitch by the local physician

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  25. Hi Nate,

    I don’t think discussion of our respective final conclusions is going to be helpful, or even original, which is why I chose not to comment on your original post. But your recent comments provide a basis for a slightly different discussion – of evidence and method.

    1. We all like to think we base our views on evidence, but I don’t think that’s so. You could surely point out christians you know who accept every miracle story uncritically. But I have found that most non-believers are little different.

    Sceptics will gleefully point to so-called miracle workers who have been found to be fakes (though they often don’t have any clear evidence to offer to support those claims) but I have rarely found a sceptic who has investigated plausible claims in detail, who has gone out of their way to investigate the cases that are most likely to throw doubt on their scepticism.

    I have tried to do that – to be mildly sceptical about claims until I can gather enough evidence. So I feel the need to “correct” those who say there are no such cases. There are indeed such cases, and the only issue with them is interpretation and possible alternative explanations. Which brings me to ….

    2. The critical matter is the criteria we bring to these cases. Many sceptics adopt such strict criteria that they will eliminate every claim even if it was genuine, which is bad experimental methodology. But that doesn’t stop them claiming there is no evidence.

    Take the present case of Dr Crandall. Yes, it is true that Dr Crandall applied the paddles to effect the recovery (he is after all a reputed heart surgeon), and we might well wonder why God would do that. But how does that wonder lessen the fact that an amazingly unlikely recovery occurred immediately after prayer, and didn’t occur before?

    And it is true, as kcchief1 points out, that even the advanced modern medical equipment available in a US emergency ward may misdiagnose, but it generally doesn’t.

    When I consider the evil in the world, I am troubled by it. I admit that it makes it harder to believe in a good God – in other words, it is evidence against the existence of God. But I find other things that are evidence for the existence of God, and my continued belief is based on my assessment that the positive outweighs the negative. That seems to me to be an honest approach.

    What bothers me is that I don’t very often see a similar open and honest approach from sceptics. These miracle reports are plausible although they have other possible explanations. But if we consider the hundreds of plausible reports, the probability that they all have another explanation becomes very small, as I have shown here. So surely the honest response is for the sceptic to say the same as I do, that they agree that these reports make it more probable that God exists, but they cannot believe for other reasons?

    So far, I have never, as far as I can recall, met a sceptic willing to respond that way. I would be interested to know why.

    Best wishes.

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  26. Why wouldn’t God heal an amputee? A tough question indeed. It’s often bothered me as well.

    But I wonder, couldn’t a clever enough naturalist find reason to doubt even a healed amputee, say, by finding some sort of alternative explanation (fraud/conspiracy, some unknown natural regenerative process that was triggered by some rare and unknown event)? Starfish regenerate limbs. Maybe humans can too. We got the DNA with the plans for our whole body in each cell! Legs can conceivably be grown from stem cells. How could someone rule out the possibility of an alternative natural explanation? Once these hypotheses were offered (and they certainly would be), my bet is that many atheists would adopt them instead. Many atheists are even explicit about this extreme preference for natural explanations.

    Back in biblical times people didn’t have such a massive preference for natural explanation, but these days this preference among scientists and other skeptics would cause many to dismiss even this. If I were God I’d say, “Well, then, why bother? My main audience for these purely evidential miracles has the intellectual ‘sophistication’ to reject even a healed amputee!”

    My feeling is that God only provides partial evidence for Himself these days. Why I cannot say. But the fact that that evidence is there isn’t mitigated by His not attempting to provide obvious Hollywood-ish sorts of displays. Evidence is evidence.

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  27. Having read through most of the ensuing comments it is worth noting a couple of things.

    First. kcrchief1 states that he and Unklee have one thing in common: they both believe in ‘God’.
    I would just like to say that being a deist is not quite the same as being a Christian, as the man-god Unklee believes in is not the same as the entity someone like kcchief1 believes exists.
    Although evidence for Yashu’a as an historical figure let alone a god is becoming ever more tenuous it is currently marginally greater than a creator.

    As for miracles.
    Although there are many incidents of unexplained phenomena in the field of medicine not a single incident has ever been irrefutably acknowledged as being a miracle- direct intervention from a supernatural deity- and it matters not how one postulates the mathematics.
    The regeneration of the limbs of an amputee is still the benchmark in the field of healing.
    Once prayer has been shown to actively regenerate a limb then we may be a step closer to claiming supernatural intervention.
    And even then…..how would you know it was your god and not someone else’s?

    It’s demeaning and disrespectful to everything that we consider human about ourselves to abdicate reason and merely insert a god in the blank space that currently reads ( we don’t know)

    To do so makes us no better than those who burned/killed witches – and some still do, believe it or not.

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  28. Ark makes some good points. If we are all honest with ourselves , we are all Agnostics. An Agnostic says, “I cannot know” . Why do I believe in a God / Creator ? Science sometimes is like the Organized Church. It is very difficult at times to speak out against your Peers . When Scientists like Stephen Hawkins claim we don’t need God for the Big Bang to occur , it takes a while for lesser known Scientists to speak out and say it takes a “Cause for the Effect”. There are a number of Scientists doing just that today. I saw a documentary from Canada interviewing Scientists from a Think Tank who were all in agreement the Big Bang didn’t just happen. There had to be a cause. I too believe in a cause, a God / Creator. Yes you can also ask, “Well where did he come from?” Then I have to be an Agnostic and say, “I cannot know”

    Ark, I left Christianity because of the statement you made about abdicating reason.

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  29. unkleE, you say “Sceptics will gleefully point to so-called miracle workers who have been found to be fakes (though they often don’t have any clear evidence to offer to support those claims) ” Really ? You yourself discounted Benny Hinn. In the HBO documentary I referred to earlier, they clearly showed him to be a fraud. In 1986 Peter Popoff was exposed as a fraud by using a wireless earpiece so his wife could call out names and ailments to him so he could talk to people in the crowd and tell them God told him they were healed. Mark Haville a Faith Healer from the UK through guilt quit his Faith Healing Scam and is now educating people about the pitfalls of Faith healing. Faith Healing Scams are easily verified all over the Internet. As Ark puts it, you can’t abdicate reason when researching these scams however. 🙂

    There were a lot of Christian Kids from South Korea on the airplane that crashed in San Francisco Saturday. Many people claim it was a miracle for 305 people to survive that crash, but it wasn’t a miracle for 2 teenage girls who were headed to a Christian Camp for the Summer. To make matters worse, they think one of the girls actually survived the crash only to be run over by an emergency vehicle.

    Benny Hinn once told parents of a deceased child that he wasn’t healed most likely from the sins of the parents and quoted OT Scripture . How much sin did these girl’s parents commit to anger their God enough to take their lives ?

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  30. Hey Nate-
    I appreciate your response, and can see where you’re coming from. I wonder if I could take this on an ever-so-slight tangent. Even if we assume your assertions are true (and, despite anything else we may discuss, I think you’d concede you did make assertions about the original writers’ intentions that cannot be verified) the inclusion of these details still lends credibility to the texts. There’s a lot of discussion about whether the NT documents have been revised to present Jesus in a more divine light over time. I think the presence of the kind of things I mentioned previously (doubt among witnesses, even Jesus’ disciples) shows that these supposed “redactors” who revised the documents to cement their religion did a pretty poor job. If I were editing something so that the “founder” of my “religion” would appear more divine, the assumption is that I would be making things up or rewriting the truth anyway. So, this would beg the question of why I would care to not only mention or explain why people didn’t believe instead of just presenting it as though all who witnessed were immediately, and permanently convinced (especially followers, right?). Your arguments seem to give the writers a lot of ability in forethought toward arguments against the text, and creativity in placing pieces of narrative. So, as I revise the documents, in my pretty well-formed forethought for potential arguments, I could rely on future generations to say things like “Well, some people don’t believe today because they weren’t there to be eyewitnesses, but everyone who was there believed instantly. Look, it’s right there in the text!” I, as I’m revising the text, apparently don’t care that I’m revising history, so why would I even include that some people doubted? It makes no sense to fabricate this man’s divinity and power, present this to future readers on the assumption that they cannot verify whether or not it was true, and then to include the embarrassing admission that some people didn’t believe him even after they saw him perform miracles. I know I’m kinda rambling, but there seems to be a nugget of truth here that really supports the notion that the texts we have are far from the edited, re-edited versions we’ve been led to believe they are. There are just too many embarrassing and counter-productive things that an editor would have changed, in my opinion, for them to be anything but very good representations of the original documents.

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  31. Hey Nate. Good to hear from you! In regards to why the Pharisees and chief priests did not believe, and why many people would be skeptical, even today, what do you make of this passage:

    John 11:45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.”

    This was just after Lazarus had been raised from the dead. I am afraid, even today and even in the light of a ‘miraculous’ regrowth of an amputee’s limb, we underestimate the self-interest and self-centeredness of the human animal.

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  32. Hi Kent, great to hear from you too!

    You bring up a great point. Personally, I find it hard to believe that people could honestly think they were witnessing a messenger from God who could raise the dead, but they chose to oppose him because of the Roman authorities. What could the Romans do against God?

    But let’s leave that aside. If we assume that large portions of the population won’t be convinced even with miracles, then why did God create humans to be so blind and stubborn in the first place? He wants everyone to believe in him, but most are incapable of it — seems like punishing a dog for not being able to fly.

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  33. Josh,

    I don’t think the gospel writers were completely writing fiction. I think they believed most or all of what they wrote. I think they already knew that some people didn’t believe in Jesus — they weren’t trying to hide that (lie about it), just trying to explain why that could be the case.

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  34. UnkleE — I can totally see why some people believe in God, especially a deistic god, like KC believes in. There are sometimes strange things that happen that I can’t explain. Some people call them miracles, but for me, they aren’t obvious enough that I would call them that. Maybe I can be the first skeptic you’ve run across who can say that while some of the unexplained things in life leave the possibility of God open for me, I haven’t seen enough to make me think it’s probable.

    Does that make sense?

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  35. “If we assume that large portions of the population won’t be convinced even with miracles”

    I don’t think we’re necessarily assuming that, or at least we shouldn’t. None of us knows what another’s true beliefs or internal thought process is, nor what their final landing point on a matter will be. I think assuming that we can know these things is dangerous. Good examples are all the disciples, who clearly didn’t believe everything about Jesus, or at least had very little idea of what he was claiming, until after he had risen. Another is Paul, who was assisting in murdering christians, and then became one himself. We don’t have documentation of many of the “religious leaders” eventual beliefs, so we can’t assume we know.

    So, I know you’ll mention that surely “at least some people” won’t believe in him, and that still seems cruel. So, “why did God create humans to be so blind and stubborn in the first place”? The answer, at least from scripture’s perspective, is that he did not. We chose the blindness for ourselves when we decided we couldn’t trust God and needed to “know good and evil” for ourselves. Following the story scripture tells us, God worked out a plan whereby he would himself provide a way out from under the slavery of that choice. This is the message of scripture from the point of God’s promise to Abraham. We may be blind and stubborn of our own free choice, but God has made payment for that blindness and stubbornness. I see that as a necessary piece to your perspective, Nate. If you’re going to talk about the God of scripture, even in a hypothetical sense from your perspective, you must include in your idea of him the fact that he has provided freedom from our slavery.

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  36. Nate-
    “they weren’t trying to hide that (lie about it), just trying to explain why that could be the case.”

    Yeah – that was a bit of a tangent. I was just trying to point out some credence in the position that the documents we’re reading are good source documents. That was my only real point there 🙂

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  37. Good points, Josh.

    You’re right that individuals have different thresholds of what constitutes good evidence. For me, much of this comes down to what’s at stake. I know you and unkleE don’t believe in Hell (at least, I think that’s your position). Of course, I don’t believe in it either. But if there’s any consequence in the next life for not believing in God, then I think such high stakes call for high levels of evidence. God could easily make himself known to everyone — whether through indisputable miracles, or through direct revelation. Even if there are some people who would still reject him after all that, there are many others who would accept him and follow him. So we’re still left wondering why he remains hidden from those people. That’s probably the biggest reason why I don’t believe the Christian god is real — he seems to care too much about what we think of him to remain hidden.

    And this is where I see a problem with your point about us choosing to blind ourselves. You can only make a choice when you are aware of all the options. When God hides himself, he’s removed himself as a viable option from many people, myself included. I don’t believe he’s real, so my skepticism is not a choice, it’s a conclusion.

    Also, the slavery thing I just flat out disagree with. Christians have been told that free will is slavery, when it’s actually the opposite. Personally, I never felt true freedom until I left Christianity. Paul was essentially a snake-oil salesman, if you think about it. He was selling “freedom” from a slavery that he created.

    Again, this is just how I see it…

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  38. Josh, you wrote that according to “scripture’s perspective,” we chose blindness and stubbornness, so God had to “work out a plan” that would allow us to be acceptable to him. I cannot help but wonder why God, in his omnipotence, did not create us “perfect” in the first place …

    Beyond this comment, I tend to question, along with Nate, why God does not perform bonafide miracles in today’s world. That is, miracles that would be hard to dismiss by even the staunchest of skeptics. Did God go on strike?

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  39. @kcchief1
    ”Ark, I left Christianity because of the statement you made about abdicating reason”.

    Good for you. Maybe if you hang around Nate’s site long enough and are subject to the nonsense espoused by Unklee you might discover old fashioned common sense tastes better than you ever thought possible.
    At least you discovered why Christianity leaves such a bad taste in the mouth….
    one step at a time….

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  40. @ Nate
    ”Paul was essentially a snake-oil salesman,”
    Wasn’t the devil also a ‘snake?’ Freudian slip, Nate? Smile…..
    Freud did say there was no such thing as coincidence, am I right?

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  41. ”So surely the honest response is for the sceptic to say the same as I do, that they agree that these reports make it more probable that God exists, but they cannot believe for other reasons?

    So far, I have never, as far as I can recall, met a sceptic willing to respond that way. I would be interested to know why.”

    Once again, this is a statement designed to lead the witness, as they say in all the best ‘Cop /legal Shows’

    By using the term ‘God’ and including the capital the statement presupposes that this entity already exists and skeptics are merely being obtuse by not acknowledging this.
    Such hyperbole warrants nothing but scorn.

    So surely, the honest response is for the Christian (Unklee) is to demonstrate the veracity of the source of his belief – first and foremost and then demonstrate how the man-god Yashua became the omniscient deity that he claims created the universe and performs miracles.

    Maybe once he has done this to the satisfaction of all interested parties his point of view might be deserving of the respect he so obviously seeks.
    Until then….if it reads like nonsense, and sounds like nonsense then it probably is nonsense.
    (Substitute Bull S. for nonsense if you feel more comfortable)

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  42. Josh, as a sidebar you said, So, “why did God create humans to be so blind and stubborn in the first place”? The answer, at least from scripture’s perspective, is that he did not. We chose the blindness for ourselves when we decided we couldn’t trust God and needed to “know good and evil” for ourselves.

    Why do Christians continue to beat themselves up and never blame “The Biblical One” who created them in “His Image” ??? (If that’s what you do believe) God hardens hearts (Ex 10:1) God is Jealous (Ex 25:5) God blames kids for their parent’s sins (Exodus 34:7) God is angry and causes people to harm other people (2Sam 24:1) God sends plagues to kill 70,000 innocent people (1 Chr 21:14) God sends good times and bad times (Isaiah 45:7) God hates people (Hosea 9:15)

    And you want to blame yourself for the way you are ??? I know unkleE would rather not use the OT much and I don’t know how you feel but you can’t throw out the OT since the NT writers pointed back to the OT continually to prove their Prophet Jesus was the Messiah.

    You can’t tell me it wasn’t evil of The Bible God to place a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in front of Adam and Eve’s noses and then tell them they couldn’t eat from it. They were as innocent at that stage as a young child and acted as a young child would if you place a piece of candy in front of him and told them not to eat it.

    I am reading works from more and more present day Scholars who are discounting these kinds of Biblical Stories for the sanity of their readers as they should. Of course there are some good passages in the Bible. But there are a lot of bad ones too , written by some head cases who should never have been leaders . David Koresh and Jim Jones to name a few borrowed heavily from these Biblical Stories .

    And you still want to blame mankind for all of our problems ? I think not. But that’s just my opinion…..

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  43. Nate-
    You always make good, thoughtful statements. Makes me think 🙂

    “Christians have been told that free will is slavery, when it’s actually the opposite. Personally, I never felt true freedom until I left Christianity.”

    Freedom is not as simple as you’ve made it out to be. As an analogy, if I decided I was going to exercise my absolute freedom by eating whatever I want I can tell you that I would definitely feel “true freedom”. But, eventually, my exercising my “true freedom” would lead to all kinds of bad, and possibly fatal, consequences. There are consequences we pay if we really live as if we can “do whatever I want” regardless of whether we believe Christianity or not. We all, generally speaking of course, know this and operate under the knowledge that we must restrict ourselves from doing certain things we feel we want to do. We know we are not truly free in the sense that we can, or even should, do anything we want. If we do not exercise restraint in certain areas we will end up being slaves to them, as is true with addiction. We may not be addicts to substances, but the lure of exercising absolute freedom without restraint will lead, in many cases, to uncontrollable behavior that likely will be destructive.

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  44. Does that make sense?”

    Yes, it makes sense. But It doesn’t seem to fit with your post. There are many plausible miracles out there, and they could be telling you something. You say they may make God a possibility, but they are not enough to convince you, and yet you give no indication of carefully investigating them, and yet you write a post saying they’re not very convincing. It doesn’t all hang together to me.

    BTW I don’t think many theologians or historians say that Jesus performed miracles to prove himself (he did it to inaugurate the kingdom of God), and on several occasions Jesus himself said he wouldn’t do that. God’s convincing comes via the Holy Spirit, to those whose hearts and minds are open to receive him.

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  45. @ Josh

    Freedom is as simple as Nate makes out. What he is trying to demonstrate is the price true freedom comes with is responsibility.
    Understanding this is what truly defines freedom.
    Christians, as with all religious people only think they are free because they have been inculcated with their religion, which demands worship of a deity.or be subject to punishment.
    This is not freedom, it is blackmail of the most immoral kind.
    That a person such as yourself is unable to see this is clear evidence of the power of the culture and inculcation you were brought up in. One that states that the god you believe in is real and to deny it is disobedient.
    In the end religious people abdicate responsibility to an invisible and untenable deity.
    “God will it” or similar.
    Once you understand this fact then you will throw off the shackles in a similar fashion as Nate has done.

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  46. @ Unklee
    Your rhetoric is little more than polemic.
    You have yet to justify how your man god became the deity you claim created the universe and you have yet to offer a single piece of irrefutable evidence to support your miracle claims. Not one.
    Hardly a single commenter has shown the slightest inclination to even consider anything you have written here.

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  47. Josh, you stated your points very well. But I think they could also be applied to religion. If someone enslaves themselves to a false religion — let’s say Islam, since neither of us believe in it — have they found freedom or just enslaved themselves further? Or even the Christians that are so fundamentalist they shun modern medicine — are those people free or enslaved?

    While good things can come from religion, I also think it’s never a good thing to bind yourself to something that isn’t true. So your devotion to God, while valuable to you, isn’t real freedom if he turns out to be imaginary. Would you agree?

    And as you stated, we already know that we have to limit ourselves from certain things because there can be real, negative consequences in this life (over-eating, drug use, extra-marital affairs, tax evasion, etc). What additional limits that we’d only find through religion bring benefits?

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  48. Ark-
    I didn’t get the sense that was what Nate was saying. And, I agree with your statement that we’re encouraged to exercise responsibility in our freedom. I didn’t think this was the “true freedom” to which Nate was pointing. I thought what he meant by “true freedom” is that he gained some sense that he no longer had to submit to an authority to tell him what he could or could not do. If, as you suggest, he did mean he had to exercise responsibility in his freedom, then you and he do have to submit to an authority (whatever “responsibility”, as you put it, dictates is your authority). That authority (“responsibility”) just isn’t defined the same way as mine (“God”).

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  49. Yes, it makes sense. But It doesn’t seem to fit with your post. There are many plausible miracles out there, and they could be telling you something. You say they may make God a possibility, but they are not enough to convince you, and yet you give no indication of carefully investigating them, and yet you write a post saying they’re not very convincing. It doesn’t all hang together to me.

    I said I’d check out the links you provided. Still, I’ll be shocked if any of them fit within the parameters I laid out at the beginning of my post — I’m looking for events that are simply too amazing to have any other explanation. That’s why healing amputees is such a great example. Most that I’ve heard of are of the variety you mentioned yesterday, where someone is resuscitated after an unusually long period of time, yet he still didn’t revive until they used the defibrillators. I just don’t see that qualifying as a miracle, especially in light of all the other problems I have with Christianity. A deistic god? Who knows? Maybe one exists. But not the Christian god.

    While you and I come to different conclusions, I understand when you say that you see the problems in the Bible, you acknowledge the problems of evil and suffering, but at the end of the day, those aren’t enough to eliminate your faith. I’m simply saying the same thing. I don’t know what ultimately caused the Big Bang, and there are things (premonitions, the placebo effect, etc) that I can’t explain, but at the end of the day, those things aren’t enough to make me believe in a God.

    BTW I don’t think many theologians or historians say that Jesus performed miracles to prove himself (he did it to inaugurate the kingdom of God), and on several occasions Jesus himself said he wouldn’t do that. God’s convincing comes via the Holy Spirit, to those whose hearts and minds are open to receive him.

    Well, the Bible seems to teach otherwise. John explicitly states that the miracles are recorded to generate belief. And miracles were used to display God’s power, whether it was the 10 plagues, Elijah with the prophets of Baal, the signs given to Gideon, Jesus’ healing the sick and feeding the 5000, Thomas feeling Jesus’ wounds, Paul’s experience en route to Damascus, etc. I’m not saying the miracles only had one purpose — but to discount them as evidence requires ignoring an awful lot of scripture.

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  50. Josh, I didn’t bring up the limits and responsibilities we have to place on ourselves, because I thought that was understood. That’s my bad — when I was a Christian, I assumed people who didn’t believe in God did it to escape authority. Now, I know better, but I sometimes forget that most people assume that. Sorry. Hope my last point was clearer… I was really talking about the things like worrying about the right type of baptism, how often I was attending worship services, whether my friends and family were saved, etc. Things that I now realize have no real importance.

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  51. Nate-
    No need to apologize. I read your words, and read meaning into them. That’s pretty much my fault 🙂 I’ll take a crack at responding to the points you just made instead of treading all the way back.

    “But I think they could also be applied to religion. If someone enslaves themselves to a false religion — let’s say Islam, since neither of us believe in it — have they found freedom or just enslaved themselves further? Or even the Christians that are so fundamentalist they shun modern medicine — are those people free or enslaved?”

    I would argue that someone who believes in a “false religion” continues in bondage in which the Christian is no longer held. Religions, as a general rule, teach that you must perform in some way in order to earn god’s favor, obtain enlightenment, etc. Christianity, compared to this kind of system, is not a “religion”. Christianity announces the Good News Jesus announced – that he stooped himself and offered himself to us to show that we are no longer bound by the endless enslavement to performance of some kind. “Religions” teach the performance I mentioned, but none gives measures against which one can determine whether they’ve “made it”. So, you’re always under the bondage of a need to become better and better. Christianity, by contrast, announces that God has lowered himself to us to show that he has reconciled us to him. We believe we must perform to earn. This is part of our nature. All “false religions” contain the system by which we must earn our reward. It goes back as far, probably, as the earliest humans believing they needed to please some god for rain or food or whatever. This is one of the convincing differences offered by Christianity. It doesn’t fit the mold in which human imagination forms religion. “It is finished”. Christ has completed it. There is no more bondage to anything that can keep us from God.

    “While good things can come from religion, I also think it’s never a good thing to bind yourself to something that isn’t true. So your devotion to God, while valuable to you, isn’t real freedom if he turns out to be imaginary. Would you agree?”

    I agree it is not a good thing to bind yourself to something that is not true. If the God of Christianity turns out to be imaginary, I don’t believe I’ve lost any freedom that isn’t lost by any average person with a functioning “moral compass”.

    “And as you stated, we already know that we have to limit ourselves from certain things because there can be real, negative consequences in this life (over-eating, drug use, extra-marital affairs, tax evasion, etc). What additional limits that we’d only find through religion bring benefits?”

    I think the question you end with here can be attributed to my muddying of two different kinds of freedom (unacceptable behavior vs. the freedom from the bondage of performance offered by Jesus). I don’t think I’d argue any particular limits of religion that offer added benefits. And, it isn’t the limits that offer the benefits in Christianity, anyway. It is the good news of true freedom announced and completed by Jesus.

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  52. Hi Margaret, thanks for the comment!

    You ask a great question, but I personally never took that passage to mean he literally had no mother or father. I think it was making the point that his lineage had nothing to do with his being a priest. Whereas every Jewish priest was a priest because he was of the tribe of Levi (and high priests also had to be descended from Aaron), Melchizedek was a priest solely because God found him worthy to be one. So I take the passage to just be emphasizing his worth as an individual over his need to be of a particular bloodline. And that in that same manner, Jesus could be high priest because he was worthy, even though he was neither descended from Aaron nor of the tribe of Levi.

    /apologistMode off 🙂

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  53. Josh, thanks for the great response. You state your case well, but this is where things get a bit tricky, because there are many Christians that would probably disagree with your description of Christianity.

    Aside from that, if I understand you correctly, your freedom comes from believing your debt of sin has been totally wiped away and nothing more is required. My freedom comes from believing that there was never any debt of sin to begin with. In a way, I think our feelings of freedom are probably about the same! 🙂

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  54. Nate, do you really feel Miracles are that important in today’s world ? You certainly received many diverse comments on the subject . Reports of Miracles aren’t a Christian Exclusive. Other religions claim Miracles too. Are their reports any less valid than the Christian ones ?

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  55. That’s a really great question. Honestly, I don’t find them that important. If they really happened, maybe I’d feel differently. But then, I think we’d live in a very different world, if that were the case. Because if the Christian god was real — a god that loves everyone, wants the best for everyone, has unlimited power, and does involve himself in the physical world — then I think there’d be no such thing as cancer. I don’t think people would starve to death. I don’t think events like the Newtown tragedy would happen.

    To say that God picks and chooses which cases to help is the worst possible scenario, in my opinion. It would be better to believe in a god who simply decides not to interfere — let life play out as it will. But so many religions claim that God is all-powerful and intervenes in life here… that means that God chooses when to let a child die of leukemia. That flies in the face of descriptions like “all-loving” and “merciful.” So I find the gods of most religions to be logically impossible. That’s where I think miracles come into play. They show the inherent inconsistencies in most conceptions of god.

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  56. Thanks, Nate!

    “…there are many Christians that would probably disagree with your description of Christianity.”

    Agreed. There are also many who would agree. I would argue the firm grasp on our idea of performance for reward is a factor in many Christians’ trouble with the way I’ve described Christianity. They are uncomfortable that it does not conform to what they’re comfortable with 🙂

    “…if I understand you correctly, your freedom comes from believing your debt of sin has been totally wiped away and nothing more is required.”

    Essentially. I’d be more comfortable wording it a little differently. I think the concept we have of “sin” is troublesome when talking about this. We see sin as behavior, and it entails that. But, it’s more like a virus that has infiltrated our nature and bent us away from God. Our understanding of God is that he is constantly balancing the scales, and nothing but submission to him or penance for not submitting will appease him. Jesus, and the progression of God’s presentation thru scripture, reveal to us a God who is different than we imagine. He offers himself to free us of the terrible view we have of God, which is a part of the virus called sin that bends us away from him. He reveals himself in ways we will understand (the bloodthirsty god calling for sacrifice of the firstborn, which is what would have been expected of a god at the time), and then turns that on its head by showing his mercy toward us and providing the reconciliation sacrifice himself.

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  57. @Josh: I’m one of the Christian’s who would agree with you 🙂 I enjoy reading your well thought commentary on Nate’s posts. Keep it up!

    @Nate:

    “…why did God create humans to be so blind and stubborn in the first place?”
    Personally I don’t think he ‘created’ us that way. He created us with that dreaded freewill thing and we’ve chosen to be that way. I think that fits in with the Pharisee’s decision to placate the Romans. I don’t think that was blindness, I think that was greed and self-centerdness.

    “He wants everyone to believe in him, but most are incapable of it — seems like punishing a dog for not being able to fly”
    Hmmm….but what if the dog CAN fly? What if it chooses not to fly? What if it’s standing in flood water and the only thing it need do to escape the rising water is fly out? Yet it refuses to, even though it’s capable? Who’s fault is it if it drowns? (I’m reaching, I know….I couldn’t resist Ha! 😉 )

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  58. Thanks for fleshing out your thoughts, Josh. I’d like to explore some of that a bit more, but I may do it in a new post soon so we can concentrate on it solely. Plus, that will give me some time to really think about what you’re saying and get my thoughts together. Thanks!

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  59. “there are many Christians that would probably disagree with your description of Christianity.”
    I’m not sure which parts of what he said you are referring to in particular, but Josh has described the christianity I know, and that I thought was held by almost all christians I have ever met. In particular, the concept of grace rather than performance.

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  60. NEW YORK – A woman in New York state was pronounced dead and about to have her organs removed for transplant when she awoke and opened her eyes.

    Ms Colleen Burns had been taken to St Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse after taking a drug overdose in 2009. She was thought to have passed away, a victim of “cardiac death”, and so her family agreed to turn off the 41-year-old’s life support machine and donate her organs.

    unkleE, this is why I asked earlier, do we currently have the technology to determine if a person is truly dead. By the way, NO one prayed for her or used a Defib. Miracle ? Or just an unexplained phenomenon ?

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  61. Hi kcchief1, I think you should have read the reports a little more carefully before you rushed into print. There are some clear differences.

    do we currently have the technology to determine if a person is truly dead”

    That wasn’t an issue in either of the two cases. In the case of Dr Crandall, they had all the equipment, and there were no vital signs – no heartbeat etc. In the case you quote, they didn’t even need the equipment, because this report notes:

    “the day before her organs were to be removed, a nurse had performed a reflex test – scraping a finger on the bottom of her foot. The toes curled downward – not the expected reaction of someone who’s supposed to be dead.

    Outside the operating theatre, her nostrils appeared to show signs of breathing, and her lips and tongue moved, the Daily Telegraph reported.

    “Dead people don’t curl their toes,” said Dr Charles Wetli, a forensic pathologist from New Jersey. “And they don’t fight against the respirator and want to breathe on their own.”

    Twenty minutes after those observations were made, a nurse gave Ms Burns an injection of the sedative Ativan, according to records.

    In the doctors’ notes, there’s no mention of the sedative or any indication they were aware of her improving condition.

    “If you have to sedate them or give them pain medication, they’re not brain-dead and you shouldn’t be harvesting their organs,” said Dr David Mayer, a surgeon and an associate professor of clinical surgery at New York Medical College.”

    So in one case there was no heartbeat and no suggestion of incompetence, in the other there was movement and gross incompetence – hardly the same!

    And this report also points out that “The state could not find a case similar to the Burns case after reviewing the past 10 years of inspection records, a spokesman said.”

    So the case you quote doubly illustrates that the case of Dr Crandall was quite different and quite amazing.

    NO one prayed for her or used a Defib. Miracle ? Or just an unexplained phenomenon ?”

    As it turns out, neither. But Dr Crandall’s case remains a plausible miracle.

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  62. Additional info: The report maintained that not enough tests and brain scans were performed before the diagnosis.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/09/woman-thought-to-be-dead-awakens-just-before-doctors-harvest-organs/?intcmp=obnetwork#ixzz2YeCR1uoL

    Which brings up another point, rather than someone being dead and miraculously brought back to life, forgetting the instruments, aren’t these phenomenons many times due to just plain human error ? The Biblical Lazerus was stinking from decay before he came back to life. Show me documentation for a death like this today and I would have to consider this a Miracle ! Even Nate might agree with this one ! 🙂

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  63. So we are agreed that this case doesn’t parallel the Crandall one?

    Yes, I’m sure these phenomena are indeed “many times due to just plain human error “. But always? Every last one?? I have referenced dozens of cases that are very difficult to explain naturally.

    The Biblical Lazerus was stinking from decay before he came back to life. Show me documentation for a death like this today and I would have to consider this a Miracle ! “

    The Dr Crandall case comes close. He is a very experienced and renowned heart surgeon, and he reported that “As I entered the ER [emergency room] it was like a war zone. Here was this lifeless body on a stretcher. His face, his arms, his legs were pitch black with death.”

    So it wasn’t 4 days like Lazarus, just 45 minutes (in the emergency room, perhaps a little longer overall, I don’t know), but deterioration had indeed begun.

    Maybe even the possibility of a miracle then? 🙂

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  64. Was reading through some comments, and say some other questions I didn’t address.

    kcchief1-
    You wrote a comment addressing God’s behavior in the OT, particularly his hardening of hearts, placing the tree in the Garden, etc. I believe I would be in line with most biblical scholars in saying that the story of the Garden of Eden is likely mythical to make a point about human nature and our broken relationship with God. I don’t take it as a literal account of actual history, and so I don’t want to try to defend it as it stands.

    Additionally, I also read much of God’s “behavior” in the OT as personification in a way that humans at the time could have understood. I think it is offensive to our modern, North American, cultured minds. However, these kinds of descriptions of God would have made sense to ancient readers. God has chosen, it seems to me, to reveal himself to people where they are at. I don’t know why God has done this, and I don’t want to attempt to explain it. But, I think I’m at least safe in saying that the human attitudes, behaviors, and prejudices attributed to God are likely more for the purpose of communicating God in an understandable way than representing what God is actually “like”.

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  65. Hey Nan-
    You wrote:

    “…why God, in his omnipotence, did not create us “perfect” in the first place …”

    I believe that God has chosen to cultivate true, two way relationships with his creation. Making us “perfect” to begin with would have negated this ability as we would have been compelled to “love” (if you can call it that) God by nature of our design. I can’t necessarily speak for God as to why he chose this option, but I can say that it makes sense to me that love and submission is something to be cherished as a choice, and cannot be cherished if it is compelled or forced.

    “Beyond this comment, I tend to question, along with Nate, why God does not perform bonafide miracles in today’s world. That is, miracles that would be hard to dismiss by even the staunchest of skeptics. Did God go on strike?”

    I think I’ll refer you to unkleE’s comment a few posts back. He linked an article he wrote called ‘Does God use miracles to prove himself? Should he?’ I think this is a really good summary that addresses this question.

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  66. I also read much of God’s “behavior” in the OT as personification in a way that humans at the time could have understood. I think it is offensive to our modern, North American, cultured minds. However, these kinds of descriptions of God would have made sense to ancient readers.

    Josh, how do you suppose people at that time came to have such a primitive (to our way of thinking) conception of God?

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  67. @unkleE “So wed are agreed that this case doesn’t parallel the Crandall one?” “but deterioration had indeed begun”

    Sorry unkleE, I’m not trying to be dismissive , but I honestly feel this case along with 1000’s of others do parallel Dr Krandall’s. They are all pronounced dead by qualified Medical Professionals only to actually be alive. 53 Million people die every year, so to misdiagnose a few of them as dead when in fact they are alive is pretty good. I would almost consider this a miracle. 🙂

    Where does your Dr Krandall say ,”but deterioration had indeed begun” ? “Pitch black” is a skin condition which usually occurs later than 40 minutes.

    We don’t hear much about this phenomenon these days unless the supposed dead person is a Christian or becomes one or one of the Medical Staff is a Christian . But there is usually a book deal and talk show invitations or your own talk show to follow which happens to be the case for your Dr Krandall. If you google him, he is quite the self-promoter but no doubt a very good Doctor and well respected without question. Jeff Markin the patient however flies pretty well under the radar. I haven’t been able to find any books he’s written and his Facebook page only mentions he “Likes” a link from a religious website which has an article about his experience.

    You can finds lots of miracle stories outside of Christianity. Islam claims many miracles. Since they claim Abraham as their Father as well, are their miracles any less valid than Christianity’s ?

    I used to be a hard core believer like you unkleE and Josh and Kent. That was until I started reading the Bible with an open mind and started verifying what I read. If you haven’t already, read “Farwell to God” written by Charles Templeton. He was the “Billy Graham” of Canada and was close friends with him. Through extended study at a Theological Seminary which he encouraged Billy to do with him, he eventually renounced his faith in Christianity.

    I’m really not trying to Poo Poo Miracles. They have merely vanished with reason.

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  68. I believe that God has chosen to cultivate true, two way relationships with his creation.

    Really? Cause he’s never talked to me…

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  69. A few years ago, I thought I was going to have to replace my lawn mower. I went out to cut my grass one Saturday and couldn’t get it to start. Even though it had worked fine the week before, nothing I did could get it to start. I finally went back inside in frustration. Some time later that day, I decided to give it one more try, just in case. It started right up. Haven’t had problems since.

    I can’t explain what was wrong with it, or why it then started working. So what’s more likely: was that a miracle? Or is there some explanation I’m not aware of?

    Even if Dr Crandall’s a great cardiologist, he still doesn’t know everything about the human body — no one does. Just because we don’t know why his patient was finally able to be resuscitated does not mean it was a miracle, any more than when people didn’t understand the sun that meant it was a god.

    Again, if I see someone walk on water or heal an amputee, I’ll start believing in miracles. But I do not find stories like Dr Crandall’s believable at all.

    By the way, thanks for the post(s) on miracles you did, UnkleE. I’ll read it/them shortly.

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  70. Nate-
    “how do you suppose people at that time came to have such a primitive (to our way of thinking) conception of God?”

    I actually think we still have a pretty primitive view of God, by and large. Even those who hold strongly to grace as taught by Jesus still fall back constantly into thinking that we must perform to earn God’s favor – that includes me. The message of grace is just foreign to us. The idea of earning a god’s favor is still part of who we are, even if we profess Christianity. I don’t want to presume that I know why that is a part of our nature, or how it came to be there. I think the difference in the modern person is that we have evolved to the point where a god as presented in scripture feels offensive to us. Yet, we still appeal to a god who measures us by performance anyway (we have the need to succeed in various arenas, etc, as a means of proving ourselves). So, we still have that, it’s just masked by our modern “sensibilities”.

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  71. “Really? Cause he’s never talked to me…”

    Audibly? He hasn’t spoken to me audibly, either, if that is what you mean. And, I don’t think relationship necessitates audible communication. There are plenty of other kinds of communication. I see scripture as a means of communication. Also, Paul appeals to virtually everything created in Romans 1 as containing evidence of God’s existence and his care (he clothes the lillies of the field, etc, etc). I know you don’t buy this, Nate. And, that’s fine. But, I’m not advocating that God speaks audibly or appears to me.

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  72. Thanks Josh for your comments. “I believe I would be in line with most biblical scholars in saying that the story of the Garden of Eden is likely mythical to make a point about human nature and our broken relationship with God. I don’t take it as a literal account of actual history, and so I don’t want to try to defend it as it stands.”

    There are many current day Jewish Scholars who claim none of the stories in the Torah should be taken literally. So if the OT and NT were written in a way that people from those time periods would be able to understand God, what a bout today ?

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  73. I don’t want to presume that I know why that is a part of our nature, or how it came to be there. I think the difference in the modern person is that we have evolved to the point where a god as presented in scripture feels offensive to us.

    No offense, but I don’t think you should get to cop out of this question. If you’re saying God’s portrayal in the OT (and even some of the NT) is because people would not have understood his true nature of love and grace, you need to explain how we got that way. If God is real, and he wants a relationship with us, shouldn’t mankind’s earliest conception of him been right on the money? If it had been, I don’t see how humanity would have devolved into a more barbaric depiction of him. Do you see what I’m saying? If God had been there with us from the beginning, then people wouldn’t have expected him to be cruel and vindictive.

    I’ve been a presence in my children’s lives ever since their birth. Therefore, they know exactly who I am. They haven’t had to invent their own idea of a father — they’ve had me to look to as an example. Not that I’m perfect — but my point is that they’ve never had to make up what a father is, because they already know me.

    In other words, the only way ancient people could have come up with a barbaric view of God is if a loving, merciful God had never made himself known to them. And that, of course, raises a whole bunch of other questions.

    By far, the simplest explanation is that our idea of God today is just that — an idea. It’s evolved into a depiction of a loving, father-figure, because our society has evolved its ideas of justice and morality. The idea of God evolved right along with us. It’s not that God was matching himself to our assumptions — we were doing that to him. We’ve created him in our own image, just like everyone before us.

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  74. Josh, by living in your house, are you communicating with the architect that designed it? That’s essentially the kind of communication you’re pointing to with God. You can read his book (much of which you think has been slanted by the imperfect people that wrote it) and you can live in his universe, which science shows us has evolved to this point. That’s not really a relationship.

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  75. UnkleE,

    I finally had time to read the Ten Healings link you posted from your site. They’re very interesting cases, certainly. But at the end of the article, you say:

    Coincidence? The odds seem against it. Poor diagnosis? Ditto. Lies? The documentation suggests not. Real miracles? It seems likely!

    Why do you think the odds are against coincidence?

    There’s already research that shows some illnesses occasionally go away on their own (even cancer). And 3 or 4 of the cases mentioned in the book you reference in your article talk about the patient going to a Kathryn Kuhlman healing. There’s a good bit of controversy surrounding Kuhlman (she was a major influence on Benny Hinn), and the Wikipedia article about her contains this interesting bit of info:

    Following a 1967 fellowship in Philadelphia, Dr. William A. Nolen conducted a case study of 23 people who claimed to have been cured during her services. Nolen’s long term follow-ups concluded that there were no cures in those cases. One woman who was said to have been cured of spinal cancer threw away her brace and ran across the stage at Kuhlman’s command; her spine collapsed the next day, according to Nolen, and she died four months later.

    I don’t want to get into a drawn out argument about these things — as I said, they’re interesting stories and certainly aren’t typical of the way most illnesses progress. So I can see why some people are convinced by them, especially if they already think miracles happen. But to me, they just aren’t strong enough cases to be evidence of true miracles.

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  76. Nate-
    “In other words, the only way ancient people could have come up with a barbaric view of God is if a loving, merciful God had never made himself known to them. And that, of course, raises a whole bunch of other questions.”

    Not true. As I briefly pointed out, I think our understanding of God today is much the same as it appeared to have been in “primitive” times, despite Jesus’ revelation bringing a physical, bodily picture of God into the world. This also would go to illustrate that I disagree with your explanation of what our ideas about God have evolved into. Many of the first Christians reverted back to a performance/reward system, as is outlined in Paul’s letters to the various churches. And, even today the vast majority of people, Christian or not, still cling to the idea that God is a punishment/reward kind of God. This is not how he revealed himself through Jesus, but we can’t let go of it. Christians talk about how everyone has to turn their lives around to be accepted by God, and non-Christians talk about doing everything they can to earn acceptance by their preferred authority (be it a god, society, “legacy”, whatever) – we all lean toward that understanding of God despite how much he has revealed himself. So, it does not follow that God had not revealed himself in various ways to “primitive” people just because that was their understanding. It is the way we “bend” with regard to God. It is the virus (“sin”) that suffocates our ability to relate to God.

    “You can read his book (much of which you think has been slanted by the imperfect people that wrote it) and you can live in his universe, which science shows us has evolved to this point. That’s not really a relationship.”

    First, I don’t think I implied or said that what was written was slanted by people that wrote it. If I did at some point, that was a mistake. I believe that scripture is subject to human error in it’s copying and translation, but I think what we have in the NT is very faithful to the original source material. Secondly, you’re analogy is actually somewhat decent, I think. By living in my house I can see and understand that there was someone that built it – no one would ever walk into a house or building and assume a tornado or some freak storm build a free-standing, complete, and functioning house. The way it was built can tell me certain things about the architect (that she was skilled in building, that she cared about solid structure and comfort, that she knew the laws of the city and block in which it was built, etc). So, there are lots of things I can know about the architect (the primary thing being that there was an architect) by examining the house in which I live. And, the “house” I live in isn’t the only thing the “architect” uses to communicate with me, in God’s case.

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  77. kcchief1-
    “There are many current day Jewish Scholars who claim none of the stories in the Torah should be taken literally. So if the OT and NT were written in a way that people from those time periods would be able to understand God, what a bout today ?”

    Good question. I think, in terms of written scripture that will be gathered into the “Bible”, we’re likely not going to get anything added that isn’t already there (but, I don’t know that). However, there are all kinds of was God still communicates, some of which I touched on in my response to Nate. But, in terms of written communication, I do think there is still “scripture” going around in the sense that we (Christians) write to and talk with each other about God, and are able to work through misunderstandings that one or another have. This is what Paul and others were doing in most of the NT. I think there are other ways, too.

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  78. But the architect doesn’t love you or know you. You don’t have a relationship with her.

    And I think your explanation about why ancient people had a misconception of God is wishful thinking. If your version of God were communicating to the people of that time (as the OT claims), then they would not have believed that he wanted them to commit genocide or have slaves. Again, my children know my character well enough to know that I’m not going to tell them to hurt someone else or take something that doesn’t belong to them. But I think I made that point well enough the first time around, so I won’t bother going into it again.

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  79. Fair enough, Nate. You have made good points, and laid them out well, and I’m aware I won’t be able to answer all of them. Just trying to do my best to explain my thinking and understanding 🙂 Thanks for the discussion.

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  80. I hope everyone takes the time to read this. I also hope I am at the last stage or close to it. 🙂

    James W. Fowler, a minister in the United Methodist Church, wrote “Stages of Faith” in 1981 while a professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University. Additional research has followed. Here is a summary of the results.

    1.)Preschool children often confuse fantasy and reality. Their mix of ideas are picked-up, but not fully-developed, from those around them. They may believe in God and the Tooth Fairy, but already know that the guy at the mall is not really Santa.

    2.)School-age children begin to use logic and take things very literally. They may strongly and stubbornly hold onto ideas that come from trusted authorities. Their parents may still be insisting on the details of Santa’s visit to every home on Christmas eve.

    3.)Teenagers become aware of multiple, conflicting belief systems, but often associate strongly with a single institution and its doctrine. These staunch believers tend to “double-down” against any challenge to the anchors of their faith. They are easily persuaded that exposure to other ideas is dangerous so that they are determined to remain isolated within their community of support.

    4.)In young adulthood, with continued exposure to other peoples and their beliefs, some begin a period of critical re-examination of the elements of their faith. They may become disillusioned with their former community and move forward to independently search for a new foundation. Paradoxically, this progressive movement is often criticized as “backsliding.” Many men, especially, become “spiritual but not religious” and stop worshiping in a church.

    5.)In mid-life, it sometimes occurs to people that much about life is conflicting, unknown, or even unknowable. Neither faith nor logic fully satisfy. Much has to be taken, at any given time, as a paradox or mystery. Sacred stories and symbols may be a comfort, but not a foundation. Their spirituality may merge with their intent to “live a good life.”

    6.)A few older folks reach a point where they feel that life and gratitude, day by day, is sufficient blessing. There is no need to agonize over doubts, carry guilt from past mistakes, or dread what may happen in the next year, or the next moment. These folks may open themselves, within their remaining capacities, to take full satisfaction in the love of, and service to, others. These people may still embrace the formal worship of a specific divinity, but their capacity to love is no longer dependent on any given doctrine.

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  81. I am one of the “older folks” and I can attest that I have reached the point where I feel life –and gratitude for that life — is the sum total of my “spirituality.” The rules and regulations of religion have long been put aside and I now “worship” the fact that I’m allowed to be part of this magnificent Universe. I no longer fret over what will happen when I leave this world because I’ve learned that “now” is all we have — and I intend to enjoy every moment as it occurs.

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  82. Thanks for sharing that, kc! I’ve definitely gone through the first 4, and I can identify with parts of 5 and 6. Not sure that I could say I’m in one particular step right now though.

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  83. You’re so very welcome Nate ! I’m going to submit a rather humorous version of this when I get home to find it. It equates the 6 steps to the steps of believing in Santa Claus. I think you’ll like it.

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  84. Here’s the humorous version.

    If you still believe Santa is going to drop down your chimney and bring you presents, you are in Stage 3.

    If you have found out there is no Santa and you’re still mad at your parents for lying to you, you’re in Stage 4.

    If you have started playing Santa for your children, you’re in Stage 5.

    If you’ve set up a National Charity through which parents are able to access gifts and necessities for their children, called it Santa’s Workshop, and donated your income to it, you’re in Stage 6.

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  85. I think this also goes along with the Topic we have been discussing . It’s from a book I am currently reading.

    The most constant threat to a Worldview carefully constructed of “revealed truth” is reason. In a reasoned world, the idea of truth is dynamic. It hasn’t been revealed once and for all, and so opening up the doors to new ideas and concepts is part of every day life. Reason distrusts revelation in the same measure as it is distrusted by revelation. It relies on observation, reflection, critical thinking, and testing by experimentation, and it builds on what is learned in this way from generation to generation to expand knowledge and understanding.

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  86. Hi kcchief1,

    Hopefully this comment will tidy up some loose ends.

    “I honestly feel this case along with 1000′s of others do parallel Dr Krandall’s. They are all pronounced dead by qualified Medical Professionals only to actually be alive.”

    I wonder whether this is true. Can you offer any examples of such cases? The one you did offer proved not to be a parallel at all. After all, we are talking about evidence.

    “Where does your Dr Krandall say ,”but deterioration had indeed begun” ? “Pitch black” is a skin condition which usually occurs later than 40 minutes.”

    He is quoted in this source. I too was surprised that he was turning black after 40 minutes or whatever, but that is what he said. Note I didn’t say “decomposition” had begun, just “deterioration”, which is my choice of word and hopefully fairly represents the situation.

    “You can finds lots of miracle stories outside of Christianity. Islam claims many miracles. Since they claim Abraham as their Father as well, are their miracles any less valid than Christianity’s ?”

    I do not suggest we dismiss Muslim miracle stories. I suggest we treat all stories as evidence. Once investigated, they may become evidence of fraud, or mistake …. or of something highly unusual.

    “I used to be a hard core believer like you unkleE and Josh and Kent. That was until I started reading the Bible with an open mind and started verifying what I read. If you haven’t already, read “Farwell to God” written by Charles Templeton.”

    Is your implication that because I have remained a christian, I cannot have read the Bible with an open mind? For the record, I have been a christian for 50 years, I have read the Bible right through several times, I have done a degree in theology, I read widely both christian and non-christian scholars, I have changed and adapted my beliefs many times and in many ways. I am aware of Templeton but haven’t read his book.

    But I can say that I have read (in books or on the web) many, many ex-christians’ stories, and I think they almost all left christianity over matters that I don’t actually believe either. Most, including Nate here (on his own admission), followed a form of christianity that was “fundamentalist”, in some senses anti-intellectual (i.e. they didn’t follow the views of the best scholars) and ultimately untenable. In many cases, I would say it is good they left that form of christianity. Some later return to a (in my view) better understanding and a renewed faith.

    “I’m really not trying to Poo Poo Miracles. They have merely vanished with reason.”

    And as I have said before, I am not trying to convince you of their truth – simply trying to make the evidence clear and clear away the factually wrong ideas.

    The miracle reports haven’t gone away at all. It has been estimated that about 300 million people around the world claim to have experienced or observed a miracle. Many, many reports have plausibility (i.e. we can be sure something unusual occurred, and there is no natural explanation). If a person is determined not to believe, they can always find a reason. If a person is determined to believe, they will. But I suggest a middle course, of investigating and concluding, supported by the evidence, that genuine miracles are a possible explanation.

    Thanks for the discussion. I think I have said pretty much all I want to say (and more besides! 🙂 )

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  87. unkleE, I have always believed you are sincere with your comments. I also have never doubted you to be a well educated Christian with far more formal education on the subject than I will ever have.

    Having said this, we have shared our thoughts on a controversial subject to which there is no definitive answer at this time. It is my belief that Medical Science will eventually explain this phenomenon .

    As far as evidence, I think I have provided evidence during my comments as well. I provided a link which showed the Doctors at Lourdes do not use “Miracle” but leave that to the local Catholic Bishop to do. There a numerous articles on the Internet about people being pronounced dead and being revived. You surely didn’t mean the contrary.

    I too came from a Fundamentalist background. Yes it had its quirks, but are you really able to tell Nate, Me, and the World which form/s of Christianity is/are the “Right One/s” and which ones to avoid ? If it has come down to this, shouldn’t Christianity just be avoided all together ?

    I really would encourage you to read Charles Templeton’s book, Farewell to God. He would be more on your educational level and I think you would better understand why some of us left Christianity.

    Thank you as always for taking the time to address my comments. I wasn’t a big fan of yours in my early days on this blog, but I am understanding you a little better and do have a respect for your opinions. You would make a good Deist ! 🙂

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  88. I thought I was done with this topic but had to share an article I just now found. This was published in April of 2013 so it’s very recent.

    Sam Parnia, head of intensive care at the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York, is working to convince the medical establishment that if death is managed properly, it’s possible to bring people back to life hours after current techniques would have failed.

    “It is my belief that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more,” Parnia told The Guardian’s Tim Adams. “That is, every heart attack victim should no longer die. I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, ‘My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened.’ But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed. If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases. And the same with infections, pneumonia or whatever. People who don’t respond to antibiotics in time, we could keep them there for a while longer [after they had died] until they did respond.”

    Parnia, who has written a book titled, “The Lazarus Effect,” believes advances in resuscitation like cooling the body to preserve brain cells and keeping the level of oxygen in the blood up can give doctors more time to fix the underlying problem. If doctors move away from CPR and toward these types of resuscitation steps, he said they can double survival rates and prevent people from coming back with brain damage.

    Although Parnia willingly uses the word “soul” to describe the individual self of the person needing to be resuscitated, he said he does not have a religious way into either his science or his ongoing research into near-death experiences, or what he calls, “actual death experiences.”

    “I don’t have any religious way into this,” Parnia said. “But what I do know is that every area of inquiry that used to be tackled by religion or philosophy is now tackled and explained by science. One of the last things to be looked at in this way is the question of what happens when we die. This science of resuscitation allows us to look at that for the first time.”

    According to Parnia, the longest dead time he knows of happened in Japan, where a girl had been dead for more than three hours, was resuscitated for six hours and is now “perfectly fine.”

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  89. Hey kcchief1-
    What is true Christianity?

    “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” -1 Cor 15:1-5

    Anyone who teaches this is teaching true Christianity. Anyone who teaches something different is not teaching true Christianity.

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  90. Josh, you need to ask unkleE. He was the one who said,”Most, including Nate here (on his own admission), followed a form of christianity that was “fundamentalist”, in some senses anti-intellectual (i.e. they didn’t follow the views of the best scholars) and ultimately untenable. In many cases, I would say it is good they left that form of christianity.”

    I simply asked unkleE, “are you really able to tell Nate, Me, and the World which form/s of Christianity is/are the “Right One/s” and which ones to avoid ?”

    Since you’re quoting scripture, I’ll stick with Jame’s no frills definition of religion.

    James 1:27
    New International Version (NIV)
    27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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  91. kcchief1-
    I don’t need to ask unkleE to answer your question about what is true Christianity. If you are “pure and faultless” in what James describes in that verse, then you don’t need the Gospel and don’t need to be Christian. I am not, so I will stick with the Gospel.

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  92. Josh, I’m not reading James the way you are. He is describing the “religion” that God accepts as pure and faultless NOT people who are pure and faultless. You need to read that again or tell me where I am wrong in the way I am reading it.

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  93. I certainly wasn’t saying I was pure and faultless. I was saying that I agree with James that to follow a religion that God considers pure and faultless one would need to help the widows and orphans and not let the world pollute you first and foremost.

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  94. kcchief1-
    I read that differently, yes. I read it in the context of what the Gospels and other NT writers taught. You can read that verse of James on its own, but that is not the way I read it.

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  95. Josh, with all do respect, I don’t how you could read it any other way than it was written.

    27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:

    pure and faultless are only attached to the word “Religion”

    He goes on to say in order to follow this pure and faultless Religion, “people” need to look after orphans and widows and to keep from being polluted from the World.

    James was an “Actions speak louder than words” kinda guy and that’s why I like and agree with him.

    Sorry for the confusion and thanks for your comments/

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  96. I’m just saying I don’t read James in a vacuum. I was using his words – which, yes, are connected to “religion” – to express a point that is taught throughout the NT: that we miss the mark and need Jesus for reconciliation with God. Even if you do read James in a vacuum I think you’d see that the implication is that you must keep this “religion” perfectly in order to earn any rewards. Later in his letter he writes that the man who keeps the whole law except one part will be found guilty of breaking the entire law. He’s definitely teaching that we need to keep the guidelines perfectly in order to reap the rewards.

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  97. Josh, you’re reading a whole lot more into this than I am capable of following. Sorry.

    I am a simple man with a simple mind. That’s one of the reasons why I gave up Christianity, it just became way too complicated.

    And now you tell me I can’t just hold onto James 1:27 and live happily ever after…….

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  98. “Thank you as always for taking the time to address my comments. I wasn’t a big fan of yours in my early days on this blog, but I am understanding you a little better and do have a respect for your opinions. “

    Thank you kcchief1, this is a nice and peaceful way to wind our discussion down, and I appreciate it.

    ” You would make a good Deist ! “

    🙂 That’s a nice thought, for I think I am only an indifferent christian.

    “It is my belief that Medical Science will eventually explain this phenomenon .”

    That’s fine, I was never trying to change your opinion, only wanting you to base your opinion on as good an understanding of the evidence as possible.

    “There a numerous articles on the Internet about people being pronounced dead and being revived. You surely didn’t mean the contrary.”

    I’m sure there are, but I am not arguing that they are genuine miracles, only that this one appears that it might be. And before we can extrapolate from them to the Crandall case, we have to show that they are similar, which the previous example appeared not to be.

    Best wishes.

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  99. kcchief1-
    The foundational truth of Christianity is a simple one: the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. If you take each letter and read it as if it has no connection to the rest of the story I can see why it would seem complicated. If you take them as pieces of a whole much of it becomes clearer. At least that’s what I’ve found. But, even then, we humans only see “as through a cloudy mirror”. I’m ok with not being able to comprehend, explain, and defend everything about God. Frankly, if I could do that I’d wonder if God was really a being worthy of worship. If I can fully comprehend him, he can’t be that great.

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  100. unkleE, here is an interesting article from a British Doctor who specializes in resuscitation. He says,”The longest I know of is a Japanese girl I mention in the book,” Parnia says. “She had been dead for more than three hours. And she was resuscitated for six hours. Afterwards, she returned to life perfectly fine and has, I have been told, recently had a baby.”

    Now you can accuse me of “Flogging that horse” 🙂

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/apr/06/sam-parnia-resurrection-lazarus-effect

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  101. For a Christian to deny the possibility of miracles is tantamount to denying their god, Yashua.
    Have faith(sic), all things pass and the rubbish of religion will eventually do so too.
    Much has happened in the drive towards universal common sense and the eventual implosion of this nonsense and look how far we have come since the arrival of the Internet.
    Let us remember that once upon a time it was punishable by torture for reading the bible in English. Good old Thomas Moore, bless him.
    That there was such a thing in the statute books as The Blasphemy Act that forbade any professing Christian from stating that the bible was fallible or deny the Trinity.
    I feel confident that only a few years ago Nate would have recoiled in horror at the mere thought of becoming an Atheist. it would have driven him into a fit of depression.
    And now look? Atheist as they come.

    So, as daft as the likes of Unklee and Josh are we must be patient with them , I guess, for ignorance is curable.
    Lets just hope and pray they are not suffering from terminal stupidity.
    Bless their cotton socks.
    Dominoes Spirits and Sanctions…or whatever it is the Catholics say, Right?

    Ah…men and women too of course.

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  102. I feel confident that only a few years ago Nate would have recoiled in horror at the mere thought of becoming an Atheist. it would have driven him into a fit of depression.
    And now look? Atheist as they come.

    Very true. The times, they are a-changin’.

    Ah…men and women too of course.

    Nice… 😉

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  103. Hi kcchief1, just as I thought we were laying this discussion to rest! 🙂

    I too have been interested in Sam Parnia for a while, though I haven’t read his book. I think this example comes a lot closer to the point you want to make than your previous example, but still misses the point.

    1. My point has never been that miracles, or any particular miracle, can be proven. I have always said that many alleged miracles were almost certainly natural phenomena or fakes. And I have said that some are plausible, and show that something very unusual happened. So there are so many plausible miracle claims, that it strains credulity (and statistics) to believe that they all have a natural explanation, in many cases as yet unexplainable. (See Miracles and probability.)

    So even if the Crandall story did have a natural explanation, it is just one of dozens I referenced. How many times can someone say credibly that there is a natural explanation but we just don’t know what it is?

    2. But the Parnia example fails as a comparison, just as your previous example did. Parnia says that “the drastic cooling of the corpse to slow neuronal deterioration and the monitoring and maintenance of oxygen levels to the brain” can allow patients to survive for hours of brain death if they are treated in the way he recommends.

    Now the Japanese girl you refer to was “dead for more than three hours” and “resuscitated for six hours”. I don’t quite know how that sequence of events worked, but clearly she was given intensive treatment that continued. Quite possibly it included “drastic cooling”.

    That wasn’t the case for Crandall and the emergency team. There is no mention of any cooling, and resuscitation was discontinued after 40 minutes or so, following what seems to be normal practice. (This was in 2008, and Parnia admits that even now his ideas “have not yet become accepted possibilities in the medical profession”.) So Parnia’s conditions were not fulfilled.

    You might be able to argue that had Parnia’s procedures been followed, Jeff Markin would have recovered naturally, but that is hypothetical.So what we have is a team using conventional procedures being unable to revive a patient who suffered a massive heart attack, stopping the resuscitation, the man’s skin beginning to turn black, and then after the man is prayed for, he recovers remarkably.

    Yes, it was medical science that did it, but medical science that had failed for 40 minutes, and then worked when all hope was lost, but the doctor prayed. As Craig Keener comments after investigating thousands of apparent miracles, unusual recoveries seem to cluster around people who pray for them.

    3. Parnia is interesting also for his investigation of near death experiences (NDEs), which he prefers to call After Death Experiences. He says that it is clear that the mind has experiences even when the brain is dead, a ‘fact’ also identified by neuroscientist Mario Beauregard. This seems to challenge everything we are told about the physical world. This won’t bother you as a deist or me as a christian, but may challenge other readers here.

    4. Finally, I want to challenge your approach here (hopefully without offending you). You have argued all along that miracles cannot occur, especially the Crandall miracle story. When confronted with the evidence I offer, you appeared not to approach it in an open-minded way (am I right in observing that?). Instead you quickly brought up one, and then another, apparent counter-example. Except both proved to not make the point you hoped to make. That leaves us back at the start with the multiple examples I have referenced. But your mind seems to be made up regardless of the evidence.

    Doubtless the same could be said about me. But it isn’t so. I could still believe in God if all miracle claims were proved to be false – I have many other reasons to believe. So I feel quite free to examine each case, reject most, accept as probably true (but not certain) a few.

    So it seems to me that you as a deist refuse to look at the evidence open-mindedly, but offer evidence which you expect me to consider. How does that work? I suppose it is a complement to me that you would have that expectation, and I hope I live up to it. But my challenge is that you consider the evidence as openly as you would like me to in stead of rushing to point to cases which appear to prove your scepticism, but don’t.

    Best wishes, and thanks for the interesting matters raised.

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  104. unkleE, yes this could go on and on. And yes, I think I could say many of the same things about you. I think your definition of evidence is different than mine. I have seen some of your posts in other blogs and you tend to feel if you provide lots of reports and say that there is an overwhelming concensus , that provides all the evidence you need. It is my opinion Dr Krandall wouldn’t be your “Poster Boy” if we wasn’t a Christian. I did notice in your attempt to prove miracles , there were no examples provided unless Christians or Christianity was involved. (Lourdes, Krandall, etc)

    I think we can agree on something even more important than miracles since even you admit you don’t need miracles to believe in God. I don’t either.

    Thank you for your comments.

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  105. unkleE, I should have said most not all of your miracle evidence featured Christians as I don’t recall reviewing every link you provided.

    I also tend to agree with Nate, if Dr Krandall was so confident to pray for Jeff, why did he also feel compelled to order a technician to pick up the paddles and have science assist him ? God didn’t need the paddles , did he ?

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  106. Hey Nate,

    I became weary with Pentecostalism, and tried out the Southern Baptist denomination throughout my last few years of Christianity. Like you, the churches in the SBC that I affiliated with did not believe in tongues, miracles, and other signs. I have had other former Southern Baptists tell me that their churches believed in deliverance. Personally, I’m a little surprised by that.

    Regardless of what type of church I attended, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist and many different ones in between, I had a great trust in God. I continued to pray earnestly in tongues. I believed that He always had my best interest at heart. I prayed for many, many years for Him to give me better eye sight, we’re talking about 30 years here. Desperately, I sought Him for healing in so many areas of my life. Yes, at one time, a miracle would have given me great encouragement in my faith. However, in the last couple of years of my Christianity I probably would have just had the attitude of “well, it’s about time”.

    I have only been an atheist since Easter of last year, and I would have to admit that a miracle would more than likely not re-convert me into Christianity. As a non-believer yourself you understand that we can’t unlearn what we’ve learned. The Bible itself was more than enough for me to leave Jesus, and it it’s absolutely more than enough to keep me away. If I were to see a so called miracle now I would probably just attribute it to the amazing healing nature of our bodies, medicine or the mastermind of a scientist who applied specific methods catered to that individual’s mental or physical needs.

    When I considered the many flaws of the Bible, the drama I experienced for years as a church goer, and the silence on the other end of my prayers I realized that there was nothing to keep me as a Christian. I seriously doubt if there will ever be anything to draw me back into the fold.

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  107. Hi Charity! Thanks for the great comment.

    When I considered the many flaws of the Bible, the drama I experienced for years as a church goer, and the silence on the other end of my prayers I realized that there was nothing to keep me as a Christian. I seriously doubt if there will ever be anything to draw me back into the fold.

    Yeah, this sounds just like something I could have written. Finding the problems in the Bible was a massive blow to my faith. And I agree that I can’t think of anything that would bring me back to Christianity at this point. I don’t say that often, because I think most Christians would see it as being close-minded. But it’s not that at all — just like you said, we can’t unlearn what we’ve learned. I find Christianity as unbelievable as Norse mythology at this point. Even if I witnessed a genuine miracle, I might begin to believe in a god, but I highly doubt it would be the Christian god.

    Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you’ll feel free to comment here any time!

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  108. Charity and Nate,
    I can relate to both of your stories. I just haven’t come to the point of conceding that everything happened by accident. I watched a documentary I recorded again last night by the BBC where they were interviewing a Canadian Think tank of Scientists . While they never mentioned God, they are re-evaluating the Big Bang Theory , not to discount it totally but to say there had to be a “Cause” for the “Effect”.

    Though I don’t see myself ever becoming a Christian again either, I will hold out being a Deist while I see this play out. And as I said in an earlier comment, I think we all have to admit we are Agnostics when an Agnostic says, “I cannot know”

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  109. I think there was a cause to the Big Bang too, I just don’t see anything to make me think that cause must have been a god, or even intelligent. We tend to imagine that there was a period of “nothing” before “something” happened. But even that idea could be wrong… we’re not sure at this point that “nothing” can even exist…

    But for me, I realized I was more an atheist than a deist when I thought about something Dawkins said in The God Delusion. He made the point that if we see the complexity of the universe as an argument for God (as I did), surely such a God would be more complex than the universe we see, since he’s its creator. But what’s more likely to exist on its own? A collection of elements that over billions of years forms into the universe that we inhabit today, or a fully-functional, intelligent being that has the power to create matter? For me, the former seemed easier to grasp.

    That being said, I can easily see where someone comes down on the other side of that question. And I think it’s possible that there’s a “spiritual realm,” for lack of a better term. So for all I know, there may very well be a god. So I don’t view atheists and deists at odds in any way — I get the impression that you feel the same way.

    If there is a god, I don’t think he cares too much whether we believe in him or not, especially since he hasn’t gone out of his way to make himself known to us. If he cares about anything we do, it’s likely how we treat one another. So deist, atheist, Buddhist, Christian — I don’t think he cares too much one way or the other.

    And I do agree with your statement about agnosticism, by the way. I sometimes use that term to describe myself when I’m talking to non-religiophiles (I think I just made that term up…), because “atheist” sometimes brings the wrong connotation. The most accurate definition of my current view is “agnostic-atheist.”

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  110. unkleE: You wrote: “But your mind seems to be made up regardless of the evidence.Doubtless the same could be said about me. But it isn’t so.”

    From things I’ve read on this blog as well as discussions I’ve had with you on my own blog, I think you’re misguided about your last sentence. I don’t mean this to be rude, but from my perspective (and I would daresay kcchief1’s as well), this is not how you come across.

    Just because you consult so many different sources does not necessarily mean your evidence is any more true or accurate that anyone else’s. in the end, if you are convinced, that’s what’s important. Just don’t assume it works for everyone else the same way.

    One final comment — I LOVE Charity’s last paragraph. It speaks volumes and I couldn’t agree more.

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  111. Hi Nan. I was referring to the evidence for miracles, on which I can be open-minded for the reasons I gave.

    “Just because you consult so many different sources does not necessarily mean your evidence is any more true or accurate that anyone else’s. in the end, if you are convinced, that’s what’s important. Just don’t assume it works for everyone else the same way.”

    Based on past discussions, I don’t think there would be value in you and I discussing this, do you? But I will continue to try to base what I think on the best evidence, and you of course are free to do the same, or not.

    Best wishes.

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  112. Thanks Nate for your comments. I think we do share a lot of common areas. I also believe if there turns out to be a God, he won’t hold the fact that one is an Atheist, Deist, Buddist, Hindu, Muslim, etc against them !

    BTW even Dawkins has conceded there could be a cause , even a creator but thinks it would be some alien life form. And then it would have to have a creator and so on and so on. I saw this in an interview he did.

    I think you hit on something when you mentioned a spiritual realm. Bishop Spong feels that God may be a spirit that inhabits everything and is everywhere instead of a being. He wrote a book called Eternal Life: A New Vision. I think it is a book even an Atheist could enjoy reading. Even though he still claims to be a Christian , he is very progressive and is not well thought of in the Evangelical World. My kind of guy ! Ha!

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  113. You wrote: “So why doesn’t God do that?”

    You have never seen a miracle. But you only believe that he doesn’t. Suppose he performs one for you. What will you do then?

    Suppose you ask for a very specific miracle of great power, and he performs it for you at your request. Will you then do whatever he requires of you?

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  114. I kinda made a deal with god towards the end of my faith – make someone regrow his limb (not via medical methods e.g. transplant an arm for example) but literally regrow it.

    Doesn’t have to be infront of my eyes but it must be well substantiated and testified and then I’ll believe.

    All the so called miracles I’ve heard/seen so far can all be within the possibility of medical science – yes even raising the dead.

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  115. Raising the dead? Say your grandfather, whom you knew well, had been dead for several weeks or even several years. Now say a stranger walked into town, approached you and said that he spoke for god and was willing to give you sign to prove it.

    You said, “bring my grandfather back.” it doesnt matter whether you think he can or cannot. If he did not do you, you’d likely feel justified in thinking he was nut case, but if he immediately resurrected your grandfather, I wouldnt ask, “what manner of science is this?” I’d me amazed and speechless.

    and somehow, i’m not sure that that alone would convince me. There are many things that I cannot explain, but inability to explain does not mean they do not have a natural explanation. there are several shows on TV that are based off of tricking people with “magic.” The people are genuinely amazed and have no idea how the trick was done – yet no rational person now believes in magic because of it.

    The fact is, we see no miracles and the miracles we have been told about are simply unverifiable claims, made people during very very superstitious times. Are we to just assume they are right based on their claim?

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  116. Good example on raising the dead, William. I think Powell was probably talking about those cases where someone is in the hospital, pronounced dead, and “come back to life” within a relatively short period (but perhaps a bit longer than is typical). And using those two examples, I agree with both of you. Pretty convincing in your scenario, but not in Powell’s.

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  117. “The fact is, we see no miracles and the miracles we have been told about are simply unverifiable claims,”

    No. The fact is merely that you have seen no miracles.

    When you experience a miracle, you will learn that telling others of it brings pain and hatred down on you. But the truth remains nevertheless.

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