Discussion: What Did Jesus Teach?

This post is not going to be in the standard format. Instead of laying out what I think about a particular issue and then possibly getting into a discussion afterward, I really just want to ask a series of questions that I hope readers will answer in the comment section.

My background with Christianity is with a very fundamentalist variety that believes faith, grace, and works are all tightly woven together — each plays a necessary part in salvation. I’m much less familiar with more liberal versions of Christianity, and that’s what I’m hoping to learn more about in this discussion. So here are my questions:

  1. The New Testament speaks a lot about salvation. What exactly are Christians being saved from?
  2. In a similar vein, are non-Christians bound for a different fate than Christians? What will the afterlife be like for each?
  3. What does God/Jesus expect from us? Anything?
  4. Of what value are works? Is baptism a work? If so, then is faith also a work?
  5. What’s the relationship between faith, grace, and works?

I’ve numbered these for ease of reference, but please answer any or all of them in whatever way you like. Or if some of them are bad questions, let me know that too. It’s time to witness, folks! 🙂

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287 thoughts on “Discussion: What Did Jesus Teach?”

  1. Nate, my background is much the same as yours. Over the years I have been reading lots of books about more liberal versions . For now, I think I will withhold my comments until we get feedback from others. Believe it or not, I do enjoy reading comments more than posting them. 🙂

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  2. ”1. The New Testament speaks a lot about salvation. What exactly are Christians being saved from?”

    Atheists, Communists, Manchester United, New York Yankees, Jews, Punk Rock Music, Democrats, Liberals, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber’s Pet Monkey, Muslims,Catholics, Colombian Coffee, Glow in the Dark Condoms, Pushy Women, Lesbians, Gays, Lewis Black, Low Fat milk, and Nate’s Blog.
    To name but a few things…..

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  3. I was going to have a stab at No. 3 but that juicy morsel i shall leave for the regulars. 🙂
    This looks like a cracking post…I am waiting with baited breath…

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  4. Nate-
    I do plan on commenting (does this surprise anyone?). I may not have the opportunity until later in the day. I do want to try to be thorough and respect the gravity of the questions 🙂

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  5. 3. What does God/Jesus expect from us? Anything?

    Jesus, apparently, wants everyone to obey the Old Testament. “The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.” (Matthew 23:1-3).

    So, that basically breaks down to:

    Eating shrimp = Bad.
    Genocide and rape = Good.

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  6. Great questions! But first, what IS salvation? What did the Average Jew at the time understand it to mean? What does salvation mean in the O.T.?

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  7. john zande, do you really think they knew shrimp was high in cholesterol but not lobster or crab ? 🙂

    All joking aside, your blog “Well, this is a little embarrassing isn’t it” did cause me to purchase the Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary and many of the Jewish Scholars who wrote essays in the back did elude to the fact there is no evidence that any of the Torah Stories ever happened. And several of them admitted that some of the stories were borrowed from other cultures.

    Regardless, I think most of us would admit they were meant for Jewish ears only and should not have influenced Western Culture like they have.

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  8. tutkingtut, I believe salvation is another form of control. I accuse you of something you really had no control over. I then tell you that if you follow the instructions I give to you , I will forgive you , but not forever unless you’re Baptist or a New Progressive (Liberal) Christian. Oh and did I mention, you can only obtain this forgiveness from me. No one else ! One last thing. I created you the way you are. But if you behave badly it’s your fault not mine and we will need to start this process all over again. (Unless you’re Baptist or Progressive) 🙂

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  9. 5.) What’s the relationship between faith, grace, and works?
    Faith is what I have at Christmas time while watching, “Miracle on 34th Street” but deep inside I know it’s not true.

    Grace is at the sole discretion of the one giving it. It’s something I sometimes reluctantly give until I am reminded of the times it has been bestowed to me.

    Works is what I was trying to convey to Josh earlier when I quoted James 1:27. I have been greatly blessed in my life and my heart reminds me I need to assist the widows and orphans in their times of need .

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  10. 1. The New Testament speaks a lot about salvation. What exactly are Christians being saved from?

    -Christians are saved from death, and restored for life in the age to come.

    2. In a similar vein, are non-Christians bound for a different fate than Christians? What will the afterlife be like for each?

    -The answer to the first question is ‘Yes’. I think an especially detailed answer to the second, what the “afterlife” will be like, is unknown to us. Christians will be raised bodily, as Jesus was, to share the age of life promised to those who trust in Jesus’ restoration (see John 3:16). Non-Christians will not be raised – they will continue in death for “eternity”. I tend to think this means they will simply not be raised to life, and not exist at all.

    3. What does God/Jesus expect from us? Anything?

    -To be sure, there are guidelines given throughout scripture in terms of “living rightly”. However, no amount of “living rightly” will provide for us a successful intervention or cure for the death we have been born into as a result of sin (see Romans 3). Jesus is the restoration, given for our justification (again, see Romans 3). His taking on of humanity and the work of his life, death and resurrection “cure” death and initiate the restoration for “many” into life in the age to come. God expects nothing from us toward salvation. Jesus’ work makes this complete and finished.

    4. Of what value are works? Is baptism a work? If so, then is faith also a work?

    -Works are of no value, if you’re asking whether works are required of us in order to be saved. Works are what we do in response to already being saved. Baptism, then, is a work – it is done in response to salvation that is already given, not to earn it. Baptism is a picture of what happens as a result of salvation – Jesus raising us from death into life. Faith is not a work. Faith is a gift. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8).

    5. What’s the relationship between faith, grace, and works?

    -We are saved by grace, through faith. God, in his grace, gives the gift of faith. Works are what we do as a grateful response.

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  11. ”1. The New Testament speaks a lot about salvation. What exactly are Christians being saved from?

    -Christians are saved from death, and restored for life in the age to come.”

    That ‘age’ came and went after Jesus failed to turn up after the parousia. The church just put the world on ‘Hold’, (“please be patient your call will be answered”) hadn’t you realised this , Josh?
    You’ve been lied to my old son. Time you asked your Pastor a few pertinent questions.

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  12. Thanks Josh. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer these.

    So, a couple of questions:

    When Eph 2:8 says “and this not from yourselves — it is the gift of God…” how do you know it’s talking about faith there and not salvation? Because if faith is a gift from God, why doesn’t everyone have it? Does he not want some people to be saved?

    Secondly, if works are of no use toward salvation, can you please explain these passages:

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
    — James 2:14-26

    By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
    — 1 John 5:2-3

    Matt 25 illustrates that those who will be saved are those who have cared for people in need.

    Romans 10:9-10 says that confession is also a necessary part of salvation.

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
    — 2 Peter 3:9

    There are several that reference baptism’s importance:

    Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    — Acts 2:38

    Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
    — Romans 6:3-4

    There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
    — 1 Pet 3:21

    Finally, even Ephesians 2, the passage you referenced, talks about the importance of works:

    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
    — Eph 2:10

    Is it not possible that this “free gift” of salvation still has some stipulations? That might sound confusing, but just think of it like a game show. On Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? whatever amount of money a contestant walks away with is still a gift from the game show, even though they had to play by the rules to get it. No one would claim that answering some trivia questions earns a million dollars.

    So if the gift of salvation is far more valuable than a million dollars, could any amount of works in this life merit it? Seems to me that when you look at the NT as a whole, grace, faith, and works are all integral parts of salvation.

    Thoughts? (and sorry for the length of this reply)

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  13. The NT is all over the place when determining what one must do to have Eternal Life. It seems that every author had one or more ways to obtain this. John had at least 2. Josh mentioned John 3:16 but I would prefer John 5:24 . It’s the Deist way to Eternal Life. All I have to do is believe in God. Period.
    John 5:24

    New International Version (NIV)
    24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

    There ya have it. Believe in God and you can put all the other hoops away ! No more jumping !

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  14. Nate-
    There’s been so much back and forth on the questions you raise by both scholars and theologians. So, rather than re-invent the wheel, I’m going to paste one article that I find extremely helpful in this regard. First, is a good quote from the article, summarizing a response to your questions. Second, the URL for the full article is below the quote.

    “I think the best way to move this conversation forward is to introduce what was, in my opinion, one of Martin Luther’s most helpful contributions: his distinction between passive righteousness and active righteousness. This distinction was Luther’s way to describe the two relationships in which Christians live: before God vertically and before one another horizontally.

    Luther asserted that our righteousness before God (coram Deo) is received and defined by faith. Our righteousness before one another (coram mundo), on the other hand, is active and defined by service. The reason this distinction is so helpful is because one of the insinuations whenever the doctrine of sanctification is discussed is that my effort, my works, my pursuit of holiness, my faith, my response, my obedience, and my practice of godliness keep me in God’s good graces. This, however, undermines the clear Biblical teaching that things between Christians and God are forever settled because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross (Romans 8:1; 31-39, Colossians 2:13-14). When we imply that our works are for God and not our neighbor, we perpetuate the idea that God’s love for us is dependent on what we do instead of on what Christ has done.”

    http://liberatenet.org/2012/12/10/god-doesnt-need-your-good-works-but-your-neighbor-does/

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  15. That’s an interesting concept, Josh — thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely read the article you linked to.

    I’d still be interested to hear your thoughts on the question I asked about what it means if our faith is a gift from God. If it is, why doesn’t everyone have faith? And is it right to punish those who don’t have it?

    Also, it seems to me that the NT (especially Paul’s letters) emphasize that the Mosaic Law’s purpose has been fulfilled and has passed. That’s definitely what it’s talking about in Colossians 2 — Galatians, Romans, Hebrews, etc, all carry the same theme. That does not necessarily mean that God requires no “works” from Christians. As James 2 points out, even the demons believe and tremble — will they be saved?

    I’d really be interested to hear the full reasoning behind this statement:

    the clear Biblical teaching that things between Christians and God are forever settled because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross

    I don’t feel like the two passages you referenced make that point, so I’d be curious to see what other scriptures you rely on.

    Thanks

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  16. By the way, an important parable to keep in mind is the Parable of the Talents. The man with 1 talent was not accepted because he never used his talent. If you’re right that works only relate to those around us and have no bearing on the Christian’s relationship with God, then the 1 talent man should have been accepted as well.

    And again, that same chapter (Matt 25) says this:

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
    — vs 41-46

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  17. Hi Nate. Here’s my brief answers….

    1. Salvation = deliverance or rescue. So we are rescued from everything that we need to be rescued from – though some of this takes a lifetime and some happens immediately. Like Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19:

    The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    2. I agree with Josh. Those who receive God’s grace get life in the age to come, those who don’t receive it apparently don’t (sadly) – though we can never know how far God’s grace will extend.

    3. A response. This should involve things like faith, obedience, loving God & our neighbour, and changing where we need to. What he expects of us is not necessarily what gains us salvation.

    4. Works are helpful and necessary in different ways. If we’re on the team, following Jesus, that’s what we’ll try to do. I think calling faith and baptism “works” is a matter of definition. Both are helpful.

    5. Complex. God’s grace is the only source of salvation for us. Faith and works are part of receiving and passing on grace to others. Neither “earn” grace, but both may be means of grace.

    I could give NT passages in support of all of that, but won’t just now. I also think that we need not to take ourselves too seriously when we try to distil down to a few statements how an amazing God relates to us (whether me on this blog or the doctrinal statements of theologians).

    Hope that is of interest to what you’re thinking of here.

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  18. Nate-
    Faith is a gift. Say I were to give you something as a gift. You later decide that you don’t want it or want to sell it for some reason. Now, you no longer have this gift, but it was given to you and it was yours to keep or discard. I believe that God gives us this freedom to choose to accept his gift or not. Acceptance of the gift is not a work, either – you had the gift and chose to discard it. This is also what is going on in the talents parable. Notice all three were given the gift – none were excluded at the beginning. The one who did nothing is representative of someone who has been given faith and chosen not to keep it (by doing nothing with it he is showing it is of no value to him). Not everyone one who is given the gift will appreciate what is given.

    Hebrews 10 teaches clearly the sufficiency of the cross: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

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  19. Another point about works, Nate. None of this to say is that non-Chrsitians cannot do things that, were they Christian, would be considered “works”. Jesus teaches that he is the vine, and we must be connected to him. If we are not connected to him, he teaches we can “do nothing”. This doesn’t mean that non-Christians cannot care for the widows and the orphans. Just that caring for widows and orphans isn’t what “gets people saved”. Same with baptism. You could be baptized (here I mean the water-dunking, not spiritual baptism), Nate, and it would mean nothing other than you went under water and came back up. On the other hand, for me, baptism is a work of faith – it is a sign that I am already saved. So, the non-Christian who performs good deeds will not be saved because of the good deeds. We are saved by grace through faith. Similarly, the person who claims he is Christian and cares for himself and nothing for others shows that his faith is dead (he has no faith). In both cases salvation is a result of faith, not works. But, true “works” can only be accomplished through a faith “connection” with Jesus.

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  20. @ Unklee
    ”1. Salvation = deliverance or rescue. So we are rescued from everything that we need to be rescued from – though some of this takes a lifetime and some happens immediately. Like Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19:

    The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.””

    Well, this explains nothing. Merely couched polemic -and to quote scripture. Really, Unklee. Why do you allow yourself to stoop so low? It does nothing to strengthen any argument you may have. Truly.

    This line is especially meaningful while meaning absolutely nothing at all, in fact.

    ”So we are rescued from everything that we need to be rescued from”

    No doubt you, along with the hordes of Christians just waiting to ‘Top’ themselves and scoot off to heaven, are so wracked with inculcated guilt that this salvation cannot come quick enough.

    Based on this one might as well do oneself in, as the after-life is definitely the place to be; the joint where all the cool kids are, right?
    Good grief! This is pitiable.

    And yet you reveal nothing of what you, in particular need to be rescued from. I don’t require rescuing from anything, for what it’s worth. Although a tax rebate would be nice.
    Have you a short list of sins you might like to share ?
    And to think that death is the only answer for you and yours. Don’t you consider this just a little sad?
    A glorious life bestowed upon you by your omniscient Creator and you can only make this life worthwhile by living it wracked by guilt, ”Fear of the lord (sic)” and waiting to die?
    And based on Scripture there is STILL no guarantee you are going to get ‘in’.

    You must spend your life almost peeing your pants with nerves.
    That’s a god you want to work for, right? Nice bloke he is, eh?
    Why did he bother making you in the first place?

    Based on Christian evidence this god is a bit of a tit, to be quite frank. and sadly this is reflected in the attitude and behaviour of those he demands worship from.

    Sigh….I suppose if its all right for a ding bat Muslim with a pilot’s licence and a death wish it must be okay for the average Christian. ”Come Lord…come quick.”

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  21. Ark-
    You have a warped and jaded view of Christian teaching, full of misunderstandings. I do not believe in the “god” or “christian” faith which you describe, either. I, along with you, pity anyone who lives “a life wracked by guilt, wishing to die”. I wish this were not the case, and I pray that whatever harm has been done you by the unfortunate misrepresentation of Christianity would some day be overcome by the Spirit. I also wish you didn’t feel you had to hurl seething words at those who believe differently than you simply because you believe they are mistaken.

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  22. Josh,
    So all Muslims are given faith in Christianity that they must accept or reject?

    Also, Hebrews 10 has a bit more nuance than that one verse might suggest. Remember that the writer is contrasting the sacrifice that Christ made once to the repeated sacrifices the Levitical priests had to perform over and over again ad infinitum. So the passage is not necessarily saying that Jesus’ one sacrifice fixed everything and people have to do nothing to be saved. The NT still contains many passages (some of which I referenced earlier) that list a number of things that lead to salvation. I would assume that all are necessary.

    To help illustrate this even further, the same chapter, Hebrews 10, shows us that salvation through Christ’s sacrifice is not unconditional. And notice that it’s addressed to Christians, since it talks about one who has already been sanctified by Jesus’ sacrifice.

    For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
    — vs 26-31

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  23. Thanks unkleE. I agree with Ark that it would be nice to hear a bit more about exactly what Christians are being saved from.

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  24. Josh,

    Similarly, the person who claims he is Christian and cares for himself and nothing for others shows that his faith is dead (he has no faith). In both cases salvation is a result of faith, not works.

    If a lack of works shows a lack of faith, then aren’t works still important? Previously, you’ve seemed to stress that there’s nothing you have to do or can do about your salvation because Jesus has done it all. But if a Christian truly had that opinion, wouldn’t it be a sign that there salvation may not really be genuine?

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  25. “So all Muslims are given faith in Christianity that they must accept or reject?”

    Yes. Though, I’d change it slightly to read “all people are given faith and the choice to accept or reject it.”

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  26. “If a lack of works shows a lack of faith, then aren’t works still important?”

    I didn’t say works aren’t important. I said they are not the vehicle through which we are saved.

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  27. “The NT still contains many passages (some of which I referenced earlier) that list a number of things that lead to salvation. I would assume that all are necessary.”

    I’m aware, I think, of most of the passages to which you’re referring. As I said when I quoted the article yesterday, there is a lot of discussion and debate even among Christians regarding the precise meaning of the passages. I do think that, if pressed most, virtually all Christians would tell you that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus accomplished what was necessary for salvation. The more nuanced discussions are about how that salvation is worked out in a person. If someone is doing no works, are they really saved? But, that doesn’t imply that the works save them. The works flow from salvation. Works are important. Living rightly is important. God does expect us to follow his Word and Jesus’ example. However, it is not the living rightly or the works that earn us salvation. If we begin to tell people that they must perform works IN ORDER TO BE SAVED, then we are negating the work Jesus did on the cross. Jesus’ work makes our work acceptable. Without his work our work is not acceptable (acceptable here meaning sufficient for salvation), and does not earn us salvation.

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  28. I didn’t say works aren’t important. I said they are not the vehicle through which we are saved.

    But that’s not entirely correct. That’s like trying to say it’s the engine, not the wheels, that makes your car go. In fact, it’s both working together (along with some other things). The engine might be the primary instigator of the whole vehicle (just as faith is the instigator to action), but the entire thing must be in place to function.

    Therefore, Christianity is not quite as unique as you’ve been saying. You’ve said a number of times that you think Christianity is the one true religion because it’s the only one that says God’s done it all — your actions are unimportant. But it seems that’s not really the kind of Christianity you believe in.

    “So all Muslims are given faith in Christianity that they must accept or reject?”

    Yes. Though, I’d change it slightly to read “all people are given faith and the choice to accept or reject it.”

    I wonder how many Muslims would agree?

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  29. If we begin to tell people that they must perform works IN ORDER TO BE SAVED, then we are negating the work Jesus did on the cross

    So if a child must carry his lunch tray from the cafeteria, is he negating the work the cafeteria workers performed?

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  30. “I wonder how many Muslims would agree?”

    I believe it’s the truth. If it is, in fact, the truth, then it doesn’t matter how many Muslims agree. It would still be true.

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  31. “So if a child must carry his lunch tray from the cafeteria, is he negating the work the cafeteria workers performed?”

    If you’re saying the child must carry his lunch tray to the cafeteria in order for the food to be prepared and served, then you are negating the work performed by the workers. It would all rest on whether the child carried the tray to the cafeteria. The child carrying the tray has nothing to do with the food being prepared and available. If it does, then the workers don’t matter.

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  32. “But that’s not entirely correct. That’s like trying to say it’s the engine, not the wheels, that makes your car go. In fact, it’s both working together (along with some other things). The engine might be the primary instigator of the whole vehicle (just as faith is the instigator to action), but the entire thing must be in place to function.”

    It’s not the engine or the wheels or anything in itself that makes the car go. It’s the fact that it was built by the factory before you sat in it. The car is built and ready to go, it’s up to either drive it or get out. If you choose not to start it and drive, the car won’t go anywhere despite the fact that it’s built and ready to go. However, just because you sat down, started the car, and drove doesn’t make you the “engine”. It was done before you got there. We can’t get in and drive a car that’s not there.

    “Therefore, Christianity is not quite as unique as you’ve been saying. You’ve said a number of times that you think Christianity is the one true religion because it’s the only one that says God’s done it all — your actions are unimportant. But it seems that’s not really the kind of Christianity you believe in.”

    Yes, it is the kind of Christianity I believe in. Works flow from salvation. I do works because I’m saved. If I did works and Jesus had not died on the cross I would not be saved. If I do works out of faith that Jesus died on the cross for my sins I am saved. If I do no works (only God can judge whether I do, by the way), then I am not saved in the first place. I’m not getting through because no part of that implies that the works are necessary for salvation.

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  33. If you’re saying the child must carry his lunch tray to the cafeteria in order for the food to be prepared and served, then you are negating the work performed by the workers. It would all rest on whether the child carried the tray to the cafeteria. The child carrying the tray has nothing to do with the food being prepared and available. If it does, then the workers don’t matter.

    No, not for the food to be prepared, but for the child to get to eat. Jesus performed the sacrifice, right? But people still have to respond to get the benefit. Whatever that “response” consists of, Jesus still did the work to make salvation possible (sic).

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  34. “No, not for the food to be prepared, but for the child to get to eat.”

    I was going along with your analogy, but probably should have tweaked it to be more what I feel is an accurate portrayal. The child doesn’t “need to carry the lunch tray” in order to get to eat. My view of Christianity is that the food is prepared, available, and already on the tray at the child’s seat. There is no barrier between the child and the food. Can the child walk away without eating? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean the child’s choosing to eat the food was a necessary part of the food’s availability. I’m not saying we cannot refuse God’s gift. I’m saying our acceptance of it doesn’t put it in our possession or create it’s availability. It is readily available and in our possession.

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  35. If you’re saying my refusal of God’s gift somehow makes his gift insufficient I just plain disagree with that.

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  36. ^^ That would be like saying because I sold the PS3 you gave me, you didn’t go to the store, pick it out, pay for it with your own money, take it home, wrap it, drive it to my house, and place it in my hands. That’s silly, I think.

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  37. Great questions, Nate.

    Language is often an inadequate vehicle when trying to navigate the mystery of faith. Words are…too small, too vague, too confining.

    For me, looking for solid and permanent answers to these questions is an exercise in futility. Sometimes, we need to be saved from our own theology.

    Faith, to use Christian Wiman’s watery definition, is movement toward God. Oddly enough, I think people like yourself illustrate a beautiful faith, one Wiman describes so eloquently in his book, _My Bright Abyss_:

    “Sometimes God calls a person to unbelief so faith can take new forms.”

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  38. rodalena-
    Beautiful sentiments. God is so much more than what we can explain. Sometimes it does seem futile to put it into words 🙂
    Thanks for the reminder!

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  39. I was going along with your analogy, but probably should have tweaked it to be more what I feel is an accurate portrayal. The child doesn’t “need to carry the lunch tray” in order to get to eat. My view of Christianity is that the food is prepared, available, and already on the tray at the child’s seat. There is no barrier between the child and the food. Can the child walk away without eating? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean the child’s choosing to eat the food was a necessary part of the food’s availability. I’m not saying we cannot refuse God’s gift. I’m saying our acceptance of it doesn’t put it in our possession or create it’s availability. It is readily available and in our possession.

    I think you’re missing my point. I may not have been clear enough — sorry about that.

    Ignore the kid in the cafeteria analogy. Do you agree that even though Jesus paid the full price of salvation, a response of some kind is necessary from those who would be saved?

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  40. @Josh
    ”Ark-
    You have a warped and jaded view of Christian teaching, full of misunderstandings. I do not believe in the “god” or “christian” faith which you describe, either. I, along with you, pity anyone who lives “a life wracked by guilt, wishing to die”. I wish this were not the case, and I pray that whatever harm has been done you by the unfortunate misrepresentation of Christianity would some day be overcome by the Spirit. I also wish you didn’t feel you had to hurl seething words at those who believe differently than you simply because you believe they are mistaken.”

    Sorry , mate, my warped and jaded view of Christianity is based solely on those that practice it and the manual they genuflect to.
    The god you believe in is the same as every other christian.
    The interpretation of the dogma is all that varies. You will find this in the 40,000 plus cults.
    Be at peace…no harm has ever been done to me, thank the gods , I am more concerned with the children.

    If you pop over to my blog you can follow this link. Read the comments before you do though, then you might get a better understanding of what your religion does to people.
    http://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/why-kids-prayers-work/

    ”I also wish you didn’t feel you had to hurl seething words at those who believe differently than you simply because you believe they are mistaken.”

    I am not mistaken. Christianity’s legacy is my witness.And that legacy continues. Would you like a list?
    Let’s start with Nate….ask him

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  41. “Ignore the kid in the cafeteria analogy.”

    Ha! That’s too funny!

    ” Do you agree that even though Jesus paid the full price of salvation, a response of some kind is necessary from those who would be saved?”

    No. A response is not necessary in order for salvation to be ours. Let me try another analogy :-). Imagine I walked into your house and gave you a briefcase with $1 million and said “That’s yours.” Now, you have the option to either accept that money or reject it. But, only rejecting the money changes the situation. Between the time I give you the money and you make a decision the money is already yours. So, your acceptance of it does nothing to change the fact that you already have the money in your possession. Only by rejecting the money does anything you do impact your standing with regard to the money.

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  42. Are you saying there’s a position between accept and reject?

    If not, then “not rejecting” is a response of “accept.” Either way, a response is still necessary.

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  43. Besides, the NT doesn’t seem to teach what you’re saying. The analogy of Jesus knocking at the door is given to illustrate that it’s still up to the individual to “let him in.” Active acceptance is required.

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  44. Nate-
    I appreciate the question you’re asking, honestly I do. I think you’re missing some of my answer here. At the point where I have given you the money, it is yours and in your possession. At that point, you make a decision to accept the money or reject it. So, is a decision made? Yes. But, your decision to accept the money does NOTHING to GET you the money. Before you even know a decision is to be made the money is yours, in your possession. So, your decision to accept the money is NOT required for you to GET the money – you already have it!

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  45. I think Jesus standing at the door knocking is virtually the same as my analogy. He’s on your property, at your door. Salvation is at your house! My understanding of the Jewish culture at the time is that they welcomed those who showed up at their door. I believe it would have been unexpected and a gross insult to turn that person away.

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  46. “Thanks unkleE. I agree with Ark that it would be nice to hear a bit more about exactly what Christians are being saved from.”

    Sure Nate. I tried to be brief the first time, and wait to see if there was any particular thing you were interested in.

    My answer was comprehensive and general because that is what I believe, and the quote from Jesus sums it up.

    God’s wish and plan for us is for us to be made whole (“shalom”), and for this to be our free choice. Being made in “the image of God” involves being rational, ethical, autonomous, choosing, loving beings, but also physical and limited.

    Being less than God, we are inevitably less than perfectly able to live in the way we need to if we are going to have a harmonious everlasting life. We act irrationally, unethically, unlovingly and irresponsibly on occasions (or more!), and we inherit bad genes, sickness, etc. Many of us long for things to be better, in all sorts of ways – my own rational, ethical, loving shortcomings; those of other people; sickness (mine and others’); political and social injustice, etc.

    We seem unable to fix things ourselves. Certainly at age 67 I am a better person that I was at 17, but there are many faults that I still find difficult to eradicate, and harm me or those I love. And our world seems to be the same. We make progress in some areas of life in some parts of the world (e.g. reducing sexism, racism and environmental harm in the west) but at the same time we go backwards in other areas (terrorism, suicide, anxiety, mental illness, etc).

    The twentieth century was the best of all centuries in some respects, but also saw the worst inhumanity on the largest scale ever seen (in my view).

    So we need a game-breaker, and history tells us that we won’t do it ourselves. We’ll elect politicians but they’ll let us down or become corrupted. Individuals will not be able to fully break out of their mental and physical illnesses, bad habits, greed and selfishness.

    Now if you disagree with the general tenor of all that, then we are clearly on a different page.

    But all that is what Jesus came to save us from, and what the kingdom of God is all about. It happens slowly, like Jesus’ parable for the seed growing secretly, but it happens, and millions of people testify happily to it happening. Lives changed and given meaning and hope, healing and forgiveness. Families changed for the good, people living lives dedicated to serving others, that wouldn’t have happened without Jesus.

    Now I know there are aspects of institutional christianity that have worked out very badly (just as institutional atheism, institutional socialism and institutional capitalism have all worked out badly often as not). But people don’t do badly if they follow Jesus, the problem comes when they use the name but don’t follow the teachings. That is why I follow Jesus (not just believe) and am very wary of organised religion.

    So that’s what I think.I’d be interested to know what you are hoping to get from this discussion. Thanks.

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  47. @unkleE

    Families changed for the good, people living lives dedicated to serving others, that wouldn’t have happened without Jesus.

    Are you serious?!!? Do you truly believe these things would not have happened without Jesus????

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  48. Maybe he means for those particular people — if so, then I think he could be right about that.

    On that same point, unkleE, other people have been able to find those same things through other avenues — whether it’s another religion, a philosophy, or none of the above.

    I agree with pretty much all of this:

    We act irrationally, unethically, unlovingly and irresponsibly on occasions (or more!), and we inherit bad genes, sickness, etc. Many of us long for things to be better, in all sorts of ways – my own rational, ethical, loving shortcomings; those of other people; sickness (mine and others’); political and social injustice, etc.

    We seem unable to fix things ourselves. Certainly at age 67 I am a better person that I was at 17, but there are many faults that I still find difficult to eradicate, and harm me or those I love. And our world seems to be the same. We make progress in some areas of life in some parts of the world (e.g. reducing sexism, racism and environmental harm in the west) but at the same time we go backwards in other areas (terrorism, suicide, anxiety, mental illness, etc).

    But while I’d like for things to be perfect, I don’t believe they can be. We should always strive for it, but we’re not going to make it. I guess it’s like the idea of a perfect circle. We can all visualize what that would look like, but a truly perfect circle does not actually exist. In the same way, just because we can conceptualize of how our world could be better doesn’t mean it will be.

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  49. Also, a quick question:
    Do you believe it’s possible to freely choose God if we can’t be certain he exists? And keep in mind that plenty of people in the Bible had direct dealings with God, but that didn’t seem to take away their free choice. Solomon is a good example…

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  50. unkleE, you addressed this to Nate, but I would like to make a short (short for me) comment. Archaeologists have dated cave drawings in Europe as old as 40,000 years ago. Not just stick drawings but pretty good artistic drawings. So there were people not much unlike us today. Why did God wait 38,000 years to introduce his Son Jesus to the world to save their sins ? Think of the billions of people who have lived on the planet that Jesus didn’t save . Couldn’t God have devised a better plan than this ? And to add insult to injury , God’s biggest failure was he couldn’t even reach the people he called His Chosen. And they rejected Jesus his son even more.

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  51. Josh, no matter which way you cut it, there’s still a choice going on. One has to either accept Jesus’ sacrifice or reject it. That (in my mind) doesn’t mean the person has earned it. Jesus still did the work.

    Why is that a problem for you?

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  52. “Why is that a problem for you?”

    Just trying to communicate what I think is actually going on. I believe the scriptures teach there is nothing we can do, and nothing we have to do, to earn salvation, and I think, as humans, that is hard for us to accept. So, we read it every other way possible before getting to that. It’s important to me to try to communicate it accurately. That’s all.

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  53. I agree, Nate, there is a choice going on. What I’m trying to point out is that making the choice to “accept” gets you nothing you didn’t already have.

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  54. Maybe… but it’s still a choice. So the real question is “how do we make that choice?” In other words, if we leave out repentance, confessing the name of Jesus, baptism, good works, etc, have we still accepted it, or have we rejected it?

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  55. Nate-
    I think trying to get a definitive answer to “how” you make the choice misses the point. It’s not about doing the right things. You’re on a path searching for truth. I think the best thing I can do is encourage you to continue on that path, and engage you the best I can.

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  56. See, I feel that de-emphasizing everything but grace misses the point of a lot of scripture. All of it should carry the same weight, and I just don’t see it describing things the way that you do.

    If I can be frank, I think that your view of Christianity helps you put aside the difficulties — why worry about those, because Jesus has done all the work, right? But if you could step back a little and not be so okay with letting things go that you don’t understand, you might see that Christianity has a few too many holes. Maybe I’m wrong… but I still wonder about that.

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  57. Nate-
    I have to say that I feel a little like you’re being disingenuous. Not just in this conversation, but a few we have had to this point. You make rather broad, sweeping points, or, in this case, ask questions about an entire worldview spanning virtually the entirety of human history. Then, when I, or unkleE, or someone else answer your points or questions, you begin to ask specific questions. Those questions then whiddle the conversation further and further to a finer point. Take this discussion. Our most recent posts are addressing specifically the mode of salvation. You then take my specific answers to your specific questions, and make them out to be the only things I hold to in my worldview. I feel that’s unfair, and it almost seems to be by design at this point.

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  58. Sorry Josh — that’s definitely not my intent.

    It’s been my experience that people sometimes (not excluding myself here) hold views that may be a bit contradictory. When left at a high level, the inconsistencies are hard to see. I guess that’s why I try to drill down to specifics as much as possible. I think the entire Christian doctrine is badly inconsistent. People often get by this by saying something like “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” which lets them skirt the difficult issues. But for something as important as eternal destiny — while there may be some things we can’t understand — there shouldn’t be inconsistencies and contradictions. That’s all I’m trying to point out.

    But I’ll try to lay off. You’re right that I started this post with questions, and you and unkleE were good enough to provide your thoughts. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t guess that surprises anyone. 🙂

    Thanks for the discussion

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  59. Nate, before I get into answer to many questions asked of me, I wanted to ask you about this.

    “All of it [scripture] should carry the same weight”

    How would you justify this statement?

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  60. Are you serious?!!? Do you truly believe these things would not have happened without Jesus????”

    For the ones I am talking about, no, it probably wouldn’t have happened. That is what the people say themselves.

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  61. Are you then assuming inspired = carries the same weight??

    I guess it depends on what each statement is talking about. But generally speaking, yes, the same weight. If God inspired it all, then all is important. If it all fits together somehow, then none of it can be thrown out. So if one passage says people are saved by grace, and another says people are saved through faith, and another says people are saved through baptism, then all three have to fit together somehow. It’s not consistent to pick one or two of those statements and dismiss the third.

    Would you agree?

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  62. unkleE, other people have been able to find those same things through other avenues — whether it’s another religion, a philosophy, or none of the above.”

    Yes they have, and I didn’t say otherwise (as you have already perceptively noted). But there are many more in your country and mine finding them with Jesus than without him.

    But while I’d like for things to be perfect, I don’t believe they can be. We should always strive for it, but we’re not going to make it.”

    (1) They will be perfect one day (I believe), and this age is preparation for the age to come.
    (2) Your comment doesn’t negate the fact that things are intolerable for many people, and not what they’d prefer for many others – and that Jesus helps many of these people make a difference.

    All this is in answer to your question about what people need saving from. If you don’t feel you need any forgiveness or help in this life, or life in the age to come, then I guess you won’t feel you need saving. But if you do, you can at least understand what Jesus offers, the remaining question is then whether you can believe it. (Which of course, at the moment, you can’t – but that is a different question. One thing at a time. 🙂 )

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  63. Do you believe it’s possible to freely choose God if we can’t be certain he exists?”

    Yes, who has certainty about anything? Yet we make important choices all the time – to disbelieve, to marry, to divorce, to have children, a career, our ethics, our vote, etc. Why should believing in God be any different?

    keep in mind that plenty of people in the Bible had direct dealings with God, but that didn’t seem to take away their free choice. Solomon is a good example…”

    In some cases in the OT (e.g. Moses and the burning bush) it is made clear that God had to keep himself hidden otherwise the people he was relating to would be overwhelmed. In other cases it is implicit. Just as a baby is helpless in the hands of an adult, even more so are we helpless in God’s full presence. God is very veiled in this world, that’s one reason why (I believe) we have a physical world.

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  64. Archaeologists have dated cave drawings in Europe as old as 40,000 years ago. Not just stick drawings but pretty good artistic drawings. So there were people not much unlike us today. Why did God wait 38,000 years to introduce his Son Jesus to the world to save their sins ? Think of the billions of people who have lived on the planet that Jesus didn’t save . Couldn’t God have devised a better plan than this ?”

    We don’t know how God deals with Neanderthals and others, and I certainly don’t believe that Jesus “didn’t save” any of them. After all, the OT Jews lived before Jesus yet the Bible reports that God saved many of them.

    As for God devising a “better plan”, how would we know? Even assuming we have any understanding of his purposes, does it make any sense to send Jesus when there was no writing or recorded history?

    I think you are responding to a version of christianity that I don’t hold, and which I think people are moving away from. It is, I presume, what you are most familiar with, but it is not a good reason to reject other forms.

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  65. Yes, who has certainty about anything? Yet we make important choices all the time – to disbelieve, to marry, to divorce, to have children, a career, our ethics, our vote, etc. Why should believing in God be any different?

    True. But when it comes to something we don’t eve know for sure exists, I don’t view that as a truly free choice. To me, it’s like making a 7 year old decide right now what he/she is going to do for a living when they grow up. Sure, they could pick something. But it’s not really a free choice, because they can’t possibly know their real options.

    If God’s going to hold people accountable for whether or not they choose him, he’s going to punish a whole lot of people who never really thought he was a genuine option in the first place. Since he knows this and could change it, it makes him out to be pretty heartless.

    In some cases in the OT (e.g. Moses and the burning bush) it is made clear that God had to keep himself hidden otherwise the people he was relating to would be overwhelmed. In other cases it is implicit.

    I, for one, would be quite happy with a burning bush over the nothing I currently receive. 🙂

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  66. If God inspired it all, then all is important.”

    Why would that be?

    (1) Knowing the location of the emergency exit in a building is very important if you are in there when a fire breaks out, but not very important for me on the other side of the world. Some things are very important for some people, some times, and some situations, some are not.

    (2) Could you honestly say that “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brethren who are with them.” (Romans 16:14) is as important as “For I passed on to you first of all what I also had received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He arose on the third day as the Scriptures foretold”?

    (3) Sometimes truth can be neatly described and encapsulated (e.g. 1+1 = 2), but sometimes it cannot (e.g. quantum physics). Surely truths about God’s dealings with us must be on the complex end of the scale? So it will take many statements to show even an approximation to the full truth.

    I have said before that I think you approach the Bible more as an accountant would a spreadsheet or a lawyer would a legal judgment, rather than as a historian would. You seem to expect it to be a 21st century statement of scientific truth (which would then be irrelevant for the ages past, and out-of-date in 50 years) rather than as a revelation of relational truths.

    So I think you misunderstand a lot of christianity (at least as I see it) because you find statements that together add up to a complex picture, and demand they be treated as rigorous maths-like statements. At least, that’s how it seems to me (and I apologise if I have been rude in any way).

    So if one passage says people are saved by grace, and another says people are saved through faith, and another says people are saved through baptism, then all three have to fit together somehow. It’s not consistent to pick one or two of those statements and dismiss the third..”

    I agree with you that the situation isn’t simply describable in formulaic terms, and I certainly agree we shouldn’t discard those statements that we don’t like or can’t fit with our theology. That indicates to me that all these things are important, but in different ways – after all, being saved “through” something is different to being saved “by” something.

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  67. Oh boy, Nate. I wish I had not read this. I am planning on doing away with blogging and emails for the weekend so this will be it for me on this discussion. I want to spend uninterrupted time with Mr Amazing, Intellectual, and Nature Lover.

    Faith. Let’s talk about the guy we all think of when we hear this word, Abraham.
    If I were to go by his example throughout Genesis, Hebrews and other areas of the New Testament/New Covenant I am left to believe 1) Faith isn’t so much about our trust and hope in God as it is about God’s trust and hope (or favor) in us/Abraham. and/or (2) Faith is simply not that mysterious, it’s just “being at the right place at the right time”.

    The founding father of faith, formerly known as Abram, was not looking for the Judeo-Christian God when he was “called out” from his idol worshipping family, he was the one pursued. It also seemed as though he could do whatever he wanted and God would bless him no matter what he did: Lie to two different kings by just telling them (deception) that his wife Sarai/ Sarah was just his sister (incest), which she was his half sister. The first time was when she was at least in her 40s and the second time was in her 60s or older. Still both desired her sexually and God punished them both for it. Abraham lies and those kings are the ones who get into trouble. Abraham receives gifts from both royals because their punishments from God caused them to fear God. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t Sarah get her maid servant Hagar (slavery) from the second King as a “you better get out of here now before God kills me” going away present?

    So, the couple couldn’t have a baby, but the aging, yet hot, wife wants one as promised by God. Time goes by and it’s clearly not on their side. Sarah insists upon Abraham making a baby with her slave and he does.(People can call that whatever they want, but I believe that incident’s rape!) Ishmael’s born.

    Abraham was incredibly wealthy. He and Sarah finally have Isaac a decade later, due to conflict the married, incestuous couple kick out Hagar and her boy into the desert. (abandonment) All they are given is bread and water.

    Maybe the famous scripture we all know should read “Without ‘favor’ it is impossible to please God” instead of ‘faith’.

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  68. Nate-
    Thanks. I just find it difficult, sometimes, to make things fit the way you feel they need to. I’m not necessarily saying that the things “other” than grace are not important. Scripture mentions them for a reason. One last thing I’ll add in response to our conversation. Something I think you should try to keep in mind when reading scripture is that it wasn’t written “to you” in the sense that you are the immediate intended audience. You seem to think that every sentence written in scripture is equally weighty when it comes to application in Nate’s life in 2013. That’s not the case. Scripture was written to and about specific groups of people centuries ago. God revealed himself to those people in ways that were necessary for them to understand. I think this principle also applies to statements about how people “get saved”. I believe, from God’s perspective it is all a “one way” system – grace. However, I believe we have imperfect understanding of this, and we all need to be approached on an individual level. For some, the act of baptism will be “how” they are saved. For others, it will be a sincere realization of their need to repent and confess sins. That’s not to say we all (Christians) don’t do these things in one form or another. It’s just that each person’s perception of their necessity in salvation is different. From God’s view I don’t believe any of those things are necessary in the sense that, if I didn’t do them I couldn’t be saved. But, they may be necessary for my sake if I truly believe that if I am not baptized I won’t be saved. I believe that we still would be saved if not baptized, but the person who believes it necessary will have no confidence in their salvation without being baptized. So, I think God uses these “human” things as representations for our benefit that we are saved. They are rituals that some need to trust. Just as Thomas needed to physically see and touch Jesus. He wasn’t excluded because he needed that, he just wouldn’t have had his own confidence without it. The scriptures record specific ways people were “initiated” into the faith. Those things aren’t strictly necessary, but they serve symbolically to us that we have entered into faith. Hope that makes some sense in tying up our discussion. And, sorry in advance for typos. I’m commenting via my phone :-). Cheers, Nate

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  69. “I think you are responding to a version of christianity that I don’t hold, and which I think people are moving away from. It is, I presume, what you are most familiar with, but it is not a good reason to reject other forms.”

    unkleE, I am glad you don’t hold to this form of Christianity . I think you are correct in saying that many people are moving away from this form of Christianity too. What this indicates to me is that this is truly an Evolutionary Process . We (Christians and former Christians) are constantly reassessing our Spiritual Belief Systems.

    I believe that as humans these changes are influenced by Science and Archaeology. The more we know and are willing to accept as Evidence, the more we reassess .

    I think there are a lot of Christians who still hold to the form of Christianity you moved away from who would say you may no longer be a Christian according to their definition. I think where you and I differ from Nate and Ark is this. You and I have no desire to concede there is no God based on evidence we are willing to believe.. As I have continually looked at the best evidence (one of your favorite phrases) with my feeble reasoning powers, I have given up things you still believe in. I admit my pre-set stopping point is Deism. I think your pre-set stopping point is as you have called yourself .”An indifferent Christian” . Nate and Ark no longer have pre-set stopping points.

    I know you get frustrated with many of us for not accepting the evidence you are willing to. That’s what makes the World go around. 🙂

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  70. And Josh, some people believe they need Muhammad’s teachings to be saved. Other people believe it’s through Krishna. They are just as fallible and sincere as the Christians you mentioned who can’t fully understand just what it is God wants them to do (if anything). But since they aren’t Christians even nominally, they don’t get salvation. Sounds pretty messed up to me.

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  71. unkleE, I agree that some statements carry more weight than others in scripture, which we can see through context. But I think you know the main point I was driving at — it even sounds like you agree.

    Thanks

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  72. @Unklee.

    ”Being less than God, we are inevitably less than perfectly able to live in the way we need to if we are going to have a harmonious everlasting life. ”

    And this utterly pathetic answer is why Christians need their heads examined and why the likes of Nate, Marcus and Chief must breath a huge sigh of relief every morning yet still shudder when they drive by a church.
    If we were created by this god then whose bloody fault is it that we are less than perfect? And what a-hole of a god puts the one ‘tree’ we are not supposed to eat from within arm’s reach and allows a damn serpent the opportunity to bend Eve’s ear?

    Of all the diatribe Unklee has espoused, all the pseudo politically correct and pretend polite dialogue he has insinuated over the blogs, this comment quite succinctly illustrates the mind of person who implies he is a more forward thinking christian yet displays the archaic backward mentality of the basest fundamentalist.
    What a truly Silly Person.

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  73. What I mainly wanted to show in this discussion is that Christianity is all over the place. Depending on which verses you point to, the “Gospel” can say pretty much anything. As John Zande pointed out at the beginning of the thread, you can even have Jesus saying we must all keep the Law of Moses.

    Maybe the Bible’s not supposed to be a scientific treatise — I never really thought it was. But if God wants all people to follow some kind of instruction(s), I think he could figure out a way to do it that’s not so confusing. Christians can’t agree on whether or not there’s a Hell, on what someone must do to be saved, on who will be saved, how grace works, exactly what Jesus’ death accomplished, etc. Josh and unkleE are in pretty close agreement with one another, but there are other Christians who would say they’re completely mistaken.

    I think one of the worst parts about Christianity is the separation between the saved and the unsaved. There are many Christians who don’t put a whole lot of thought into their beliefs, but are mostly Christians by accident of birth. Yet the same kind of people who were raised in non-Christian cultures are not saved. That’s disgustingly arbitrary. If a god really did judge people in such a way, he would not be worthy of worship.

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  74. “Yet the same kind of people who were raised in non-Christian cultures are not saved. That’s disgustingly arbitrary. If a god really did judge people in such a way, he would not be worthy of worship.”

    Regarding the firs sentence: you know as well as I that being born in a non-Christian culture does not mean someone will not be a Christian. Same with the reverse situation. And, neither you nor I can possibly judge who is saved. C’mon Nate. You should know better.

    Regarding the rest of the quote: I completely agree. This is not the God I worship. This is not the God Jesus reveals to us. Again, you should know better. You accuse Christians of not putting a lot of thought into their beliefs. You actually reveal a fair amount of surface-level and I investigated understanding of Christianity yourself, Nate.

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  75. @ Josh

    “Yet the same kind of people who were raised in non-Christian cultures are not saved. That’s disgustingly arbitrary. If a god really did judge people in such a way, he would not be worthy of worship.”

    That there are 40,000 separate Christian cults is evidence enough of how arbitrary your faith /god is. If your go’d cant deliver a simple straightforward message to his öwn” then…god help you lot!

    What do you plan doing to appease your god if you all think you are deserving entry into Heaven? You going to slip St Peter ten dollars, give him a wink and offer him a bacon sandwich?

    The average protestant Christian does not even think of a Catholic as a ”proper” Christian and many consider them unworthy of being saved.

    Sheesh! Christians are so mind numbingly ignorant, it is staggering.

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  76. I’ll second Nan’s Amen on this latest comment of yours Nate. It summarizes very well my own thoughts.

    And your last paragraph also hits home for me about this separation between believers and un-believers that is created by the beliefs of the majority of Christian sects when all of us really are just human beings trying our best to find our way in this world.

    There are many Christians who don’t put a whole lot of thought into their beliefs, but are mostly Christians by accident of birth. Yet the same kind of people who were raised in non-Christian cultures are not saved.

    The quote above you have written was something I grappled with a lot when I was a Christian. The fact that all of my relatives and a lot of my friends were raised Jewish played a big part in the difficulty I had in resolving that part of my belief. The culture one is raised in clearly has an incredibly huge impact on the kind of worldview that people end up holding.

    I do want to add a little side note on this too though – happily there are a small but growing number of very liberal Christians who are going away from this kind of “believer/un-believer” separation theology. You’ll find some of them in UU churches and even other liberal denominations. I also think Rodalena’s comment on this post seems to nicely express a belief that breaks down that dividing line (although I may have interpreted her comment wrong).

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  77. unkleE, I am glad you don’t hold to this form of Christianity . I think you are correct in saying that many people are moving away from this form of Christianity too. What this indicates to me is that this is truly an Evolutionary Process . We (Christians and former Christians) are constantly reassessing our Spiritual Belief Systems.”

    Hi kcchief1, I am pleased to see we are much closer to agreement this time. Some people (and it can be both believers and non-believers) feel threatened by possible changes to their beliefs, others don’t. While I have been a christian for 50 years, my beliefs have evolved considerably as I have read, considered, prayed and re-assessed the evidence and information I have. As a christian, I believe the Holy Spirit can guide us in that process, and that is why I pray.

    I think there are a lot of Christians who still hold to the form of Christianity you moved away from who would say you may no longer be a Christian according to their definition.”

    You might be right, though I can fit in with the somewhat conservative (theologically) church I currently attend, as long as I am careful about what I say, because I still believe what most christians regard as the essentials – Jesus, his death, the resurrection, forgiveness, etc.

    I know you get frustrated with many of us for not accepting the evidence you are willing to. That’s what makes the World go around.”

    I don’t think I get frustrated, and I’m sorry if it comes across that way. I have long since learned to accept that other people won’t always find convincing the things that I find convincing. But I always hope we can at least agree to consider the objective evidence, even if we interpret it differently.

    Thanks for your comments. I feel we are at least understanding each other a little better than we were, and I am happy with that.

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  78. What I mainly wanted to show in this discussion is that Christianity is all over the place. Depending on which verses you point to, the “Gospel” can say pretty much anything.”

    I was wondering what you are getting at, and this clarifies. But I think you have over-stated the case here.

    On the essentials. there is consistency, in the New Testament, and among christians. All pretty much agree that Jesus came from God, lived the life recorded in the gospels, was crucified and resurrected. All believe he offers us something the human race desperately needs – whether we express that as “salvation” or “the kingdom of God” or whatever. All agree we need forgiveness from God and must offer it to others. All agree that Jesus calls us and the Spirit empowers us to live a new life, though whether we actually do so depends on whether we are obedient. All agree that God’s gifts to us are due to his grace, and we need faith to appropriate them.

    If we didn’t know anything else about christianity, that would be enough. The things you quibble about are details, on which humans will always disagree. Baptism, the exact balance between faith and works, the gifts of the Spirit, etc, are not really essential matters, God can cope with our variations there. I can have meaningful fellowship with people who hold different views on all those things and see them as brothers and sisters – and in fact I often do (from Catholics to Mennonites and house church, I can feel united on essentials with them all). The main problems come when the other person excludes.

    I think you (and many christians) have a wrong view of God’s actions in the world – thinking he is a “command and control” God. God is indeed sovereign, but he chooses not to impose himself on us. His grace to us is to make us “in his image”, which means giving us a fair degree of autonomy. So of course there is variation in how we think and respond.

    In fact, this discussion has helped me think through a little more where I feel there are two opposing concepts of christianity, and I think one is quite mistaken:

    1. God is not “command and control” but he gives us autonomy.
    2. He doesn’t expect us to pass a knowledge exam to be “saved”, but rather to respond to him with a right attitude.
    3. The Bible isn’t a textbook of facts so much as an account of people relating to God and an invitation to join them – and it makes this appeal in many different ways to suit the wide differences in people.
    4. God’s communication to us is primarily in subtle ways through the Holy Spirit (so subtle that we are not always aware of it).

    Accepting all this removes many of the issues people have with unequal opportunity to hear the christian message.

    I think one of the worst parts about Christianity is the separation between the saved and the unsaved. “

    I both agree and disagree with this. Clearly Jesus taught that one day there would be separation (e.g. the parable of the sheep and goats). But he also taught that God would do any separating, and we shouldn’t even begin to try (e.g. “judge not” and the parable of the wheat and the weeds). So any person who comes on too strong about who’s in and who’s out is disobeying Jesus – and annoying both you and me!

    One thing your blog is achieving for me is a slowly clarifying understanding of some of these issues. I hope it is doing the same for you. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  79. One of the reasons I love Nate’s blog is his endless patience in the face of Christian stupidity.

    I suspect that every now and then he will lean back in his chair and have a quiet chuckle while certain visitors will politely, yet ignorantly brush off Nate’s erudite and very intelligent replies.
    Because of his history of fundamentalism he is the perfect foil for these silly people, yet they continue to debate with him as if he hasn’t heard EVERY argument; hasn’t himself defended each and every one of their outrageously silly claims at some point in his previously chequered past.

    And all they are doing is illustrating their complete ignorance, believing that clever philosophy and metaphysical word games will either confirm this nonsense in their own minds or somehow unlock something in Nate’s mind that will have him rushing back to the bosom of Yashua weeping inconsolably, ”Forgive me, Jesus, and thank you Unklee and all for showing me the light once more. I am saved.”
    Er…No. I don’t think so.

    What christians refuse to grasp is that by becoming an atheist one IS stepping into the light.
    A light filled with critical thinking, reason, better understanding and freedom from lies and dependency upon superstition. It is responsibility and for Nate and others it must be a wonderful feeling.
    Yet these same Christians, so filled with self-righteousness will look at the Young Earth ‘brethren’ with a degree of pity for the stupidity of their extreme fundamentalism yet consider their own degree of evangelism perfectly normal…because theirs is a revealed faith/religion/relationship and god wouldn’t lie to them, right?

    Well…no he wouldn’t if you care to think about it. If the character of Jesus taught anything at all is what to think for oneself.

    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/

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  80. I’ll toast unkleE’s last comment. I think clarification and truth is what we are all seeking. We’re all at different places, but all trying to make sense of the world in which we live.

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  81. I would like to add that the Early Church Fathers including Justin Martyr realized the stories portrayed in the NT about a miracle working dying rising savior were stories told in other and older cultures as well, When confronted with them, the best explanation they could give was that Satan knew the stories of Jesus before he came to earth and planted these stories in the minds of other cultures so when Jesus came, they would confuse everyone . Justin Martyr admitted the Jesus Stories he was telling was nothing new that the Greeks believed about the Sons of Zeus. Clement even believed in the Mythical Bird the Phoenix to be true and compared Jesus’ life , death and resurrection to the Phoenix. If you read the 10 Volumes of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, you will notice some of the outrageous stories they used to validate the Jesus Story. When you have Church writers so close to the time of Jesus spinning tales like this, it was impossible for me to accept Christianity any longer.

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  82. Justin Martyr realized the stories portrayed in the NT about a miracle working dying rising savior were stories told in other and older cultures as well …… it was impossible for me to accept Christianity any longer.

    I’m assuming this wasn’t your only reason, but if it was, the evidence would suggest you should reconsider. Hypotheses that the Jesus stories were copied from pagan myths about dying and rising gods were popular a hundred years ago, but contemporary historical scholarship has rejected them. And for good reason – (1) most of the parallels are spurious, (2) there is more evidence of the pagans copying from the christians, and (3) the historical evidence for the pagan gods is zero whereas the historical evidence for Jesus is compelling.

    You can read more in Was Jesus a copy of pagan gods? It’s another case of a small minority of non-believers fulfilling their own wishes by ignoring historical scholarship and taking up long-disacredited ideas.

    But don’t believe me, research it for yourself and see.

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  83. @Unklee.
    I stand under correction but I don’t think this is what The Chief is saying.
    The early church fathers were aware of all the mythological stories, as who would not have been?.
    So when they came across the ridiculous stories of Yashua they merely had to add a few more details of their own to justify the rubbish that was being touted.

    ”3) the historical evidence for the pagan gods is zero whereas the historical evidence for Jesus is compelling.”

    Er…just enlighten us all here, if you don’t mind, as that is quite a high and mighty sweeping statement.
    Exactly WHAT compelling historical evidence are you referring to, Unklee?

    I am unaware of a single shred of irrefutable evidence to support the statement that the character as described in the biblical texts is anything more than a narrative construct.

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  84. unkleE, your argument is with Justin Martyr (110 – 165 CE) not me. To quote him,” And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.

    Again Justin says,” And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from the ordinary generation, let this, said above, be no extraordinary thing to you , who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God.”

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  85. You’re missing my point unkleE. Justin Martyr was a historical figure. He was an early Church Father who wrote this. When confronted with these Pagan Stories historical or not ,he is the one who conceded that the Christian story of Jesus propounded nothing new than what they already believed of Jupiter. BTW , the Christian God is no more historical than Jupiter or Mercury. You can argue a case that there may have been a Jewish prophet named Jesus however.

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  86. “I am unaware of a single shred of irrefutable evidence…”

    Ark-
    I’m unaware of a single shred of irrefutable evidence for pretty much anything. If irrefutable evidence is what you’re looking for, then you wouldn’t be able to trust any information. For example, start with yourself: do you have “irrefutable evidence” that everything thing you think, reason, and believe about yourself and the world are not merely constructs of what the evolutionary process has deemed “important” for you to perceive and believe? By demanding irrefutable evidence you have given yourself no way to verify anything – you have placed yourself in a situation where you could explain away everything.

    To quote C.S. Lewis:
    “The kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. You cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever.

    The whole point of seeing through things is to see something else through them. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the garden beyond it is opaque. What if you saw through the garden, too? If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is exactly the same as an invisible world. To ‘see through’ everything is the same as not to see anything.”

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  87. kcchief1-
    Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article describing events told in the novel, ‘Wreck of the Titan’. This book was written in 1898, 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Read over the list of similarities between the fictional Titan’s story and the historical Titanic. By your account of Justin Martyr’s reasoning, since the story of the Titan was written 14 years earlier than the sinking of the Titanic, and so many details are similar, then the “historical” story of the Titanic must have been made up. For, nothing historical could have so many similarities to something fictional made up before the “historical” event happened. Right?

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  88. “Hypotheses that the Jesus stories were copied from pagan myths about dying and rising gods were popular a hundred years ago, but contemporary historical scholarship has rejected them.”

    unkleE, contemporary historical scholarship cannot re-write the words of Justin Martyr.

    Romans believed Jupiter was divine every bit as much as the Christians felt about their God. They even believed in a trinity of gods. It was said that the Temple of Jupiter was dedicated on September 13, the year of the Roman Republic, c. 509 BCE and was sacred to the Capitoline Triad consisting of Jupiter and his companion deities, Juno and Minerva. The story of Jupiter certainly seems to predate Christianity.

    Justin’s argument was the Jesus Story was in fact older because of the claims made in the OT the christians used to point to Jesus.

    Again, I am not arguing a point. I am merely sharing with you how one of the greatest and earliest christian writers was dealing with the pagan belief systems of the day. Justin must have thought the Roman Pagans 1.) truly believed in their Gods and 2.) felt their stories were older or he wouldn’t have used the OT to claim his Jesus story had been around since the beginning of time. Nor would he have claimed that Satan planted those pagan stories in earlier times just to confuse the Christians.

    ”3) the historical evidence for the pagan gods is zero whereas the historical evidence for Jesus is compelling.”

    I’m not sure if this is a fair comparison. It should be stated the historical evidence for the pagan gods and the Biblical God is zero whereas the historical evidence for the jewish prophet Jesus is compelling. In fact there are at least 4 , 1st century ossuaries (burial bone boxes) with the name Jesus inscribed on them that have been discovered around Jerusalem so far.

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  89. Josh, as I have just told unkleE, I am not arguing any point. If you guys want to argue, you need to bring up Justin Martyr from the grave. He made these remarks, I’m simply publishing them here.

    I initially stated that reading what these early christian authors wrote caused me to re-think Christianity. These men helped form the institution we now refer to as “The Church” Men like Justin Martyr may have held original documents penned by Paul, John and others. Clement according to the Bible itself actually knew Paul.

    What they thought of the scriptures and how they defended them is something I find fascinating .

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  90. Josh, if you like quoting CS Lewis, here is a quote from his book, “The World’s Last Night” where he says,

    ““Say what you like,” we shall be told [by some critics], “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘This generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” [Here the imaginary critics end speaking. CS Lewis begins next.]

    It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side.

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  91. “If you guys want to argue, you need to bring up Justin Martyr from the grave. He made these remarks, I’m simply publishing them here.”

    Fair enough. Just pointing out that, if you saw Martyr’s points as valid, they aren’t really that valid. If you don’t see them as valid, nevermind. However, if you don’t see them as valid, I don’t understand why you’d post them.

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  92. “Fair enough. Just pointing out that, if you saw Martyr’s points as valid, they aren’t really that valid.”

    I’m not sure how you came to this conclusion. He was one of the earliest and greatest writers of the earlier church .

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  93. “I’m not sure how you came to this conclusion. He was one of the earliest and greatest writers of the earlier church .”

    The point about previous stories having similar themes and events. Martyr copped to it, which is fine because it was true. The trouble is, it doesn’t matter if stories with similar themes and events happened prior. The accounts can still be true. Hence, my point about the Titan vs Titanic.

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  94. Josh, “The trouble is, it doesn’t matter if stories with similar themes and events happened prior. The accounts can still be true. ”

    Wouldn’t that also be possible for the prior accounts ? Certainly the Romans and Greeks believed them to be true.

    Titan was never intended to be a real story. Titanic became a real story. What was the likelihood of this happening ? The fact that the North Atlantic has been full of icebergs for a very long time and heavily traveled by boats and to write about a big boat and call it Titan….. ??? I certainly don’t find this astonishing .

    I also don’t find it astonishing that stories of a dying and rising savior would pop up in 1st century Jerusalem. The Greeks and Romans had theirs. It would only make sense the Jewish and Gentile citizens would have theirs. And they ALL believed theirs was true.

    Based on the evidence that Martyr had available to him, he defended his beliefs as best he could. If you read his works you will find out one of the major reasons he became a Christian was “being at once impressed with the extraordinary fearlessness which the Christians displayed in the presence of death”

    I wouldn’t agree with his reason for becoming a Christian however any more than I would become a Muslim because of their fearlessness when blowing themselves up in the name of their God.

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  95. Josh, “Fair enough. Just pointing out that, if you saw Martyr’s points as valid, they aren’t really that valid.”

    I always try to be respectful to the other people on this blog. I have to respectfully say your statement above seemed very silly to me ! 🙂

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  96. “I have to respectfully say your statement above seemed very silly to me!”

    I’m sure we both respectfully think a lot of things the other says are silly. Just to clarify, though, I wasn’t saying that all of Martyr’s writings or points were invalid. Nor was I trying to fault him for doing the best he could at the time. I was just pointing out that, based on information I can show you now, he was wrong in that he didn’t necessarily need to give those previous stories any weight just because they already existed. For instance, I know of at least two other people that have the same full name I do, grew up in the town I did, went to the same high school, took out student loans from the same company, and now we get each other’s mail from the loan companies sometimes. None of these facts, nor all of them together, mean that only one of these “Josh’s” could possibly exist. Martyr maybe couldn’t make this kind of argument in his day. Not his fault. I’m just saying I can refute it more easily with more modern information. Sorry if I was unclear re: that comment 🙂 Really, no offense to Martyr was meant.

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  97. @Josh

    ”I’m unaware of a single shred of irrefutable evidence for pretty much anything.”’

    This could quite easily wander down the ridiculous Metaphysical path so as I am a very simple bloke I’ll keep it simple.
    My boxer dogs are sitting by my feet as I type. Hold on a second.
    There, I just stretched out and stroked them. That is real and as far as I am concerned irrefutable evidence that they are here and I stroked them.
    I would accept the same from you if you told me.

    However, your whole life is based on accepting the cobbled together text in an ancient book claimed by ancestors of a blatantly corrupt church to be the inspired word of a god.
    It contains tales that no sane man would accept if it weren’t because he had been inculcated from birth or weren’t emotionally disturbed.
    That you don’t require ANY proof is indicative of the power of inculcation.
    I would say, ask Nate, but as you have been inculcated you would likely tell me Nate was not a proper Christian in the first place.

    Try this….This post, although humorous, quite clearly demonstrates the point and I recommend everyone read it.

    http://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/are-you-frikkin-nutz/

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  98. Josh, “Martyr maybe couldn’t make this kind of argument in his day. Not his fault. I’m just saying I can refute it more easily with more modern information.”

    We can refute a lot that was said by the ancients with more modern information. We know the earth is round not flat. We know the earth revolves around the sun and not the opposite. We know we can’t see the entire earth from a mountaintop. We know the earth doesn’t have 4 corners nor does it have a foundation. Rabbits do not chew cud. Bats are not birds. The earth does spin on its axis. Just to refute some of the many statements made in the Bible.

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  99. Hi kcchief1

    You’re missing my point unkleE. Justin Martyr was a historical figure. He was an early Church Father who wrote this. When confronted with these Pagan Stories historical or not ,he is the one who conceded that the Christian story of Jesus propounded nothing new than what they already believed of Jupiter”

    I’m sorry Ken, but it is you who are confusing the point. It is irrelevant that Justin was a real person (we both know that), what is relevant is whether the christians borrowed from the pagans. And I made the following points:

    First, the scholars say almost unanimously that christianity did not borrow in any substantial way from the pagans. The scholars know Justin Martyr better than you or I do, so this fact ought to make you wary of claiming too much about Justin until you are very well read on the topic.

    Second, I gave 3 reasons why the scholars conclude there are very few parallels (beyond a few religious themes common to the time, such as ritual meals):

    “(1) most of the parallels are spurious, (2) there is more evidence of the pagans copying from the christians, and (3) the historical evidence for the pagan gods is zero whereas the historical evidence for Jesus is compelling.”.

    I should have added a 4th, and probably most important reason, that the historians tell us that pagan ideas generally had almost zero influence on first century Judaism from which christianity grew. Eminent scholars like Sanders, Vermes, Casey, Hengel and Wright have been very strong in their conclusion that Jesus and early christianity must be understood in the context of first century Judaism.

    Justin Martyr must be understood in the light of all this. I haven’t read much about him but this is what I understand:

    (i) He did not believe in the truth of the pagan legends:

    “[the Greeks] called them [i.e. demons] “gods”, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself. And when Socrates endeavoured, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons, then the demons themselves, by means of men who rejoiced in iniquity, compassed his death, as an atheist and a profane person, on the charge that “he was introducing new divinities;” and in our case they display a similar activity.”

    (ii) He did not believe, say or admit that the christians had copied from the pagans. (This is your central claim – can you find a quote that says that? I haven’t been able to so far.) He rather defended christian beliefs saying they were no more “unusual” or detrimental than similar, and “worse”, beliefs by pagans.

    (iii) Rather, he says that both christians and pagans got their ideas from Jewish prophecies – with the difference that the christians interpreted them rightly, and the pagans did not. You may not agree with his conclusion, and I think we would both find some of his arguments bizarre, but I’m only pointing out what he said.

    So I conclude this brief examination thinking the same as I said before – the scholars haven’t found much in Justin Martyr to sway their view that christianity was minimally influenced by pagan religions, it is only poorly researched websites (and films) which make the connection for eager unbelievers to latch on to what they want to hear rather than believe the experts.

    BTW , the Christian God is no more historical than Jupiter or Mercury. You can argue a case that there may have been a Jewish prophet named Jesus however.”

    The existence of God is a matter of opinion which we could discuss, but is not under discussion here. The point is that Jesus was indeed (according to the experts) a historical figure, and there is no evidence that any of the pagan gods were.

    Best wishes.

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  100. unkleE , Do you ever find experts who don’t agree with your thoughts ? I seriously doubt it.

    I never said Justin Martyr believed Christians borrowed from the Pagans. He did say that the Jesus story propounded nothing new to what the Pagans already believed about the sons of Jupiter.

    You keep comparing Pagan Gods to Jesus. This is not a fair comparison. Either compare Pagan Gods to the Biblical God or compare the man Jesus to any other man of your choice. There is no evidence Jesus was a Deity other than the Bible.

    BTW, I didn’t get my comments about Justin Martyr from the Internet. I read all 10 volumes of the ante-nicene fathers which included the works of Justin Martyr. I take this seriously. I’m not just another pretty face of a Deist ! 🙂

    I think we are both beating that old horse again. 🙂

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  101. unkleE, Here’s a question for you to ponder. There are many well educated men with PhDs who bang their heads against the ground five times a day while facing Mecca. Many are serious scholars. They think their best evidence is better than yours ! Who should a non-believer listen to ? I think that’s a fair question. I really don’t need an answer because this would take pages of comments . It would definitely make an interesting new blog topic ! 🙂

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  102. Hi kcchief1, congratulations on reading 10 volumes of church fathers, that’s much more than I have done!

    Do you ever find experts who don’t agree with your thoughts ? I seriously doubt it.”

    Yes I do, often, and I learn from them. That’s why I read them.

    But I think this matter is worth discussing in greater detail. Hopefully we can clarify a few matters.

    Let us start with a few definitions. A fact is something that can be known with reasonable confidence. Gravity is a fact, even though Newton’s laws had to be modified by relativity. And in NT studies, these are facts:

    (a) There are multiple independent sources for the life of Jesus.
    (b) Historians regard multiple sources as good evidence for historical truth.
    (c) Therefore most historians regard Jesus as a historical figure, and the gospels as useful historical documents.
    (d) Likewise, for reasons I have outlined, most historians regard Judaism, and not paganism, as the main sources for understanding Jesus.

    Next we have opinions – things that each of us conclude for whatever reason. In this matter, the existence of God and the identification of Jesus as divine are opinions on which you and I have different views.

    Finally, we can identify, somewhere between the two, expert opinion, which is the conclusion, after due study, of experts in the field. If I have a test for cancer and it comes up negative, a doctor can give me an expert opinion on how likely that result is to be correct. The doctor may be wrong, but I would back their opinion over mine any day, but if I am unsure, I can get a second opinion.

    Notice I didn’t, and haven’t said, that the conclusions of the experts are facts (for they are expert opinion), I have only said that it is a fact that the vast majority hold those expert opinions.

    Daniel Moynihan is quoted as saying: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

    It is facts and expert opinion that we are discussing here, and I try always to be very careful to describe whether I am talking about them (an expert’s conclusions) or opinion (my conclusions). If you check out my comments on this discussion, you’ll find that I gave my opinions in answer to Nate’s questions, but I argued “facts and expert opinions” in response to your comments.

    Historical knowledge and learning is not the same as opinions about God. I rely on the experts to teach me about history, ancient culture and language, etc, just as I rely on experts to teach me about science. What the experts think about God is of less interest to me. For the record, of the 5 scholars I mentioned, Wright is a christian, Vermes was a Jew, Sanders is agnostic, Casey is a non-believer and I don’t know about Hengel.

    So I hope that makes things a little clearer. We are talking facts and expert opinion at the moment. Only after we reach some agreement on those things is there any point in discussing opinions based on those facts. Do you agree?

    I never said Justin Martyr believed Christians borrowed from the Pagans.”

    So what was your original point then?

    You keep comparing Pagan Gods to Jesus. This is not a fair comparison. Either compare Pagan Gods to the Biblical God or compare the man Jesus to any other man of your choice. “

    But that’s what Justin martyr was talking about.

    There are many well educated men with PhDs who bang their heads against the ground five times a day while facing Mecca. Many are serious scholars. They think their best evidence is better than yours !”

    That may be true, though I couldn’t name any – can you? But it is quite irrelevant. We are discussing historical facts remember, and I don’t know any Muslim scholars who write about history and Jesus, but if they are reputable scholars, their beliefs don’t matter. Again, please try to distinguish between historical evidence/facts, expert opinion on history, and personal belief.

    I hope this comment can help us focus on the issues under discussion and not get into side issues. Best wishes.

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  103. @Unklee
    ”(a) There are multiple independent sources for the life of Jesus.”

    Really? Which sources are these that irrefutably show the life of Yashua.
    I have never come across a single one that could confirm him. Not one.
    Christians. Yes. Without a shred of doubt. There are loads of references.
    But Yashua?
    I think you must be smoking your socks.

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  104. @ Unklee

    3) the historical evidence for the pagan gods is zero whereas the historical evidence for Jesus is compelling.”.

    Once again. There is NO historical evidence for the divine character as depicted in the gospels. None.
    It is unethical of you not to make the distinction, because you worship the divine character.
    In fact it ought to be incumbent on every one that engages you to insist you demonstrate the veracity of your claim, for otherwise you are playing both ends of the field, insinuating that you have scholarly leanings whereas you are, in fact, quite disingenuous in your whole approach.

    I have raised the topic of you using Bart Ehrman before but it is worth raising again, especially for non Christian readers who might be baffled or at worst vaguely inclined to agree with you.

    You have in the past willingly cited Professor Ehrman when requiring an expert to back your claims of an historical Yashua but will drop him like a hot cake when the question of divinity arises.

    You demonstrated a similar lack of integrity when discussing the Nazareth issue with Bernard.

    Your arguments are fallacious.

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  105. unkleE,

    a,b and c are only true if you are a believing Christian.
    d, I never said or implied that paganism was the main source for Christianity. I have traveled and seen first hand concepts of Christianity which were used by older cultures. Go to Egypt and you will find the symbol of the Ankh on top of many Coptic Christian Churches. Go to the Temple of Luxor and you will find in reliefs the picture of a Pharaoh being baptised by 2 Gods making him a God with them to form the Trinity. Go to the Cairo Museum and you will see a Pharaoh’s footstool with the faces of his enemies painted on it making it a “footstool under his feet”. I don’t really care what your hand chosen experts say, I know what I saw firsthand.

    You appeared disingenuous in your compliment of me reading the 10 volumes of the ante-nicene fathers. I only mentioned that I had read them because you said in a previous comment, “it is only poorly researched websites (and films) which make the connection for eager unbelievers to latch on to what they want to hear rather than believe the experts. I mentioned Justin Martyr as an example. If you want to take the time to read the 10 volumes you would see other examples of how the early church fathers tried to explain away problems in their religion.

    You are getting back to your old habits of appearing condescending and flying loose with your evidence.

    It is not within your being to ever end a subject with someone else having the last word. In my opinion it’s simply a trait of someone who can never be wrong.

    Again I think we have beat this horse enough but no doubt you will indeed need to “Have the last Word” I won’t respond to your response on this matter because I can stop , without having the last word. 🙂 The best to you

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  106. a,b and c are only true if you are a believing Christian.”

    They are facts. They have nothing to do with being a christian, and scholars who are not christians accept those facts just as much as those who don’t. But if you don’t think so ….

    You appeared disingenuous in your compliment of me reading the 10 volumes of the ante-nicene fathers. “

    I’m sorry it seemed like that to you, and a little surprised. I was quite genuine in complimenting you. I guess your reaction shows how easy it is to misunderstand on the internet, which is sad.

    OK, see you later.

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  107. (a) There are multiple independent sources for the life of Jesus.

    No there are not.
    This is an outright flagrant untruth.

    (b) Historians regard multiple sources as good evidence for historical truth.
    Yes they do. This does not necessarily apply to Yashua as you are smudging the line between the biblical character and a minor Galilean preacher.

    (c) Therefore most historians regard Jesus as a historical figure, and the gospels as useful historical documents.

    Not the character as portrayed in the bible. It is important that this point is clarified, as you never will.

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  108. ”They are facts. They have nothing to do with being a christian, and scholars who are not christians accept those facts just as much as those who don’t. But if you don’t think so ….”

    Nope. Not facts at all. You are showing a degree of ignorance that is quite surprising for one who continually tries to assure that you are open-minded and base your beliefs as much on ‘facts’ as you do faith.
    The best we can say is that Christianity is a religion full of Christians.

    Maybe you should do a post about Christian facts?

    Even though you have banned me from commenting I would still read it. It would be fascinating.

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  109. Ark, Thanks for your comments. unkleE did reference Geza Vermes as one of his experts.

    Here is what is said about Vermes that I find interesting.

    “Vermes described Jesus as a 1st-century Jewish holy man, a commonplace view in academia but novel to the public when Vermes began publishing.[4] Contrary to certain other scholars (such as E. P. Sanders[17]), Vermes concludes that Jesus did not reach out to non-Jews. For example, he attributes positive references to Samaritans in the gospels not to Jesus himself but to early Christian editing. He suggests that, properly understood, the historical Jesus is a figure that Jews should find familiar and attractive. This historical Jesus, however, is so different from the Christ of faith that Christians, says Vermes, may well want to rethink the fundamentals of their faith.”

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  110. I was thinking this over my general attitude a bit last night while reading through these comments again. As someone who claims to believe in the pure grace and mercy of God, I really am not a very shining example of that with a lot of the comments I’ve left here. Some of them are rude, some subtly (or, not so subtly) insulting, and a lot quite thoughtless toward the paths others have taken toward their beliefs. I’ve come across as presenting a view that everyone “should” recognize Christianity as truth if they “really” thought about it, even though I know that is not reality, and that I can’t defend Christianity as an objective truth (maybe others think they can, but I realize I cannot). My intention in commenting was to engage in the discussion toward “finding truth”. I have to say I don’t feel I’ve done that, either fairly or thoughtfully.

    So, for what it may be worth, I want to make a general apology for the snubbing and insulting comments I’ve made, and other comments which imply that others have not thought about their beliefs as much as I implied they “could have”. And, I want to specifically apologize to Nate. I didn’t intend to come across the way I have. I hope to remedy that in future discussions (not arguments :).

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  111. Thanks Josh for your honesty! I can only speak for myself, but I have never intentionally been a Christian Basher . I was one for over 40 years (a Christian not basher). 🙂

    I continue to read about Christianity even though I am no longer a believer. Why ? To better understand why Christians continue to believe and why I no longer do.

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  112. Those of you who follow this blog know that I rarely get into the heat of the discussion. I prefer to remain on the sidelines and learn, but sometimes throwing out a remark here and there. Another big reason I don’t add much is because Nate, kcchief1, and Howie put things much more eloquently than I could. (I even think Ark makes some good points — when he’s not being quite so caustic.)

    I know where Josh is coming from because I’ve been there. And I understand his passion for defending his beliefs (I’ve been there as well). But for me, his latest posting shows more of the “Christian spirit” than anything he’s posted before.

    As I’ve indicated previously, unkleE’s comments often tend to rub me the wrong way — and from other’s comments, I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. However, it’s apparent he has done considerable reading and I commend him for that since so many who claim to be Christians don’t have a clue about their faith. All they are doing is following in the footsteps of those before them.

    And finally, I must say I simply LOVE this blog. The conversations are super stimulating — and I can’t tell you how many times the contributors have driven me to my library to confirm or deny their comments. Thank you, Nate, for introducing such provocative topics.

    OK, that’s all from my little corner of the world. This will probably be the longest posting I’ll ever make. 😉

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  113. Well said , Nan ! You don’t have to take a “back seat” to anyone here ! You are more than adequate in expressing your thoughts !

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  114. I cannot remotely expect Unklee to visit this site and read what Carrier has to say, it would have him frothing at the mouth and might cause an infarction and I couldn’t have that on my conscience. But anyone else who might be interested in reading about Stephen Law and his recent paper on the trustworthiness of the historicity of Jesus might find this very interesting. Very interesting indeed.
    There is also reference to the TF and how that has been finally laid to rest. Thank god(sic)
    It’s a long post…you know what Carrier is like?

    Make a coffee and pull up a comfy chair.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4096

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  115. Hi Josh: this latest comment of yours is very kind and humble. I think a lot of us (including myself) fall into the heat of the discussion and make comments which are not so kind, so don’t feel too bad. I am new to active blogging (although I have been a blog “lurker” since the early days of blogging) and I am still trying to find my “blogging personality”, but I know for sure that I want it to exude the humility that you have expressed here – I believe humility is an important facet in getting us closer to “finding truth”. And I am very much for “finding truth” as honestly as possible, and I believe you are as well even though we disagree. Thanks for your comment!

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  116. Ark, thanks for sharing this ! Interesting link. I liked the part which said,” Law makes the point that there are so many extraordinary claims about (through all recorded history in all cultures and religious traditions) that we can necessarily expect many examples of claims backed with “improbable evidence” like this. Therefore, for evidence to be extraordinary, it must be much less probable than this.

    I think we haves seen much of the same kind of extraordinary evidence used here ! 🙂

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  117. Hi Nan: Thanks for the mention! I hadn’t really thought I was all that eloquent. And I agree with KC – you are more than capable – your comments add important pieces to the mix, and I’d like to read more.

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  118. @ kcchief1
    Carrier does have a habit of going on a bit, but he was spot on with his shredding of William Lane Craig.
    Stephen Law’s analysis of the lack of historicity of Jesus might me be considered a minority view currently, but the list of top flight biblical scholars who are leaning in this direction is heartening. My gut has always suspected it was nothing more than fiction and I suspect a lot more scholars feel this way as well, but have always been reluctant to say so publicly.
    Maybe common sense will eventually prevail?
    Carrier’ s mention of the final debunking of Josephus and the TF was masterly, I only wish I had heard of this rationale before.
    You can argue the facts but that doesn’t change the truth, does it?

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  119. the bible and it’s rules/requirements look like the rules for a game created by children. They make some rules for a game, but as they begin to play realize that the rules didn’t quite cover every scenario, so they hastily created more on the spot to keep the game going, and then eventually ran into a similar situation, and had to then make more field adjustments to keep the game going.

    After a while, the players eventually realize that the game is now too stupid to keep playing… that, or at least on lookers (typically the adults) realize it’s too stupid a game for them to play.

    Says this here, says that there – now we argue over which one is more clear, or whether it should be literal or figurative, and then proclaim “how wonderful and perfect God’s plan was, that He, in His glorious wisdom, gave us such a clear and simple plan.”

    Josh/UnkleE – you guys have to be smarter than this…

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  120. William-
    I don’t disagree with much of what you wrote there. The rules changed from book to book, sometimes chapter to chapter. If I were to try to harmonize those I would indeed go insane. For me, what it really boils down to is this: Jesus taught an incredibly high moral and social ethic. There are a lot of do-gooders in the world calling us to treat others as we want to be treated, and there have been these do-gooders since the beginning of time, it seems. I have tried my entire life to become the person that Jesus, and all these others, call me to be. I make strides here and there, but I also make horrible failures that leave me embarrassed and distraught. I just don’t see in myself, or in the world at large, any real progress toward the ideal civility that so many good people have called us to. I want it. I see that so many other people want it, and try as hard or harder than I do. Not many of us, if any, have gotten there. So, I look at myself. I see that I have, thus far, not made a heck of a lot of progress toward the person I wish to be. I get disillusioned, and wonder what hope there is. There is one person who offered hope in such a situation. That was Jesus. He demonstrated healing and renewing to those who were broken and discarded by society. He taught that through him all will be healed and renewed. Now, maybe, as Ark argues, Jesus never existed. Even if the gospels are completely fabricated, and you could prove that to me, I would still HOPE that there was such a man out there, in some place and some time, that truly could offer the kind of hope for renewal that Jesus offered. I will continue to work on myself, and I will continue to try to help others work on the world. But, unless there comes a time where I witness this hope realized in our world, I will continue to hope that Jesus is who he said he was. It is what we all strive for (well, most of us, anyway). That, aside from all the arguments, theological discussions, and recycled rhetoric, is why I remain a “Christian”. That Jesus claim about himself and what he will do, that it appears we cannot, is what I place my hope and trust in. Not the confusion in scripture that causes so much argument.

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  121. @ Josh
    ”Jesus taught an incredibly high moral and social ethic.”

    No, in fact he didn’t. And statements like this, inculcated from way back when , leave christians viewing their faith through rose tinted glasses.

    For example….
    Luke 14:26
    ”You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life.”

    I wouldn’t give ANYONE who commanded this the time of day.The bloke was an egotistical arsehole.

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  122. Ark-
    I see where you’re coming from. If Jesus was not who he said he was, then I would agree with you. Absolutely, that’s a horrible, egotistical thing for one human being to demand of another. However, if Jesus can deliver on what he promised (the healing and reconciliation so many of us desire), then I have no problem placing so much love and trust in him that, relatively speaking, it appears as though I “hate” my family. I’m not hoping in a man that cannot deliver. I’m hoping in God, who can deliver. I could be wrong, sure. But, if I’m not, then I do believe he is worthy of such devotion.

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  123. Josh.
    And this is the whole crux of Christianity, is it not, and I am so glad someone has finally raised it, as it strikes at the heart if Nate’s post.

    So, never mind what he claimed and what was/is claimed on his behalf, the question is simple.
    Did Jesus deliver?

    Look at the bible, look around you and look at the world. Based on the evidence at hand – not a chance in hell did he deliver on ANYTHING.

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  124. I’ve been away for several days and haven’t been able to keep up. I won’t go back and comment on any of the stuff I missed, since everyone’s moved on.

    Thanks for the apology you gave earlier Josh — though I owe one to you too. People always say to never discuss politics and religion for a reason 🙂

    Let me ask you about this, though:

    So, I look at myself. I see that I have, thus far, not made a heck of a lot of progress toward the person I wish to be. I get disillusioned, and wonder what hope there is. There is one person who offered hope in such a situation. That was Jesus. He demonstrated healing and renewing to those who were broken and discarded by society. He taught that through him all will be healed and renewed.

    How does this match up with your belief that through Jesus everything has already been accomplished and nothing more is required? By default, doesn’t that mean people will just stay the same? The very thing that makes you despair?

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  125. “People always say to never discuss politics and religion for a reason”

    Ha! Yes. Thanks, Nate.

    “How does this match up with your belief that through Jesus everything has already been accomplished and nothing more is required?”

    Good point, Nate. I guess it doesn’t. We certainly aren’t living in the reconciliation now. At least, I hope we’re not! I do believe Jesus’ return with the “New Jerusalem” in his wake is still required in order for the completion of the reconciliation. So, maybe “everything has already been accomplished and nothing more is required” is not an accurate way to state what I believe. I’ll have to work on that 🙂

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  126. Josh, are you familiar with the children’s story, “the emperor’s new clothes?” Really, check it out if not.

    As I look back, I think what that story teaches about is a large part of what kept me in Christianity for as long as i was in it.

    With all the convoluted, complex, tangled junk one must wrestle with in the bible, it actually all began to make much, much more sense once I realized the emperor was actually naked.

    Once you can toss aside the intellectual and philosophical gymnastics, you can see things for what they are.

    And hope? I have hopes as well, but hope does not equate to reality or truth or fact. The truth is what it is regardless of what you or i would like it to be.

    (jumping topics) and the scholars can say all they want, but if they posit that the bible actually means something different that what it plainly says, then that’s evidence against the bible – not for it.

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  127. William-
    All good points. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. You’ve made your choice, and I’ve made mine. I had been trying really hard to convince others I’m right a lot lately, and I just don’t have the interest or the intellect to keep pretending I can give satisfying answers to everything. Just wanting to lend my perspective to the discussion.

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  128. I meant to correct “You’ve made your choice”. That sounds really dramatic. Forgot to change it before I hit POST. 🙂 I just meant that we’ve come to different places in our searches.

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  129. Man, almost 150 comments, this blog is blowing up Nate, very happy for you. I’ll throw my two cents out before I go through and read them all. I’ve been in the very same fundamental version of Christianity that Nate grew up in, and also in more liberal ones. I personally am now somewhat in the middle of the two.

    1. What are ‘we’ being saved from? I wrote this answer several different ways, but I feel a different way to look at it might be this: We are being saved from ourselves and what our actions have earned us.

    2. Afterlife for the saved: an eternity spent with God-worship, fellowship, peace. Afterlife for the unsaved: an eternity spent away fro God-much pain be it emotional or physical I’m not sure which would be worse.

    3. (my favorite btw) We are expected to Act justly, Love mercy, and to Walk Humbly with our God.

    4. ah,, works, faith… I don’t get how folks make such a big stink of this. The two work together. It seems two folks can look at the same thing and one call it a work while the other argues that is not. Baptism a great example. for the record I don’t think it is a work, any more than faith or repentance is one. I think the author of James laid it out pretty well, one produces the other.

    5. Not sure what you are asking here. God’s grace is given to us in that we don’t deserve salvation but it is offered to us anyhow. Faith in Christ/God should produce works that just makes sense. I’m an Alabama fan, I go to Alabama football games, wear Alabama clothes and talk about Alabama football with others, always sticking up for ‘my’ team. Same should go for Christians.

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  130. Hi Josh, when you said “Agreed. He has not. Not yet “ I think you were being too modest.

    300 million people around the world believe they have witnessed or experienced a miracle (mostly significant healing) in Jesus’ name. Whether these was miracles or not, that’s a large impact.

    LIkewise millions of people whose lives have been rescued from the hopelessness of substance abuse, depression, emotional trauma, lack of purpose, etc, in the name of Jesus. Another huge impact, however it may be explained.

    Since the early days of christianity in the Roman Empire right through to today, christians run hospitals, famine relief, aged care, and a bunch of other worthwhile community services, even in Muslim countries, at a far greater degree than do non-believers. This has made a difference to millions over millennia.

    2.3 billion followers around the world, about a third of all people – not bad for a humble Galilean tekton!

    I cannot think of a movement of any sort that has achieved more for longer than christianity. I’d say that’s an impressive record. It’s an opt-in movement of volunteers, not conscripts, and I’d say he has achieved as much as we’ve allowed him to.

    The christian church as a bunch of organisations has much to be ashamed of (as have virtually all organisations), but the individual followers of Jesus have a fine record. However it is explained, let’s not sell it short!

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  131. unkleE,

    All of those things were still done by people. The specific things you’ve laid out were done by people motivated by Christianity — that much is true, and I don’t want to sell that short. It is important. But I still feel it’s a bit different than saying Jesus did those things, and it also doesn’t prove much as to whether or not there’s any truth to Christianity.

    People can find lots of things to motivate them, and it’s not uncommon for people to use those common motivations to do good things for others. In every case, it’s people that are bringing these changes about, not a deity. And it’s taken thousands of years for society to evolve to this point. It’s also taken science and technology.

    Motivations are important, and it’s certainly true that Christians are motivated by Christianity. But non-Christians do great things too, despite having different motivations. That’s part of our human nature.

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  132. Matt,

    I agree with what you’ve laid out about Christianity. That’s my reading of it as well (even though I no longer really believe it).

    Thanks for weighing in — always great to hear from you!

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  133. Hi Nate, yes, I agree with all you’ve said. But most christians would give the credit to Jesus – saying that they couldn’t achieve it without what he’s done for them, without his example and teaching, and without the power of his Spirit.

    My point is simply that the kingdom of God started by Jesus is working exactly as he said it would – by people opting in, bubbling away often unnoticed, mixed up with good and evil together, but making a big difference. And therefore we can say that he has made a big difference.

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  134. @Unklee.

    ”Hi Josh, when you said “Agreed. He has not. Not yet “ I think you were being too modest.”
    No, mate, Josh is ALMOST right.
    ”Not yet.” YThe answer is , in fact,”Not a bloody chance…ever.”

    And this is the delusion that people have been conned, yes CONNED through, guilt, fear, and other more subversive forms of coercion,outright physical brutality, oppresion and murder.

    You are little more than a smarmy version of William Lane Craig,unklee.

    A person who will secretly laugh at Creationists while feeling so smug that your claim to ”KNOW” the Resurrection is fact. Really? What a twit.

    Someone who will trot out your famous ‘consensus’ line yet when shown how fallacious your argument is you will accuse the other person of not being in the same universe or some-such.

    You, sir, and your asinine, unsubstantiated patently ridiculous comments are the poster boy for this type of inculcation.

    Ad hominem? You bet you christian backside.
    You are the ultimate bullshitter, unklee. And the person you are bullshitting the most, is yourself.

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  135. @unkllE
    ”Yes, I understood that. But I thought I might give a progress report!”

    LOL! Any why oh why would you believe you are qualified to even venture an opinion let alone offer a progress report?
    Do you truly believed you have your god’s ear in this matter?
    That he would require your input to assuage any fears or doubts expressed by the likes of Josh?

    If I was this god I would tell you in no uncertain terms to mind your own bloody business and chat to Josh myself.

    But it seems your god is keeping mum, hey, unklee? And has been for the past 2000 years.

    What a Silly Person.

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  136. Ark-
    You bring up a good point about doubts and fears. For me, it is often my doubts and fears that cause me to dig deeper into what I believe in order to try to better understand it and its claims.

    Do you experience the same with your beliefs? Doubts and fears, I mean? Or, would you say you have a level of confidence and certainty that precludes any concern that you may not be on the right track?

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  137. “But I thought I might give a progress report!”

    Always appreciated. Part of the reason I thought I might back off on the “heavy lifting”. You do such a wonderful job of explaining these things, and I hate to muddle it up with my attempts at doing the same 🙂

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  138. I don’t want to answer for Ark, so i wont, I’ll ask a question regrading your instead.

    You ask Ark about fears… what do you mean? fears that he may be wrong and that christianity may be right? or are you just asking if he fears he may be wrong?

    If you mean that he may fear because of a “what if jesus is the son of god” then do you fear that zeus may be real? Or Thor?

    For me, I consider that I may not know the full answer, so I continue to seek, but I feel as certain that the bible is not from god as I do that neither zeus nor thor are real.

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  139. ”Do you experience the same with your beliefs? Doubts and fears, I mean? Or, would you say you have a level of confidence and certainty that precludes any concern that you may not be on the right track?”

    I will answer this in context (atheism) and hope this is what you are alluding to.
    The answer: Based a on the evidence; emphatically No.

    If you are referring to doubt in other areas of life, then sure, who doesn’t?
    Will I get a tax rebate, will Liverpool win the English league, Will such and such client accept this offer, will one of my books sell a million copies, will Jesus help me with the lottery.

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  140. @William

    ”’For me, I consider that I may not know the full answer, so I continue to seek, but I feel as certain that the bible is not from god as I do that neither zeus nor thor are real.”

    I know my KJV is NOT from god…any god. It was given to me by my Sunday school teacher when I was nine or ten for passing a bible ‘test’ – along with the rest of the class.
    Ah…inculcation. In those days I really believed Jesus wanted me for a sunbeam.

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  141. @Josh

    “But I thought I might give a progress report!”

    Always appreciated. Part of the reason I thought I might back off on the “heavy lifting”. You do such a wonderful job of explaining these things, and I hate to muddle it up with my attempts at doing the same :)”

    Yes, unklee does do a wonderful job. What a comfort he must be?

    You wouldn’t take his level of bullshit from a 2nd hand car salesman so why take it from a snake oil peddler like him?

    I think your god would be very disappointed if he thought you weren’t thinking for yourself, Josh.
    That’s why god gave you a brain, right?
    It isn’t compulsory to have it permanently tuned to Radio Unklee, you know?
    Just turn the dial and listen to another station. Maybe you’ll find Sweet Home Alabama

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  142. “Just turn the dial and listen to another station. Maybe you’ll find Sweet Home Alabama”

    I laughed out loud… Who are you?

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  143. Josh, don’t sell yourself short. Besides, christians should be honest and courteous, and you are both of those. All the best to you.

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  144. @Ark

    “If you are referring to doubt in other areas of life, then sure, who doesn’t?
    Will I get a tax rebate, will Liverpool win the English league, Will such and such client accept this offer, will one of my books sell a million copies, will Jesus help me with the lottery.”

    Really? Liverpool winning the League is in your doubt category? If there are ANY certainties, the fact that the Scousers have ZERO chance of coming in on top.

    Glory, Glory!

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  145. @Josh

    ”Josh, don’t sell yourself short. Besides, christians should be honest and courteous, and you are both of those. All the best to you.”

    I don’t think you are selling yourself at all, Josh. that’s what “hanging on the corner Sales Ladies do”
    And you certainly wouldn’t to want to be a condescending, smarmy git, ”Jesus Sunbeam”, now would you?
    However, If ever you find yourself looking at your reflection in the mirror saying, “G’day, Jesus, well tie me bloody kangaroo down, sport”, with a twangy Oz accent please seek medical attention, immediately.

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  146. Thanks, unkleE. Just trying to find my own voice here. Trying to determine the productivity of these conversations. It seems that we all really do see things very differently. No amount of explaining or evidencing can get another person to see things from my perspective. And, I really cannot see things from their perspective, either. So, what’s the point of having the conversation? I read a post over at Ark’s blog talking about how the atheist is deceiving himself if he thinks he can have a rational conversation with a religious person. Nate commented there, seeming to agree with that sentiment. If no one thinks we can have rational dialogue, why do it? We just seem to be talking past each other – the religious person being unable to see the atheist perspective, and vice versa. It’s not that any of us are “pretending”, it just seems we really cannot find common ground. Maybe talking/debating/arguing these things out isn’t the right way to go about it?

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  147. @ Josh.
    The honest starting point in any such debate is to regard anything and everything open to inquiry and to treat it all the same way, no special pleading.

    The second …the instant you are prepared to do that, to let go of the mentality of inculcation and
    say ”Okay, let’s look at what we have got…”
    Believe me, within ten minutes studying it will all begin to unravel.

    Unklee is NOT honest because he starts by saying THIS IS REAL. Now let me find stuff to back this up, no matter how he couches his terms. He deliberately obfuscates every issue.

    Start by being prepared to suspend faith just for a moment. Now ask is it feasible that anyone can walk on water?
    Is is feasible to feed 5000 people from a few fish and loaves. For a gods, maybe.
    Now, ask yourself, 5000 people and not a SINGLE witness outside of the bible tale. Not one..

    Ask Unklee to explain that?
    No, stuff him. YOU explain it. You’re not an idiot.

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  148. Hi Josh, you raise a very heartfelt question, and one I have pondered too. Here are a few of my thoughts (for what they’re worth):

    A lot depends on what we mean by “rational”. If either christian or atheist means “according to how I think”, then clearly there is little likelihood of have a constructive conversation. Studies show that analytical thinkers are more likely to be atheist, pessimistic and less social, intuitive thinkers are more likely to be theists, optimistic and social. Analytical thinking is more useful in science and problem solving, whereas intuitive thinking is more useful in life overall, in relationships and in making decisions with inadequate information.

    Thus christians and atheists are often going to need to work at understanding each other, and it seems that in many cases they don’t want to. It is easier to dismiss one’s opponents as “delusional” or “rebelling against God” than it is to do the hard work of understanding them. Each needs to realise that there are different modes of thinking, and it is arguable which one is most useful for deciding on questions relating to God.

    I have found a few atheists who are willing to do this as I am willing, and have had quite profitable conversations with them – in one case a correspondence with a committed atheist and determinist that lasted almost 18 months, and resulted in friendship, not alienation. But mostly it doesn’t happen, unfortunately – it is easier and ‘safer’ not to recognise that someone’s thinking may be different but sensible.

    So I too have questioned whether there is value in these discussions, and quit active involvement in several atheist forums I was part of. But I think there are two possible paths we might follow:

    1. It can be interesting to understand another viewpoint, even if we think it is quite wrong. My model for this is atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, who reviewed a book by christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga in very favourable terms – not because he agreed with it (he did in places, but not overall), but because he was interested to understand Plantinga’s thinking. Unfortunately, most internet discussions become polarised very quickly and few are interested in other people’s views – but we as christians ought to be better than that.

    2. I mostly avoid discussing the bigger questions of whether God exists and whether Jesus was divine, because these discussions rarely lead anywhere. So I try to focus more on the evidence that forms the basis for belief or disbelief. There are many established facts that many believers or unbelievers refuse to accept, and outlining the evidence can at least help to provide any discussion with a more solid basis. Unfortunately, here too I find both believers and unbelievers to be equally unwilling to accept facts that seem to threaten their worldview, preferring to try to discredit the established experts and follow non-experts who support their viewpoint.

    So when all this fails, I think it is best to move on without rancour. And of course, to pray.

    That’s my conclusions after 8 years in this game. Best wishes whatever you decide to do.

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  149. How else would you go about it? It’s no secret that we all disagree – that’s what we’re discussing.

    From my perspective, you and UnkleE belong to a more cheery brand of Christianity than I did, but even so, you both seem to pick and choose what parts of the bible you like (as most believers do). Picking and choosing when to apply logic and when to say that god doesnt havent to abide by logic. Picking and choosing scholars. picking and choosing when a scholar’s opinion overrules what the bible says for itself and vise versa. Picking a choosing how to interpret scripture (by how the first century jews would have or in light of modern science) picking and choosing, picking and choosing.

    such intellectual gymnastics will create problems when discussing a topic.

    I still say, that if you found one such issue in the koran out of the many that exist within the bible, that that single issue would be enough for you completely dismiss the koran as not of god.

    are we being fair and consistent? Hope is not evidence, although it can have an impact on a person’s faith – of any faith…

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  150. Ark & William-
    The problem I see is that the truth of Christianity rests neither on the belief in Jesus feeding 5000 or the consistency between historical Jewish understanding and modern science. Those, I think, are peripheral issues. Where the truth of Christianity lies is in the claims about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. There’s good reason to believe the gospels are accurate eyewitness accounts. People only begin to have problems with that evidence when the issue of miracles is discussed. However, the assertion that the presence of miracles in the accounts requires more than the historically sufficient evidence we have is just that: an assertion. That assertion cannot be established as a neccessity for historical accounts. It seems more of a smokescreen. And, William, with regard to the Koran and all other religions: there’s no other religion that relies on multiple eyewitness accounts with detailed historical information contained in the accounts. There’s really no reason to put the Koran or other religious texts on the same level as Christian accounts. To say otherwise is to misrepresent both Christian and other religious texts with regard to historical verifiability and corroboration.

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  151. The honest starting point in any such debate is to regard anything and everything open to inquiry and to treat it all the same way, no special pleading.

    Ark’s statement here is absolutely right. I believe that people can change positions based on evidence and reasoning — I did. William did. Marcus over at Bittersweet End did. Howie at Truth is Elusive did. Persto at The Meta-Attitude did. KC, Nan, etc. Many people have shown that it happens. And I know there are people that have gone from atheism to belief too — I’m not trying to present this as a one-sided thing. People can change when presented with evidence.

    I thought the “parable” on Ark’s site was funny — and I also thought there was some truth in it, because there are plenty of people who won’t change, no matter what information they’re presented with. But those people’s beliefs don’t hinge on evidence anyway.

    There’s good reason to believe the gospels are accurate eyewitness accounts.

    What are those reasons?

    People only begin to have problems with that evidence when the issue of miracles is discussed.

    Not true. Miracles were never a problem for me. If God could speak everything into existence, then I felt he was not bound by the laws of physics. He could do whatever he wanted, including the miraculous. But I do believe God is bound by the laws of common sense and logic. And the Bible’s representation of him fails these miserably. I have many articles linked in my About section that detail these problems…

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  152. There’s really no reason to put the Koran or other religious texts on the same level as Christian accounts. To say otherwise is to misrepresent both Christian and other religious texts with regard to historical verifiability and corroboration.

    To me, statements like this show that you’re a bit culturally-blinded. You view the other religions as less credible because their culture is foreign to you. I’m not trying to be insulting — everyone struggles with this. It’s ethnocentrism. It’s not just that someone from Islam was brought up believing a different religion than you — they were brought up with different assumptions about religion, truth, the nature of existence, etc. It takes a lot of work to be able to truly put yourself in their position. Most people aren’t really capable of it, or even take the time to try.

    This is why all religions seem false to me. If there’s only one religion — let’s say it’s Christianity — then God expects all people, regardless of background or education, to study their way out of their own beliefs and into a religion that might be foreign to them. If we really think about the realities of human nature, we’ll see that expecting something like that is unrealistic. No being concerned with justice would expect such a thing from people, because most are incapable of doing it.

    I think if you’ll spend some time exploring why people believe different things, you’ll come to see that they all have some pretty good reasons. You may not agree with them — but you’ll at least see that they aren’t “rejecting a faith in Jesus” anymore than you’re “rejecting a faith in Allah.” Or Vishnu. Or Thor.

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  153. Josh,

    I think you’re fooling yourself. you said, “with regard to the Koran and all other religions: there’s no other religion that relies on multiple eyewitness accounts with detailed historical information contained in the accounts.”

    detailed historical accounts? where? do you mean the bible’s accounts of itself?

    multiple eyewitness accounts? do you mean where one writer claimed there were 500 nameless witnesses? it’s all unsubstantiated claims. claims made by dudes you never met and never knew. claims for the bible, by the bible.

    where’s the records of dead people coming out of their graves at the crucifixion? no one found that noteworthy?

    any relreligion can claim it’s not on the same field as the next one because of some unique difference – but that is not evidence for anything.

    “To say otherwise is to misrepresent both Christian and other religious texts with regard to historical venerability and corroboration.” I could and probably should use this sentence to reply to you. it is not verified and it is not corroborated.

    It’s not a smokescreen to talk about the details. the devil’s in the details and you dont want to discuss them because that’s where the bible damns itself.

    if there is good historical support for some guy dying, then raising again 3 days later and flying into heaven, then present it for review and discussion. just claiming there’s evidence doesnt make any appear.

    DO you believe in big foot?

    do you believe in alien abductions?

    they have more evidence and more eyewitnesses than anything from the bible.

    and again, with the excuses many believers submit in defense of the biblical problems, you may as well just believe that all religions were given by god and they are all equally valid. It’s easy to see if you’re really seeking with spiritual eyes.

    or, or we can treat it like every other outlandish claim and expect some pretty significant evidence to support the claims. And when we see a large amount of contradiction and logical absurdities, we begin to question the nonverifiable claims.

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  154. ”There’s good reason to believe the gospels are accurate eyewitness accounts.”

    Sorry this is absolute crap. I can’t be kind like the other two and you can respond to them if you wish , Josh.
    This sounds like Apologetic Coaching 101. from the William Lane Craig handbook of bullshit.,
    Have you even INVESTIGATED the compilation of the gospels?
    Know who Marcion was?
    Did you know that of the 661 verses in Mark 600 are in Matthew. The same verses.
    You are going to tell us Matthew was a tax collector next.

    If Mark was an eye witness why in the best manuscripts is there no Resurrection and no visions of the risen lord. Why is the consensus that these verses were later add ons?
    Do you know how long it took to actually formulate the canon?
    And you want to trust Eusebius and his Patron, Constantine?

    Come on, Josh.Please for your gods sake, listen to what you are saying!
    Eyewitness?
    And what about the gospel of Thomas, or the supposed Q source?

    And John….an eyewitness testimony? Come on…really?

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  155. @Josh

    “No amount of explaining or evidencing can get another person to see things from my perspective. And, I really cannot see things from their perspective, either.”

    Your first sentence is incorrect, Josh. I CAN see things from your perspective because I’ve been there. I would daresay many of the other posters on this blog could say the same thing.

    On the other hand, your last sentence is probably 100% correct.

    When your home is surrounded by fences, it’s pretty difficult to see what’s going on around you.

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  156. @Josh
    Another point on the Eyewitness claims.

    If the gospels were written by eyewitnesses why did nobody else mention him?

    The usual apologist rejoinder is to wave this problem away by claiming that Yashu’a would not have been a noteworthy figure, coming from some dirt poor hick town like ”Nazareth”” .
    But this disingenuous tactic contradicts what the Gospels say about him, doesn’t it?
    He attracted the attention of many thousands during his supposed ministry. Including Jewish Hierarchy
    One cannot hold, at the same time, that the Gospels are true eyewitness accounts of actual events, AND that the Jesus figure in those works would not attract the attention of men like Philo, Pliny or Seneca. It’s an absurd contradiction.

    But if we are getting a bit too near the knuckle here, too much honest, objective inquiry, ask unklee, he will offer some sort of panacea.

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  157. @Nan: you are absolutely right about Josh’s first sentence being wrong and I didn’t catch that when I first read it. Yes, I was a believer in Jesus’ divinity as well as the inspiration of the bible years ago and I did have Josh’s perspective then and I am able to remember and understand why I had that perspective. While Josh can’t see things from our perspective now, I believe he does have the ability to both respect and see things from our perspective even if he might not agree with it.

    @Josh: There is some truth to your frustration you are dealing with in these discussions, and I believe it has to do with the fact that there are so many variables involved in coming to decisions on these kinds of things. Most of us realize that it isn’t all that simple, but it is hard to zoom out and think about that sometimes when we are concentrating on one particular aspect of it and not seeing how we could change our minds on that particular aspect. People on all sides (there are more than 2 sides) of the debate do this. Also, it is very rare that people dramatically change their overall worldviews, although even that certainly occurs as Nate has given examples. I am personally an example of someone who changed dramatically twice in my life. However, what I believe is happening all the time but is not being told is a change in minor opinions on particular topics – a huge percentage of the time it’s not enough to change people’s overall worldviews, but views on “sub-topics” are changing all the time. I personally believe the discussions are worthwhile – I know they help me learn. I put more weight on debates between experts and sometimes put the effort in to understand the details at that level, but even at our “layperson” level I can learn from others as far as more logical ways to think. Most of the time it is just the mention of a particular topic that spurs me to dig deeper and seek out more detail from true experts on the topic. It’s certainly not all for naught, although I understand your frustration.

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  158. Nate-
    “What are those reasons?”

    Multiple accounts. Inclusion of embarrassing details about founders. Early dating, for the time period, of the accounts. Majority of errors amongst copies considered to be “copyist errors”, and do not impact the teaching about Jesus.

    Regarding me being culturally blinded. Whether or not that is true has no bearing on whether other religions have the historical footing the NT accounts are considered to have.

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  159. We also have the advantage of reading these manuscripts and knowing first hand the discrepancies . 2000 yrs ago hardly any of them could read therefore they could espouse anything they wanted. I seriously doubted that any authors of what we now called the Bible ever in their wildest imaginations thought their writings would ever be collected into a single book to be shared by many and especially those who can read.

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  160. Ok. I’m going to back off from commenting. I don’t mind having discussions, but I don’t have to listen to people calling what I believe and think “complete bullshit”.

    If I am as wrong as William, Nate, Ark, etc think I am I can assure it is not because of lack of investigating. Maybe I’m not smart enough or whatever, but I have spent the last 15 years looking for reasons that I should NOT trust christianity. I haven’t found any convincing. But, I’m not going to continue reading and engaging in a discussion where people are allowed to completely flog others with no respect. I will respectfully bow out of discussions on this blog.

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  161. When you read about the Early Church Fathers, it is obvious from the beginning, they were “All About” turning this New Religious Concept into an Organized Power and Wealth machine. From Clement on, their message was to Obey their Bishop and that Salvation was not obtainable outside the Church.

    Just as famed Scholar Geza Vermes stated, “This historical Jesus, however, is so different from the Christ of faith that Christians, says Vermes, may well want to rethink the fundamentals of their faith.”

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  162. @Ark: While I agree with you that the gospels are very unlikely “eyewitness” accounts, by calling that belief “crap” instead of just clearly and respectfully laying out the facts for why that is incorrect you are going to turn this blog into an echo chamber which would disappoint a lot of us. I think you have the knowledge to lay out these facts without the insults. I and others could learn better that way.

    @Josh: I like hearing what you have to say, although I certainly understand if you want to back off from commenting. Please don’t!

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  163. Josh, I’m not sure how many here are trying to bash the teachings of Jesus as much as they are trying to point out how Christianity took a dramatic turn from those teachings. There are many Scholars who claim Jesus never intended to start a new religion. Paul is the one who saw an opportunity here and ran with it. And yet when you read the 13 or 14 books attributed to Paul, he quotes Jesus just 3 times. He clearly didn’t care to know the earthly life of Jesus. He also noticed early that he wasn’t going to convince many Jews and headed straight for the Gentiles. Why ? Because Jews knew Jesus didn’t fit the mold of what they believed.

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  164. @Howie.

    We are adults. It is no more disrespectful for the likes of Josh to claim the old canard ”Eyewitness” and offer zip and think he can get away with this than it is for mean to state this is crap.
    Let’s be mindful that there is plenty of evidence to refute these silly statements, and for Josh to say he has investigated (and we would hope with an open mind) is clearly not true.
    If he truly believes what he does, then he should tell me the same. I can take it, no problem.
    Let him tell my claims are bullshit. Let him SHOW me.
    Apologists teach this stuff to kids as if it is truth. They must step up to the plate and demonstrate irrefutable evidence or pipe down.
    Do you honestly believe Josh or Unklee are EVER going to change because of what an atheist says?
    No. Like you, like Nate and every other normal person they will only change if they reach a point where they grow up and think.
    This is not right…and go and find out.

    Until then, if they are going to come on an atheist blog and try and call Nate out then they must deliver.

    There are people in the States who are afraid to admit they are atheist because of the recriminations. Some of these folk have lost friends, jobs, family.
    The religious fanatics corrupt kids.
    Maybe Josh isn”t as bad as Unklee of out there fundies but it is still a slippery slope.
    Free speech. He calls god man, I say bullshit.

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  165. I agree, kc.

    The way that Paul portrayed Jesus (dying/rising god) made it much easier for the Gentiles to accept Jesus. The Jewish people were expecting a human messiah so there was no way they would accept the “spiritual” Jesus that Paul painted.

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  166. @Ark: I didn’t say that you aren’t free to say it is bullshit, but I believe that the consequence of that will be an echo chamber. If that’s the result so be it, but I’d prefer that isn’t the result.

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  167. I love blogs like this, but eventually such discussions become circular.
    One question that is not asked out loud is why would the likes of Josh, and more so unklee come and comment.
    When you read what Nate went through and maybe yourself, and then read what the likes of unklee & Josh post you HAVE to wonder why they bother?
    They are NOT asking for evidence of their faith, and they certainly won’t find it here. Lol!
    If they are looking for evidence that what they believe is false then they are not showing ANY willingness to engage in a manner that is conducive to helping them solve such a dilemma.
    No, they are here to be combative, no matter how subtle they may approach the topic.

    Josh doesn’t like bullshit and objects to crap? Good heavens! He’s been listening to it from those that inculcated him with religion since day one.
    No.What Josh doesn’t like is truth and before his bluff is finally called he is running away. They all do.

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  168. Okay,for Nate’s sake. I apologize for saying what Josh believes is crap and bullshit.
    Sorry, Nate, too.
    Maybe I was getting a bit over the top.

    My overall standpoint is this:

    If you wish to believe in a god and follow a religion fine. Just ‘please, please please, don’ t teach it to kids or others, let them follow this route when they are old enough to make an informed decision. Do this and we can all be mates, no sweat.
    Fair enough?

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  169. It doesnt work that way, Ark… at least I dont think it does.

    I dont care what people believe, but ask that sound arguments be made when possible, and that people try to avoid making things up to support their positions. And once they see that their position doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, the abandon it.

    it’s the continual making “evidence/support” up for one’s position, and the invention of reasons as to why errors and contradictions arent errors or contradictions that aid in my loss of patience and sympathy at times. And probably even more frustrating is having to even explain why such issues should be problematic, when it seems as obvious as the big blue sky.

    I’d hate for anyone to just run off and leave the discussion, but if they’re going to spout off made up claims and use or abandon logic when it suits their purposes, then maybe they’re better off not engaging in real discussions. I’ve asked several questions to the believers over many blogs posts – and most have gone unanswered – without attempt.

    But maybe Josh is frustrated in realizing his position isnt what he thought it was, and this is just an expected stage in the withdrawal process. Not trying to be cute or funny in this. the realization that your lifelong religion is fairy tale is quite a blow. Just evaluate it, consider it and come back to the table for discussion when you’re ready.

    good luck to you sir.

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  170. @William
    I agree, but I’ve been taken to task before for pulling believers up too sharply. And I have to be mindful this is Nate’s blog, not mine.

    In an age where there is nothing..and I mean NOTHING the believer is able to offer to justify their claims of religious truth it is utterly disgusting that many people in a country like the US of Eh? will openly state that atheists are unpatriotic, untrustworthy and certain prejudicial laws are still on the statute books.

    Research resources are as readily available to believers – of all faiths and religions – as they are for normal people.yet with all these resources available where is the evidence?

    If Josh is really here to question his faith then let’s hear it .

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  171. Josh, I don’t think Ark’s comment was directed at you personally, but at the assertion that the gospels are reliable history. I don’t know if that’s any consolation to you or not, but I thought it was actually a bit tame, as Ark-isms go… 😉

    Like everyone else, I hate to see you pull back, unless you just want to. That’s up to you.

    It’s never easy to hear people criticize the things you believe — I know. And I appreciate the character you’ve shown in putting up with that for the last few months that you’ve been frequenting this blog. So I hope you’ll think about sticking around.

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  172. there are so many variables involved in coming to decisions on these kinds of things.

    Howie said this in one of his recent comments, and I couldn’t agree more. There are some Youtube videos that made an impact on me early in my deconversion, and that guy compared it to “graceful degradation.” That’s the idea that a network can withstand some damage, yet still function. So if you imagine a network made up of many different intersecting points, one (or more) of those points can fail, yet the network as a whole does not go down.

    Complicated beliefs like religion seem to operate the same way. On this blog, we can criticize one aspect of Christianity in a post, and even if we succeed in striking down that aspect of Christianity (poke holes in the Bible, for instance), a Christian won’t immediately be deconverted, because their faith is actually built on a number of things: morality, the value of prayer, comfort, the complexity of the universe, etc. So even if one of those reasons for belief eventually fails, there are still other reasons for belief that maintain the network of faith. Instead, it takes a failure of multiple points before faith will finally fail. For me, it was problems with the Bible (failed prophecies, bad history, internal consistency, skewed morality, etc), the problem of evil and suffering, the hiddenness of God, the seeming ineffectiveness of prayer, etc.

    I imagine for all the deconverts that frequent this blog, the experience was very similar.

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  173. wow, seems like a very heated discussion, I have been so engulfed at work and home these last two weeks, I didn’t even realize u put up a new post nate. give me a minute while I catch up on the comments

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  174. UnkleE – “A lot depends on what we mean by “rational”. If either christian or atheist means “according to how I think”, then clearly there is little likelihood of have a constructive conversation. Studies show that analytical thinkers are more likely to be atheist, pessimistic and less social, intuitive thinkers are more likely to be theists, optimistic and social. Analytical thinking is more useful in science and problem solving, whereas intuitive thinking is more useful in life overall, in relationships and in making decisions with inadequate information.”

    I would imagine that the time a person has to consider something would dictate or at least influence which type of thinking is used – as well as relation to the topic. But that’s not really what i’m commenting on.

    Will Gervais, who is one of the researchers in the report I believe you’re citing, says that intuitive thinkers use mental shortcuts and gut feelings. While I believe most people use a combination of both analytical and intuitive thinking in their lives, I do agree with you that it is primarily intuitive thinking that gets people into religion. It can be a mental shortcut to explain complex ideas away to god.

    And when someone has to just out and out deny or pretend they don’t see a problem in the bible to believe in it, then that is the opposite of rational.

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  175. Yeah. I overreacted a bit there. I actually think I hold up okay to Ark’s comments most of the time, even if he thinks I’m a complete loon for believing what I do. Should’ve taken a breath before posting that comment.

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  176. Nah. Just a hot-headed moment. Certainly wasn’t my first. Unfortunately, probably not my last.

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  177. I thought this particular blog was to get a better understanding of the tenants of Christianity from a more liberal view point than the ultra conservative one Nate was familiar with? Sad to see it has looped into some of the same arguments I’ve seen here for a year or so.

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  178. Hi William, I don’t see it as my responsibility to argue against what you believe, but when you misrepresent what I believe, I feel I would like to put the record straight.

    you both seem to pick and choose what parts of the bible you like (as most believers do). Picking and choosing when to apply logic and when to say that god doesnt havent to abide by logic.”

    Are you familiar with that old game when the same action is described in different words when applied to oneself and to others? For example: “I am a brilliant conversationalist, you talk to much, she is a gossip!”

    I think you are guilty of the same thing here. See if you can spot it.

    I apportion my belief to the evidence, you pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe.

    So, would you rather we blindly followed some predetermined dogma, or followed where we believe the evidence leads?

    Picking and choosing scholars. picking and choosing when a scholar’s opinion overrules what the bible says for itself and vise versa.

    And here we get another type of distortion. I have discussed New Testament history with quite a few people here. I have read, and am able to quote, some of the major scholars in the field, scholars who on others’ admission represent the broad consensus or middle ground. I can demonstrate the validity of these statements. And rather than “pick and choose” scholars, I have modified my beliefs where required to fit what the scholars have concluded/

    But some of the sceptics here and elsewhere don’t wish to accept what the best experts say, so they misrepresent their views, denigrate them, accuse them of being biased, and without shame choose to follow non-scholars and fringe scholars presenting views that the consensus of scholarship has shown to be mistaken. And when I continue to present the consensus people say they don’t want to discuss any more, accuse me of being condescending or worse. All this from people who will assure you on other occasions that they are rational evidence-based people.

    Again, this reflects very badly on the claimed rationalism of atheism and scepticism, and repeating the distortion hinders understanding and pleasant discussion. So, what approach are you going to adopt?

    detailed historical accounts? where? do you mean the bible’s accounts of itself?

    multiple eyewitness accounts? do you mean where one writer claimed there were 500 nameless witnesses? it’s all unsubstantiated claims. claims made by dudes you never met and never knew. claims for the bible, by the bible.”

    Here, whether knowingly or unknowingly, you ask questions which the scholars have already answered, and in a way opposite to the implications of your statements. (Of course they don’t agree about the details, but in broad terms they agree.)

    So I want to offer you a challenge. Can you please offer the evidence for the scepticism you display here? Such evidence can be of two kinds, I suggest, either (1) the views of a number of leading scholars together with an indication of why they are considered leading scholars and how we can know their view is generally shared, or (2) an evidence-based argument as to why the leading scholars are wrong on this occasion and you are right.

    William, you and I have had our disagreements, but we have always treated each other fairly. Here I believe you have been unfair and inaccurate. What do you say?

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  179. Complicated beliefs like religion seem to operate the same way. On this blog, we can criticize one aspect of Christianity in a post, and even if we succeed in striking down that aspect of Christianity (poke holes in the Bible, for instance), a Christian won’t immediately be deconverted, because their faith is actually built on a number of things: morality, the value of prayer, comfort, the complexity of the universe, etc. So even if one of those reasons for belief eventually fails, there are still other reasons for belief that maintain the network of faith. Instead, it takes a failure of multiple points before faith will finally fail.”

    This sounds right to me Nate, but have you noticed:

    1. It says nothing about the truth of christian belief (i.e. first you’ve got to show that our reasons to believe aren’t true).

    In fact it probably adds a little to the evidence for its truth. Philosophers have developed different views of how we build up a body of knowledge. One is Foundationalism, where we build the truth of a proposition on the foundation of more basic truths. It’s what we all normally do, but it has one glaring weakness – if you ask where the basic foundational truths come from, it is hard philosophically to find anything. In the end, we must start with some assumptions or basic beliefs for which we have no proof.

    Another way of knowing truth is Coherentism, where each truth depends not an a more basic or foundational truth, but on the whole set of beliefs forming a coherent system. You are effectively pointing out that christian belief may well satisfy this criterion.

    2. Your statement can equally well be applied to atheism. After all, we are all human.

    None of that proves very much, but I just thought I would point it out. 🙂

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  180. One thing that is missing in all such discussions is good old fashioned common sense.
    Have you noticed?
    Like how come no early writer ever mentions Christians going to Calvary to pay their respects until after that lying sack of S*** discovered the tomb?
    They were scared. For 350 years?
    Right…go read Acts..

    Therefore to justify a belief such as Christianity proponents will go to unbelievable lengths (literally in some cases ) to explain this dogma based faith.
    The ordinary questions are skipped over.
    Why did no contemporary writer mention Jesus. Not One.
    The usual answer; because he was insignificant. etc etc.
    Really? I always thought he was touted as god and strode the earth performing miracles.
    Even Paul is oddly silent on this issue.
    Oh, the early Christians already knew this stuff.
    Really? They all knew this stuff. These Christians spread out across the whole damn empire knew ALL about the miracle working god man? They weren’t even curious about any of this stuff?

    Lol…only an absolute inculcated moron would buy this rubbish.
    And unfortunately, they do. Don’t they?

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  181. ”So I want to offer you a challenge. Can you please offer the evidence for the skepticism you display here? Such evidence can be of two kinds, I suggest, either
    (1) the views of a number of leading scholars together with an indication of why they are considered leading scholars and how we can know their view is generally shared,”

    How many scholars will you accept before you reconsider you standpoint?
    Please be specific. One , two or a higher percentage than the current consensus?
    What qualifications will satisfy your criteria for ”scholar”
    More degrees?

    ”or (2) an evidence-based argument as to why the leading scholars are wrong on this occasion and you are right.”

    WHAT evidence do your experts have? They, like ALL scholars, only have the bible to work with.
    And the total silence that echoes through history from all non biblical or non christian sources.

    Why do you refer to Ehrman and then dismiss him when it comes to the resurrection and the divinity?

    Herzog and Finkelstein are experts and you don’t accede to their expert findings concerning the Exodus and Moses, do you?
    You don’t agree with Kenyon and her findings.
    And you have stated there findings have no bearing on your faith. No bearing on Yashu’a.

    Yes, quite. Marcion said the same thing…and the church made him a heretic.

    People should be made aware of what you are, Unklee and that is simply a hypocrite of the most basest kind.

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  182. ”I actually think I hold up okay to Ark’s comments most of the time, even if he thinks I’m a complete loon for believing what I do.”

    Of course I believe you are a complete loon. So what?

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  183. @ Wiilliam.
    Here you go. Something you can discuss with unklee when it comes to ‘experts’

    Arthur Droge, professor of early Christianity at UCSD, and Kurt Noll, associate professor of religion at Brandon University, are both on record as historicity agnostics. That’s two.
    [See: A.J. Droge, “Jesus and Ned Lud[d]: What’s in a Name?” CAESAR: A Journal for the Critical Study of Religion and Human Values 3.1 [2009]: 23-25; Kurt Noll, “Investigating Earliest Christianity without Jesus,” “Is this not the Carpenter?” The Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus, ed. Thomas Thompson and Thomas Verenna [2012]: 233-66.]
    And if we discard the irrelevant criteria of “currently employed at a university” and “has exactly the specific degree I want” as dirty dodges (which allow Ehrman to pretend retired professors of considerable renown don’t count, as well as other fully qualified experts) then we must add four more:
    Thomas Thompson, professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen (now emeritus) [The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David (2005)] and Thomas Brodie, director of the Dominican Biblical Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland (now emeritus) [Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: A Memoir of a Discovery (2012)] and Robert Price (who has two Ph.D.’s from Drew University, in theology and New Testament studies) and myself (with a Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University, and whose book On the Historicity of Jesus defending basic Jesus mythicism will soon be published by a major peer reviewed academic press [news I’ll be blogging shortly]).
    That’s six qualified experts and two peer reviewed books by a major biblical studies press.

    Maybe these aren’t the type of experts unklee was thinking of?

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4096

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  184. For those who love to beat their chest over scientific processes that god helmet doesn’t stand up at all. Just a quick 5 mins worth of googling turned up way more doubts than claims to validity.

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  185. @Matt
    Not beating my chest. I thought it was an interesting video and decided to share it. Though I have been guilty of it myself, I am trying not to use Google as a “Scorekeeper to the Truth” There are always going to be cases where 1 view if diligent enough can find more sources to support their view than an apposing one. Might does not always make right. I think the various Christian Inquisitions proved this.

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  186. @Matt I suppose you are referring to this comment from the wikipedia page, “The only attempt at replication published in the scientific literature reported a failure to reproduce Persinger’s effects and the authors proposed that the suggestibility of participants, improper blinding of participants or idiosyncratic methodology could explain Persinger’s results.”

    “suggestibility of participants, improper blinding of participants or idiosyncratic methodology”

    My goodness ! Most religions would surely be guilty of this as well !

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  187. UnkleE, I dont mean to be unfair, but can allow that at times I probably am. I do not think that I was inaccurate though.

    I do think I have not clearly posited my own position perhaps, and without a lengthy reply will try to clarify things, at least a bit.

    I’m not too concerned with scholars. I’ve read some, but havent taken notes and dont care to get into a debate on what the “leading scholars” say or think about the bible. I’m not saying it’s pointless – not at all – I’ve already said that I read some of what they have to say as well.

    Instead of placing so much on the scholars, i try to look at what the bible says for itself. And this is why I say you pick and choose; and let me offer just one example. The OT. You can toss out anything you dont like in the OT because you say you follow the NT not the OT. That’s picking and choosing.

    And I’m not trying to be rude or condescending about it, although i may be guilty of being blunt. The NT has even jesus citing the OT. Numerous other NT passages say the OT should be followed or at least read, understood and considered to come to christ. to then say that the OT problems dont exist for you because you only follow the NT just doesnt make sense to me.

    a scholar could tell me the sky is purple with black polka dots, but i wouldnt believe him because I can plainly see it’s blue.

    I can read just as well as the scholars can. Sure, many may have a more thorough education in the given subject matter, but if their commentary is opposite to what I read, then i dont take it. And If I were to accept the scholars when they say that the bible means something other than what it says for itself, that brings on the question “why couldnt god ensure his word was easier for the lay person to understand?”

    and I dont quite follow your request for me to offer evidence of my skepticism. usually one is skeptical due to lack of evidence (evidence in support of the bible’s divine claims.) and circumstantial, wishy washy, or even made up “evidence” people give for the bible just doesnt do it for me – and I bet wouldnt do it for you if it came down to any other religion.

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  188. I dont mean to be unfair, but can allow that at times I probably am. I do not think that I was inaccurate though. ….. And I’m not trying to be rude or condescending about it, although i may be guilty of being blunt.”

    HI William. I didn’t think you were rude, or anything like that – you are always courteous. I just felt you (1) misunderstood and misrepresented what many christians think, and (2) you made statements that didn’t reflect the best evidence. I thought both were worth challenging.

    I’m not too concerned with scholars. ….. Instead of placing so much on the scholars, i try to look at what the bible says for itself.”

    This sounds fine, but I suggest it is inadequate for two reasons:

    1. If you just “look at what the bible says for itself”, you find that it tells some stories by people who claim to have been around at the time or talked to those who were. To question that claim, which is a quite reasonable thing to do, we need to make an assessment – a rational and critical activity that requires us to understand the culture, language, literature and history of the time. Most of us don’t have the knowledge to do that. If we are going to be rational and evidence-based, we will find out this information from those who do know.

    But it is evident that many christians and many atheists and sceptics do not do this. Instead they either come to conclusions out of their own extremely limited knowledge, or they find someone with more learning than them but who has the same preconceived opinions.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if someone argues about facts and evidence on the internet without getting the best information, their comments are poorly based.

    2. But the comments I questioned you about were not just based on reading the Bible, but were comments about historical evidence: “detailed historical accounts …. multiple eyewitness accounts” Clearly the New Testament claims to have multiple historical eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. To discuss whether this is historically true or not requires considerable historical knowledge – which you seem not to find as important as I do.

    So I can only say again, I find it ironic that so many sceptics, on this blog and elsewhere on the internet, criticise christians for believing contrary to the evidence, and then do exactly the same, while I as a christian do a lot of reading to understand the evidence.

    But I think I have said that enough now on this blog, and it is time to move on. You are not interested (apparently) in defending those statements, and I am not interested in beating my head against a brick wall. Let us quit this discussion as friends rather than anything else. Thank you for your continued courtesy, and best wishes.

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  189. unkleE, it seems as though you tend to ignore Ark here on this blog and that is a matter for another time. I did read the article he provided a link to and found it to be disturbing when it comes to the Scholars you might use to suppose your position. If there is any truth to this article about Christian Scholars signing a “Purpose Statement” with their employer namely a University, would that not trouble you ? In case you haven’t read the article here is the link.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/07/can-christian-scholars-be-objective-2/#comments

    I showed this article to another Christian Apologist and he didn’t seem to find anything wrong with this. He said there are plenty of liberal institutions where liberal scholars can go . If they are going to affiliate themselves with a truly Christian University , they should act like it.

    I would sincerely be interested in your comments.

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  190. Hi kcchief1, I was planning to sort of disappear into the sunset on this discussion, but I will have a go at answering your question, which I think is a fair one.

    I have always said there is a range of scholars, in their assumptions, their prior beliefs and the methods they use. So there are scholars who work for christian universities, sign doctrinal statements and work from a christian apologetic viewpoint. This obviously may inhibit what they can say – but not always to the same degree. I have blogged about some scholars who have fallen foul of their college’s doctrinal statements, but there are others who do not appear to be under any threat (i.e. adherence to the statement is not rigorously enforced).

    Where I know it, I do not generally quote from these scholars, except if I am trying to compile a large list.

    But there are also scholars at the other end of the spectrum. They may not have a formal sceptical statement to sign, but they nevertheless come from that constituency. We can call them “sceptical apologists” and they bring their prejudices to the discussion just as surely as the christian apologists do. I have read some of these but I generally don’t quote them either.

    Also at this end of the spectrum are non-scholars – people with an axe to grind but lacking formal qualifications in the field, not working at a respected university or publishing in peer-reviewed journals, the normal criteria to be a respected scholar in academia.

    So what’s an open-minded person to do? The answer is quite clear. We find the scholars that do have good formal qualifications, who do work in respected universities and publish in peer-reviewed journals, and thus are respected by their peers. These aren’t hard to find, though people will always have preferences.

    These are the scholars I quote from most of the time. And to be even more fair-minded, I make sure I quote from scholars from different beliefs (though this shouldn’t make a difference in academic study, it clearly must to some degree). So you find I quote from people like Wright, Evans & Bauckham (christian), Vermes (Jewish), Sanders (agnostic) and Grant, Casey and Ehrman (atheist). Of course there are many other scholars who are well-recognised experts, but I just don’t happen to have bought books by them or have found them in my local library or on the internet.

    Now here’s the crunch. I bend over backwards to find out how to be fair and to be even-handed. But the list Ark has given does not do this. One of his 6 “scholars” is not yet fully qualified, 3 are Old Testament scholars, not NT (and he was discussing history and Jesus), so only two are NT scholars. Neither of these is well respected by their peers any more, one is retired and one works at a very doubtful university (I wouldn’t mention this except your question mentioned the quality of the university). So out of the 6, at most 2 meet the requirements of being an expert scholar, and neither of these pass the tests of being even handed and respected by their peers. These facts make it clear how weak his argument is. In contrast, I could give scores of respected scholars to support what I say.

    You don’t have to believe what I say here – an hour’s Googling will demonstrate the truth of what I say. I can give you references, but I think it better that you find out for yourself.

    In the field of evolutionary biology there are qualified scholars who oppose evolution, but we don’t take much notice of them in favour of the vast majority. Likewise in global warming we follow the vast majority, not the minority of warming sceptics. I cannot see why we wouldn’t do the same in NT history.

    This doesn’t mean we all have to be christians. As I pointed out, not all the scholars are. It is quite possible to be an atheist, or a deist, and accept the consensus of scholarship. Obviously I think the evidence is best explained by Jesus being divine, but you don’t have to conclude that. But while sceptics refuse to face the evidence, it makes it look like they are afraid of the evidence.

    I hope that answers your question. Best wishes.

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  191. unkleE, thank you for taking the time to share your views. BTW you keep referring to Vermes as a Jew and he was truly Jewish by race. He was however a practicing Catholic Christian and Priest for a while. How do you explain his views of the NT and of Jesus ? He certainly felt Jesus was a Jewish Holy Man but not divine. He also felt Jesus was a man of the Jews and had nothing to do with Gentiles. Any references to Jesus and Gentiles in the NT were edited by the NT Authors according to Vermes. Vermes claims that Christianity was so far removed from Jesus’ teachings that Christians need to rethink the fundamentals of their faith. How does one of the most respected Scholars of all times come to these conclusions ?

    I have read several books by James D.G. Dunn who i think you would agree is also a well respected scholar. He too questions the birth stories of Jesus as being historical.

    I have also read works by Raymond E Brown which he is also a noted and well respected NT Scholar . He too questions stories in the NT as being historical.

    As I told Matt here in an earlier post, I have been guilty of but try not to use Google as a Scorekeeper to the Truth. Like you , I read a lot of books from Scholars who are as noted and respected as yours and yet they seem to raise serious questions regarding some of the NT.

    I didn’t decide to read works by Vermes, Dunn, or Brown because I had a preconceived notion. I didn’t even know who they were until I started reading their books.

    You told William earlier , “1. If you just “look at what the bible says for itself”, you find that it tells some stories by people who claim to have been around at the time or talked to those who were. To question that claim, which is a quite reasonable thing to do, we need to make an assessment – a rational and critical activity that requires us to understand the culture, language, literature and history of the time. Most of us don’t have the knowledge to do that. If we are going to be rational and evidence-based, we will find out this information from those who do know.”

    I think I have provided 3 people who would know as much about the NT as anyone else and yet they have questions about its historicity.

    We don’t know their minds any more than we know the minds of the scholars you like to quote.

    The point I’m trying to make is the NT is full of questions. I don’t care about best evidence because even though my sources number just 3 , I feel their evidence weighs as much as all those who see the NT differently. My point is even the best scholars in the world have questions just like William, Ark, Nate, me and a lot of people who claim to be Christians.

    Jesus as a human holy man. I have no argument either way. He either existed or a culmination of stories used to create him existed. Divine is another problem. You surely can’t fault us for not believing when his own race for the most part has never considered him divine for 2,000 years.

    In closing Raymond E Brown said, “God has not revealed to human beings details about how the world began or how it will end, and failing to recognize that, one is likely to misread the first book and the last book in the Bible.

    Thanks for your time

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  192. Hi Ken, I think everything you say agrees with what I have been saying.

    1. Yes, Vermes grew up IN central Europe as catholic family, but I understand he reverted to Judaism when he came to UK, and self-identified as a Jew.

    2. Yes the scholars all disagree over many things, but what I have consistently claimed is that the vast bulk of scholars conclude that Jesus did indeed exist as a historical person, and that the gospels tell us useful historical information about him. They differ as to how much of the gospels are reliable history, and most believe the birth stories are at most embellished and likely legendary or non-literal. But most would endorse at least a minimal list of facts as outlined by Sanders – see the quote at the end of this page, and many argue for much more (e.g. Wright, Casey, Grant).

    3. Yes, Vermes, Dunn and Brown are respected scholars (“were” in two cases).

    4. “Vermes claims that Christianity was so far removed from Jesus’ teachings that Christians need to rethink the fundamentals of their faith.” Yes, he made this claim. Many agree with him, many do not. He would probably be towards the sceptical end of that question. But we have not been talking about early christian belief, but Jesus and whether the gospels tell us about him.

    5. “yet they have questions about its historicity” They all have questions, that is what historical analysis is all about. The question isn’t whether the NT is inerrant and we need have no doubts about it, but whether it contains useful historical information, which they all agree that it does. Having questions is very different to rejecting their conclusions.

    6. “You surely can’t fault us for not believing when his own race for the most part has never considered him divine for 2,000 years.” I have never faulted anyone for not believing he was divine. That isn’t the question we are discussing. The question is whether he existed and we can know historical information about him, and the scholars almost unanimously agree that we can. I have “faulted” people for not accepting that as a basis for further discussion.

    7. The key is for you to consider the claims that I am making. I am not a fundamentalist nor an inerrantist. But I think you are responding as if I am. I have made fairly modest historical claims, based on the scholars. If you and others could agree on that, then we could have a discussion on what we may conclude from that. The problem is that we haven’t been able to get even that far, which in the makes further discussion a bit pointless.

    So that’s why I think it best to fade out a bit. But I appreciate your questions and hope you can feel clear about what I and the scholars are saying, and not saying. Best wishes.

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  193. Thanks uncleE,

    In your last reply you said,” The key is for you to consider the claims that I am making. I am not a fundamentalist nor an inerrantist. But I think you are responding as if I am. I have made fairly modest historical claims, based on the scholars. ”

    You did say earlier,”It is quite possible to be an atheist, or a deist, and accept the consensus of scholarship. Obviously I think the evidence is best explained by Jesus being divine”

    I don’t consider this as you put it a “Modest claim”

    The best to you !

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  194. My historical claims have been modest – I clearly qualified that statement. You have not addressed what I actually said. I have consistently said that only after we agree on the history can we discuss beliefs. But I think we are heading towards another of those times when I get you offside, so let’s stop here shall we? Best wishes.

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  195. The criteria unklee uses for scholarly acceptance includes being peer reviewed.
    Well, to put certain matters in perspective, the archaeology report on the ‘Nazareth Farm,’ was never peer reviewed and the site of the supposed house claimed to be from the time of ‘Jesus’ was covered up and built upon.
    This, though, was considered evidence enough for unklee to jump on the bandwagon and state the ‘experts’ were right.
    On his post Nazareth revisited, this view was challenged by a chap called Bernard and after endless to-ing and fro-ing unklee stuck to his guns and refused to acknowledge that his claims re Nazareth were not based on ‘peer review’ evidence and, it was quite obvious, in fact, that there was NO evidence to suggest that Nazareth existed at the time of ‘Jesus’.
    There is a LOT of money tied up in tourism though. Now THAT is a good enough incentive to blur the lines a bit, wouldn;t you say?

    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/belief/nazareth-re-visited/

    This is what is colloquially called, having your ass handed to you,and anyone with a shred of integrity would acknowledge this and move on.

    Richard Carrier has enough degrees to be considered an expert and is peer reviewed. he considers the biblical Jesus likely did not exist. There are others.
    Considering Carrier’s academic qualifications, I would side with him any day of the week.
    Unklee would rather not bother..

    The most heartening aspect of the whole debacle is that genuine scholars move forward all the time in search of the truth concerning such matters.
    Those who staunchly defend the bible and its weird and not so wonderful tales are continuously forced to re evaluate its text to make it fit their culturally inculcated beliefs.
    As William remarked, he doesn’t need an expert to tell him when the bible is a crock.
    Neither do I. Nor should anyone.
    I KNOW a donkey cannot talk and a human cannot walk on water.

    Archaeologists of the likes of Finkelstein and Herzog have, through tirelessly striving to uncover the truth, demonstrated beyond doubt that much of the Old Testament is nothing but fiction.
    Allbright failed to demonstrate the veracity of biblical archaeology. And that was what he set out to do. Even his students came to recognise he was unable to fit the facts with the fiction.
    The Christian and Muslim response is usually flat denial or that Moses and the Exodus and other Patriarch have no bearing on their faith.
    I ask you, in all honesty, how ridiculous is this attitude?

    When people are prepared to admit to all the shenanigans of the early church,the likely truth is there was nothing that Jesus taught, simply because the biblical Jesus is almost certain to have been a narrative construct which, with a divinely inspired book in hand, became the perfect vehicle for the Roman empire to do with myth what it failed to do with the sword – namely conquer the globe.
    All things considered I believe they did a pretty good job, don’t you?

    Once upon a time……

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  196. UnkleE, I get you in part. What historical evidences are you referring to exactly, though? If you’re referring to names of places, and names of a few people that are backed up by history, then okay, fine. I can accept that. Just as I can accept that Homer also falls into that category.

    But I haven’t found sufficient evidence to back up the miraculous claims, or the divine claims. I havent seen anything in secular documentation to adequately explain why literal and blatant contradictions exist in the bible.

    These are the things I am referring to. And that is why I do not place too much emphasis on scholars, although I do seek them out on occasion. They can only speculate so much – as can we. At some point it all boils down to what is factually there.

    The fact that secular history seems to support a historical figure named jesus is not the same as supporting the biblical claims of his divine origins – no more than the discovery of Troy supports Homer’s claims of Achilles’ divine aid in his bout with Hector.

    I can get taking portions of this book or that book and tossing other out. I do it all the time. If I find one part of a story to be profoundly wise or meaningful, i tend to hang on to it even if the rest of the story is rubbish. I do this with the bible as well, now. Yet, I cannot hold any of those books or stories as divine.

    And I do not get selective adherence when it comes to the bible as a religious guide from the divine. “This part is divinely inspired, but this part isn’t” is too flimsy. It already admits that at least some of the bible is flawed and of human origins, which opens the doors to the rest of it. Maybe you’re wrong in tossing out the genocidal parts of the OT, maybe it’s the NT parts that are the flawed works of man? How could you know?

    It’s just a book. The book even claims to be written by man. And many of this book’s internal problems could have been easily, easily avoided, and written in such away as to negate any discussion on internal consistency, or the lack thereof.

    But you’re aware of this.

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  197. One question I would ask, and anyone may answer it if they are able:
    There were many ‘gospels’ in circulation during the first and second century and only when Marcion appeared on the scene did the Church feel the urgency to formulate a distinctive canon.
    Now these other gospels were known as pseudepigrapha.

    As we know the gospels in the bible were not written by eyewitnesses, not written by the anyone who’s name can be attributed to those attached to the gospels, then how did the church arrive at the conclusion that the gospels to be included in the canon were NOT
    also pseudepigrapha?

    When you consider the litany of ridiculous and blatantly false claims within the text, why would anyone able to read and savvy enough to reason even consider that these spurious texts were anything but nonsense?

    So how did the church fathers go about selecting these particular texts and pronounce them ‘genuine’?

    Any takers?

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  198. Ark, since there are those today who feel our current scholars have a better understanding of what actually happened the first half of the 1st century, why not let them form a Council and decide today what manuscripts should be used in the 21st century Bible ? Oh, they wouldn’t be able to do this because the earlier councils destroyed any competing documents they could find……..

    I find it troubling when any religion who feels threatened by competing thought also feels the need to destroy the same. When I was in Egypt I saw numerous ancient reliefs at temples where the images of the Pharaoh’s and their Gods were defaced by later Christian missionaries in order to eliminate the competition.

    I would think if there really was one true religion, the masses would be able to understand it and would flock to it willingly. There shouldn’t be any need for coercion of any kind. Just my opinion.

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  199. Ark, according to research I did for my book, in the third century, a group of early church fathers set out to “canonize” the NT. They used the following criteria: was it written by an apostle, was it written in the first century, did it teach apostolic faith, did the writer claim inspiration. They rejected/ignored most intertestamental/pseudepigrapha writings.

    Of course, since they had no original manuscripts to work from, there was no way of proving any of their criteria. It was all based on the opinion of these human agents. Nevertheless, based on what they had, they developed a “canonized” version of the NT.

    (Of course, I’m sure you know all this.)

    What’s interesting is that over the years, additional councils were formed and further discussions and debates were held. Some writings from the third century group were found to be heretical by later reviewers and were removed from the canon. Others were added. In fact, even today, bible scholars question whether certain books in the current bible are sacred text.

    And of course, we all know that the Catholic Church (and some Eastern churches) include books that are rejected by Protestants.

    So how can anyone depend on the bible to “prove” their beliefs when one considers its history? Not to mention its hodgepodge contents.

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  200. @ Nan.
    Yes, Nan, of course I knew all this and I must confess I was being a tad facetious…guilty a charged 🙂
    IO believe it took almost four hundred years to arrive at an ‘official’ canon; even Luther must have thrown up his hands at some point and said ,”Oh what the hell, have it your way.”
    There were numerous changes, including removing all (supposed) allusions to a homosexual Jesus.
    Why anyone should care so much about a fictitious character is beyond me.
    Perhaps they began t believe their own PR machine?

    Nobody not even the erudite and consensus minded unklee,can use the bible to prove the bible (their beliefs). It is one of the most irritating ( and ridiculous) aspects of the christian argument, and I am glad someone else pointed it out.Thank you.

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  201. @kcchief

    ”There shouldn’t be any need for coercion of any kind. Just my opinion.”

    You mean like telling your kids baby Jesus wasn’t born in a manger and stuff?

    Ah the nativity of youth…lol.
    Blessing: Spirits, Sanctions and Dominoes….or whatever the Pope says.

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  202. @Ark

    I was equally upset when I was told there was no Santa Claus. 🙂

    There is however much historical evidence for St Nicholas

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  203. But I haven’t found sufficient evidence to back up the miraculous claims, or the divine claims. ….. The fact that secular history seems to support a historical figure named jesus is not the same as supporting the biblical claims of his divine origins”

    Hi William, I feel like I have answered this before, and I don’t want to keep going over old ground. We need to distinguish between historical “facts” and what people believe.

    I have been talking about historical facts – what secular historians conclude. They approach the Gospels like they would any other ancient documents, they don’t (generally) think in terms of “Word of God”, “inerrant” or “inspired”. They apply their methods of historical analysis (whether events and sayings are multiply attested, by other gospels or other writers; whether events ring true culturally and historically; whether there is reason to think the author would have made something up, or certainly wouldn’t have; etc).

    From this they come to conclusions – certain sayings and events almost certainly occurred, some probably didn’t, some are uncertain. And they end up with conclusions that I have outlined many times – Jesus did exist, the gospels tell us useful historical information about him, and give us a reasonably reliable outline of his life. This can be seen as a lowest common denominator of things that people of all viewpoints (christian, atheist, Jew, etc) can accept.

    Note that this doesn’t necessarily include belief in miracles (most scholars agree that Jesus was known as a healer and exorcist, some don’t make judgments on the reality of that, some believe he was a “natural healer” and some believe he worked genuine miracles); belief in his divinity (again some do believe that, some don’t, but the real discussion is generally about what he believed about himself).

    So that is the historical study I have been talking about.

    Each of us then makes choices about what we believe about those findings. Some of those here don’t want to accept the findings of the experts, and that seems an anti-evidence view to me. But most people accept the expert’s conclusions and on that basis decide what they believe (as no doubt the experts do also). One person decides that they don’t believe Jesus was divine or worth following, another person decides he is.

    Thus a christian such as me basis my belief on the findings of the scholars and then my own conclusions building on those findings – call that faith if you like. And the matters you raise (inspiration, divinity, etc) are all matters of faith, based on the historical evidence.

    Does that make it clearer? I hope so.

    BTW, I don’t think many christians think “This part is divinely inspired, but this part isn’t” and I certainly don’t. You misunderstand what I, and many others, think about inspiration. We say a painting or film is inspired without meaning it is perfect, just that something good gave impetus to it. It is similar here. I believe God inspired the whole Bible, but it was written by human authors. That means it isn’t necessarily perfect, and it doesn’t all necessarily speak into our situation today, but Gods was nevertheless giving impetus and inspiration to the writers. So I don’t throw any parts of it out, I simply accept that it contains many different genres (history, poetry, letters, prophecy, proverbs, songs, legends or folk tales, etc).

    I think the problem for you and others here is that either (1) you have mixed with fundamentalist christians and don’t remind yourselves that there are many non-fundamentalist christians, and/or (2) you read too many sceptical websites that like to use the worst examples of christianity they can. But productive discussion requires considering the beliefs of the person we are discussing with, and using the best examples of our opponents, not the worst.

    So I’m sorry to go on so long, but I hope you are clearer now. Thanks, and best wishes.

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  204. For the record, I don’t think William ever said that Jesus was completely mythological. I think his entire point centered around not seeing enough evidence to believe the divinity claims, not whether or not Jesus was a real person.

    I think the problem for you and others here is that either (1) you have mixed with fundamentalist christians and don’t remind yourselves that there are many non-fundamentalist christians, and/or (2) you read too many sceptical websites that like to use the worst examples of christianity they can. But productive discussion requires considering the beliefs of the person we are discussing with, and using the best examples of our opponents, not the worst.

    I think this is where you sometimes come off a bit condescending. I don’t think William really misunderstood anything you were saying. It’s true that people like William and myself have mostly mixed with fundamentalist Christians, so that’s the reference we’ll most come back to. But it sometimes seems as though you think we should view your version of Christianity as true Christianity — and while it’s understandable that you would view it that way, there’s not much reason for us to.

    Finally, a point about inspiration. If, when you use “inspired,” you are referring to it in the same way that an artist is inspired when he paints, then the writers of the Bible weren’t really inspired by God at all — they were inspired by their faith in their god. There’s a big difference there. It’s the same kind of inspiration that Muslims have when they write about Islam, or the inspiration Christians have when they write about Christianity today. It’s not actually being beamed down directly from God. That’s why guys like me and William (and if I can speak for the others on this blog) have such trouble seeing the Bible as anything more than man-made fan fiction.

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  205. @Unklee.
    RFLMAO
    Oh my goodness.
    I think you left your common sense at the door. All that about fundamentalists and non fundamentalists,
    Nate was a FUNDAMENTALIST and so were many visitors to this blog, you nitwit.
    There is NOTHING you can tell a former christian that visits this site about anything pertaining to this nonsensical faith as they have studied it inside and out – that is why they are no longer christians.

    You think your siding with the supposed consensus of scholars regarding the historicity of Jesus
    improves your position one iota?
    Oh, what a silly man.
    Furthermore, as more and more evidence is uncovered and examined that precious consensus you cling to diminishes all the time.
    You think that someone like William is unable to discern for himself the truth concerning historicity?

    Your need to rely on consensus has demonstrated over time your lack of independent thought on this matter.

    And what on earth is the proper form of Christianity?
    You think you exemplify a christian of this ilk?
    There are tens of thousands that will disagree. And lets’ not forget the millions of people in Asia that would think you are off your rocker for holding such beliefs.

    And the hilarious thing, the truly apoplectic part of your whole nonsense belief is the Jews are going to be the final undoing of it.

    Silly Person.

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  206. Let’s go back to the Original Topic Nate posed for us, “What did Jesus teach”

    I feel the most important thing Jesus said to his disciples and followers didn’t happen.

    “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23)

    “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.“ (Matthew 16: 27, 28)

    He didn’t proclaim this just once, but several times. And his disciples proclaimed it even more.

    Some of his teachings make no sense unless you realize He truly believed He lived in the “End Times” and his followers believed it too !

    Matt 6:25-26 “…Do not be worried about the food and drink you need to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds flying around: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest, and put it in barns; your Father in heaven takes care of them!”

    2000 years later the Urgency has worn off and Organized Christianity is still trying to re-sell the story . People do worry about food, drink, and clothes because there is compelling evidence they are going to live to be old. And there is compelling evidence that Jesus’ prediction was wrong. CS Lewis knew Jesus was wrong and there are many scholars who know it too.

    I feel the reason there is so much confusion when it comes to the Christian Religion today is this. We aren’t suppose to be here ! There wasn’t suppose to be a New Testament ! There isn’t suppose to be a 2000 yr old religion with its Councils, Inquisitions, etc. Jesus was coming back sometime in the 1st Century and it didn’t happen !

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  207. Excellent points, kc! And thanks for the links, Ark.

    Personally, I get nervous about anyone that claims to know much of anything about Jesus. We have 4 gospels that were written decades after his death. We know that these stories began as oral traditions. Are some of them based in fact? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say for sure, and there are experts that come down on every conceivable side of it. I find that to be a very shaky basis for faith, especially considering the quality of the Bible. I know it must seem tedious that some of us keep going back to the Bible, but it is the source of all this. And it’s a mess.

    That said, I do believe everyone that comments here is sincere. Some of us have trouble seeing why UnkleE and Josh believe Christianity is true, and they have trouble understanding why we don’t. But there are a lot of things that go into forming a world view, and it’s possible that none of us has reached true objectivity about any of this. It’s complicated stuff (and it makes me wonder why a god would expect any of us to figure it out in the first place).

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  208. Nate-
    Good summary. I can get behind pretty much all of that. Your last point, in parenthesis, is a question I often ask as well. I think it’s very tied to the idea of suffering, too. Why would God allow us to suffer, and why would God not make everything crystal clear to everyone? Both of those questions clearly leave us desperate for answers. I don’t know the answer to them. What I do know is that, when I look to the cross, I see God taking on our suffering in order to reconcile us to himself through Jesus. Maybe that’s not enough for some, and I’m aware that’s the case. If that is actually what happened on Calvary, then the arguments that he doesn’t care, doesn’t love us, is unmoved by our suffering, etc go by the wayside, for me. I’d ask God to take away the hate and suffering in this world, he’s promised to do so. I’d ask him to forgive all that I’ve done wrong, he’s done so. I’d ask him to accept me, and others, though we fall short and do not understand, he does. I’m ok with not having all the answers and explanations for God’s actions. I know some aren’t. I do believe that all will, as Paul wrote, be swallowed up in victory. There are a lot of “pieces” that fit together to form that hope, and not all are rational or logical. That’s ok with me. That’s unacceptable to some, and I know that – we should come to all our beliefs and conclusions based on evidence, logic, reason, and sound, objective assessment. I just don’t buy that’s all there is – that’s one of my main differences with some here. Anyway, just thought I’d throw in my last two cents on this thread.

    Thanks for the summary, Nate.

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  209. @Josh
    You see, that reply is loaded with the language of one who has been inculcated.
    One that has been brought up on dogma. It really is so distressing.

    If you would have no fear investigating an historical figure such as Julius Caesar then use the same fearless approach and investigate the bible and Jesus.
    Study as if this was the very first time you had ever encountered the bible.
    If you can handle a serious jolt to your sensibilities, then pop over and read a few pages on this site.

    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nailing.html

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  210. @Uncle E: I know you are currently riding off into the sunset, but I’d like to add a few things too.

    First, I have very strong doubts about the Jesus mythicist hypothesis (and detailing why would make my comment too long), although I definitely don’t believe doubting it is on par with Holocaust deniers as some would like us to believe. I would also say there is a difference between stating that you know Jesus didn’t exist (close to Ark) versus stating that it may be possible (closer to kcchief1). Other than Ark and KC I don’t remember any others expressing an opinion on this here, but I understand your point that there are a lot of skeptics who seem to go against what is a clear consensus (which seems to be the case for historicity). I could offer caveats on this, but I’ve said enough.

    As far as your approach I personally think you are giving it a much better go than the likes of conservative evangelical apologists, and I think it is fair as you say to at least make an effort to understand what scholarly consensus is and try not to go against it unless it seems like their reasons aren’t very solid or not enough scholars have really voiced their opinion to form a “solid” consensus. There are a lot of other caveats here too of course (and I don’t have historicity-vs-mythicism in mind with these caveats): like the question of what percent really is consensus (I’ve heard 95%); the fact that many scholars can say “consensus is such and such” when it either really isn’t or what they are saying is too vague or can be interpreted in several different ways so that it really is not quite clear what the consensus truly is; the fact that scientific consensus is a bit more objective than historical consensus, and historical consensus is a bit more objective than political or religious history…

    I think Nate has made very good points about the fact that there are honest reasons to be skeptical about the Christian worldview no matter what form it is in. I wouldn’t expect you to agree that those reasons are good ones, but I am taken aback quite a bit when I read a lot of your comments which portray us as dishonestly skeptical. This is quite annoying to say the least. Go ahead – say I am annoyed because I really know that you are right – I dare you! I am very familiar with those kind of mind games, and frankly they don’t sway me…. and yes, I am sure I have been guilty of a few myself, so my apologies for that.

    And by the way, yes, I do understand your liberal point of view. My own “religious” background is quite varied and includes small group interaction for a year or so with UU’s. And yes, I am aware that UU’s are left of you.

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  211. Hi Howie, I am indeed riding off into the sunset, so I don’t want to say much, but I shouldn’t ignore such courteous words.

    Thanks for your mostly kind comments.

    I wouldn’t expect you to agree that those reasons are good ones”

    You may be surprised that I think there are several good reasons to be skeptical about the Christian worldview, but (1) I think some of those given (including some discussed on the present topic) are poor, and (2) I think there are more and stronger reasons to believe it.

    I am taken aback quite a bit when I read a lot of your comments which portray us as dishonestly skeptical.”

    I’m truly sorry some of my comments made you annoyed, I certainly didn’t want to have that effect. I don’t know which comments they were, but let me clarify that:

    (1) I don’t think I ever made general or blanket statement, but rather referred to “some” non-believers.
    (2) I think I was referring specifically to those who claim to be evidence-based, and criticise christians for being dogma-based, but then it turns out the opposite is true on historical matters relating to Jesus.

    So you may not be included in those comments – I’ll leave that for you to decide. 🙂

    Best wishes, and thank you for your ongoing courtesy.

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  212. UnkleE, I think you’re a good guy and all, but I think you’re reading way more into the evidence than what’s really there.

    Look at it this way. You yourself know that the bible has flaws and errors in it. Since that is the case and you dont deny it, how can you then be so certain that the over-the-top-divine stuff is true? There is no (at least that I am aware of or have you seen you present) historical (or otherwise) evidence to support it.

    lots of followers and lots of writers is not good evidence. If it were we’d all be trekies.

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  213. Good stuff, William. There are indeed two sides to this story. This is why I strongly believe there is more going on than just an examination of evidence. There are non-believers who have examined the evidence and become believers. There are believers who have examined the evidence and become non-believers. And, there are those from both sides of the aisle who have examined the evidence and it has bolstered the original belief they had. These things would not happen if we assume all are examining the evidence carefully and the evidence was all that was needed in order to convince someone of the truth/falsity of the faith. This also speaks to Ark’s point about inculcation. How does he account for these varying conclusions if people only believe because they’ve been inculcated? Whatever the answer is, that conclusion just can’t be the case. (And, yes I’m typing inculcated as often as I can because I know it’s Ark’s favorite word). We could argue about whether or not all of the people approach the evidence with truly objective minds, but that is all conjecture. It also doesn’t get us anywhere, because we have no way of knowing who approached the evidence objectively and who did not. The fact remains that people on varying sides of belief come to the evidence, some convert based on the evidence, some de-convert, some maintain their original beliefs. So, the question really becomes: Can we truly put all the weight of belief/unbelief on the evidence? I think, based on these facts, that it is impossible for any of us to say that all one needs to do is examine the evidence and they will come away with a “true” understanding. That, I believe, is the one conclusion that cannot be made when you look at the stories of all who have examined the evidence.

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  214. One cannot get much from Bible about the teachings of Jesus; Bible was neither authored by Jesus nor dictated by him. Bible presents teachings of Paul. The truthful account of Jesus and Mary are mentioned in Quran.

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  215. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:
    One cannot get much from Bible about the teachings of Jesus; Bible was neither authored by Jesus nor dictated by him. Bible presents teachings of Paul. The truthful account of Jesus and Mary are mentioned in Quran.

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  216. Josh, i see where you’re going but i disagree. The evidence is what it is, some people just take more liberty with it than others, some take bigger leaps with it than others, while some are more prone at taking it as it is without (or at least with less) interpretive intellectual dance.

    Paarsurrey’s comment fits in nicely to the larger discussion. Every religion has their book and their own view of jesus and god’s will. It all boils down to faith in what another man has claimed – not god himself. I believe this is the biggest point of all. Your faith is that you HOPE the human author’s claims are right. It cannot be in god, for he has neither told you nor shown you anything himself.

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  217. William, if God has revealed himself in scripture (whether Christianity, Islam, or another), then faith placed in that revelation is placing faith in God. I hear what you’re saying, but there is a distinction here. If the NT is God’s revelation, then I am placing my faith in God. If it is indeed not God’s revelation, then I am placing my faith in the human author’s claims. Only if the claims are not genuine do they come from the author. If they are genuinely God’s revelation through the author, then my faith is in God. You don’t believe God exists or has revealed himself, so, from your perspective, it’s faith in the human. My perspective is that this is God’s revelation, so I place my faith in God’s revelation, not in the humans who communicated it. If I placed my faith in the vessel (human authors) and not in the message (God’s revelation), then I would likely have as much issue with the apparent difficulties of scripture as you or Nate have. However, my faith is placed in the message (God’s revelation) while allowing that the vessel (human authors) may be unable to communicate that message in the perfect way that some say must exist for belief. Scripture teaches that God has revealed himself in ways we do not expect. It is also clear that not everyone will accept the revelation. So, the fact that some people vehemently disagree with my faith is not surprising to me, either. I trust this is His revelation. You don’t. So, here we are :). You and I both await confirmation (or, lack thereof) of placing our trust where we have.

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  218. I think, based on these facts, that it is impossible for any of us to say that all one needs to do is examine the evidence and they will come away with a “true” understanding. That, I believe, is the one conclusion that cannot be made when you look at the stories of all who have examined the evidence.

    Josh, I think this is absolutely the wrong conclusion. The fact that people come down on different sides with these issues is exactly what we should expect if Christianity is false. It’s the same thing that happens with all religions, because (as you would agree) all those other religions are man-made. They will convince some people, but not others.

    On the other hand, if Christianity is true, and God wants sincere people to figure out that Christianity is true, then we would not see all these different reactions to an objective study of the evidence.

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  219. But Josh, the difference is that William (and I, and others on this blog) have given evidence as to why the message is not really from God. What evidence would you point to to say the message is legit?

    Remember, most of us on this blog started out believing in the Christian God. Most of us believed the Bible was his word. It was only in deeper study of it that we lost that conviction. It didn’t take outside arguments to show me Christianity was false — the Bible took care of that.

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  220. Nate-
    Your conclusion assumes that all people would assent to Christianity if only they were given “enough” information. I don’t see how you come to that conclusion. God does will (or, want) everyone to come to Him, but scripture is also quite clear that not everyone will. I don’t think there’s foundation for your assumption.

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  221. Josh, I’ll only add “allegedly” to your comments, because well, that’s what you’ve been told about god. Since god isnt speaking for himself, we are forced to choose whether or not to believe the messengers.

    You only buy into what the messengers of one particular religion claim, while disbelieving the rest. Shear consistency being a coincidence, i disbelieve them all on the basis of insufficient evidence.

    strangely, when looking at it that way, we agree 95% of the time on religion and on how to handle evidences.

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  222. Your conclusion assumes that all people would assent to Christianity if only they were given “enough” information. I don’t see how you come to that conclusion.

    If the people are sincere, yes. And I believe most are, when it comes to religion. Religion, after all, is just man’s way to try to reach out to God. Even the false ones. And really, even we atheists have come to our position through the same efforts.

    I come to that conclusion by taking the Christian premise that God loves everyone and wants them to all believe in him. If that’s so, and if Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7 (“seek and you shall find”) is true, then it only follows that all sincere people will become Christians.

    Of course, that doesn’t happen. For me, the reason for that is very simple. For Christians, it’s a much more complicated problem. The implications are pretty big.

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  223. #@ Josh.
    Your interpretation, whether you realise it or not, glosses over what people like Nate went through.
    and not only cheapens the pain and isolation he endured, but surreptitiously accuses him of being the one at fault. You have little idea how many damn fundamentalists out there consider that Nate was NEVER a proper Christian to begin with.
    I know Nate from a bar of soap but from reading his blogs I can say without reservation that I know damn well him being an atheist would make a better Christian than every one on Word Press that claims they are christian.

    Without realizing it you also, glibly brush off 2000 thousand years or so of barbarism your religion inflicted ( and still does)on much of the world.
    You have a myopic rose-tinted view of Christianity that is patently and absurdly false.
    You and every other christian aflame with the glow of Jesus needs to get a grip and go and do a bit of serious reading.
    You might like to investigate Theodosius for a kick off, as he, after Constantine, was one of Christianity’s real ‘Heroes” of the day. A real poster boy for doing away with heretics.
    Try to imagine a world that did not have the Holocaust, The Inquisition, The Witch trials, the innumerable persecutions, the global misogyny. The genocides, old and new, that religion has sponsored.
    And still does.

    And finally, Marcus, over at Bittersweet posted this on his latest post.

    http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/

    ” I asked God to take my life before I lost my faith.” As this was also a prayer of mine at one point in my deconversion.

    So rather than celebrate your (in)glorious Christianity you and every other religious person should hang your head in shame.

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  224. Nate-
    I pretty much agree with your entire last comment. The only difference is, I think a better translation of that verse is “keep on seeking”. That’s what we’re all doing. If you felt I trivialized your deconversion, as Ark suggested, that was not my intent. We are all searching for the truth and giving the best reasons for why we believe what we do. I don’t at all think your journey is meaningless, and wish only to stay on the path set out here. I actually most feel sorry for Ark – you, as much as any judgmental person of any faith, are guilty of lumping an entire category of people into the worst conceptions you’ve crossed from that group. I don’t recognize the “Christian” you talk about as such no matter what they say. You are, at least it seems based on your comments, as full of hate as the very people you vehemently criticize. I’m not sure that does anyone any good.

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  225. Josh: you wrote:

    Your conclusion assumes that all people would assent to Christianity if only they were given “enough” information. I don’t see how you come to that conclusion. God does will (or, want) everyone to come to Him, but scripture is also quite clear that not everyone will. I don’t think there’s foundation for your assumption.

    I know this has been covered many times before, but I don’t mind repeating it because it’s important. I truly am agnostic about the existence of God, but if one (or more) do exist then I really have a very hard time seeing how he really wants everyone to come to him. If he truly wanted all to come to him then to me it seems much more likely that the truth of his existence and the proper process of how to truly come to him would be much clearer than it is.

    There are 2 common Christian responses to this that I’ve seen on this blog and many other places:

    1) The truth of his existence and the proper way to reach him actually is extremely clear and those who say it isn’t are being dishonest. I’m sorry but I have a very difficult time seeing how this is true. All the proofs that I have seen have flaws in them when they are dug deeply into, and there are many intelligent people who agree with that – that doesn’t mean they are right, but are they all really dishonest? I highly doubt this. And as Nate mentioned before, the culture that we are raised in has a tremendous impact on the worldview that people are inclined to stick with – I have a very difficult time seeing that all of these people are dishonestly rejecting the truths that are so obvious to some Christians. There are even intelligent Christians who would concede that although they believe in Jesus they realize that it’s truth is not at all a no-brainer.

    2) God purposely does not make his existence that obvious because he doesn’t want to force himself on people. This response has honestly never made sense to me. The existence of my parents is completely obvious to me and I would never question that. This does not in any way force me to have a relationship with them. While it would be very sad, I am totally free to cut them out of my life if I wanted to (thankfully I don’t have any desire to) – but I would still very clearly know that they exist, and would not question that.

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  226. Howie-
    I believe God reveals himself to all people. I also believe that not all people will accept that revelation. What I don’t know is 1) how God reveals himself to everyone, 2) who it is that has accepted his revelation and who hasn’t, 3) who will accept it in the future. Dovetailing on that, I’m pretty confident I can say that just because someone says “I’m a Christian” doesn’t necessarily mean they are (see the sheep and the goats parable). It also seems likely that not everyone who is a Christian necessarily knows it (see the same parable). People may outwardly reject Christianity because of the piss poor job people have done representing it to the world. But, God knows the hearts of those people, and I do not, and I (thankfully) am not given the right to judge where a person’s heart truly lies.

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  227. William-
    “strangely, when looking at it that way, we agree 95% of the time on religion and on how to handle evidences.”

    That’s true of everyone, I’d think :-). We all have the set of beliefs we hold to, and those we reject. That inevitably means we all overlap more than not. But, the differences are still important. After all, take a look at how similar the human genes are to other mammals. Doesn’t mean we’re all really just mice!

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  228. I believe God reveals himself to all people. I also believe that not all people will accept that revelation.

    But Josh, you’ve spent a fair amount of time at this point with people who emphatically say this is not true. I know it’s not true for me — God has certainly not revealed himself to me.

    So, in light of that, does it not at all make you question your position?

    When I was a Christian, I believed that non-Christians were simply not sincere people. Because I firmly believed that all sincere people would find their way to God, as promised in Matthew 7. But after getting to know some non-Christians better, and finding out more about how they looked at the world, I saw that I had been wrong. I feel like that would be a very similar experience to what you’re now going through, but maybe you don’t see it that way? Do most of us strike you as insincere?

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  229. ”I actually most feel sorry for Ark – you, as much as any judgmental person of any faith, are guilty of lumping an entire category of people into the worst conceptions you’ve crossed from that group. I don’t recognize the “Christian” you talk about as such no matter what they say. You are, at least it seems based on your comments, as full of hate as the very people you vehemently criticize. I’m not sure that does anyone any good.”

    I hate nothing or no one..well maybe cooked liver. I can’t stand the stuff and used to hide it under my mashed potato as a kid.

    You claim you are not of ”those” Christians and you don’t recognise this sort. LOL!
    What a crock! You are able to practice your ‘sort’ of Christianity because of the democratic country you live in! The country that was founded largely by people fleeing the sort of theocratic barbarism that is the foundation of what you believe.
    If it wasn’t for people who did NOT believe in Christianity you might not be in the position to even choose!
    Your freedom to practice your stupid religion is because of NON-CHRISTIANS who fought for your right to believe whatever superstitious crap you want. And maybe its about time you and the likes of unklee (who also has a democratic constitution) remember why you can believe in whatever you like.
    Because of farsighted people who were not christian or religious who recognized that there would always be such people who would be.
    You don’t actually realise how fortunate you truly are.

    And no-one has the right to tell you you cannot believe in whatever you want to..
    PROVIDING you are not preaching it to others who are unable to make an informed decision concerning the contents of what you are passing off as truth.
    So therefore. if anyone wants it, let them seek it out.
    You do NOT teach it to to kids, either at home or school.
    You do NOT teach creationism and pass it off as science.
    (In fact, I truly believe (although it would be well nigh impossible to implement) that a law should be passed that prosecutes anyone for teaching this stuff to children as truth).

    Keep it away from kids and then I am perfectly at ease.

    I hope that we are now crystal clear on this issue?

    May your god go with you.

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  230. Ark-
    No, it’s actually not crystal clear. I see you have typed the words “I hate no one”. Your comments, however, suggest that statement isn’t true.

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  231. @Josh.
    Not crystal clear?
    Okay I shall type in crayon.

    Oh, you believe just because I get upset about your archaic and patently donkey-stubborn attitude about religion that I hate the individuals who practice it? (and let’s be honest you couldn’t really give a toss about Islam,or Hinduism or Judaism now could you? Not if we are being REALLY truthful, right? )
    But hate ? Wrong…sorry. Do not pass GO and do not collect 200 dollars.

    Hate is a wasted emotion.

    I don’t really care what you believe. I care about it no more than I care about the woman who lives down the block and claims to be a spiritualist. If she decides to preach it and maybe come on the blogs or hold classes for kids and begins condemning the neighbors for being sinners, yeah, THEN I might get a bit miffed.
    So,truly. I don’t. hate. I think it is bloody stupid, but that’s a point of view. And this is a public blog. . Not a chance. I would even let you buy me a beer..or two.
    However,that you and your ilk proselytize, I care.

    Many of those who first went (fled) to the US of Eh? was because of religious persecution. They were not free to practice their religion in their own country. It was quite a thing . Catholics against Protestants etc. Who would believe it, right ? Christians trying to exterminate each other. Unbelievable, but true I am afraid. (Funny, thing, after all these years of practice they STILL can’t get it right, have you noticed. You are an example.)
    Anyhow, because of the ”ess aitch one ‘T’ ” the US government eventually drew up a document called..and pay attention to this word ‘cos you might not be familiar with it…a CONSTITUTION…that among other things allowed all these religious nutters to practice their faith anyhow they saw fit, as long as it was kept out of government/state.
    Religion one side Affairs of state on the other.
    You will have to ask for a copy and read it. I am not American but I believe there are a few people over in the US of Eh? who do know about this document.
    Some have even read it.

    But it seems that naughty Christians have a filthy dirty habit of insinuating their religious mores into society in general, which is why certain buildings have displays of the Ten Commandments so I’m told and many people (erroneously) say the US of Eh? is a Christian country, which REALLY pisses off a lot of people. They say atheists are not patriotic and quite a number of other odd attitudes.

    Now I know you are a bright lad…so further explanation really isn’t necessary.

    This is all I would ask…
    Do not teach it or preach it children. ANYWHERE.
    Keep religion..ALL religion out of schools and public places and do not teach any part of it in any shape of form in any schools or institutions of education.

    How’s that? Clear enough? Don’t hesitate to ask if there are words you still don’t understand.

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  232. Ark-
    I read it. I don’t see how that applies to me or this discussion at all. If you’re lumping me and every other Christian in there, then you are incredibly mistaken.

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  233. Of course it applies to you

    .YOU ARE CHRISTIAN

    Christianity is like a weed that has lots of different strains; some more invasive than others, but none are benign. NONE
    If you stick the weed in a pot so it can’t spread then that’s fine. And eventually it will wilt. Great.

    I believe what you you believe is false. That we disagree is fine.
    That you want to spread your version in one form or another is intolerable.

    And who are you to say that YOUR version is better than those bone heads in Kentucky?
    It is still Christianity. I feel the same about ALL religion.
    Keep it to yourself and keep it away from children.

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  234. “And who are you to say that YOUR version is better than those bone heads in Kentucky?”

    I’m not arguing that my version is better. I’m simply saying that if you’re going to discuss with me why I shouldn’t share my faith with my children or anyone else, then you have to address MY faith and MY understanding of Christianity. People can misunderstand and misrepresent Christianity, just like people are prone to doing with pretty much everything else, and criticizing someone else’s version is a straw man when telling me that I shouldn’t share my faith.

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  235. It’s also known as stereotyping. I’m guilty of it as well, so don’t feel bad. I think we all are. I’d be surprised if a seemingly intelligent person such as yourself doesn’t recognize it in themselves.

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  236. I have been at pains to outline the reason why you shouldn’t preach your faith to kids, but I will try once again.
    Firstly. Your Christianity is based on the same principles as those Christians from Kentucky. They, like a great many other Christians are merely pushing their form of Christianity to the limit based on INTERPRETATION.
    Just as Ken Ham pushes that Dinosaurs existed with humans and builds museums to show them and states it is FACT.
    Those folk from Kentucky are fighting AGAINST the type of 21st century science that will bring their state schools and their children into line with the rest of the secular world. So they don’t enter university and the marketplace as warped, damaged individuals.

    You might not believe in such extremes, and as I have pointed out to Unklee you may well laugh or at least smile at their ludicrous INTERPRETATION of Christianity and the biblical texts.

    But you still believe a man walked on water, and came back from the dead and you teach this to kids…your kids that this is FACT. Prove it dammit! Not to me to your kids.You show them how much integrity you have as a father and prove it to them.

    That there are so many interpretations of Christianity is proof positive that you cannot even demonstrate or offer a reasonably acceptable hypothesis.

    You do not tell your kids Santa is real, do you? No, of course not. If they tried to teach in schools that he was real you would object. Too true!
    So why teach your kids your faith? Faith that has absolutely NO EVIDENCE to back it. NONE.
    Let them be. Let them grow with an inquiring critical mind and if they choose later on in life AS ADULTS. So be it.

    Meantime, keep it to yourself. Keep it out of schools.

    As Pink Floyd sang….Hey teacher, leave them kids alone.

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  237. I have no problem with people talking about their faith or even trying to spread their word. They think it’s a lifeline after all.

    What bothers me, and what really derails any real or profitable discussion is when people begin to make up rules as they go in an argument or discussion, as if doing do masks the holes in their position. And even if it did mask the problem, the problem is still there under whatever defense they’re able to spin on the spot. It may keep them from seeing it directly, but that doesn’t mean that it’s still not there.

    With many believers, the universe somehow shifts and all the rules change for the bible. Again, and let me belabor this point, issues like the ones we find in the bible are used all the time to discredit Islam, every religion or philosophy that isn’t whatever brand of Christian, and any other absurd thing. But when it comes the bible, we somehow no longer need evidence e to prove, we need evidence to disprove.

    When evidence is provided is really where discussion takes a nose dive.

    Non-believer: “the bible contradicts itself here and here.”

    Believer: “But look at the places it doesn’t contradict itself. No man could have gotten that correct.”

    Non-believer: “but, it’s not all that correct with the contradictions here and here and the mistakes here and here.”

    Believer: “well there could be a way that they’re really not errors or contradictions that we just don’t about yet. And since you can’t prove there isn’t a reconciliation, then we should accept that there is.”

    Non-believer: “I don’t think that makes sense.”

    Believer: “When you want to see the truth, you’ll see it. Jesus wants you to see it, if you would just look.”

    Non-believer: “But jesus didn’t write the bible.”

    Believer: “that’s correct. In all his wisdom he had man do it. He even ensured it was done in dead languages so that we could be guaranteed to have it unmolested.”

    Non-believer: “Why didn’t he ensure we had original copies? I mean, I guess he could’ve just spoken to each individual.”

    Believer: “first of all, we shouldn’t question god. And secondly, god doesn’t work like that. If he made himself too obvious we’d all be robots, and god doesn’t want robots.”

    Non-believer: “so, because god wants us to all know him he had some random guys write us a book on his behalf, in dead languages, to make it easy for us. But he wont write anything himself, wont preserve an original on stone, and wont speak to us directly, because god doesnt want it easy… and will then punish us for not believing?”

    Believer: “right. Praise god.”

    Non-believer: “so only the bible is god’s word, because it says it is, and other religious books are not god’s word?”

    Believer: “that’s correct. plus history speaks of jesus and Jerusalem, so that proves jesus was the son of god. And since no other religious books say that Christ is the son of god, the we can know they’re false… that and they’re full of contradictions. It’s a wonder anyone can believe them. Just goes to show willing people are to fool themselves.”

    Non-believer: “couldn’t you be fooling yourself?”

    Believer: “If I weren’t following the bible the way my church has lined out, then absolutely.”

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  238. William-
    LOL. That was funny. And, it does sound absurd. For me, it is not the contradictions or mistakes in other texts that cause me to disbelieve them. You’re right – if that’s all there was, then I might be able to pitch some advantages the NT has, but not nearly enough. The problem I have with all other religious texts is their teaching, which doesn’t seem to jive with how the world actually is. Every other religion, and even much of atheist and agnostic thought, teaches that people can and will become better if they just try really hard and work toward that end. For the other religious folk out there, this means that we get rules from god, and then must abide by them in order to earn god’s favor or get our reward. For the atheist and agnostic thinkers it’s something more like we all “know” what it is to be good to others and treat them well, and we should just do this because it’s what we “know” to be right. I know those are simplifications, but that’s basically the foundation of every belief system other than Christianity. The trouble I have with this teaching, and you can disagree if you want, is that we are not really any better than we ever have been as people. We are still just as greedy, vengeful, hateful, prejudicial as we have ever been. Sure, in “civilized” countries there’s a little more order, but we find more secretive and sinister ways to lash out at people even though we can’t lawfully just kill them anymore. We ARE NOT getting better. There just isn’t an argument there that we are. The foundation of Christianity is that the Son of God became a human being, lived a perfect life fulfilling the perfect Law of God, and died on a cross to show us His love and that we do not need to earn it. The central truth is a man dying on a cross for people – sacrificing his life to show love even to those who misunderstand and misrepresent him. Now, you and others on this blog may indeed be right – maybe I’m wrong and this didn’t happen this way and isn’t the truth. That’s possible, I know. But, the teaching that we do not need to earn our position with God is and that God would condescend to become a creature of his making is, at its foundational, different teaching than any other belief system that exists. There are other belief systems that have unique teachings, as Nate and others have pointed out. But, there is none that teaches the character and love of God the way Christianity does. There is none that teaches that God came to earth to raise us up instead of demanding, from his throne on high, that we raise ourselves up. Not to mention, in other teachings that command we raise ourselves up there is no bar at which we can ever “know” we have done enough. Everything else leaves you hanging. You can believe Christianity or not. That it teaches something different than any other belief system known is one piece of the puzzle, along with my observations of myself and other people, that convinces me it’s true.

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  239. ” … from his throne on high …” REALLY???? This is where God is? Hmmmm … I always thought he was omnipresent.

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  240. “He that says unto me Lord, Lord shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father which is in heaven” – Matt7:21

    there are others like this. James says, “…faith without works is dead…” not to mention the countless examples of people who had to do things to be acceptable to god in both the OT and NT.

    You say that it’s clear because of passages like “god is not the author of confusion”, etc. It’s a emperor’s new clothes indoctrination. The bible’s message isnt clear. Sure, for you, to see it your way, I guess you could say that’s clear. But all you have to do is look around you. How many flavors of christianity are there? The bible clearly says you have to do stuff (more than faith) to be acceptable to god, yet you clearly just said how clear it was that god expects nothing of us.

    And I wont even get into why your reasoning is flawed regarding the uniqueness of the christian ethic, but i will point out how christianity matches all other religions. It was written by man. These human authors said they are speakers for god. Said there were miracles proving it, but do not offer any today. They say that only the pure and honest heart will accept it. men who wrote flaws, bogus prophecies, errors, contradictions, and atrocities and pawned it off to the masses with fear, the promise of mansions and riches in the afterlife, and to some with the promise of enlightenment or heavenly wisdom.

    If you have a bucket with holes in it, eventually you’d get tired of placing in makeshift patches and just get a new bucket that doesnt have holes – or at the very least a bucket that has smaller holes.

    But your response is exactly the type I was criticizing earlier – and no offense intended, but it’s true. Just LOOK. Your response doesnt hold water and neither do the claims of the biblical authors.

    Josh, my man, if if we had a animal in front of us that loved the water, which had feathers, webbed feet and a beak, i’d say it were a duck. But you’d swear it was a platypus.

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  241. ”But, there is none that teaches the character and love of God the way Christianity does. ”

    This is part of the Triune that John talks about is it? ”The Word”.
    The Word that was before everything and then flooded the whole earth because he got seriously pissed off with ‘His’ Creation? Talk about anger management issues. Sheesh. This is the god you worship right?

    This is the same ‘god’ that insisted that his OWN SON be put to death for YOUR sins (not mine..I, hasten to add as I have NOTHING to do with religion) in the most barbaric way?
    Why couldn’t Jesus merely have died of measles?
    I truly am not sure who is worse, the clearly round the bend Fundamentalist or the likes of you who ”think” they embrace some science but then spew polemic.

    There is no reasoning with someone who never answers the questions put to him other than in an oblique and noncommittal way and who then goes all fundamentalist.

    With every comment you demonstrate to all on this blog that you are as ill informed and intractable as your Kentucky brethren.

    I will say a silent ‘prayer’ for your kids. May Thor and Zeus protect them from insanity.

    Silly person.

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  242. @Josh, “The trouble I have with this teaching, and you can disagree if you want, is that we are not really any better than we ever have been as people.”

    I couldn’t agree more Josh ! For 2000 years Christians in reality have behaved no better than adherents to any other religion or atheists.

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  243. What did Jesus teach ? The average person wouldn’t know for sure as they weren’t allowed to read the Bible for hundreds of years. Why ? What was the Church afraid of ?

    Decree of the Council of Toulouse (1229 C.E.): “We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.”
    Ruling of the Council of Tarragona of 1234 C.E.: “No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned…”

    Proclamations at the Ecumenical Council of Constance in 1415 C.E.: Oxford professor, and theologian John Wycliffe, was the first (1380 C.E.) to translate the New Testament into English to “…helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence.” For this “heresy” Wycliffe was posthumously condemned by Arundel, the archbishop of Canterbury. By the Council’s decree “Wycliffe’s bones were exhumed and publicly burned and the ashes were thrown into the Swift River.”

    Fate of William Tyndale in 1536 C.E.: William Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. According to Tyndale, the Church forbid owning or reading the Bible to control and restrict the teachings and to enhance their own power and importance.

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  244. Sorry this turned into a bit of an essay. Although I no longer identify as Christian I once did. In reality my beliefs were always liberal, I was never inclined to take the bible literally, however, then, as now I believed that like all holy books it has a lot to teach us if we open our minds and look beyond the obvious. So here is the ramblings of a once liberal Christian.

    1. The New Testament speaks a lot about salvation. What exactly are Christians being saved from?
    Death. Not necessarily literal death. By death I mean not living, mindlessly doing what we always did and believing the same thing with out applying reason, because someone somewhere along the line told us it what we should do an believe and we are too afraid to question or challenge this assertion. If we open our mind to what Christ has to teach us then we will be saved from this living death to live a rich and full life here and now and by virtue of that enrich the life of others.

    2. In a similar vein, are non-Christians bound for a different fate than Christians? What will the afterlife be like for each?
    It is my belief that what Jesus taught us referred only to this life not the next, when he talks of death and the after life he was speaking metaphorically. He was guiding us to learn to live fully here and now, using concepts that are universally identified with, not preparing us for some afterlife that we in reality have no guarantee exists. But then I do not believe that Jesus is the literal son of a god as in a god incarnate, again I don’t believe when he refers to himself as the son of God he means anything more than he is a human created and sustained by a god. It is this life that matters here and now, if we live a mindful, compassionate life and by virtue of this a fulfilled happy life, which enriches the lives of others, then the afterlife if it exists is a bonus and will take care of itself. I don’t know if an afterlife exists or not, if it does then I doubt it will be different for Christians and non-Christians by virtue of the beliefs they hold. I suspect it would be different for each individual, as this life is different for each individual, based on their individual attitude, belief and actions. Someone who is mindful and positive will see the good and positive and take opportunities when they arise, those who a wrapped in dogmatic beliefs will live in fear that if they and their loved ones don’t do exactly as they should according to what someone told them they should then something bad will happen, just as they do here etc

    3. What does God/Jesus expect from us? Anything?
    God/Jesus expects us to engage and embrace the ability they gave us to think critically and reasonably to reach our full potential (which will be different for every individual). To be mindful and fully present in this life. If we are mindful and fully present and thinking rationally and reasonably then when we see others in pain be that physical, emotional or spiritual then the only action available to us is that of compassion. If I see someone who is in spiritual pain and I try to convince them (think convert or save) of my own beliefs this isn’t a mindful or compassionate act. This is a defense to protect myself from fully seeing and engaging with their pain, an attempt to avoid the risk of making myself vulnerable to that same pain, its easier to preach than to accept and be with the as they are. If I am mindful and compassionate then I can be fully present with the person, whilst remaining aware of my own fears and vulnerabilities, without the need to turn away from or protect myself from the pain or situation. This allows me to provide support and comfort to the person in pain to allow them to find their own solution which may be very different to my solution, and that just fine. Being fully present is scary, painful and difficult. But doing so allows me to become self aware, comfortable with who I am and find real peace. It is also the only way to foster true compassion for others and hence help them.

    4. Of what value are works? Is baptism a work? If so, then is faith also a work?
    Faith isn’t a work, faith is an innate human experience, we all have faith in something at some time. I have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, I have faith that one day I will die. Ok simplistic I know, I also have faith in my gods and goddesses as may others have faith in theirs. Having faith in Christ/God is simply an extension of this natural emotional state. Perhaps it is a gift but it is a gift we are all born with, sometimes life leaves us cynical and when that happens we have a choice to turn our backs on faith or re-embrace it. As it is a natural human experience it is harder to fight against faith and as such this makes us unhappy. When we allow ourselves to have faith in what ever form that may take, perhaps its just in the innate goodness of human nature then we become more balance and peaceful. In this respect this has nothing to do with works. However, being mindful, present and peaceful is easier when we embrace faith then we naturally act out of compassion to help those in pain. Helping those in pain does not include dictating what they should or shouldn’t do or believe it is helping them to find their own way. This is the value of works they empower others to find their own peace and fulfillment in this life to escape their living death. Those who have blind faith who dictate what other must do or feel only harm others they may believe they are doing gods work but this isn’t the case its idea that the road to hell is paved with good intentions (hell being a mindless, fearful living death).

    5. What’s the relationship between faith, grace, and works?
    Faith is an innate and universal human experience, we can embrace it or turn our backs on it, we can apply it rigidly and narrowly or broadly and openly. If we have faith, not dogmatic belief, then we are able to learn to be more mindful and by virtue of this more compassionate. If we are truly compassionate then we are able to do good works. We are open to the joys life has to offer and as such live in a state of grace.

    I can’t back this up with verse, once maybe I could, but not now. In all honesty I never was inclined to, because I always believed that quoting single verses out of context was a sure way to lose the meaning of the story being told. I read any religious book or text with intent to understand the meaning that applies to me as an individual and how this can guide me to live a better life here and now, I am always aware that this will not necessarily apply to others.

    If you got to the end thanks for reading.

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  245. Arkenaten I find your views equally fundamentalist and narrow minded as those you accuse. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all. Science can not prove the existence of god, that is not possible, nor does it need to be because belief in god is a mater of faith not science. Science and religion don’t mix, not because they in anyway contradict each other, but simply because they answer different questions. You try to make religion fit into science and when it doesn’t go claim religion is wrong, why is this any different to those religious zealots who try to make science fit into their beliefs and when it doesn’t fit claiming science is wrong. I am an ex Christian, agnostic polytheist (if you want to know what I mean by that feel free to visit my blog) I am also have a bachelors degree in physics. Go figure!

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  246. 1. religion ( and in this case in particular, Christianity) is wrong as its basic premise is based on supernatural claims, and erroneous text.
    The onus is always on the one who makes the original claim.

    2.”Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all. ”

    Oh dear…oh well, here goes…
    There is no evidence of Moses or the Exodus, or the conquest of Canaan. However pretty much all archaeologists and several top Rabbis, recognise this as proof enough that the Exodus did not happen and Moses was a fictional character.
    if you want to take this up with Messrs. Finkelstein and Herzog, et al be my guest.

    I despise Smart Alecs. Especially those who try to use clever arguments in the form of pseudo philosophy to justify their claims. You are not really that clever, my friend.

    Religion is quite simply a crock. Ask the blog host.Or better still, do him the courtesy of reading his story.
    Any defense is unfounded and those that try to defend it are fools.

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  247. “Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned !” Anonymous

    Ark, I read this tonight from a book by Daniel C Dennett titled, “Breaking the Spell” It is about deconversion. Very enlightening.

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  248. How true is that!
    Liked your post on the Councils ans the reading of the bible in days of Yore.
    Christians are wont to blithely wave away such periods as ‘Oh, that’s ‘History’, we’re not like that NOW.”
    Lol….
    They need to look around.

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  249. Josh, I am interested in your opinion about Nate’s comment on Hebrew 10:26-31,
    “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
    – vs 26-31
    ??

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