About

Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth.
— Aristotle

It can be difficult to distinguish truth from all of the things we’re told, especially the things we’re told when we’re younger. And religion is one of the most important things that is impressed upon us before we’re old enough to really deal with it. This blog is my effort to find truth. I was once a Christian, but I am one no longer. It’s been an interesting journey so far, as you’ll be able to tell by the progression of this blog. I go into these changes in more detail in the following posts:
A Brand New Direction
Why Do I Blog?
What Have I Gained? (by leaving Christianity)

I’m in my mid thirties, and I have a wife and three children that I love dearly. My hobbies are religion, philosophy, playing guitar, reading books (and comics!), playing video games, and watching TV. Politically, I’m fairly liberal, so that might show up in some posts too. I hope you enjoy your time here and that it will be beneficial to you in some way. Thanks for stopping by.

The Story of My De-conversion:
Start here: How It Happened: My Deconversion Part 1

Reasons for My De-conversion:
Prophecy Part 1: Introduction
Prophecy Part 2: Throne Forever
Prophecy Part 3: Egypt & Rachel
Prophecy Part 4: Triumphal Entry
Prophecy Part 5: Virgin Birth
Prophecy Part 6: Tyre (You can also check out this post: This City Doesn’t Exist)
Prophecy Part 7: Isaiah 53 & Psalm 22
Prophecy Part 8: Conclusion

Series on the Prophecy of Tyre:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Tyre by the Numbers

Contradictions Part 1: Introduction
Contradictions Part 2: Two Examples
Contradictions Part 3: Brief Examples
Contradictions Part 4: Hares Chewing the Cud
Contradictions Part 5: Out of Egypt
Contradictions Part 6: Jesus’s Genealogy
Contradictions Part 7: Judas
Contradictions Part 8: The Crucifixion
Contradictions Part 9: The Resurrection
Contradictions Part 10: Conclusion

The Importance of Hell
The Problem of Hell Part 1: Textual Issues
The Problem of Hell Part 2: Logical Issues

The Problem of Evil

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292 thoughts on “About”

  1. I am disappointed and distressed to see that you are spreading your poisonous assumptions and theories as publicly as you can. i am ashamed of you and can only hope that your efforts to lead others away from God will fail.

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  2. Perhaps we should hope that we all succeed at recognizing the truth, whether it be found in the bible or elsewhere.

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  3. I love reading your thoughts as well. I’d like to add you to my blog roll. Keep on seeking and speaking the truth.

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  4. I couldn’t figure out how to e-mail you, so I’ll post here. It is awfully nice of you to place Enough Light on your blog roll!! I appreciate it. I am thinking about adding you to mine, but i have a fear that it could send you “embarrassing Christians” that are not kind or diplomatic. Watcha think? Let me know.

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  5. Hey thanks! I’m okay with whatever you decide. If you’re comfortable listing my blog, I don’t mind at all. I’m okay with comments from anyone who might come by here from your link. However, I would also understand if you think that what I write here isn’t what your readers would (or should) read. When I was a believer, I was very careful about who I linked to here — I didn’t want to lead people to something that I thought might be bad for them. So if you worry about that at all, I totally understand, and it doesn’t bother me. So really, whatever you’re comfortable with sounds good to me. Thanks again!

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  6. I have a question for you – but it’s kind of personal so don’t feel obligated to answer. Another exChristian friend of mine brought up an interesting question. We were talking about personality tests such as Myers-Briggs and the DISC personality profile. He was wondering if people who have deconverted might have similar personality profiles. On the DISC one he and I were quite similar and I was curious if you might be as well. It would certainly be a factor in our discussions with believers if there are very different personality profiles in one group compared to the other. He got me curious about the issue as well so I thought I’d ask 🙂

    Also I just had to share. Over at BitterSweet End – there was a thread where you were discussing whether people like you and I could ever get into heaven (if it existed). Ever since I became an atheist I’ve had this funny image in my head of an atheist heaven where the laughter and discussions are just amazing! When I read that thread the other day I had this image of showing up at heaven’s gate and god says, ‘Ah crap! Traffic was awful! Sorry I didn’t make it down in time! (That might explain his hiddenness – lol!) Then he has me follow him into a bar/restaurant and calls out that there’s one more for the Hitchens’ table 😀 Wouldn’t that be awesome??

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  7. Sorry, I’ll correct that:

    I’d be interested to know what your thoughts are to the answers given on this website

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  8. @Brenda
    That’s an interesting point about personality tests — I hadn’t thought about that. I could definitely see it being a factor. I haven’t taken one in a long time, so I’ll see if one of those is online somewhere and let you know.

    @Ryan
    Thanks for the link. I haven’t run across that particular site before, but I’ll check it out and let you know what I think.

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  9. @Ryan
    He actually seems to think that this one might be a true contradiction. It’s one I’ve posted about before too. You can find my take on it here.

    In #69, he tackles whether or not the birth narratives of Jesus match up. I disagree with his solution. If he’s right, why doesn’t Luke mention any of that? Luke just says that once they performed everything according to the Law (here, he’s referring to their presentation of Jesus at the temple), they returned to their home in Galilee. Doesn’t match Matthew’s account.

    In #76, he tries to answer the issue of the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. I completely disagree with his assessment of it. It’s just not true that John used Roman time and Mark used Jewish. You can read my problems with it here.

    #79 is about Judas. I disagree with him on this one as well. If you’d like to read my thoughts on it, you can find them here. The same goes for #80.

    I also disagree with his answer in #88. Traveling to Galilee from Jerusalem is not just some quick little jaunt. I still think this passage is problematic. If it were the only issue in the Bible, then I could overlook it, but it’s just one of many.

    Those are just the ones I’ve had time to look at so far. They’re pretty much the same explanations that I’ve seen in apologetic works. Personally, I don’t find them very reasonable. However, I do agree with him that many of the “contradictions” he’s had to write about aren’t true contradictions at all. Many of them are just places where people have taken things out of context in order to create uncertainty about the Bible. I hate that kind of thing — it’s not being fair. The Bible is either true, or it isn’t. We shouldn’t have to resort to misquotes in order to establish it one way or the other. We should take it as it is. If it’s true, then we should all want to know that. If it’s false, then we should want to know that too.

    I appreciate your providing this link. I’ll check it out further when I have more time.

    Thanks!

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  10. As I’ve expressed on Thebiblereaders blog

    I’ve decided to trust Christ. When the big things happen in life (health,life,death) all rationalising, debates and discussion falls away.

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  11. I think I understand where you’re coming from. Do you feel like your position is really one of faith or is it based more on hope? I don’t want that question to sound critical or insensitive, because I don’t mean it that way at all. I’m honestly curious. I’ve been able to tell that you’re a very sincere person, and you’re polite enough, knowledgeable enough, and wise enough to know that there are at least some gray areas where the Bible’s concerned. Your last comment makes it sound like you’ve struggled with some difficult questions and haven’t found satisfactory answers. Is that fairly accurate?

    I really struggled for a while when I went through my deconversion. It’s not easy to question the things you’ve always held as facts about reality. For quite a while, I knew that I had found enough problems with the Bible that I would reject it if it had only been another religion’s holy book. In other words, if I had found the same problems with the Book of Mormon or the Koran, I would have felt that they proved those books were not divine in any way. But it was harder for me to come to that conclusion about the Bible.

    Why? Obviously, the answer is easy: I had never believed the Koran or Book of Mormon anyway, but I had always accepted the Bible as absolute truth. I knew that was inconsistent. Muslims would be able to dismiss the Bible or the Book of Mormon easily — but show them problems with the Koran, and they’ll still find reasons to believe it. I was no different. My natural inclination was to make excuses for the Bible. But I knew deep down that even if I did make excuses, it wouldn’t change the truth — the Bible was just as fallible as those other books. So I could have decided to hold onto Christianity and try to forget about the problems I had found, but what would I really gain by doing that?

    Anyway, that was my experience. Your last comment sounded familiar to me — but I may just be reading too much into it.

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  12. Ryan

    I appreciate how you’ve been willing to interact with us and hear us out in a really respectful manner. Many Christians would have been afraid to engage in discussions with us at all.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned life, death, and health because it was the death of someone close to me that drove me into Christianity and then 20 years later the death of someone close to me that started my questioning and eventual exit from Christianity. Big life events certainly do cause us to evaluate life in a whole new light but in my case they sparked discussion and debate for me.

    I wish you the best.

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  13. Thanks Nate and Brenda,

    I appreciate you both. Thanks for taking the time to discuss these questions.

    I still plan to post and continue discussions but atm I have a responsibility to finish my uni work off, which I’ve been avoiding J

    In regards to your questions Nate, I admit that it is faith and what I have experienced in my very young life (I’m only 23). But still I don’t think age should be an excuse, and it doesn’t mean a belief or a person’s faith is falsehood.

    I’m not trying to close my eyes to evidence, its just to me it seems that the evidence we have in this world is moved in different directions to justify different speculations. People can claim to prove or deny God with the same evidence. As far as I know I have seen no evidence (evidence that of itself) that denies God.

    I pray that you and your families have happiness and health 🙂

    All the best, I hope we all draw closer to truth

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  14. Nate,

    I know I haven’t really answered your questions. Sorry for that. But I need to finish my uni.

    There are still many things I don’t understand regarding The Bible but I have to make a decision, or I won’t be able to move forward. This doesn’t mean I will avoid questions, it just means that I have decided to trust God. I know this may sound like im opting out but I bleive its the exact opposite.

    Thanks again to you both, for your time and openess

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  15. ironically, I am avoiding your question you posted above, this is not due to it being too confronting 🙂 its just I need to focus my energy and time on this other work or im going to let myself down.

    If I had more time I would like to answer all your questions (not sure how right I would be 🙂 ) and I would like to think Ill come back and answer them, but I won’t make any promises.

    look forward to continuing to read and discuss things.

    see you on the other side of my assignment 🙂

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  16. I wrote this on another blog, but I think it is sums up some thoughts I have

    To be frank I don’t find everything I read in scripture to be comforting, there are times where I actually would be more comforted if I believed that there was no life after this.

    I don’t think I am compromising my reasoning ability, I would actually find it more convenient to believe that there were no eternal consequences to our beliefs. Why Hell?

    I am comforted by Salvation through Christ shedding His Blood, but what about other people? What if people reject God? I personally don’t find this comforting at all. This is actually one of my biggest struggles regarding my understanding of scripture.

    I mean, is it just selfish to walk through a crowd feeling secure and engaging with people, knowing that what they believe according to your understanding puts them in danger of separation from God – lets not tip toe around it: Hell.

    I wasn’t “indoctrinated” into faith, I didn’t grow up in a church. Although I went to a Catholic school, I didn’t fully understand the relevance behind the traditions. I have friends from all sorts of different backgrounds, so this question of belief is a big question for me.

    I’m not exclusively just in a Christian “circle”, although I am part of such communities, but even they are made up of people who don’t necessarily believe in certain parts of scripture.

    One of the things that bothers me is that if your brought up a Christian, and you parents and immediate family are Christian then that can put you in quite a comfortable position (if you don’t think outside your backyard). There might be a few “black sheep” in the family, but if most of your family have accepted and believe in Christ (or you assume they do/have), therefore they are saved and life is great.

    However, what about the hundreds of thousands of people who are born into families of different religions?

    My belief is that God is just, and He will share His message to them somehow, whether it is in this life, or after they have died.

    But it still bothers me.

    So yes I am comforted through Christ,

    But I don’t think I am holding onto a convenient belief

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  17. I appreciate your thoughts Ryan. You know, on BibleReader’s blog, I suggested he read The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. I think you might get a lot out of that too. He was a deist (there were very few atheists back then). Much of what you said in your last comment reminded me of the way deists tend to view the world. They do believe there is a god, but all of the revealed religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc) seem problematic to them. I think you would identify with them in many ways. I highly suggest reading Paine’s book, and you can also check out deism.com. There are some great articles there.

    The issues you have with Hell are the same things I struggled with early on. I remember listening to the reports about the tsunami in Myanmar, listening to the horrific death toll, and thinking that on top of all that, I believed most of those people were going to Hell! What a tragedy! Many of the people there lived in poverty and had little education. Why would God strike them with such a terrifying death and then send them to Hell too? If any group of people needed mercy, or more time to “find the truth,” it was them.

    Of course, I finally came to believe that there was no such thing as Hell. The tragedy of that tsunami was still horrible, but at least I wasn’t trying to fit it into a system that was supposed to make sense.

    I understand where you’re coming from. It’s difficult dealing with these big questions, but kudos to you for tackling them.

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  18. Nice! I’ve seen you mention this guy on your blog, but I’d never seen any of his videos before. I’ll definitely have to check out more of them!

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  19. Couldn’t resist visiting. I see you are an honest man. So am I. I am honest about my “opinions”. Can I prove them beyond doubt to someone else? No. Can you prove yours? No. So we are all honest about sharing our best thought out “opinion”. Things didn’t go so well for me at Lorena’s. Thought I’d see what goes on here? I’m not looking for trouble, just the sharing of honest opinions. How do you see it?

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  20. Hi cowboy,

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I felt like you got a bit of a raw deal there at Lorena’s. I can only assume they misread some of your comments, but I didn’t want to get involved.

    I try to stay open-minded, and yes, I also try to be very honest. We all have to find our own way in this life, and it’s not always easy to get folks to see your own point of view. I guess the myriad opinions just make life interesting, huh? Feel free to make yourself at home here, and leave any comments you like.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  21. Just discovered your blog after reading some comments you left on a Reformed Baptist blog about converting a skeptic. I’m enjoying reading your blog so far. Do you mind me asking what denomination you came from? Were you a reformed baptist at one point?

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  22. @findingtheneedle

    Thanks! I was a member of the church of Christ. For the most part, they think they’re the only “true” Christians. They don’t use instrumental music in worship, they believe that baptism by immersion is a necessary part of salvation, each congregation is autonomous, etc. I should really do a post soon about my time in that group and how it has influenced my views.

    How do you identify? Are you a Christian? A non-believer? Somewhere in-between?

    Thanks again for the comment, and I hope you’ll continue to check back in when you can!

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  23. Nate, would love to send you an excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, “Things I Never Learned in Sunday School: Facts about the Christian faith that will surprise and astound you,” but don’t know how to get it to you. I understand why you wouldn’t want to publish your contact info, but maybe you could leave your email address on my blog and I’ll delete the “comment?” Or perhaps you could use 10minutemail.com? Thanks!

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  24. Just tried to send you an email… Hopefully I have the right address. And thanks for the offer! I’m excited about your book!

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  25. Hey there Nate,

    I’m a 20 year old guy from Canada and I just wanted to say that your blog has been exactly what I’ve been looking for. I was born into a Christian family and most of the people I surround myself with are die-hard Christians. It’s been a long time coming to this moment, but I have finally told my family and my friends that I am no longer able to accept my faith without scrutiny.

    There has never been a simpler way of saying it than your title, “Finding Truth”. My faith issues arose with the simple question, “Why should I?”. It’s with this question, that I realized, my faith in the Christian God was equally as valid as a Muslim’s faith in Allah (which is kind of peculiar because they’re both based on the Abrahamic God). Needless to say, my social circle was not pleased with me seeking Truth. They were content with having their facts built on faith, rather than their faith built on facts.

    Their ignorance further pushed me to find the answers that I needed. After many hours, days, and weeks of searching, I finally have found your blog. I wouldn’t say that you “deconverted” me or that you pulled me into the “dark” side. You rather supplied answers to the difficult questions I had about the validity of the gospel and the ideal of the perfect and loving Christian God. I have been reading your blog for three hours straight and I have been overcome with this overwhelming sense of relief. It is at this moment that I can confidently say: I cannot accept the Christian God as a valid form of religious belief.

    In case you looked at this and thought, “Woah! What a doozy. Some sensitive, young, buck decided to share his feelings.” I just wanted to say:

    Thank you.

    You have provided me with the confidence to chase after the Truth, no matter what the cost. The path that I have chosen to follow may be a difficult one, but an honest life provides more solace then one filled with deceit.

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  26. Hi Matt,

    Thank you so much for your comment! Questioning one’s faith is extremely difficult, and I am very glad that my blog was able to help you in some way. I wish that I had thought to examine these things when I was your age — I think it’s a real sign of maturity that you’re asking these kinds of questions.

    I know how difficult it is to broach this subject with family and friends, and I hope things go as well for you as they can. Please check back in from time to time and let me know how things are going. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any topics you might be researching.

    Thanks again! Your comment really meant a lot to me. 🙂

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  27. Nate,

    Wow! You might have to create a “Convert’s Corner” like Dawkins. I know it means a great deal for someone to say what Matt said.

    BTW, well done, Matt!

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  28. Hi, Nate

    Very recently I’ve been re-reading your articles with a new perspective. Previously I couldn’t accept some of the things that were considered and explored on this blog. It’s taken time, and a few set backs, but I’m starting to allow myself to move forward.

    What I really appreciate about your blog is that you seem to take care to present things fairly. Your posts come across to me as thorough, clear and honest. There’s a lot of junk out on the Internet. However, your blog is a refreshing exception.

    Thank you again for all your efforts.

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  29. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks so much for your comment! It really means a lot to me to know that my articles are helpful and valuable to you in some way. I think we first ran into each other at The Bittersweet End, and I could immediately tell that you’re a genuine “seeker.” It’s obvious that you have no agenda, but that you simply want to know what’s true. Even if I’ve missed the mark on truth, hopefully what I’ve written will help you somehow in your own search. I’m glad to have you along for the ride. 🙂

    Thanks

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  30. Thanks 🙂

    Also, another strength of this blog is that its information is ordered into clear categories. You take care of your blog, and it shows through its organisation 🙂

    Also I was wondering, during your deconversion were there certain habits you had that continued long after you stopped believing?

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  31. Hi Ryan,

    Sorry it took me a couple of days to get back to you. You raise an excellent question, but I’d have to say no, there weren’t any habits I can think of that I carried over once I stopped believing. I did continue to go to church for a while once I stopped believing, but that was only because we were still trying to decide how to move away from our congregation tactfully. I had also stopped praying because it felt too much like talking to myself.

    I will say that our lifestyle hasn’t really changed. Part of that may be due to habit, but most of it is simply because we like the way we live.

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  32. Hi Mike, thanks for the question. Personally, I think Jesus was probably an apocalyptic preacher who said the end of the world was coming. But I also think he focused on advancing morality and social equality in a way that was not common for his time — most of his teachings on morality are very admirable. So I don’t really have any problems with Jesus; I just don’t think he was divine.

    Thanks again for your comment!

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  33. Nate, thanks. I used to think the same thing about Jesus…until I came across these words from C.S. Lewis in the book Mere Christianity:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

    You seem to have a voracious reading habit so I assume you have encountered these words somewhere along the way. Could you help me understand what fault you find in them?

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  34. Ah, yes. I have run across those before. I don’t really find any fault in his reasoning, I just think he leaves out the possibility that Jesus may not have made those claims for himself.

    Thanks

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  35. Apparently you believe that some of what the gospels report about what Jesus said and did is accurate but not all. How do you make the decision about which statements are accurate reflections of what he taught and which are not?

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  36. That’s a great question. I know that the gospels are not entirely accurate, because several stories in the gospels (Jesus’ birth, his time of death, etc) can not be reconciled with one another. While I don’t know for certain that he ever lived, I do think these stories were based on someone, even if loosely. So to be honest, I don’t know which parts are accurate and which aren’t. The discrepancies in the record lead me to believe it was not actually inspired, so I don’t believe in the miraculous claims. Past that, I think Jesus was probably a decent guy who had a following, but I agree that it’s hard to know much past that.

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  37. Is your contention then that the New Testament is not reliable when it claims that Jesus was divine or performed miracles, but is reliable when it claims that Jesus lived and was decent?

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  38. Yes, pretty much. When we read ancient histories about some ruler — one of the Caesars, for instance — there are often miracle claims in the narratives. In those instances, we don’t find it strange to accept the information that deals with which battles occurred, or how high the tax rates were, while dismissing the supernatural claims. I view the Bible similarly.

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  39. Jesus’ claims to decency are associated with his healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead son of a lonely widow, and so on. If you take those away, where is the basis for claiming he was decent? To put it another way, if you made a list from the gospels of all his non-miraculous good deeds, how long would it be?

    As for Jesus’ self-proclaimed identity, it was the central theme on which all four gospel narratives turned. To suggest that his claims of special status were added later leaves open the fundamental question of why he was crucified in the first place, and makes the gospels fraudulent at their very core.

    On what basis then would you choose to believe that Jesus lived and that he was decent? That is, what evidence do you have for these two beliefs?

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  40. It’s possible that Jesus neither lived, nor was decent. But even if all the claims of miracles are fraudulent, there are some decent teachings attributed to him — care for those less fortunate, love they neighbor as thyself, etc. However, it is likely that he was considered a healer or miracle worker. Benny Hinn is considered to be one by some people, though even most Christians are skeptical. There’s also Sathya Sai Baba who was believed to be a miracle worker by millions, though again most Christians would be skeptical.

    As far as why he was crucified, there are any number of possible reasons. Perhaps the most likely centers around the disruption he caused in the temple. Or perhaps he angered someone in a position of authority. Considering the other two being crucified were common thieves, it seems the punishment of crucifixion could be assigned to some relatively mundane crimes.

    The gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death by anonymous Christians. I’m sure they believed most or all of what they reported, but it’s hard to say how much of it was factual. I happen to think Jesus was a real person, but I’m not adamant about that position — maybe he wasn’t. But I do feel that the Bible is too problematic to be inspired, so I see no reason to believe the miracles it talks about.

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  41. So, to sum up what you believe about Jesus: 1) Jesus may or may not have lived, but probably did; 2) if he did live, he may or may not have been decent, but probably was; 3) even if he did live, however, he definitely did not make divine claims of the kind C. S. Lewis referenced, 4) and he definitely did not do miracles. Do I have this right?

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  42. But you avoided Lewis’ conclusion earlier by saying that Jesus may not have made those divine claims for himself. If Jesus did make them, how do you avoid Lewis’ conclusion?

    Perhaps you are saying that if Jesus did make the divine claims, then you accept Lewis’ conclusion and thereby give up the possibility that Jesus was decent and your belief system remains intact (because you would not have to give up 2) as it’s written, since it allows that Jesus may or may not have been decent). Is that the case?

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  43. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t really agree. Here’s how I see it:

    For Lewis’s assertion to be right, the Bible must be completely accurate — not just in what Jesus may have claimed for himself, but also in his other statements and actions. However, the Bible itself shows us that it’s not completely accurate. So Lewis’s assertion can’t really work as any sort of proof. Jesus may not have claimed he was divine. Even if he did make that claim, he may have been delusional. Perhaps he was even a con artist.

    I don’t know which it is. But here’s a similar example. Non-Catholics don’t believe the pope receives divine dictates from God. So is the pope lying, delusional, or actually receiving communication from God? From what we can tell through the media, he doesn’t seem to be crazy, nor does he seem to be a liar. So must we accept that he really hears from God? No, I don’t think so.

    For a person like Jesus, we have much less real information about him than we do the current pope. So why should Lewis’s trilemma be considered a great case for Christianity? It’s an interesting idea, and it’s certainly a decent argument for Christians. But it’s really not a strong enough argument to convince skeptics, because the basis for the argument — the validity of the Bible — is something we strongly doubt.

    I hope that makes sense… And thanks, by the way, for asking all of this so politely!

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  44. I’m not sure you appreciate what Lewis is saying – and not saying – in that quote. He is not “proving” that Jesus is right in his claims. He is merely clarifying the choices we have to make about those claims. That is, Lewis demonstrates that it’s impossible for Jesus to have been a good moral teacher if he made the claims about himself that the New Testament attributes to him. Good human teachers don’t say, “I am the way and the truth and the life” or similar things. The Bible does not have to be completely accurate for Lewis’ logic to hold. If, as you suggested earlier, Jesus never made those claims then Lewis’ conclusion can be avoided. Otherwise, not.

    That’s why I suggest that the more likely you deem Jesus to have been decent (that is, a “good human teacher of morals”), the less likely you deem him to have made those claims to which Lewis referred. And conversely, to the degree that you open up the possibility that Jesus did made those claims, you diminish the possibility that he was decent. The two ideas are logically inconsistent. That was Lewis’ point.

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  45. That’s a nice distinction — I’m not sure I’ve thought about it that way before. Yeah, I think I can get behind that. If Jesus did proclaim those statements about himself (and he wasn’t delusional), then it’s true that he couldn’t have been morally decent, even if he still encouraged others to live morally and decently.

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  46. I’m not sure I know any human that is 100% decent or 100% indecent (assuming we agree on the definition of decent of course). Don’t we all do both bad and good things? I don’t see why the answer can’t be that he may have taught some decent things, but may have also said some indecent things.

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  47. I recently read 2 Timothy 3:1-7

    What stood out to me particularly was when it referred to people to be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Does anyone have any thoughts as to why this is included in Paul’s letter?

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  48. Howie — thanks for the comment! That’s pretty much how I see it. I get Mike’s point that if Jesus falsely claimed to be divine, then it’s harder to say he was moral or decent. However, I agree that most things aren’t so black and white — each of us has warring natures.

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  49. Hey Ryan, good to hear from you again.

    This idea of people learning but not coming to the truth is a theme that occurs elsewhere in the NT. For instance, 1 Cor 1:20-25 says this:

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    So there’s the idea that anyone who rejects Christ might be considered wise by “the world,” but they’ve missed true wisdom, because they’ve missed Jesus. I think 2 Tim 3 is saying the same thing. Even Jesus said something similar in Matthew 13:13:

    This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

    So in several places, the New Testament seems to say that only those who are spiritually minded will really get the truth of the gospel message. Also, learning new things is spoken of rather negatively (Acts 17:21), so intellectualism tends to be frowned upon. This makes it easy to say that those who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah don’t have true wisdom. Don’t worry if they’re educated and intelligent, because “worldly wisdom” pales in comparison to “spiritual wisdom.”

    That’s my take at least. I’d be interested to hear what others might think.

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  50. When I read these verses I wonder if being in a relationship with God actually requires active obedience rather than just knowledge of scripture.

    John 14:21 reads:
    —- He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. —–

    Manifest means to make evident or reveal.

    John (14:22-24) goes on to read:

    —–Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

    He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. —–

    This seems to outline that God reveals Himself through a person’s active obedience and not just knowledge but an application of that knowledge.

    John 14:17 also speaks about the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.

    From this it seems an evident relationship with God comes through obedience and not just knowledge of what the bible says. This also seems to teach that actively applying Jesus commandments (outlined in the Sermon on the Mount and in the gospels) is how God reveals Himself to someone, not just by reading.

    I’d be interested to read peoples thoughts on this

    Thanks, Ryan

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  51. “That’s pretty much how I see it. I get Mike’s point that if Jesus falsely claimed to be divine, then it’s harder to say he was moral or decent. However, I agree that most things aren’t so black and white — each of us has warring natures.”

    Yup, I kind of figured (given other stuff you have written) that that was what you had meant. I just wanted to clarify it a little bit. I have just never been convinced by the trilemma argument because it is flawed in several ways. As you have succinctly pointed out, it ignores a fourth possibility: “Legend” (or at least partially legendized). As you mentioned, delusional (can’t think of an ‘L’ word) seems to be another option, but I guess one could argue that is similar to lunatic (although I think there are differences as you pointed out in your Pope analogy). And then there is simply the fact that there are so many combinations of the options in varying degrees.

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  52. @Ryan,
    Yes, I definitely think that’s what the NT is teaching.

    @Howie,
    I couldn’t agree more. And thanks for your earlier comment — yes, it was definitely clarifying. It cut right to the core of the issue and made things much simpler. You always make such great comments! 🙂

    Like

  53. So maybe an evidential relationship with God can only be found through doing what Jesus teaches and turning away from what goes against these teachings.

    According to Jeremiah 29:13: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

    Just some thoughts

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  54. Perhaps… though to me that seems a little unfair to those who were born into non-Christian cultures. What Muslim would ever seek Jesus or the Christian god without first having a really good reason to do so?

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  55. “What Muslim would ever seek Jesus or the Christian god without first having a really good reason to do so?”

    Yeah that’s true I think. This is also alluded to in Romans 10:14-21 where Paul writes: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

    Have you seen this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sno1c3n0xxc
    I’m not sure what to make of it,

    I suppose one perspective is that if a Good God exists, then that God is Holy and Just. Through this perspective God would judge those people based on what has been revealed to them, rather than what hasn’t. The emphasis on turning away from sin is taught by both John the Baptist and Jesus. If a person seeks to follow God based on the understanding and faith that has been given to them I would think a holy God would judge them based on the intensions of their heart.

    But yeah, it would seem unfair to me too. Unless God communicates to everybody who seeks Him despite where they are born.

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  56. Ryan, your point about understanding being a result of our obeying, and not just knowing about, Jesus’ teaching is an extremely important one. And you have made the point well. As for the YouTube hero/charlatan you subsequently referenced, such stories are always sad and disturbing. Deceit has nothing to do with God.

    Howie, your criticism of Lewis’ argument is not altogether coherent. I get that you don’t like it, but I don’t see where you ever point out an actual flaw in his reasoning. You assert that “there are so many combinations of the options in varying degrees,” but just saying that decency has degrees, or that there might be a difference between “lunatic” and “delusional,” sounds more like nit-picking than rebuttal.

    As for the broader question implicit in this discussion , everyone is going to heaven. Jesus did not die for some; He died for all. That everyone is going to heaven is not a reason to be immoral; on the contrary, it is reason to be more moral than ever. God is good and He loves us all. It’s only right that we should be grateful.

    Today’s church is a turn-off to many people, and rightly so. Truth is not found in church but rather in Jesus Christ our Lord. If Christians would stop trying to promote church and get back to loving and obeying Jesus, they might see this.

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  57. Mike,

    CS Lewis was making an unrealistic problem by over simplifying how people are. It’s like a physicist trying to calculate the garvitational forces imposed on Earth, but eliminating the affects of everything but the sun and moon. Sure, it makes the formula easier, but it also fails at being the most accurate answer.

    have you ever met a man that you would say was decently moral? would you say that you are decently moral?

    William

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  58. William,

    The Lewis quote seeks to show that a great human moral teacher (or you could say “great human teacher of decency’) does not say things like “I am the way and the truth and the life” and “You must love me more than you love the members of your own family.” There is nothing unrealistic or over-simplified about Lewis’ point. And it has nothing to do with the fact that people can vary in the degree of decency they achieve.

    If I see a guy handing out bread to the homeless while teaching that people should love one another I may be favorably impressed, but once he adds that he is the way and the truth and the life then I’m jumping off his bandwagon. There is nothing moral or decent about telling people that you are the way and the truth and the life…unless you are.

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  59. ah, i see. so if someone handed bread to the poor and teaches that people should love one another, but has lied before, or sinned in other ways before, he can still be a decently moral guy; unless that sin is the lie of divinity?

    or are you saying that a truly decently moral guy wouldn’t have any faults, because it’s not decently moral to lie, or cheat, or be drunk, or to have lusted, or to have hated or fought, or coveted or been jealous?

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  60. I’m not saying either of those things. I’m just reacting to the scenario as described. If part of the morality that a person is teaching is that we should love that person more than we love our own families then that teaching is ipso facto immoral…unless that person is the Son of God.

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  61. I’m trying to understand what you’re saying, so please bear with me. You’re saying that no one should say that a person should love “me” more than that person should love their family, because that’s immoral. But if God (or the son of god) told a person to love God (or Son) more than than that person should love his own family, then that is immoral?

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  62. …but back to CS Lewis’ problem. Would you say that, as he seems to be saying, that any person who falsely claims to be the son of god (whether out of madness, pure deceit, or being a legend), is incapable of teaching, or saying, or even doing anything moral?

    and if falsely claiming to be the son of god would make one totally immoral, then would any lie have that affect, or just that one particular lie?

    and again, i’d like to ask if you have ever known a man that you thought was decently moral or if you even counted yourself as being decently moral?

    thanks,

    Wlliam

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  63. God has the right to tell me to love Him more than I love anyone else. No one else has the right to tell me that. For anyone else to make that claim on my affections would be immoral.

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  64. I could agree to that. thanks for the clarification. Now, in line with my other post, would an immoral act by a man necessitate that the man who made the immoral act is incapable of any morality?

    For example, say there was a man who claimed to be something he was not. Since lies are immoral, could we correctly say that that man is incapable of morality?

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  65. William,

    Regarding your “…but back to the C.S. Lewis problem” –

    Lewis is not saying that any person who falsely claims to be the son of god is incapable of teaching, or saying, or even doing anything moral. Rather, he’s saying that any person who falsely claims to be the son of god thereby negates his reputation as a great human moral teacher. Great human moral teachers do not make false divine claims about themselves.

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  66. To your broader issue, of course, moral people can sometimes do immoral things, and immoral people can sometimes do moral things. We call a person moral or immoral based on the totality of their lives as we understand them – their “net” morality, if you will, after adding up all their moral deeds and subtracting all their immoral ones. Of course, in the final analysis only God is capable of making such judgments, and that’s why, in the final analysis, only He makes them.

    Nevertheless, I don’t see what this has to do with Lewis’ argument or with my interactions with Nate about what he thinks of Jesus.

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  67. hmm, I guess that’s true – according to CS Lewis. But isn’t it also true that others may see it it differently? isn’t it likely that others may see Jesus and say, “whoa!, that guy’s a quack/liar regarding who his father is, but he is spot on in many other regards? In fact, i would think that is how we react to most people.

    You haven’t bothered answering my question, but i do think that I have met decently moral people, and at times, I may even think that of myself – but that is not me saying that I or those people are perfect. Most people recognize that people have a capacity, at at times a propensity, for both moral, and immoral acts.

    that’s why i disagree with CS Lewis, as great of a guy as he may have been, I think he created a problem and listed 3 multiple choice solutions, watering down the reality of its potential answers. It could be, and is entirely possible, than a man make one immoral claim, and still be capable of teaching many moral truths. If that is possible, then it is also possible for people to say that “I don’t think he was the son of god (admitting that others lies about him, or that he was himself mistaken), but i think he was a good moral teacher (referring to the good moral teachings he is attributed with).”

    sometimes preset multiple answer choices dont cover the full impact or reality of the most accurate answer.

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  68. William, apparently you are being sincere, but I just don’t see the logic in your view. It’s inconceivable to me that someone who made false divine claims for himself could be considered a great human moral teacher. That you could consider such a liar/lunatic to be a great human moral teacher is your prerogative, but I have never met anyone else who thinks that way. In normal human experience, liars are despised and lunatics are pitied.

    I can appreciate that you don’t like to be boxed in to certain answers. But in a search for truth, which this blog proclaims to support, either/or’s are forks in the road we have to navigate in order to get to the destination. Otherwise, it’s not searching for truth – it’s just meandering…and thus avoiding the truth.

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  69. Mike, I think this goes back to my pope example. Most people would consider him to be moral, even if they’re not Catholic. However, we non-Catholics don’t believe God really talks to him. So is he a liar or a lunatic? I suppose it must be one or the other, if we’re to follow the 3 choices given to us by Lewis. What’s your vote?

    Thanks

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  70. The reason Lewis’s argument seems to work is that he uses inflammatory adjectives: “liar, lunatic, lord.” Do you want to call Jesus a lunatic? Well, no! That sounds awful! How about a liar? No, that sounds equally terrible. So I guess we’re left with Lord.

    But the real world operates differently. Perhaps Jesus really believed he was the true son of God, but wasn’t. At the very least, we could call this delusional, but it may not reach the level of lunacy. In every other aspect of his life, he may be quite normal, even admirable. Calling him a lunatic applies a sense of instability that may not be fair, even if he’s delusional.

    When I was in high school, one of our teachers believed she had been abducted by aliens. That was pretty bizarre, and I don’t know anyone that believed her. But no one would have called her a lunatic or a liar, either.

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  71. Nate,

    You’re comparing an apple to an orange. At most, the pope claims to speak for God at select times on select issues. This is not that unusual a claim. The Bible is filled with the writings of folks who said, “Thus saith the Lord.” Even today, there are lots of Protestant churches where you can find individual congregants who might say, “The Lord told me that I should doing more for the poor” or something similar. What Lewis was referring to were the unique divine claims Jesus made about himself, such as “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If a pope starts uttering lines like that even a lot of Catholics will hit the door, and if a Protestant were to say something like that he’d likewise be shunned (or offered immediate counseling).

    There is no getting around the fact that according to the New Testament, Jesus made some startling divine claims about himself. Thus the only way to avoid concluding that he was either liar, lunatic, or Lord is to prove that Jesus never said any of those things.

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  72. Nate,

    Mere Christianity was adapted from BBC radio talks that Lewis gave in the 1940’s. Perhaps he sought alliteration to make his point memorable. In any case, I don’t regard “lunatic” to carry any more negative connotation than “delusional.” But even if you do, just substitute what words you will for Lewis’ categories and his argument works just as well. His point is that a person saying things like “I am the way and the truth and the life” is either saying something false and knows it it false (liar), saying something false but thinks it is true (delusional or lunatic), or saying something true.

    Your high school teacher with the story about alien abduction was either saying it happened when she knew for a fact that it hadn’t, saying it happened when she thought it actually had happened, or was reporting an event that really occurred. You can come up with softer descriptive terms if you think “liar” or “lunatic” sound too harsh, but you still have the same categories whatever you call them.

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  73. Mike,

    what do you mean by lunatic, liar or lord?

    I ask, because I thought Nate’s points were pretty good, and sound in reasoning. Maybe you just mean lunatic to mean anything where someone is wrong, but thinks they’re right?

    and you agree that the pope speaks fro god then?

    Did Jesus write the NT?

    If the NT has or had flaws in it, then would that mean that it is all flawed?

    If it is possible for people to do both immoral and moral acts, then why couldnt a man do both moral and immoral acts?

    If Jesus were lying about who he was, or was delusional or stark raving mad about that, then would his good deeds and good teachings cease to be good?

    And I’m not saying that Jesus was good, or whatever, I am just point out the flaws in CS Lewis’ claims. he’s trying to box people into a set on scenarios that he predetermined. It’s bogus and silly. There are more scenarios than what he proposed, but some people want to believe that CS Lewis is the be all end all, then they can drink that koolaid if they like. I just ask that they try to be honest enough to admit it.

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  74. “Your high school teacher with the story about alien abduction was either saying it happened when she knew for a fact that it hadn’t, saying it happened when she thought it actually had happened, or was reporting an event that really occurred. You can come up with softer descriptive terms if you think “liar” or “lunatic” sound too harsh, but you still have the same categories whatever you call them.”

    that’s fine, but what you and Mr Lewis seem to saying is that which ever one you pick on that particular topic can reliably be applied to every other aspect of that person.

    So if Nate’s teacher was lying about her alien encounter, then she is a liar and is therefore incapable of telling the truth.

    similarly, if jesus falsely claimed to be the son of god then he is immoral, and incapable of morality. But since we know that jesus was moral, we can therefore be assured that he really was who he said he was.

    It’s just bogus and dishonestly or ignorantly simplistic.

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  75. William, you wrote…

    what do you mean by lunatic, liar or lord?

    I answered this in my last response to Nate.

    and you agree that the pope speaks for god then?

    I believe that the pope has as much, but no more, ability to hear from God as any other human being.  I don’t believe in the organized church; I believe in Jesus Christ.

    Did Jesus write the NT?

    No.  His followers did.

    If the NT has or had flaws in it, then would that mean that it is all flawed?

    No.

    If it is possible for people to do both immoral and moral acts, then why couldnt a man do both moral and immoral acts?

    Both clauses of your sentence sound like they’re saying the same thing.  Therefore, I don’t understand your question.

    If Jesus were lying about who he was, or was delusional or stark raving mad about that, then would his good deeds and good teachings cease to be good?

    As I asked Nate, if you strip away the miracles just how many good deeds of Jesus do you have left?  As for his teaching, are you willing to follow the teachings of anyone you believe to be delusional or stark raving mad?  I suppose Charles Manson may have said some useful things in the course of his life, but who has interest in sifting through the delusions to find them?

    And I’m not saying that Jesus was good, or whatever, I am just point out the flaws in CS Lewis’ claims. he’s trying to box people into a set on scenarios that he predetermined. It’s bogus and silly. There are more scenarios than what he proposed, but some people want to believe that CS Lewis is the be all end all, then they can drink that koolaid if they like. I just ask that they try to be honest enough to admit it.

    You’re just heaping pejoratives on Lewis’ argument (“bogus,” “silly,” “koolaid”) without seriously engaging it.  There are no scenarios other than what he proposed.  Let me give you his argument in simpler form and maybe you’ll see what I mean.  Jesus said things like “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  In so saying, he was either saying something true or saying something false (and if it was false, he either knew it was false or he didn’t – thus Lewis’ three categories, which were actually two categories with one of them sub-categorized).  So, essentially, Lewis was saying Jesus’ divine claims were either true or false.  What other scenarios are there beside true and not true?

     

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  76. As I asked Nate, if you strip away the miracles just how many good deeds of Jesus do you have left? As for his teaching, are you willing to follow the teachings of anyone you believe to be delusional or stark raving mad? I suppose Charles Manson may have said some useful things in the course of his life, but who has interest in sifting through the delusions to find them?

    This is one of the key points. I’m willing to take advice or ideas from anyone, so long as they make sense. It doesn’t matter to me what kind of person Jesus was — I can look at his admonitions to care for our fellow man and see that it’s a good idea.

    Finally, here’s my take on Jesus:
    If he actually made the claims attributed to him in the Bible, he was either delusional or dishonest.

    If he did not make those claims, then we have no more dilemma.

    Thanks

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  77. William, you wrote…

    that’s fine, but what you and Mr Lewis seem to saying is that which ever one you pick on that particular topic can reliably be applied to every other aspect of that person.

    Neither one of us is saying that.  We’re just saying that Jesus’ divine claims are either true or false.  If true, then everything else he said is worth listening to.  If false, then everything else he said is suspect, even if some of them turn out to be true.

    So if Nate’s teacher was lying about her alien encounter, then she is a liar and is therefore incapable of telling the truth.

    Not at all.  But I’m sure she lost a measure of credibility with Nate and his classmates once she told that story.  Especially if she was a science teacher.

    similarly, if jesus falsely claimed to be the son of god then he is immoral, and incapable of morality. But since we know that jesus was moral, we can therefore be assured that he really was who he said he was.

    No, this is not the argument.  As I’ve said before, Lewis’ argument does not prove that Jesus is Lord.  It merely demonstrates that Jesus is either liar (being false intentionally), lunatic (being false unintentionally), or lord (being true).

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  78. Nate, you wrote…

    Finally, here’s my take on Jesus:
    If he actually made the claims attributed to him in the Bible, he was either delusional or dishonest.

    If he did not make those claims, then we have no more dilemma.

    You and I are agreed on this point.

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  79. LOL…

    “If it is possible for people to do both immoral and moral acts, then why couldn’t a man do both moral and immoral acts?

    Both clauses of your sentence sound like they’re saying the same thing. Therefore, I don’t understand your question.”

    I guess i did write an awful lot that may have appeared to be disjointed, but i can tie it all together. I’ll just begin with the above segment. They are in fact saying the same things… it was just rhetorical.

    man can do good, in so doing doesn’t mean that he cannot do evil; and vise versa. So to hang onto whether jesus was Lord, lunatic, or liar, is all well and good, but when you will then take whatever you determine jesus to be and then try to apply that across the board, is problematic. The problem isn’t so much with the choices, but in how they’re applied.

    This is what Lewis was getting at ,”A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.”

    so he seems to be saying that liars cannot teach morals. If a person cannot teach morals if they’ve done something immoral, then how can anyone know what morals are unless learned from god? maybe that’s what CS Lewis and you are getting at – only god is moral. But if jesus or God didnt write the bible, but their followers did… followers who had sinned (for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of god), then we cannot take the bible at it’s moral teachings, because the authors would be immoral and incapable of teaching morality.

    CS lewis was making absolute determinations, and then pretending that they should someone represent the whole of a person. It’s incomplete. I find that silly, but I don’t think that means that CS Lewis was completely silly in everything.

    And again, if Lord, Lunatic, or Liar represents all of the possible variations one could imagine with claiming to be the son of god, then I can agree with that. But again, Lewis’s application of the possibilities is where his real shortcoming is.

    “As I asked Nate, if you strip away the miracles just how many good deeds of Jesus do you have left? As for his teaching, are you willing to follow the teachings of anyone you believe to be delusional or stark raving mad? I suppose Charles Manson may have said some useful things in the course of his life, but who has interest in sifting through the delusions to find them?”

    well I dont know that I follow any man completely. I do try to weigh each teaching, each scenario. I have found wisdom in many places, and possibly gleaned many profound things from places they weren’t intended to produce. I’ve seen many good do very bad things. I have seen very bad men do good things. But that’s people.

    What do you do? If jesus told you to kill and entire village of children, would you do it?

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  80. William,

    Based on your last response I see that you are still trying to apply Lewis’ argument in a way that it was never intended. Key to Lewis’ point are the divine claims Jesus made about Himself. If Jesus did not make such claims then the “trilemma” as it’s called does not apply.

    As for your last question, Jesus would never tell anyone to do what you suggest as it would be antithetical to his teaching and to his own life.

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  81. ”A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.”

    those were Lewis’ words, correct? are you certain that it is me who is misunderstanding is Lewis.

    and secondly, although a bit off point, if Jesus is the same as God, and God ordered his people to kill villages of women, childrena nd men, then maybe jesus did… but that is really apart from our CS Lewis discussion.

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  82. Mike,

    I refuse to accept the premise of Lewis’ argument. For it to make any logical sense one must accept the post-fourth century image of Jesus. I don’t and most NT scholars don’t. The theological Jesus of the early church has obscured the historical Jesus. Concerning Jesus, theology and historicity have become so interwoven that it is difficult to separate the two without distorting the basic accepted portrayal of Jesus among scholars and pew-sitters. In actuality, I believe that is exactly what the early Fathers wanted to do: make Jesus arrive and exit in the flesh. Any dissenting opinion became heresy, which rooted out Gnostics and docetists–this may have been the primary motivation of the early Church in the formation of the canon. For the early Fathers, Jesus being human was much more important then Jesus being historical.

    Additionally, the Gospels make no explicit argument for the historicity of Jesus. Even Paul remains remarkably silent on many historical markers, although Paul does seem to just assume Jesus’ historicity and that is in the background, to a certain extent, of his writings. And this background assumption of Jesus’ historicity does seem to be the case throughout the NT, which seems to find its strongest case for Jesus’ historicity among the early Christians in the crucifixion and resurrection. As I previously mentioned, the early Fathers were less concerned with a historical Jesus and more concerned with a fully human Jesus. Indeed, it is precisely this concern and stress on proving Jesus’ humanness without mitigating the miracles that accompanied his humanness that created or fueled the first speculation about whether Jesus existed historically at all. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the Gospels are not the proof of Jesus’ historicity but the theological matrix out of which the first suspicions about it arose.

    Also, merely proving a man named Jesus existed is not sufficient in proving the veracity of Lewis’ argument or Christianity for that matter. We must know which Jesus lived: the peasant farmer or the Galilean bandit; the magician or the preacher of wisdom; the apocalyptic preacher or the Messiah; the Gnostic Jesus or the Jesus of Arius or Marcion? Lewis seems to forget that there are many different versions of Jesus both historically and theologically. For Lewis’ argument to be logical there must only be enough historical and theological room for the Messiah version of Jesus and that is just not historically accurate or reasonable.

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  83. that’s right… so are you saying that CS Lewis was basically saying that immoral lies are not moral teachings? if that’s all he was getting at then he only pointed out the obvious.

    And if he were only trying to say that a claim is either true or false (as in Jesus was Lord, Lunatic, or Liar), then there was no reason to make such an obvious remark. Of course the bible was either accurate or inaccurate about what jesus said.

    CS Lewis then goes on to say that because if it were a lie (lies being immoral) that jesus could not be a teacher morality. I agree, it’s a silly claim, nevertheless it’s a claim CS Lewsi made.

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  84. Persto,

    Lewis’ argument has nothing to do with post-fourth-century views. It simply reads and reacts to the New Testament documents. If these documents reliably reflect Jesus’ teaching, then Lewis’ logic follows inexorably.

    If you want to say, as Nate does, that the New Testament documents are not reliable and therefore that Jesus did not actually make any divine claims, then you can say Lewis’ argument doesn’t apply. But I think then that you and Nate just face a different dilemma which is justifying which parts of the documents you deem to be true and which you deem to be false.

    I find it much simpler (a la Occam’s Razor) to accept or reject them at face value much as I would a batch of letters recovered from Civil War days between various members of the Confederacy.

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  85. William,

    Lewis himself stated the goal of his argument: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” Lewis may have been pointing out what should have been obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to everyone – which is why he had to point it out. It was a point I did not see until Lewis pointed it out to me. And it is a point that Nate, by his own admission, did not see until Lewis pointed it out to him. That Nate does not currently share my faith in Jesus is proof that one can see the validity of Lewis’ argument without believing that Jesus is Lord.

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  86. Mike,

    If these documents reliably reflect Jesus’ teaching, then Lewis’ logic follows inexorably.

    Yes you are correct, but my point is that there are better arguments for the historicity of Jesus than how he is portrayed in the Gospels. Lewis’ argument only makes sense from one unreliable perspective and I would prefer an argument that makes sense from a variety of perspectives. Now, I know Lewis only intended to discredit the acceptance of the ‘Jesus as a moral teacher and not Lord’ contention. But I am unwilling to grant him that concession because we do not know enough about Jesus one way or the other to make any absolute pronouncement on his disposition. Lewis’ argument does not prove Jesus is Lord, perhaps that was not his intention either, it only highlights the post-fourth century theology that is the framework for the NT. The early Fathers believed Jesus was fully god and fully man or you were a heretic. Lewis believed Jesus was fully god and fully man or Jesus was a lunatic.

    ‘The canon does not arise as a spontaneous development, any more than Christian orthodoxy emerges as a single deposit in a bank account–to use an image from the second century. The canon is the regulation of sources that supported a growing consensus about who Jesus was, or rather, what was to be believed about him. If not a majority, then a significant, well-organized, and powerful minority of voices found his complete and total humanity a non-negotiable criterion for believing the right thing about him. They found their support for this view in a fairly small number of sources that they believed dated from apostolic times.

    Every Christian after the fourth century has held and continues to hold an eerily similar view about Jesus: He was fully human and fully god, he lived, died, and rose again, and belief in the Trinity. That, Mike, is post-fourth century theology.

    Additionally, if belief in Jesus is to be argued historically we have to read the Gospels differently than the way the Gospels are written. Normally, to prove the existence of a historical person you would have records, reports, artifacts, or writings of other people who mention that person in specific occurrences. We do not have that. What we have are the writings of people who had very specific and self-interested reasons for portraying Jesus in a certain way. And this portrayal differs markedly from the writings of histories by the Romans in the second and third century. For this reason, scholars have admitted for a long time the problem of deriving Jesus from the Gospels or Paul or any NT writing for that matter. I am not saying the Gospels are entirely fabricated. Just that the line between the supernatural and reality is not always obvious in ancient writings. Just look at Homer or Herodotus. So, if one is going to prove the historicity of Jesus that individual must read the bible differently than the way the bible was written. That person must attempt to separate fact from myth and attempt to create a plausible framework for the historicity of Jesus, which would be markedly different from the explanations of Jesus in the NT. You see when doing history you cannot assent to the miraculous, so more probable explanations must be offered. And that is not how the Gospels read.

    Mike, you cannot read the NT the way you are proposing because you would not read Herodotus that way, and that is a work of ‘history.’ Even if you accept the basic reliability of the Gospels like N.T Wright early Church theology is still the framework for the NT, and the Jesus the NT portrays is certainly different from the one that actually existed. There is a historical Jesus and a theological Jesus and even they do not align.

    Finally, comparing private Civil War correspondence between members of the Confederacy with the Gospels is the most absurd comparison I have heard yet. If we had private correspondence between the apostles and eyewitness reports the task of deciphering the historical Jesus would be much easier. It would also be easier if the reports we do have were not written for very specific and self-interested reasons that differ greatly from Roman histories of that period. Mike, if NT scholars read the Gospels your way they would be doing theology.

    Regards

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  87. In that first paragraph it should not say post-fourth century theology, but early Church theology. Got a little to post-fourth century crazy.

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  88. Mike,

    It seems you agree with the fact that it is logically possible that Jesus may have never spoken all of the words attributed to him. I understand you think it unlikely, but that really is another totally huge and separate discussion. But the fact that Lewis left this out as an option is a logically valid critique of Lewis’ reasoning.

    I agree that if Jesus did say “I am God” then he was either delusional, lying, or correct regarding that specific statement. You also seem to agree that it is possible for a person who is wrong about a statement like that to teach about other things that actually are decent. You might not want to follow that person because you think they are nutty regarding the statement about being God, but it is certainly possible that they can teach things that are decent.

    William is correct that Lewis goes on to use his argument to say much more than what you quote him to say. Lewis goes on to say: “This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” This is the conclusion that I don’t see following from everything you have been writing, and my points above and what I wrote before I believe show why that is the case. It has nothing to do with liking or disliking his argument, I simply see flaws in the reasoning.

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  89. Persto,

    I don’t subscribe to the Trinity.

    I don’t believe that Jesus claimed to be God, but I do believe that He is God. (The Second Coming of Christ occurred sometime late in the first century, after all the NT documents were written, and that was when Jesus’ identity as God was revealed. That is, the Second Coming was a spiritual, not a physical, event.)

    Your approach to reading the NT documents sounds unnecessarily complicated to me. These documents were all internal to a first-century, Mediterranean-wide social movement. They have to be read in that context. Though scholars vary widely in their beliefs about who wrote which books of the NT and when, there is a broad consensus that seven letters (Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal, Phil, 1 Th, and Phile) were written by Paul between 50 and 60 A.D. These seven letters include confessions and hymns in wide use which give us visibility into Christianity as it was understood in its earliest period: 30-50 A.D. Thus fourth-century views – or even second-century views for that matter – are superfluous.

    These earliest disciples held certain common beliefs. The letters allude to these beliefs but seldom spell them out because the letters were exchanged between believers – they were not written to convince unbelievers. Therefore, to read them as an unbeliever expecting to find an “FAQ for skeptics” is to invite disappointment.

    These documents demonstrate that there was a significant number of intelligent Jews, and an increasing number of Gentiles, who, within 15-20 years of the life of Christ, believed that he had been raised from the dead according to the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why did they believe this when so many other people didn’t?”

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  90. Howie,

    An argument is valid if it serves its stated purpose. To criticize it because it doesn’t serve every purpose is like criticizing a can opener because it does not also open bottles.

    Lewis’ argument effectively addresses the issue it raises: that is, the inherent contradiction in praising as a great human teacher someone who went around telling people things like “Before Abraham was born, I am.” For other issues, Lewis has other arguments. To find out what those arguments are, and whether or not they are as effective as this one, you’ll either have to engage directly with his writings or find someone more knowledgeable about his body of work than I am.

    As for Lewis’ follow-on point that he decided that Jesus was not a liar or lunatic but rather Lord, I came to the same conclusion. I get that you don’t think this conclusion is required by the preceding argument, and I agree. Although Lewis does’t flesh it out, there is a separate argument required for this choice of the three alternatives his argument spelled out. I have not tried to make that separate argument in this thread. That’s why when Nate said he got Lewis’ point, I simply acknowledged it without pressing him further. Effective dialogue requires that we pause occasionally to digest what agreements we’ve achieved, however modest they might seem to others.

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  91. Lewis’ argument effectively addresses the issue it raises: that is, the inherent contradiction in praising as a great human teacher someone who went around telling people things like “Before Abraham was born, I am.”

    This is the only point I don’t really agree with, and it’s what I’ve tried to illustrate with my pope example. So let me try another:

    John Nash (the subject in A Beautiful Mind is a brilliant economist and mathematician, but he’s also a paranoid schizophrenic that sees people who aren’t there. Nevertheless, we’ve still learned some very important things from him: game theory is perhaps the most significant.

    So in my opinion, if Jesus really had been delusional, but also encouraged people to care for those less fortunate, etc, then we can still see the value of his teachings regardless of his delusion. This is the problem that I think the rest of us have been stating with Lewis’s trilemma. It doesn’t allow for distinctions like this; instead it tries to limit the possibilities to only 3 extremes. I do think he still makes a good point that should be considered — but I don’t think it’s an iron-clad argument, because more than 3 possibilities exist.

    As far as the accuracy of the earliest NT writings is concerned, it’s true that we don’t really know when or why the first disciples began believing that Jesus rose from the dead. But to me, this is just like asking why the earliest Mormons believed Joseph Smith or why the first Branch Davidians believed David Koresh.

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  92. Nate,

    A student could attend a John Nash lecture on mathematics without necessarily being exposed to his schizophrenia, but Jesus’ teaching about morality, God, and himself were inseparable. For Jesus, morality was based on a right attitude toward God (“only God is good”) and a right attitude toward himself (“No one comes to the Father but through me”). When a man said he’d been so moral that he’d kept all the commandments, Jesus responded, “Go, sell all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.” Thus, Jesus’ teaching about morality was, at its core, teaching about Himself and His unique relationship with God. If Nash’s schizophrenia had similarly permeated his mathematics, it’s doubtful his lectures would have even been coherent.

    Lewis is not saying that if Christ were delusional or dishonest (to use your terms) that nothing else he said could possibly be right or have value. He’s saying that we don’t consider delusional or dishonest people to be “great human teachers.”

    As for your statement that “we don’t really know when or why the first disciples began believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” I presume you say that based on your having rejected the New Testament as a set of historically reliable documents…for they themselves tell us the answers to these questions: 1) Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to multiple people in multiple times and places over a period of forty days, and 2) the Old Testament Scriptures which prophesied all that took place through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Only if you reject the NT are you left scratching your head.

    As for Joseph Smith and David Koresh, according to their respective historical records neither lived a virtuous life that is worthy to be compared with the one lived by Jesus of Nazareth. But again, if you reject the historical records, I suppose you could choose to believe almost anything you wanted about each of the three of them. As for me, I take the historical records regarding all three seriously and thus regard two of them as dishonest or delusional and one of them as lord.

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  93. I’ve never had one of John Nash’s classes, so I don’t know how much his schizophrenia may have influenced what he taught. The beauty of his teachings, however, is that the truth of them rests independently of him. Once he explained game theory, the truth and logic of it was self-evident. If Jesus taught that we should care for the needy, then that was a true and moral statement — we can identify it based on the truth of the statement itself — who said it is somewhat irrelevant.

    Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if Jesus was actually a moral person or not, nor does it matter to me whether or not he actually existed. I can say that the character of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels seems to have been moral, regardless of what he believed about himself, just as the character of Obi-wan Kenobi seems to have been noble, regardless of whether or not the Force is real. And at this point, I’m not sure what else can be said about it. Persto, Howie, William, and I seem to see more nuance in how we label people than what Lewis allowed for. You seem to side more with Lewis. Okay; we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

    As far as the origins of Christianity go, I’m well aware the NT makes claims about how it began. Obviously, I don’t agree that it started because people actually witnessed a resurrected Jesus, but that’s not a position I hold out of stubbornness or wishful thinking. My reasons for my position are scattered throughout this blog — most of the important links are referenced above if you’d like to dig into any of the specifics on those threads. But it’s not fair for either of us to criticize how much the other examines or accepts historical or biblical evidence. After all, you hold some doctrinal positions that seem to counter much of what the NT teaches. Rather than accuse you of ignoring the Bible’s teachings, I simply understand that you have a different view of them than most other people.

    Thanks

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  94. Nate,

    I’ve read some of your story and know that you’ve recently been through a lot of emotional and social upheaval – and that this was based on your own personal search for truth. My point is that there is a baby that was lost when you threw out all that dirty bathwater. I hope you’ll soon recover Him. I know you don’t agree with me now, but thanks for letting me say it.

    In the meantime, while you continue your search for truth, don’t assume that the affirmations of those around you now are any more reliable, or any greater indications of the presence of truth, than the previous affirmations of those you left behind. A search for truth is only making real progress when it’s pursued in the sight of God and no one else is around to give you a pat on the back.

    Au revoir.

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  95. I’ve been following this thread for the past couple of days and am amazed at all the quibbling over the writings of one individual. IMO, you either believe in Jesus or you don’t. Whether he was a lunatic or liar is irrelevant to a believer. For them, Jesus is Lord. Period. Non-believers see him in whatever light fits their personal belief system.

    In my own case, I tend to believe Jesus existed but I do not see him as Lord and Savior. Nor do I see him as a liar or lunatic. I believe his role in history was to share a message with the Jews about their relationship with Yahweh. It was Paul who created the image of him that Christians hold today.

    Also, as Nate has commented, the gospels were written several years after the death of Jesus. By then, Paul’s perspective had infiltrated much of the Mediterranean area.

    One final word — Mike said progress in a search for truth is made only when it’s pursued in the sight of God. I disagree. The search for truth comes from within. It matters not whether “God” is watching or whether anyone agrees. The progress comes when it satisfies the needs of the individual.

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  96. Mike, you said: “Lewis himself stated the goal of his argument: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.”

    I get what you’re trying to say, and what Lewis was trying say, but i find it lacking. It would be taking one aspect of a person and then making it apply across the board. that isn’t how things work.

    That’s why I kept asking you if you knew a decently moral person, or if you thought that you, yourself, were a decently moral person. I suspect that is also why you did not answer those questions. because if you say that you do know moral people, then all i’d have to do is point out that they’ve sinned (all have sinned and fallen short…), and by Lewis’ position, i could then determine that a sinner could not teach righteousness or be decently moral.

    Someone can tell a lie, which would be immoral, but may very well be very moral in everything else they do. This is possible. This does happen. I just don’
    t see where Lewis’ position factored in all the variables. It was over simplified, and therefore inadequate.

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  97. I’m noticing you haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s pretty odd for such a verbose young man. Is everything alright?

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  98. Thanks for asking Hayden, but everything’s good. I changed careers in the summer, and I’ve been pretty busy with that (requires a lot of studying right now). So that’s really what’s been eating up my time. But I hope to get back to more regular posts in the next few months. And in a week or two, I hope that have that evolution post finished that I’ve been working on.

    So no worries — things are good. 🙂 Thanks again for checking in!

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  99. ooooooooooo. An Atheist writing a post about evolution… I got the shudders. Can’t wait to read it and I’m glad to hear all is good:)

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  100. Hi Nate,

    Just wondering, have you read much about British Philosopher Antony Flew? if so what are your thoughts on his conversion?

    Kind regards

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  101. Hey Ryan,

    I haven’t read much about or from Antony Flew, but I’m familiar enough to know who you’re talking about. I do hear Christians refer to him from time to time in an effort to debunk atheism. But Flew didn’t convert from atheism to Christianity; he converted to deism. I don’t really blame him. I get why people believe in a god. In a lot of ways, I don’t view deism as all that different from atheism, because while they may believe that a god (or “prime mover”) exists, it doesn’t really affect much about the way they interact with the world . They’re not out trying to convert people, they don’t believe God will punish those who don’t believe in him, etc.

    In other words, if you put the three positions on a spectrum — atheism, deism, and Christianity — I think deism is much closer to atheism than Christianity.

    Anyway, how do you feel about it?

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  102. It seems to me that some Christians get really interested when well known atheists change their minds about something, which makes sense I suppose (Luke 15:7).

    In regards to Antony Flew I think many well meaning Christians hoped a leap of faith followed to theism.

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  103. I think that would be true of any group though. If Billy Graham suddenly became an Atheist, you’d hear Atheists all over the world going crazy for him. The same is true if President Obama became a Republican. When we’re a part of group, someone noteworthy “switching sides” is seen as a victory to us.

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  104. Well of course! Wouldn’t you!? The book says “Thou shalt not lie.” It doesn’t say “Thou shalt not exaggerate to Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Rastafarians, Eco-Challengers, weirdo’s, psychotic rednecks ie my family, Nate, evolutionists, bloggers, I’m bored and trying to make something out of a simple reply I should have just said “cool” to since Nate said I was right, which almost never happens. I’ll finish this on a blog post….”

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  105. Hi Nate,

    Hello! SoundEagle would like to congratulate you on becoming an emancipated truth-seeking born-again atheist!

    SoundEagle must commend most if not all of your readers for being civilised and patient with each other. It is very unfortunate that too often even those who claim to believe in and adopt the scientific method still cherrypick the data and refuse to examine contrary evidences. They fail to understand and address many valid points, perspectives, domains and dimensions, and hence it is impossible for them to evaluate and change their standpoints, approaches and behaviours. You might have heard of this quote:

    For those who do believe, no proof is necessary.
    For those who don’t, no proof is possible.

    All in all, it is important for, and also courageous and admirable of, us to confront these sensitive and polarising issues amidst social prejudice, ignorance and bigotry, to have lived an examined life, and to be inquisitive and open-minded. Perhaps some of us could take comfort in the fact that in recent years, the Catholic Church has had to accept evolution, though on a theistic basis.

    For one of the most recent takes on atheism, visit http://www.thesixwaysofatheism.com.

    As for the pitfalls and fallacies of the design argument, visit the following:
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/intelligent-design-trial.html

    It has been estimated that if evolution (both macro and micro) were wrong then more than 99% of all scientific disciplines would be wrong too due to the high degree of cross-collaborations and confluences of data. That is not (just) my claim; and it is from some scientists who have made the interconnections and stocktaking of disciplines and knowledges. When creationists try to debunk certain parts and/or the whole of evolutionists or evolutionary scientists, they have cited certain problems with some scientific claims and/or techniques which rely on or are founded on mathematics, measurements, instruments, various disciplines and so on in very interconnected ways, and have been reliably used fro a long time. For example, many instruments rely on the veracity and reliability of quantum mechanics, electronics and electrical engineering, which in turn rely on other disciplines such as physics, mechanical engineering, optics and so on . . . . It is a very highly interconnected web.

    By “cross-collaborations” (whether by design or by accident, whether independently or co-dependently, and whether concurrently or not), I meant the cumulative results, benefits and synergies from the convergence of evidence from diverse disciplines and researchers who may or may not be collaborating and/or aware of each other’s findings and activities in the first place; and I also meant that research(ers) on/in evolution and evolutionary sciences have relied and benefited, both directly and indirectly, fertilizations, findings, paradigms and techniques from diverse disciplines. Let me quote Michael Shermer from his essay entitled “A skeptic’s journey for truth in science” as further examples:

    To be fair, not all claims are subject to laboratory experiments and statistical tests. Many historical and inferential sciences require nuanced analyses of data and a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry that point to an unmistakable conclusion. Just as detectives employ the convergence of evidence technique to deduce who most likely committed a crime, scientists employ the method to determine the likeliest explanation for a particular phenomenon. Cosmologists reconstruct the history of the universe by integrating data from cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics, spectroscopy, general relativity and quantum mechanics. Geologists reconstruct the history of Earth through a convergence of evidence from geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Archaeologists piece together the history of a civilization from pollen grains, kitchen middens, potshards, tools, works of art, written sources and oth er site-specific artifacts. Climate scientists prove anthropogenic global warming from the environmental sciences, planetary geology, geophysics, glaciology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, ecology, among other disciplines. Evolutionary biologists uncover the history of life on Earth from geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, genetics, and so on.

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  106. Hey, Nate, what brings you my way? I got your regards. Thank you. I see you still got the evolution thing going. It is strange how some of us are so drawn to the Gospel message, and others so repelled, but as for me, the day I see a perfectly painted picture happen as a result of a garage blowing up, that is the day I will consider evolution. I know, just that design theory again, but it is true. It simply would never never happen, but more than that, is the effect the Gospel has on people. It is evident that there is more to the Gospel than any man can surmise, it is drawing those who love the things of God, and repelling those who don’t. As for those who never had the chance to accept Christ, I suspect God does what he did before the Law came along and gave awareness of sin. It had something to do with judging the conscience. I’m no expert on it, but I’m sure a perfect God has a perfect answer. As for me, I heard the Gospel and was drawn to it. I’m past the point of any exceptions. Glad you’re doing well. Stop in any time.

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  107. That’s right, everything that “IS” must have had a beginning and a catalyst to that beginning and a designer to create something so complex… except God… the infinitely complex God is too complex to have had a beginning… or a catalyst… or a designer….

    huh, maybe complex living things don’t need any of those… unless they do… I’m sort of confused. Do things need to be created or don’t they? I guess there could be a Goldilocks range of things that need creators. The very simple may not need a creator and apparently the extremely complex do not either, just everything in between?

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  108. If you are talking about “spirit”, that is a horse of another color. God is “spirit”. The flesh and blood, Jesus, of course, was birthed into being. Genesis says God breathed (spirit/life) into Adam, and he became a living “soul”. LIFE must be very hard to create since man in all of his intelligence has not managed to create one form of life from nothing, in all his years of trying, and yet all these different life forms have been able to accidently develop? Not one life form, but several? When man cannot even create one? I guess the odds are in the zillions? I don’t know. I think there is a better chance of a miraculous spirit “Being” somehow existing, than any other material thing, such as a “spark” (material), that ignites a bunch of gas (material). At least in my exploding garage I give you material to start with. But it doesn’t matter. Both our minds are obviously made up. Somehow were both sure were right. Something in me is convinced one way, and something in you convinced the other. At least “man not creating life” is a “fact”, where as evolution is still all theory. I look at the facts I do have, (and there are others also), and when I add them up my soul is convinced of God, of which I cannot prove, so must remain as faith, or theory. I have my facts, you have your wanna-be facts. (That’s what theory is.) I know it is taught as fact, but that is really just lying, because it is not fact no matter how much people try to say it is. (Like Obama trying to say we don’t have a spending problem. Actually, we have a SIN problem that causes a spending problem.) I must admit that the evolution discussion really tires me. So many trips around the same mulberry bush. Either you believe God created us, then came here to save us from our own stupidity, or you do not. That is the Gospel message. I offer that message to you one more time, because I am a believer, and that is what we do. I never try to guess if someone will accept, or reject. Not even someone who has accepted before.

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  109. Hi Cowboy,

    Just a couple of things real quick. In scientific terms, a theory is a collection of facts about a particular subject, like the “theory of gravity.” So in that sense, evolution is a fact. So far, there is no scientific reason to doubt its validity. If it’s a subject you’re interested in, I can recommend some good books that lay out the evidence. If you’d rather not spend your time on that (and I can completely understand if that’s the case), then no hard feelings. But to me, your judgment on this issue seems a bit too harsh unless you’re willing to actually study the subject in more detail.

    Thanks,

    Nate

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  110. @ jsutacowforchrist,

    you’re funny, and I dont mean in the funny sense. the only “fact” that you laid out in your response was that “man hasnt created life.” Then you say I have my theory and you have your facts…. I mean, I also agree that man hasn’t created life from nothing, so it seems we have the same facts and are in agreement.

    We may disagree on our theories, however, but as you pointed out, there aren’t any facts supporting your theory. And your mind may be made up. And why shouldn’t it be, you have a fact that has nothing to do with your theory or the theory of evolution.

    The difference here is honest objectivity. I’ve seen both sides. I’ve been a fervent believer. the thing is, i’m not an atheist, although agnostic may be close. I would assume by your name that you’re not aware of the facts surrounding your bible. Now based upon those facts are why I no longer believe in it. It’s funny because when i was reading the last portion of your latest response, i thought you were talking about religion.

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  111. Yes, here is where we could really begin to run around that mulberry bush, for I have many responses to what you have said, but I have decided that my testimony in Christ, and the Bible”s witnesses on Christ is enough. As Jesus said, unless the Father draws someone, they will in no wise come. If the Gospel message produces no drawing in you, then I certainly cannot either. I have learned that. It was good to hear from you again, I certainly wish you the best, anytime you stop in you know what you can expect to hear from me, and I from you. At least we’re consistant! (LOL!)

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  112. How and why is the bible enough given its contradictions, errors, and problems surrounding its compilation?

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  113. I have seen so many “supposed” contradictions that were not, that my head spins every time someone brings it up, but still, we strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I am surrounded by all the evidence I need. What you believe to be true is simply impossible. Spirit is a different realm. Life does not happen by accident, not even once, let alone all the examples I see. For me to ignore what I am surrounded by would be to swallow the camel. Nice try. Obviously we don’t think the same. We are exercising futility here. How you can ignore the impossibility of life blows my mind! I don’t just read God’s word, I have “tested” it, and have been greatly blessed in the results. Again, to ignore 50 years of testing would be to swallow the camel. I know you mean well, I suppose, but your words seem hollow and meaningless. When your life is over and you no longer remember ever existing, what will any of this mean? But of course, maybe you will still exist. maybe you will remember the conversation you kept pursuing.

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  114. can you share your means of testing and the test results?

    and I personally think that nate has done a good job of illustrating many of the problems (blatant contradictions, i suppose) within the bible. so far i haven’t seen answers to… let me rephrase that, so far I have only seen improbable and absurd suppositions for a rebuttal.

    have you answered those on nate’s posts? if so, i’ll go back through to review what you’ve offered.

    and I’m not sure you know what i believe, so to assert that it is “impossible” may be your own violation of Prov 18:13. I forgive you… If i forgave you before you asked for forgiveness, would that make me more merciful than the god of the bible? Just curious, because i dont want to be guilty of that.

    and cowboy, keep ’em straight up ‘ahr.

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  115. I left the endless debates some time ago, but if you would like to pose to me one of his biblical contradictions, I’ll take a look at it. Please keep it to one, for now, I have a lot of ministry going on and don’t usually have a lot of time. I actually took a day off from work today, just so I could catch up. So shoot one at me and I’ll look at it. Thanks. (Probably won’t get an answer back until at least tomorrow.)

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  116. P.S. I have an article I just wrote up at my site, called: “Spending Problem?” I would love for you to read it and give me your opinion. God’s word cuts straight through the problems of our time and reveals truth. That is one way I have tested God’s word, by the way it reveals a spade as a spade time and time again. A book so old, and yet it is still ahead of us? We have yet to catch up to the wisdom it offers.

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  117. Cowboy,

    I just posted an essay on my blog, concerning some of the points you were making. Just click on my web name.

    “Life does not happen by accident, not even once, let alone all the examples I see.”

    Biopoiesis research seems to be making some head way about how life arises from inorganic matter. You may have heard it called abiogenesis. Just to give one example the Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated that amino acids–the building blocks of life–can be racemically–one that has equal amounts of left- and right-handed enantiomers of a chiral molecule. That’s just organic chemistry stuff–synthesized in conditions probably similar to the early Earth’s conditions. Just Google the subject. There is some very fascinating research in this area of study. Oh, and autotrophs, like plants, phytoplankton, and some bacteria, turn inorganic matter into organic matter. Also, there is the simple, everyday occurrence of eating bread or cooked meat that turns non-living material into living tissue. Damn, I keep forgetting stuff I wanted to mention. Ahaha, also, in empty space, there are virtual particles popping in and out of existence in a time span so short they are nearly undetectable. We know they are real because they interact with other particles and physicists have devised ways of measuring those observable effects. Here again, life just sort of seems to be happening, accidentally.

    As for the creation of the Universe, firstly, why couldn’t the reason the universe exists be for gods instead of for God? Aristotle allowed for multiple prime movers.

    Secondly, how do you know the universe is contingent and not a necessary being, an eternal brute fact? The idea of infinite regress seemed like an obvious absurdity until the nineteenth century. But now, even though scientists and mathematicians talk about the beginning of the universe and the relativity of time, they no longer consider an infinite regress as necessarily impossible. Without the idea that infinite regress is an absurdity, the argument loses its main premise.

    Thirdly, the force of this sort of argumentation resides in the dilemma: either there is a non-contingent being or the universe is ultimately unintelligible. Clearly the argument of contingency is persuasive only if the second alternative has been ruled out. However, it has not only not been ruled out, but represents the atheist’s position.

    Fourthly, I am quite certain you believe in the existence of a personal, completely good God but to get from the god of the argument of contingency to the god of theism requires an extraordinary leap in logic. This sort of argumentation may lead you to accept that the world was created in time and it may offer a hint of a divine creation, but more evidence is necessary to get to the God of theism.

    Also, the person who jumps to a close by absolute truth–God–in order to avoid relativism finds another kind of relativism. It appears that an absolute is utilized to perform a specific philosophical function, that is, to provide a solution to relativism, which is done by creating an explanation that is outside physical space and time. This doesn’t make knowing less relative but more. The problem becomes that these things are not relative in a way that allows access to truth in a classical way–agreement of the intellect and thing–but they are relative to something outside physical reality and time, which makes them relative in a way that disallows access to truth because they are not relative in accordance with the relation between mind and thing in a natural reality that is essential for human knowing. Descartes, Kant, Spinoza created more philosophical problems than they solved by placing God in useful metaphysical roles, in my mind.

    Lastly, do you think like Parmenides that nothing cannot exist? If so, does it follow that it is impossible for it to exist? It seems that if nothing cannot exist that being must always exist. However, a number of philosophers, Leibniz among them, are not sold on this idea of being. So, if being is not absolutely necessary then wouldn’t there be a place for nothing to exist?

    “If the Gospel message produces no drawing in you, then I certainly cannot either. I have learned that.”

    As to my own position, to put it simply, I see the non-being of God rather than the being, which makes God nonexistent, for me at least. That is why I am an atheist. Of course, I could trot out the problem of evil or the hiddenness of God or flaws in religion or the superfluity of god as a result of advances in science or sacred text inaccuracies or the less than convincing arguments for God’s existence in philosophy, but, while all those things play a part in my atheism, when I look to where the theist says he sees the divine; I see nothing. That is why I am an atheist.

    Regards

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  118. christcowboy,

    okay, one issue at a time. The genealogy of christ. mathew gives one way to jesus through Joseph, luke gives another way to jesus through joseph, and neither completely jive with the OT’s genealogy. So we basically have 3 genealogies in the bible and not a one of them matches.

    So, it is essentially like saying the recipe for the perfect cookie is flour, two eggs, 1/2 cup of milk and a 3lbs of sugar. then, in the same cookbook, it lists a recipe for the prefect cookie with 1 tbs spoon of water, 1 cup of soy, 1 lbs of sugar, and a hand full of chocolate chips, and then as you continue reading in your cookbook, you find yet another recipe for the perfect cookie…

    how can it be perfect if there are three different ones all claiming to be the same thing?

    nate, can you post a link to your blog on this topic? I’m afraid the extent of my computer competency is limited to typing. to me, a spreadsheet is the thing I use to make my bed.

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  119. @Persto,

    In your HUGE resposne you said “So, if being is not absolutely necessary then wouldn’t there be a place for nothing to exist?”

    I thought the idea that energey always exists contradicted this and that this was a working theory. Meaning that when we die we are still energy. For you that means you are dispersed into the univers but still energy for me it is I go to heaven, still energy. Wouldn;t this support that “nothing” cannot exist?

    God bless:)

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  120. You guys really need to pay closer attention. I did not say one issue “at a time”, I said one question, and you have chosen. Continuing that thought, God has set this creation up to reward those that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6) I’m sure you know that already, but might need reminding based on what I have seen so far. If you’re not willing to diligently seek, you will find lots of things you can “assume”.

    Now you guys love to throw all your college education at me, the big words, the liberal professors, as if I would understand half that stuff. Fair enough, but we have scholars, too. So you want to go deep? You finally asked one good question. You’re not going to like the answer though, because you already alluded to it, and for some reason do not believe it could be true? (Even though there are many logical reasons as to why it is absolutely true!)

    Now why is that, that you “assume” it cannot be true? Why is it that you WANT to believe the worse about the Bible? Why is it that you assume it so much that you would tell others that the Bible is full of contradictions, when you are only assuming that? Is that what you learn from liberal professors? Just wondering how you became that way? Also remember, it is the original manuscripts that are perfect, not any translation, that is why we study long and deep. I will give you a Bible error, at the end if you like, however, you have not found one here. Neither is the end of I Samuel and beginning of II Samuel. That one is so easy I can hardly believe it is even brought up. The only errors I have ever found are very minor, and easily overcome by anyone following the Holy Spirit within. Yes, Christianity is supernatural, and we have a Spirit that guides us! Wooooo! Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. People don’t want to believe it, but the Holy Spirit enables us to understand God’s word. (I Cor. 2:14)

    To properly answer your question, I need some space. I would not do this if you did not ask me to. I also realize you will not be easy to convince, probably impossible, so I have to give real details, so at “maybe” you might see a “logical” pattern to the answer. So here we go.

    Your answer starts clear back in Genisis 3:15. Realize that “woman” was the last to be created, and the first to fall to sin. Sin entered mankind first through the woman. Satan came to the woman, the weaker vessel. He did not come to Adam, Eve came to Adam and he also fell. So when God hands out the judgements on this, there is a beautiful logic to it. He takes them in order of offense. First, the snake. Second, the woman. Third, the man. Now since the woman was the doorway sin entered through, so shall the woman be a source of redemption as “Salvation” shall also come through her! God loves to take Satan’s evil and turn it to good!

    Adam is given no credit for anything having to do with the salvation that is to come. He will sweat and work until the day he die, but unto the woman it is said that Her “seed” shall crush the head of the snake. (This is very important.)

    I Timothy 2:15 confirms that women will be saved through childbearing. What? If a woman has no children she can’t be saved? That would be a good one for you guys to try, however, if you read the whole thing it is clear that God is speaking of “THE” child (Jesus) that shall be born through MARY. Now I have said all this so that you will see that it is the geneology of MARY that is so important in the birth of Christ! (And you know where I am going, but hear me out.)

    If you know Jewish customs, you would know that they were not aware of the “virgin” birth, and would have been checking Joseph’s geneology. So, of course, Joseph’s geneology “appears” to be important, however, it really had nothing to do with the flesh and blood body of Christ. (Agreed?) Also, you would know that if the Pharisees and Saducees, (however you spell those words), could have disqualified Christ by his geneology, THEY WOULD HAVE!

    It is plain they couild not, not even by the geneology in Luke, that seems completely different from Matthew. Yes, completely different. That, alone, should be a major clue! Not even a man writing a fake book would make a mistake like that. The Jews were experts in geneolgy, yet found no ground to stand on! You also need to understand that the word “begat” does not always mean “birthed from”, it also can simply mean “direct descendant”, which is done many times in the Bible. People are skipped, for whatever reason, in several biblical geneologies. In Matthew’s case, God was fitting the relating the birth of Christ to the three major time periods of the Jewish people. Matthew specifically says these are 14 generations, meaning, fitted into 14 generations, of which David’s generation was a part of two time periods.

    I’m not going to spend any more time on Matthews account, because it is of Joseph, which satisfies the “step-father’s” linage, but MARY is the important one here, which if you recall, was kept rather SECRET!

    Even the words in Luke’s account should have alerted you that there was more here than meets the eye. The very way it starts out! “being AS IT WAS SUPPOSED?” Yes, SUPPOSED, but not true! Jesus was not the son of Joseph! And when you see a complete contradiction as to who the father of Joseph was? You ASSUME the Bible is contradicting itself? You only reveal your bias.

    The father of MARY would have been the first flesh and blood “male” that Jesus was actually related to by birth. That was Jesus grandfather. Luke most likely got the geneology direct from MARY. Her geneology is the most important, also fulfilling the scritpure that woman would be saved in childbearing, in fact, her childbearing is here to save us all! Jesus was the son (grandson) of Heli.

    Now for some reason you guys ASSUME none of this is true, even though it fits perfectly the context of all scripture, from Genisis to Revelation. It also fits Jewish customs perfectly. There is even more that could be said, but look how long this is already.

    If you want a true error, try Matt. 17:21. For some reason, some translators thought that prayer and fasting should go together, so they added that. Now fasting does increase the power of prayer, but it is not in the original manuscripts in that way. Most modern translations have corrected that error. here again, nothing that a little diligent study , with the help of the Holy Spirit, would have any problem overcoming.

    I have gone to a lot of trouble to answer this, I hope that proves my sincerity. I would not have done this had I not thought it to be worth my time. You wanted to know how I have tested scripture for 50 years? To give you one example, I asked you to read my latest article : “Spending Problem?”, and give me some feedback. Human Nature never fails to prove God’s word, of which you guys have proven again.

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  121. Why is it that you assume it so much that you would tell others that the Bible is full of contradictions, when you are only assuming that?

    That’s not an assumption — it’s a conclusion based on a lot of research. If I’m wrong, I’d like for someone to point it out to me, and I’ve made it easy by linking to all the articles in my About section.

    That said, I appreciate you taking the time to answer William’s question.

    Now for some reason you guys ASSUME none of this is true, even though it fits perfectly the context of all scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. It also fits Jewish customs perfectly.

    I’m not so sure about that. As I mentioned in my article, we have writings of early Christians that were bothered by this discrepancy between Matthew and Luke. And Luke does more than just say there’s a relationship between Joseph and Heli, he says it like this:

    Joseph, the son of Heli

    And really, if this scenario answers the problem so well, why didn’t the gospel writers just spell that out in the first place? Why even give the appearance of a contradiction?

    You also referred to Matthew’s 14-14-14 division in Jesus’ genealogy, which we know is false when we compare it to Chronicles. In some ways, that problem bothers me more, because Matthew uses it as evidence to show that Jesus’ coming fits some divine pattern, when the pattern didn’t really exist at all — it was just an invention of Matthew’s.

    I do agree somewhat with your conclusion though — there are bigger and clearer discrepancies than this one. I think the conflicting accounts of when Jesus died is a better example. But the bottom line is this: there are many of these that we could point to, because the Bible is filled with them. And while it might be convenient to say that inerrancy only applies to the original autographs, that’s still problematic, because why would God go to the trouble of inspiring his word if he wasn’t going to bother keeping it accurate?

    To give you one example, I asked you to read my latest article : “Spending Problem?”, and give me some feedback. Human Nature never fails to prove God’s word, of which you guys have proven again.

    Sorry I haven’t been able to read your article yet. I will. I didn’t really understand your last sentence though…

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  122. As I have said, you have your experts, and I have mine. This gets us nowhere. That is why I said I would do, ONE, just to prove the point. I gave you plenty of sound evidence, but we all get to choose the verdict. You have made yours plain. Now we go our separate paths.

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  123. Sounds good. Thanks again for chiming in.

    I meant to add one other thing (not trying to stir this back up — just wanted to finish my thought). The two differing accounts in Matthew and Luke are precisely what we’d expect to find from two different authors, unaware of one another, who were trying to provide Jesus’ lineage independently. But when we try to say that both were equally inspired by the same Holy Spirit, we have to resort to all kinds of theological artistry. And yes, people can make up their own minds on which makes more sense.

    Thanks again for taking the time — I really do appreciate it and your sincerity. Take care.

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  124. I just had to briefly jump in here. Cowboy writes: “Also remember, it is the original manuscripts that are perfect, not any translation, that is why we study long and deep.”

    I can’t count the many times I’ve heard this same (or similar) statement made by apologists and theologians. The usual comment goes like this: “The original statements were perfect and without error but through copy errors and translation this perfection has been lost.” Since there are no original manuscripts in existence, a statement like this is speculative at best..

    To me, this is just one more example of the way Christians continue to parrot what they have heard from the pulpit instead of doing the research to learn if what they have been told is truth.

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  125. I guess I should have said original “language”. Translations must be made from the original language which we do have. Also, as said before, the errors are so small, that only someone not wanting to believe would even have any trouble seeing it. As with the supposed contradictions of the geneologies, that is a perfect example that it is not even a contradiction at all. Jewish scholars were unable to refute the bloodline of Christ. That alone should tell you something. But go ahead, have a hayday tearing apart something that cannot be proven one way or another. There are plenty who will “assume” that your biased assumptions are right. Assumptions can be dangerous ground to stand on. The evidence I see compels me to “believe” that God is right. I will assume he is right. Your faith assumes he is wrong. This is the biggest decision we will ever make in this life. I will consider the words that shall follow as you all having the last word. Have at it. If you want to hear more from me, you can read my stuff, which I already asked you to do on just one article. Very revealing about human nature. Perhaps I’m asking too much?

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  126. cowboy, you crack me up. First you say the we “assume” but you’re the one making assumptions. Both Mathew and Luke say “through Joseph” and neither say anything about any part of it coming through Mary. To say that “the writer meant through Mary” is the assumption. I didn’t need liberal college professors to help point that out.

    Oh, and Mathew and Luke have three of the same names in them… how can that be?

    Then in your last response you go on to talk about how much evidence you have that those who don’t buy into are just intentionally rejecting truth – then you go on to say that there isn’t proof for either side… You know… I give up. If someone can just make up any imaginary fix to a problem they dont like, then there’s no point to the discussion. There is clearly a problem with the genealogies, and i suggest that any contradiction can be excused in the way you are excusing this.

    “they meant Mary, when they actually said Joseph.” “the first century jews didnt have a problem with it.” this is false since the first century jews and Christians both wrote about it, but even if not, let’s validate your claim by asking a first century jew… oh yeah, they’re all dead and cant be asked. and my favorite, “it’s too big of a contradiction to be a real contradiction…” that one speaks for itself.

    I mean, a true conservative would at least take the bible at it’s own word. maybe that spirit helps you see what god should have written instead of what ended up being written. It would be nice if he’d help the rest of out, since he’s not a respecter of persons and all.

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  127. What I gave you came from Bible scholars. Go ahead, have a good laugh if that is how you see it. Your faith strikes me pretty funny, too. So looks like were all having a good laugh. Time to move on.

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  128. Hayden,

    “I thought the idea that energey always exists contradicted this and that this was a working theory. Meaning that when we die we are still energy. For you that means you are dispersed into the univers but still energy for me it is I go to heaven, still energy. Wouldn;t this support that “nothing” cannot exist?”

    If energy always existed, then what does one need god for? Take for example the Big Bang. What was before the big bang? Nothing? Something? While Christian theology seems to believe nothing existed, which is what creatio ex nihilo suggests–creation out of nothing. And we know that something cannot come from nothing. So, how did it happen? A miracle of god is what theists claim. But if that nothing was not nothing, but something then the creation of the universe makes perfect sense, in physical terms, as the activity in empty space indicates. Here again, though, before the universe existed matter did not exist. So, could matter have created itself? Unlikely, but, before the universe existed what existed? Can nothing exist? Must have been nothing, right? If not anything did not exist, then the idea of God as a first cause is illogical and unnecessary. If the pre-existent universe was something then the big bang makes perfect sense in terms of the way in which natural phenomena operate. Something can come from something and does all the time. On the other hand, if it was nothing then the first cause idea seems to be much stronger. However, the idea of nothing existing must be granted because there was a period in which not anything existed and who is to say it couldn’t again or doesn’t in some area of life and death. Parminides said that nothing does not exist, but what was the pre-existent universe if not nothing?

    Let me try this:

    If I say that non-being or nothing cannot exist then the converse, that being or something must always be, must be true. However, a number of philosophers from Leibniz to Schelling to Heidegger were not sold on this idea of being–the idea that being was absolutely necessary did not seem obvious to them. So, if being is not absolutely necessary, then I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to say that nothing might exist in one sense.

    Regards

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  129. cowboy, yeah, i agree. I’ll just add that maybe you should try putting more effort in your own understanding than you put faith in scholars. And why would you be so quick to criticize people for listening to college professors when you place so much stock in scholars yourself?

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  130. …and which part of my “faith” do you find funny? I’d like to be honest and accurate, so if you see any holes in my position, i’d like to know what they are so i can correct them.

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  131. Not criticizing professors except that you have your faith and I have mine. You have your teachers and I have mine. Each of us have proven nothing, and we end up back at faith. We are the same.

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  132. Lets see, which is the most funny to me? The incredible complexity and fragile balance of life, and yet it was produced by a big bang sparked by nothing out of nothing, and then slowly evolved out of goo, but evolved fast enough to have babies and reproduce before it died off. Lets see, there is no possibiltiy that Luke’s geneology is of Mary, its just that the stupid writer didn’t check his facts, although he matched up with matthew on his other stories, he just got careless when it came to the geneologies, it could not be possible that it is intentional and holds a mystery you have not yet unlocked. Lets see, evolution is a theory but we speak of it as facts. Lets see, The end of I Samuel and beginning of II Samuel contradict, and it must be a contradiction because it is not possible that the second man was spinning a story in hopes of winning favor with David. lets see, a fetus is not a real person yet, although I thought the DNA sets who we are, the gene code that would be established in very early stages. Lets see, no one should judge each other, and yet man does not need a higher standard to create the laws for all men to be judged by. But I say who are you to tell me what I can or cannot do? Lets see, Matthews geneology plainly shows that the last generation of the Captivity is counted twice (in verses 11-12), but that could not possibly be the extra number for the 14 count we need. And last, but not least, as I have only named a few things off the top of my head, but perhaps the most funny of all is how after all our great SPECULATIONS, it still comes down to FAITH. LOL! Yes, FAITH! That silly concept that scripture is filled with! All things were created by words spoken in faith! And we still can’t get away from that! We are still stuck at WORDS and FAITH! How cool is that. This is too much fun. Don’t know if this answers your question, but it should at least give you some idea. Life is easy to create, it happens all the time. Lets go create some, and check back in a day of two.

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  133. Hey Nate! Nan invited me over here to look at the comment thread based on a post I just put up about the Genealogy of Jesus. You mention that Matthew’s 14-14-14 schema is contradicted in Chronicles. Could you be more specific? I thought I did a good job of researching this thing and I read nothing about that particular bit. Of course, everything I read was “pro” in trying to explain away the differences…maybe that was my error. I, coming from the skeptic side, was so concerned to not bias myself with “con” arguments that I think I might have failed to consider an important con argument.

    Nan seems to make a good point. Yhwh is all powerful, all knowing, all etc, he can give his perfect revelation to the original writers…but he can’t inspire the translators to make an error free translation? I’m an American living in Europe and I can attest first hand to the difficulties of translation–even from one modern language to another. I would think that translating from a language of long ago to a modern language ERROR FREE would be the ultimate proof of god, b/c it cannot be done by humans (I am learning).

    Cowboy: I am only just learning of you from this comment thread…but I must say, for one engaged in the Theism/Atheism debate, you seem to have failed to define your terms. An atheist is one who does not believe in god or gods. Atheism is not a belief as Bald is not a hair color, as not collecting stamps is a hobby. True, an atheist can have a confirmation bias against the bible and not be intellectually honest enough to accept good evidence for the bible’s reliability. The quality of their arguments can revel that. However, even Saint Augustine (living like 400CE) had difficulties with the unmatching genealogies, and even he only gave a possible answer–for nearly 2000yrs this has been a question without EVIDENTIAL conclusion. Sure, there are ideas of how to reconcile the two lists, but there is no actual evidence to support it. If there was, there would be only one answer. But there isn’t.

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  134. cowboy, not to be rude, but you’re an idiot. How else can someone prove a contradiction but by comparing two things that claim to be the same, but clearly are not? The only failure here, is in proving that they are not what they seem – a contradiction.

    And your latest post…. You seem to be assuming an awful lot about me, or you’re just rambling – i couldn’t tell. But I will say that the discrepancy in Luke and Mathew’s genealogy of christ through Joseph is not the only difference between the two accounts. maybe instead of rustling cows for christ, you should read his book, or the book that people said was about him.

    You could just give a good explanation for the differences instead saying that “if Luke meant joseph (which is what he said), it would be a contradiction, and since we know god is perfect and the bible is his book, then luke must have meant mary. Oh my, look how perfect the bible is…” after we juggle things around and make it say what it doesnt say and excuse logical problems that you would use to invalidate other religions.

    and what’s your point about faith? that since that’s all you have despite the evidence, and since that’s the case any faith should do? or is it that neither of have faith in god, since god hasnt told either of us anything or shown himself to either of us, but that our faith is in what men has told us and shown us, well, and I, at least, try to base mine in logic to some degree.

    But, yeah, the guys who wrote your flawed bible must be telling the truth and must be 100% accurate – does that really make the most sense? I mean, if you want to believe that, then cool, but is it really absurd that people are skeptical of those claims? be honest now.

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  135. Hi eSell, thanks for stopping by!

    There are at least 5 names in 1 Chron 1-3 that Matthew leaves out of his list: Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, Jehoiakim, and Pedaiah. I’ve listed Amaziah, but it could be Ahaziah that’s left out. It’s hard to say because Matthew uses the name Uzziah… not sure which one he was referring to. The other main difference b/t Chronicles and Matthew and Luke is that the 1 Chron list goes on beyond Zerubbabel, but none of the remaining names match either Matthew OR Luke.

    And I completely agree with you about the translation thing. It makes no sense to me that God would have a vitally important message that means the difference b/t Heaven and Hell, that he would inspire all these different people to write out this message, but then completely abandon it when it came time to translate it and even decide which writings were legit.

    Thanks again for the comment, and I’ll be sure to check out your blog as well!

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  136. People are always skeptical of what can’t be proven, and so, we each must decide for ourself. What do you think happens to you after you die? Are you completely mortal, or do you have an eternal part? What do you believe?

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  137. Cowboy, there are things I’d like to believe. I’d actually like to believe there is a god who knew me intimately, loved me, and had prepared a place for me and my loved ones to live eternally after these bodies die – but i just don’t buy it. Despite what I want to be true, i just see it as wishful longing. I’m not sure what will happen after we die, but i suspect it will be a lot like it was before we were born.

    And I think people tend to act as if there are only two choices; either what the bible says, or evolution. This is a misconception. There are many choices besides those two, including “i just dont know.” Sort of like, “I may not know what it is, but i know what it isnt.”

    happy wranglin’ cowboy,

    William

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  138. I love your answer. Simple honesty. This is where we find ourselves. As for me, I’ve decided to dabble in poetry again, and so my first return to poetry is in honor of the discussion we have had. If you like to see it, it is my top article right now. Happy trails!

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  139. Wow, Nate. I want to start reading posts, but I got totally engrossed by this comment section. I will throw one thing out there for Ss and Gs: I actually don’t believe the pope is a good moral teacher. He may teach some good things, but anyone can do that. I do think he is leading people astray by teaching that he has something special that others don’t. Just wanted to point out that I do think that disqualifies him as good.

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  140. Nate, although I am not an atheist, I am no longer a traditional Christian either. I have learned to accept doubt and be more inclusive as well. However, I live with my wife who continues to have her original Christian faith in spite of our disillusionment with the church. We haven’t attended church in two years, but now she is voicing that she wants to go back. We even recently started attending a marriage seminar at a local church and brought back memories about what I used to believe. It really makes me feel stagnated and uncomfortable just thinking about going back to that religious lifestyle. I have not shared with her about my spiritual journey, but I may have to eventually. I just hope I can continue to be supportive to her even though we may not agree on everything.

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  141. Hi Noel,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to hear about the turmoil you’re having, and I definitely suggest talking to your wife about it. Those kinds of conversations are not easy, but it’s been my experience that limiting communication with your spouse is never a good thing. Hopefully, she’ll be able to see the honesty and sincerity of your convictions, which should help her sympathize with your outlook, even if she doesn’t share it. I’ve always appreciated the comments that you’ve left here and at other blogs that I’ve seen you on — it’s obvious that you’re searching for truth and trying to do the right thing. I’m sure it will be obvious to her as well.

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  142. Hi Nate, hope you are going well 🙂

    Over the years that you were involved in the COC church, it sounds as if its main teachings emphasised the the bible as the single and complete inerrant authority.

    I just wanted to ask,

    1. Was Jesus considered to be the Living Word, or was the bible considered to be the primary representative of God?

    2. Which did the church focus more on – scripture, or praying and seeking guidance from Jesus? Or was this seen as the same thing?

    3. How much focus did the church place on seeking Gods spiritual guidance?

    I know that churches are made up of people 🙂 and peoples can vary, I was more asking about what the church itself taught while you were there and how did people respond to this.

    Kind regards, Ryan

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  143. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the questions, and I’ve been doing great — thanks for asking. Hope you are too. 🙂

    Jesus was considered to be the Living Word, as John lays out, but I’d still have to say that the most focus was placed on the Bible. The CoC believes that the time of miracles and direct revelation have passed (and there are several passages they’d point to to back that up). So while they do believe that praying for guidance is vital, they think that guidance comes subtly — they think it would be hard to point to specific moments and say, “that’s where God or Jesus told me _____ .” They think the guidance comes by giving us realizations during Bible study, etc.

    So everything really comes down to the Bible, because it’s pretty much “set in stone.” If someone were to say that God had told them to do something that went against what the Bible said, people in the CoC would not believe them. The Bible is paramount, because people’s feelings can often be misleading.

    Does that help? Let me know if some of my answer needs more clarification.

    Thanks again!

    Nate

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  144. Thanks for your thoughtful response Nate, always appreciated

    Yes I think you clarified things. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    I was wondering though,

    If a writer can accidently place a typo on the in the print of a translation of the bible, which has been done before –

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_errata (Bible errata)

    Then it seems that the bible is only a pointer to God. The books themselves are not perfect, because perfection would then make one translation as perfect and discount all others.

    Which then extends to the question – if the books are perfect, which translation does the COC take as being the perfect inerrant word of God?

    I don’t think this discounts the core message of salvation or the accounts of Christ – since translations are part of the evolution of language, and language strikes me to be a vehicle, rather than The destination.

    You wrote, “So everything really comes down to the Bible, because it’s pretty much “set in stone.” If someone were to say that God had told them to do something that went against what the Bible said, people in the CoC would not believe them.”

    I wonder though, isn’t this kind of what the Pharisees and the Sadducees did when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? Weren’t these groups of people also working off past scripture and being very careful not to depart from their former set understanding of what those scriptures mean? Jesus makes reference to this when referring to the Pharisees (John 5:37-39).

    And I appreciate that those very words come from the bible 🙂

    But is it possible that the bible can be an idol in and of itself, in the sense that it by treating it as inerrant it closes people up, since then the book is the end point, and nothing goes beyond the book. But if the books purpose is to point to God then the book is not the end point, and it points beyond it, where it explains life is found. If people are to focus on words in a book only, on the letter and treat that letter as the conclusion.

    Considering that there are so many translations, If language is the vehicle to understanding, then maybe the letter is not as important as the intension of the book, which is namely in Christianity – to point to Christ as God and Saviour.

    And then I also wonder, where in the book(s) does the claim to perfection exist? If it’s there, I haven’t found it. There are references to inspiration (Timothy 3:16) but does this then ascribe the book(s) perfection in written form?

    It also seems to me that there are immense dangers through this line of thinking. Islam also carries the belief of divine perfection in words but pushes it even further. Even though they were an offshoot of Christian scripture, many see the Qur’an as the sole divine Word in and of itself, that it is literally Gods word, therefore Gods native tongue is speaks Arabic, since Arabic is the language.

    Because of this, it follows (arguably) the Qur’an can never be “truly” translated. It is set in stone. This has caused many divisions as to how this inerrant perfection should be interpreted.

    If anything, I think here is a longstanding example of where the evolution of language is stifled, and the vehicle of communication is treated as the destination itself.
    Words are then treated as Divine Authority, rather than pointers to divine Authority. The book is then considered “The Conclusion”, and why would people go beyond the Conclusion?

    Could it be instead that the book communicates the importance of a fellowship with God – it doesn’t claim to be god. If this is so then what matters is what goes beyond the book. Prayer and Gods guidance then becomes an important focus, rather than just biblical hermeneutics and Exegesis.

    The focus can then be moved beyond the book(s) to instead focusing on the teachings in action and the Authority the book points to. The spiritual becomes the focus. If God exists beyond the book, if the book points to that existence then I think the more important question is – is there anything beyond the book?

    Is there a God where the book points to? That to me is the more important question 🙂

    Apologies for the length of this post, but it’s helped me organise my thoughts.

    All the best, Ryan

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  145. Hey Ryan,

    You bring up some great questions.

    if the books are perfect, which translation does the COC take as being the perfect inerrant word of God?

    They do understand that translations are tricky issues. Most of them wouldn’t say that there’s only one “right” translation; however, they tend to shy away from the translations that try to “dumb down” the text. They worry that there’s too much room for error there, and they prefer to stick to translations that try to be precise with each word and thought. Most people in the CoC will use the ASV, NKJV, or ESV. You might occasionally find one that likes the NIV, and every now and then you’ll find an elderly person that prefers the KJV.

    I wonder though, isn’t this kind of what the Pharisees and the Sadducees did when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? Weren’t these groups of people also working off past scripture and being very careful not to depart from their former set understanding of what those scriptures mean?

    But is it possible that the bible can be an idol in and of itself, in the sense that it by treating it as inerrant it closes people up, since then the book is the end point, and nothing goes beyond the book. But if the books purpose is to point to God then the book is not the end point, and it points beyond it

    Could it be instead that the book communicates the importance of a fellowship with God – it doesn’t claim to be god. If this is so then what matters is what goes beyond the book. Prayer and Gods guidance then becomes an important focus, rather than just biblical hermeneutics and Exegesis.

    But this is where it gets tricky. Yes, there are some dangers inherent with their approach. At the same time, what’s the proper balance? Let’s take homosexuality as an example. The entire Bible teaches against it, but many Christians today (thankfully) are beginning to think that there’s nothing wrong with it. In such a situation, who’s right? The Bible, or our modern sensibilities?

    If we say that the Bible is wrong on that issue, what other areas might the Bible be wrong about? At a certain point, one starts to wonder if the Bible really has anything to do with the true God or not. When people think God is speaking to them, does he identify himself as the God of the Bible, or is that just something they assume based on their upbringing and culture?

    This is why I find it much easier to dismiss the Bible in its entirety. If God is powerful enough to create this entire universe, and he wanted to give us a written message, I trust that it would be of a much better quality than what the Bible is. So if there really is a God out there, I doubt he’s related in any way to Yahweh/Jehovah.

    I totally disagree with the church of Christ on just about everything. But their approach to Christianity (relying completely on the Bible) makes more sense to me than the approach of Christians who don’t think Biblical inerrancy is important. For those in the latter group, I just don’t see the point of calling their beliefs “Christianity.” Why not call it deism?

    Thanks again for offering your thoughts!

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  146. It’s interesting. The more I think about the bible, it’s teachings, it’s story, it’s history, the less it makes sense as a moral or divine guide. I used to pray tirelessly that I would learn the truth and that i would see what’s really from god and what isn’t.

    More and more I began to see the problems with the bible – the errors, the inconsistencies, the flaws and the moral atrocities. As I’ve said here before, the biggest thing that did it for me, after seeing the a fore mentioned, was the realization that I had always and only taken “man’s” word on it. God never told me anything – never showed me anything. Where or what was my faith in? I realized it wasn’t in god and couldn’t have been.

    And if it really does all boil down to simply choosing what to believe, then how does Christianity become better than any other religion? You can look at it this way, or look at it that way, but I think if we were to really open our eyes, we’d see that approach is wishful thinking and that approach is “us” making it work by either dismissing or ignoring the problems.

    It becomes like sitting around a fire. When the wind changes and the smoke starts getting in our eyes, we move around the fire out of the smoke. When the wind changes again, we have to move again. When many people see problems in their religion, instead of saying it’s a problem, they shift their view so that the problem is no longer in view, but eventually another problem will become visible, and they’ll simply shift their view again, and the cycle will go on forever… No matter how you look at the bible, problems will arise, and no matter how you try to solve the problem, it usually only creates more problems that will either have to be solved or ignored.

    It’s funny in a way because on one hand many christians speak about what makes sense, or “we know this is what it means because…” but then they’ll turn right around and criticize reason when it points to a religious flaw, or they’ll say the old, “we cant understand god because his ways are higher than our ways.” Well which is it? can we understand “his will” or cant we? The real question however, is why should we even think the bible is “His”?

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  147. I figure that If God is a Person then this Person then He can relate to us.

    If God did become a man and express that if we seek we will find then if we continue to seek to follow God genuinely we will find God.

    If God really did express that those who ask will receive, and if God does go beyond the physical, and prayer is how we express ourselves to Him, then if we genuinely ask of God Himself we will receive genuine answers.

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  148. If we say that the Bible is wrong on that issue, what other areas might the Bible be wrong about?

    Def see your point, this is someting that bugs me as well

    When people think God is speaking to them, does he identify himself as the God of the Bible, or is that just something they assume based on their upbringing and culture?

    I suppose that depends how He expresses Himself to us

    But if a spiritual reality does exist and the Bible points to it, then a genuine revelation and response from God would come from the spiritual, and not just the physical words of a book, although these words could be involved as well.

    Hi William 🙂

    there are lots of things that unsettle me in the Bible, and I still haven’t read all of it. If the Bible is the only point of communication provided by God then God doesn’t go beyond the Bible.

    If the account of the NT is the conclusion of God, instead of being the pointer to how to fellowship with God, then how is it relevent to us?

    But, if the NT is a pointer to God becoming man and to how to follow the teachings of this man. If God communicates to us beyond just the words of the Bible on paper, then there is still relevence to the bible, but the bible is then not the only way God communicates with humanity.

    Which I think is valid, since as far as I have read the bible clearly expresses that it is not the only way God expresses Himself to humanity.

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  149. But if a spiritual reality does exist and the Bible points to it, then a genuine revelation and response from God would come from the spiritual, and not just the physical words of a book, although these words could be involved as well.

    But how can you know this without God telling you this directly? And if God does speak to people directly, and the Bible does have problems (which is evident), what’s the point of the Bible at all?

    I think trying to have it both ways is really just wishful thinking. Why would the supreme creator of the universe waste his time and ours with a flawed book when he can just speak to us directly? The fact that the Bible has flaws mean that you can never really be sure if what you’re reading in it is true. I just don’t see a being at God’s level operating in such a backward way. Doesn’t this say more about our reluctance to give up our cultural traditions than it does about the actual worth of the Bible? We want at least parts of it to be true, so we desperately try to find ways to hang onto it.

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  150. I’m just thinking that because the Bible itself states that it is not the only way God expresses Himself to us, then doesn’t this make the bible a secondary source, since it is referring to a primary source, it doesn’t claim to be the primary source itself.

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  151. But how can you know this without God telling you this directly? And if God does speak to people directly, and the Bible does have problems (which is evident), what’s the point of the Bible at all?

    I can see where you are coming from

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  152. Too, some of this depends on what you understand the Bible to say. Some people believe it teaches that God no longer speaks to individuals directly anymore, now that we have the complete written word. There are some passages that seem to indicate that, and I’ll try to pull a list of them together.

    Still, it’s hard for me see the value of the Bible if we can’t completely trust it. And since God’s never spoken to me before, I have trouble finding a reason to believe any of it.

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  153. William, I agree with nearly everything you said in your comment and I’d like to put a copy of it on my blog … with your permission.

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  154. Hey Nate, I just wanted to say that this blog is really interesting. I daresay the best blog I’ve found yet dealing with religion, including mine. Write on. Good luck on your search for truth.

    “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. ” – Bhagavad Gita (18.64)

    Lux

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  155. ” And if God does speak to people directly, and the Bible does have problems (which is evident), what’s the point of the Bible at all?”

    THAT’S WHAT I BEEN SAYIN MAN!

    BTW, how you been:)

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  156. JESUS (May he be blessed forever) IN CHRISTIANITY: Second member of Triune God, Son of first part of Triune God (Not son of son, Not son of holy spirit), and at the same time “fully” God in every respect, but died as ordinary mortal man since God cannot die.
    JESUS (May he be blessed forever) IN ISLAM: A very elect and highly esteemed messenger of God with miracles. No Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe this.
    Al Quran: Surah/Chapter 005 – Al-Mâ’idah. Verse 75.
    The Messiah, son of Mary (Jesus), was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother (Mary) was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how we make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!

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  157. Hi Mushtaq,
    Thanks for your comment. I know much more about Christianity than I do Islam, so I can’t offer much in the way of conversation when it comes to Islam. What I do know of it, I don’t find very believable, but I do have a relatively high opinion of Muhammad. Out of curiosity, where do you stand on religious diversity? As I understand it, though Muhammad believed Allah was the only true God, he also believed that people should be free to make up their own minds: “To me my god, and to you, yours.”

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  158. Arkenaten sent me! I’m actually a non-believer that somewhat recently dove into learning about Christianity due to many negative experiences with Christians through my life. I had attended Sunday school as a child so I had a foundation of what I thought Christian morality was all about – Love you neighbour as yourself, do to others as you’d have them do to you. It perplexed me how the ‘Christians’ I encountered seemed so selfish in their actions when that seemed to go against the higher standards I wrongfully held Christians to.

    Anyways, at first glance, it looks like I’m going to enjoy the sort of stuff you are posting!

    And upon reading “What I have gained?”, your story goes to show how many Christians just don’t get the concept of God’s unconditional love. Jesus had no problem hanging out with anyone! It was only the people in control of society that seemed to have a problem with him. Anyways, I see value in the Bible’s stories, but I look at it from a secular perspective, one that has had Arkenaten seriously question what it is I really believe!

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  159. Ark’s been kind to me — he always sends over the nicest people!

    Thanks for coming to check out my blog, and I hope you’ll feel free to comment any time. I think your attitude toward the Bible is the absolute healthiest way to look at it. When I learn about pagan myths, I don’t get angry or defensive — I should be able to look at the Bible in the same way, but I’m not quite there yet. 😉 It will be nice to have your perspective!

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  160. Hi Nate,

    Hope you are going well,

    I have two questions for you that I’ve been thinking about lately,

    1. When you were a Christian, over that time were there moments that you felt you were interacting with God, or were convicted by God?

    2. And if so, how do you know that you are now not just rationalising away those interactions by (a) viewing experiences through the premise that there probably is no God, and then (b) looking for justifications for this premise?

    Hope these questions aren’t offensive, you do give me the impression that you do consider beliefs carefully 🙂

    Thanks

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  161. Portal, I am obviously not nate, but I thought you asked good questions. I was looking forward to seeing nate’s response, but I found myself really thinking about what you asked, so I hope you don’t mind me offering something in response.

    #1. For me, yes. There were times that I though god and I were connected. That he heard my payers and that he blessed me in various ways. But to be clear, I never felt like he actually spoke to me, as I speak with others. I never felt like he spoke to me in dreams or visions. I had always believed that god spoke to us through the bible, but interacted with us through prayer and prayer responses, blessings, and providence.
    I felt like he knew me and that I was trying to know him.

    #2. After leaving the faith and religion, I do not feel like I am rationalizing those experiences away. In fact, my departure was partly because I realized that I was “rationalizing” the relationship with god in the first place. It was imaginary. I prayed. I spoke, but no one spoke back. The prayer “answers” were usually delivered by people or natural events. While god could have been behind it, I couldn’t really see his finger prints on it anymore than yoda’s or big birds (not trying to be derogatory, juts illustrative).
    In my interactions with real people, there is no wondering if they’re there. There’s no guessing. And the faith required to trust and interact with these people isn’t faith in their existence, but more of a faith in their character. We can actually interact, not just in the mind or through hope, but literal interaction.
    Does that answer your question?

    What exactly do you mean by “interacting with God, or were convicted by God”… can you give an example?

    Do you feel like those interactions are authentic? As in, do they more resemble interactions with other people or interactions one might have with an imaginary friend?

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  162. Hi William,

    thanks for your thoughtful response,

    By interaction or/and conviction I was referring to specific moments when a person feels they have a connection with God.

    For example,

    1. A of feeling immense and profound peace whilst in prayer with God, and expressing your praise and thoughts to God.

    2. Feeling that God is encouraging you to do or express something, and maybe also later thinking that these profound thoughts are thoughts that you yourself would not normally think.

    I really want to answer your questions and provide some specific examples, but I would like to spend a bit of time thinking about them first. Its pretty late here. I’ll reply with hopefully a more complete response tomorrow.

    Kind regards 🙂

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  163. Hi Portal. Thanks, and there’s no timeline on a response. take as long as you like, and thanks for letting me jump in to you conversation with nate.

    to your clarifications above:

    #1. I have felt that when I was a believer and do also now when in meditation.
    #2. No, I guess I have never experienced that. I never felt like my thoughts or actions were being influenced out right, but i guess I used to think that god made certain paths more clear through opportunities, etc. if that makes sense.

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  164. I will include one specific example tonight that was on my mind –

    I have asked God for peace before whilst in prayer, and then I’ve found that a real sense of wholeness and peace has come over me,

    peace which really I haven’t felt before except in certain times of prayer, and I can’t really compare this peace to any other expereinces or other types of peace I have felt in other aspects of my life.

    Hope that gives some clarification 🙂

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  165. “but i guess I used to think that god made certain paths more clear through opportunities, etc. if that makes sense.”

    Yeah, I can relate to that I think

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  166. A friend of mine once said to me that one way he knows that God is interacting with him is when he has thoughts that he believes he could not have come up with himself, he says that he is not that “smart”. I think this is quite a humble position to take, this topic just reminded me of that.

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  167. @ Portal.

    Similar feelings of peace etc are experienced by many people simply by meditating.
    Seriously, may I ask, what is your motivation for posing the initial questions, to Nate?

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  168. Hi Ark,
    The questions are open to everyone,

    One of the main reasons I specifically asked Nate was that at one point in this thread he said this:

    “Some people believe it teaches that God no longer speaks to individuals directly anymore, now that we have the complete written word”

    The COC that Nate was a part of seems to teach (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that:

    1. God communicating directly to people is no longer available to us, and it has been this way before we were born.

    2. The bible is a closed book, and considered the end of revelation or interaction with God, at least in this age.

    Granted these assumptions are defended within the church, but what if they are wrong? These assumptions would seem to shape everything else that would follow from a worldview.

    If Nate has been taught these starting premises while growing up, what other conclusions could he have come to?

    Given that these premises, coupled with the belief that the bible has errors, would lead to cognitive dissonance?

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  169. I wasn’t meaning to pick on you Nate btw, sorry if it came off like that.

    I’m not suggesting that you haven’t considered these things, I know I’ve personally have assumptions and habits I’ve grown up with.

    For example when praying I feel an impulse to offer God a “swap” for a prayer request. For example, I might think “Please help this person or save this person, or help me and….I’ll do this for you, or you can have this…although I don’t always mean it. This also makes no rational sense if you believe grace is free. But I digress.

    Anyway, hope the posts above make sense.

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  170. Well the same could be said of any biblical interpretation from any christian perspective, surely?

    For instance, it’s accepted by pretty much all recognised archaeologists, many Rabbis and even a few some christian scholars that the Exodus never happened and Moses was a fictional character, yet Jesus refers to him by name.

    Now, if you’re going to develop cognitive dissonance this must be one of the biggies.
    Merely considering the implications is staggering. And maybe this is why the Moses and Exodus story is not (yet) widely publicised or shouted about from the pulpit?

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  171. Hi Ryan (portal), sorry it took me a while to reply.

    My answers to your questions are much the same as William’s. When I was a believer, I had no doubts that God was there and that he was listening to my prayers, watching my actions, reading my thoughts, etc. It’s true that I did not believe he would talk directly to me, as I believed the Bible taught he no longer did that. Instead, I believed he communicated to me through the Bible, and that the Holy Spirit helped me understand what I was reading in some way (I had no idea how that worked).

    There were times that I felt relief through prayer, and there were other times that I felt immense pressure whenever I did something I knew was wrong (we could also call that “guilt”). I never had an experience where I thought God was communicating to me directly.

    Now that I no longer believe, I think all the feelings I experienced as a believer were just that — feelings. I don’t think they were pushed onto me by another being; I think they were drawn out by circumstance, much as a sad movie might make you cry.

    The points you made about the CoC do fit with what I believed. Here’s what you said:

    The COC that Nate was a part of seems to teach (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that:

    1. God communicating directly to people is no longer available to us, and it has been this way before we were born.

    2. The bible is a closed book, and considered the end of revelation or interaction with God, at least in this age.

    Granted these assumptions are defended within the church, but what if they are wrong? These assumptions would seem to shape everything else that would follow from a worldview.

    If Nate has been taught these starting premises while growing up, what other conclusions could he have come to?

    Your final question is a good one. But let’s say for a moment that God exists, and my starting premises about him were wrong. Let’s say that God does still speak with, or at least interact with people in some way today. Why would my preconceptions about him keep him from acting how he chooses? According to the NT, Paul believed that Christianity was a false religion, until Jesus appeared to him and set him straight. Cornelius was a devout proselyte and didn’t realize that he needed to do more, until God sent Peter to show him otherwise with miraculous signs. The same could be said for Abraham, Moses, Balaam, Gideon, etc. God never let people’s misconceptions about him stop him from doing what he wanted.

    So to bring it back around to your questions, if people who don’t believe God will talk to them never hear from him, and people who do think God will speak to them do hear from him, does it seem more or less likely that God is really there? And if he really is there and wants to have a relationship with us, why do we have such a hard time distinguishing between what he says and our own thoughts?

    I hope that last paragraph doesn’t sound harsh or defensive — that’s not how I mean it. I’m just trying to demonstrate the thought process I’ve had as I think about these things. I think your questions (and the reasons you have for asking them) are great and make complete sense.

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  172. Hi Nate,

    I appreciate you taking the time to write back

    One thing that struck me while reading your response was that almost – if not all – these men who God encountered were theists.

    1. Paul of Tarsus

    Paul was actively pursuing God when God encountered him on the road to Damascus.

    2. Abraham/ Abram

    I admit I don’t know whether Abram had a faith in God prior to his encounter. The OT does report that men called on the name of God in Genesis.

    But say even if Abraham didn’t believe or have a concept of God before his encounter, the OT does indicate that Abraham was considered righteous. Abraham was considered because he believed what God was going to reveal in His promise to him and Sarah, despite the unlikelihood and challenges of it.

    3. Cornelius the centurion

    Cornelius also believed in God, and was seeking Him when God encountered him. He is depicted in Acts 10 as a God-fearing man.

    Also, I noticed was that with all these men, God encountering them also had direct consequences. They were then given responsibilities. It wasn’t just validation, but a complete change in their purposes. The very encounter put these men on a completely different course. They were given instructions, not just validation.

    For some brief examples, an angel instructs Cornelius to send the men of his household to Joppa. Paul is prepared for ministry and Abraham is prepared to be the Father of Israel.

    Paul was given the responsibility to preach, minister and this also put him in the way of poverty, danger, insult, abuse and the sword. Although at the same time Paul was also given hope, salvation and the peace to live through and face any circumstance.

    Paul was given a lot, but also much was also required of him as a result.

    Thanks, Ryan

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  173. On another note,

    I think I’ve mentioned this before but one of the main passages that makes me very uncomfortable in the bible is this:

    Luke 12:47-48

    And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

    But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Faithful_Servant

    I sometimes wonder if I’m heaping up condemnation on myself the more I learn. It really bothers me, but at the same time I think it also indicates that those who knew less about Jesus (Muslims, Hindus) would be treated justly and would not be punished as much. This passage really one of the main ones that confronts me on whether I’m personally living the right way.

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  174. I’ve also read that it Paraphrased in another way, that it emphasizes that privilege brings responsibility and that responsibility entails accountability.

    I think this really all depends on whether a person trusts that God will judge each individual person in a truly fair and just way, based on that persons internal workings and outward actions.

    We’re all intricately complicated. In order to Judge justly God would have to know every intension, action and value of a person in order to weigh justly. And then grace comes into it as well on account of Jesus. I think trusting Gods character in a large part shapes a person’s outlook on life.

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  175. At the end of the day, I get from those very uncomfortable passages that there’s no point learning if you don’t practice what you learn. The unfaithful servant was punished because he didn’t follow what he knew to be true. Sorry for the long tangent, just wanted to clarify my thoughts.

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  176. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the response. It’s true that examples I listed were of people who already believed in God, with the exception of Abraham. It seems as though he was not directly familiar with Yahweh at the time God began speaking to him. However, there are other examples, like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus. They were not familiar with the Israelite God, but he still interacted with them.

    As I was going through my deconversion, I desperately prayed to God to help me find the truth, whatever it was. I was ready to put aside every preconception I’d ever had — I just wanted to know what was true. I never heard anything.

    I know you’ve experienced a lot of turmoil over what’s true yourself. I wish you could experience a little more comfort with it though. Learning more about these issues is not a bad thing — and if you feel less certain of your beliefs after more study, that’s not your fault. That’s the nature of religion. And when it comes down to what you believe, that’s not something you choose so much as it’s something you realize. No decent God should punish you for the conclusions you come to. If he wanted you to come to a different belief, he could help you get there.

    So if you think God is all-loving and merciful, then you have very little to worry about. If you don’t believe in such a God, then all bets are off as to how he’ll treat you anyway. May as well just live the best life you can live and not worry too much about the things you can’t control.

    I don’t know if that’s helpful or not, but it’s how I see things.

    I think it also indicates that those who knew less about Jesus (Muslims, Hindus) would be treated justly and would not be punished as much.

    But really, if they’re punished at all, then they’re not being treated justly. God could make it plainer. By and large, people are sincere about their beliefs. If they’re wrong, they should be convinced, not punished.

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  177. If you don’t mind my asking, why do you believe in the Christian god? What is it that makes you choose that one out of all the other available options?

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  178. I think your right about Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus. I actually agree with most, if not everything you have said above.

    Always appreciate your input, helps me get a second perspective 🙂 thanks.

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  179. to be really, really honest its because I feel I should be living a Christian life and witnessing to my grandparents, and in order to do that I need to be following what Jesus actually taught.

    Because I don’t know if there’s a hell or not, but if there is I don’t want my grandparents (or anyone else) to go there. I don’t want to be sitting in regret 5 or 10 or even 20 years from now thinking, I should have lived this way…or I should have expressed this..

    I had the same thing with my great grandmother when I was younger, and I tried to witness and share the message with her when I visited her at the retirement centre. I think she appreciated me visiting. but yeah, thats the truth. I dont want to regret, and the fact is I just don’t know and can’t be sure there is no god

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  180. lately I def havent been living as Christ taught, and have been really feeling conflicted about it, but not conflicted enough to change drastically. so yeah… but I just don’t want anything to happen to my grandparents, just in case they havent believed. But then I think of my own salvation, and I wonder that biblically speaking I might be headed for hell as well, which does bother me, but Ive been avoiding all of this and try to find distractions.

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  181. But I am also painfully aware that this confliction is keeping me from enjoying and appreciating this time of life now, for things will change, people are healthy atm, and I shouldn’t worry that all away. Even the Bible says be anxious for nothing

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  182. I understand that — it’s very similar to the way I used to think. But why do you think the god of the Bible is even real? It’s possible that a god exists and it still not be the Christian one, you know… So what are your main reasons for believing in a god? And secondly, what are your main reasons for believing in the Christian god?

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  183. Here is a brief outline of some reasons off the top of my head why I think the God of the Bible is real, in no particular order:

    (Just to clarify, I believe the God of the Bible to be expressed in Jesus and His Spirit.)

    1. Jesus is a historical figure, which is a distinction from Kali, Vishnu, Thor or Shiva.

    Granted Mohammad and Buddha were also historical figures, but much of Islam was adapted from Christian and Jewish Texts, since it cam after both these faiths.

    Buddha has been integrated into other faiths, like Hinduism and revered as a God, even though he made no such claim. And yes, Jesus has also been integrated into other belief systems, like the Gnostic faiths, but a key difference I think is that from the most consistent sources Jesus did claim to be God.

    2. There are prophecies Jesus fulfils

    (temple being destroyed, Peter denying Him, Being a Nazarene, going to Egypt, pierced in the side, no bones broken, being put on a tree).

    These are just off the top of my head. I am aware that these prophesises are also all expressed in the very books that his supporters wrote, but that’s where faith comes in.

    3. Jesus taught that if people seek him and do what he says, follow his teachings he will send his Spirit and lead us into truth. I feel I haven’t properly followed Him, so I don’t think I know what it is to be lead into truth. Furthermore I will always believe in Gods Spirit.

    4. Jesus teaches things that I believe are quite profound- namely not just to love people because they are likable or even loving, but because Jesus loved us first. I don’t think there can be a separation from the Bible and Jesus, since the Bible points to Jesus. I do think it’s potentially problematic to treat the Bible as inerrant, since the Bible itself seems to make no such specific claims as many of the proponents in inerrancy make.

    5. Many things they I consider worthwhile in my life or things I have done have been prompted by my faith in Jesus teachings. eg. Talking to strangers on buses.
    I met one of my best friends this way, he’s from Somalia, a Journalist on a protection Visa, since Al shabab were targeting journalists and some of his colleges were murdered. He is a Muslim, and a fantastic person.

    6. When I’ve tried to live without God I feel I tend to get bored and self absorbed

    I’m heading over to Darwin in a few hours for two weeks, when I get back I’ll flesh out these a bit more if you have any questions 🙂

    Hope this helps clarify some things and gives you a better idea where I’m coming from.

    Kind regards, Ryan

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  184. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the reply. I want to offer a few points to consider about your reasons, but I won’t belabor them — they’re your reasons, and I want to respect your willingness to share them.

    1) Jesus may have been a historical person. There’s no way to prove it definitively, but it’s certainly reasonable to assume that he was. However, if you’ve never looked into the case against his historicity, it’s worth checking out. The lack of contemporary historical sources is something to consider.

    2) I disagree with the prophecy thing. For one, the temple destruction is hard to count, because most scholars believe the gospels were written after the temple’s destruction. So it would have been easy for the writers to claim Jesus gave that prophecy, whether he actually did or not. The same goes for Peter’s betrayal. The prophecy and fulfillment were all recorded together. The Nazarene prophecy doesn’t actually exist in the OT, so it’s hard to consider it an actual prophecy. Going to Egypt was also not given as a prophecy in the OT. I talk about that here. The broken bone thing doesn’t seem to be talking about the Messiah when you read Psalm 34 — it appears to be talking about righteous people in general. I believe the hung on a tree thing is from Deut 21, and this was a law Israelites were to observe when administering corporal punishment. Don’t leave the body to hang on a tree overnight. There’s nothing at all in the passage to indicate that it had any more significance than that.

    Personally, I think Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are the best examples of Messianic prophecies. But even they have some issues, mostly in the fact that they’re still a bit vague. And considering that the gospel writers (especially Matthew) had no qualms about repurposing OT passages, it’s easy to see how they could add a few details to the crucifixion accounts to make correlations where they wanted.

    Real prophecy would be a great reason to believe the Bible — it’s one of the reasons I used to give too. But if you haven’t taken the time to really investigate them critically, I’d recommend that you do so. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, you’ll likely come away with a different impression of them.

    3) Fair enough. But how will you ever know if you’re actually being led by the Holy Spirit, or if it’s just a figment of your imagination? And if you never feel like you’re being led at all, how will you know that you just weren’t trying hard enough? The beauty of Christianity is that it excels at making its adherents think that any fault they have with the religion is actually a fault with themselves. They’re just not doing it right. Or they don’t have enough faith. Or they’ve been misled into following a “false” version. When you convince people that they are the problem, there’s no way for them to objectively investigate the religion.

    4) I get your reasoning here. I’m not sure that Jesus’ teachings were as revolutionary as people sometimes claim, but that’s something I’m looking into now, so I’ll hold off on commenting about it.

    5 and 6 are personal points, so I won’t comment on those either.

    Thanks again for going into your reasoning. I’ve said before that I’ve got a lot of respect for you and your sincerity. I hope that whatever path you find yourself on brings you peace of mind.

    Talk to you soon,

    Nate

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  185. Nate, I have been making my way through your blog over the last couple of months. I just want to say thank you. My husband and I have been going through our deconversion for over a year now. My husband was/is ahead of me – so to speak – in the process. Nevertheless, I am now beginning to live in the freedom that comes after shedding Evangelical Christianity. And I have to say, you and your blog have been of tremendous help to me. In fact, I resonate with so much of what you say; and it’s been very encouraging to hear from you. Thank you.

    BTW, you’ve conversed with my husband before. He’s Jericho Brisance.

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  186. Jbars, your comment means a lot to me — thanks!!! I’m so glad my blog has been helpful to you in some way. We get into some deep conversations here, from time to time, but the people who comment rarely change positions. But I know there are those, like yourself, who may not weigh in directly, but are watching. Those are the people I’m most excited about, so thanks for letting me know you’re there!

    I know this last year or so has been really tough for you guys. From reading your husband’s posts and comments, I’m really struck at how similar your story is to what my wife and I went through. And his blog is fantastic! I’m glad we’ve run across one another.

    Please feel free to comment any time! And good luck with everything as you guys continue to deal with the repercussions (both good and bad) that come with such a huge change.

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  187. Nate, thanks so much for the reply. I really appreciate it. We, too, have been struck by the similarities. I look forward to future interaction.

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  188. Hi Nate,

    I know I have asked this before, but what are people’s thoughts on the King James Version of the Bible?

    As I’m sure you know, there is a movement out there that adheres to the belief that the KJV is the only valid translation. I’m wondering whether this position corrects any discrepancies, by saying that the KJV is authentic while other translations are deceptive or with errors.

    Here are two charts showing how key verses have been omitted, changed from specific translations in comparison to the KJV:

    1. http://wordofgod.0catch.com/NKJVOmissions.html

    2.http://av1611.com/kjbp/charts/various.html

    It also puzzles how Isaiah 14:12 is referenced in different translations as O morning star

    This is talked about here: http://www.cobblestoneroadministry.org/whythekingjamesbible.html

    Do people think these differences make a difference?

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  189. You know, the translation debate is not something I’ve looked into a whole lot. From the little I’ve researched it, I think most scholars agree that the KJV is the least accurate translation. As I understand it, the reason many modern translations omit or change some of the passages from what the KJV says is because they’re using older texts, which should make them closer to the original. The KJV has some passages that appear to have been added to the Bible much later.

    In that last link you provided, the author says he thinks the KJV is the best translation because he finds it to make the most sense. But that really has nothing to do with its accuracy. To me, the more important points would center around how close the translation comes to the originals. Of course, we don’t have those, but the older manuscripts should be closer to the originals than later manuscripts.

    What are your thoughts on it?

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  190. The KJV as the Least accurate? Wow, I never would have thought so! I was brought up with the KJV being THE ONE TRUE VERSION. 😉 The Revised KJV was acceptable, but the NIV? Forget about it–all full of Liberal re-writing and hogwash! Funny thing about that, though, is that there were still Insets, and Extra Verses that even our church recognized (thanks to the JFB or Clarke’s Commentary) to be additions…but, of course, the additions the ministry liked were Divinely Inspired additions. *whew*, glad we know which of the non-original text is Divinely Inspired vs. that which was put in apparently at the suggestion of the Evil One. (lol…)

    Which newer translations are the ones using the older manuscripts?

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  191. @eSell, here are just 16 NT verses omitted or noted in current versions like the NIV and the NLT . Nate is spot on that over the past 65 years we have found older manuscripts which do NOT have these verses.

    Mt 17:21 , Mt 18:11, Mt 23:14, MK 7:16, Mk 9:44, Mk 9:46, Mk 11:26, Mk 15:28, Lk 17:36, Lk 23:17, Jn 5:4, Acts 15:34, Acts 24:7, Acts 28:29, Acts 8:37, Rm 16:24

    In addition, the longer version of Mark 9 through 20 which is the entire Ascension Story.

    Also Luke 24 3,6,9,12,36,40,51 & 52 are termed “Dubious” and “Unlikely” as these don’t appear in earlier and more reliable texts.

    Last but not least John 7:53 through 8:11 (The woman caught in adultery story) is NOT found in the older manuscripts.

    Several of these scriptures are Red Letter Quotes attributed to Jesus.

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  192. You can go to http://www.biblegateway.com and see which Translations have these scriptures. The ones who do list these scriptures all have a foot note saying these scriptures were “added” to some manuscripts. The Good Old King James version that I possess one of refuses to admit this. Interesting.

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  193. Thanks for providing that info, KC. I grew up using the NKJV, so when I think of passages, I still remember them in that version. But over the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve used the ESV as my go-to translation. It still contains the dubious passages, but gives them with the caveat that they don’t appear in the older texts.

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  194. Nate, my 95 yr old Mother still uses the KJV. She says if it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it’s good enough for her. 🙂 BTW , the 1611 KJV also contained the Apocrypha . I believe they left those books in until the 1800’s.

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  195. You gotta love quotes like that! 🙂

    I had forgotten about the Apocrypha being in the KJV initially. A couple of years ago, they “re-released” the 1611 version for its 500th anniversary. I came so close to picking one up. I still might at some point…

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  196. Nate, I did purchase one. About 5 years ago I was also able to purchase a single leaf from an original 1611 KJV Pulpit Bible. I bought it from an ancient manuscript dealer . It had my favorite scripture Luke 12:48, “To whomsoever much is given….much is required” I have been incredibly blessed the past 20 years of my life and I always try to remember to help those less fortunate. Though it is a Christian Scripture, I believe it’s just a good basic principle anyone can and should live by no matter their faith or lack thereof . I have found I receive the most joy when helping others.

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  197. KC, you bring up a good point. Even though the bible is mythology and even though it has its moral problems, it does still have many good things in it. I even think they’re what give many Christians such a hard time from seeing the truth, because “so much in it is so right…” I personally like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as given in Mathew. I like it. I think it has a truly good message.

    Many of the Proverbs and verses like the one you mentioned…

    Not saying they should take away from the bad, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Recognize the bible for what it is and take from it what you can – like any other book.

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  198. William,

    You’ve worded that well. I agree with you and KC. In fact it’s funny you mentioned the sermon on the mount because that was my first impression of the bible and I remember thinking positively about the messages in there (and it’s been a while since I’ve read it so not saying the whole passage is good). Obviously in any book there will good and bad stuff in them.

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  199. Thanks William and Howie for your kind remarks. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Additionally, we can also gain truths from other “Holy Books” . No one religion has the market cornered on good stuff or bad. 🙂 I thought is was rather sad when the Christians were bashing Atheists ( I think it was in Washington, DC ) for placing billboards on the city buses which read, “Be Good for Goodness Sake” during Christmas a few years back. Who in the world has the market cornered on goodness ???

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  200. Howie,

    Thinking on it now, I guess I’d like to add this little bit to my comment on the sermon on the mount: Since I don’t view it as divine gospel, I am not saying that people are bad or wrong if they don’t adhere to each little, specific part.

    I view it almost as if it were the Jedi Force – they are precepts and abilities/mindsets that everyone is capable of achieving through enough discipline and meditation, but not everyone will – and that’s okay. It’s not expected nor is it required.
    And I mean the, “go the extra mile,” and “don’t let your treasures be material things,” etc (quotations are merely paraphrases).

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  201. I have to admit that I personally find the KJV far easier to read than other translations,

    As I mentioned before, one of the points I wonder about is that the NIV doesn’t use the term Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12.

    As the commentary points out, The NIV changes Lucifer’s name to “morning star.” But this is one of the blessed titles given to Jesus Christ.

    KJV:

    Isaiah 14:12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

    NIV:

    Isaiah 14:12, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!”

    There are a lot more differences than just this, but this one particularly stood out to me

    This is one of the best comparison charts I’ve found:

    http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/m-m.html

    Apart from the colour schemes (red on blue) and basic website, the chart provides a concise comparison between the KJV and other translations. Comments on these verses are provided in the right hand box.

    Would love to read what you guys think of it.

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  202. You need to read the “Who We Are” section of ecclesia.org . They seem to proclaim themselves “Judge and Jury” of which manuscripts are the “True Word of God” and they seem to poo poo formal education on the subject. This was the feeling I got from it anyway.

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  203. Thanks, kcchief1! I had no idea about the vast number of added scriptures, and I didn’t even know about the ORIGINAL KJV having contained the Apocrypha!

    I’ve saved some of your comment text and one day will probably do a blog post on it…unless, maybe, you already did? I’d love to read it if you have. For the most part I’ve been content in looking at various prophecies (like Tyre, or the Census of Quirinius in Luke) and seeing that they are wrong, and saying “well, that is that”. But the additional scriptures, which original texts are used, the addition (or not) of works such as the Apocrypha…takes it all to the ROOT.

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  204. You’re very welcome eSell ! I have not done a blog on this so feel free to do so. Let me know if you do as I would love to read it. When I was a Christian, I taught an adult Sunday school class on this. There were a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering why they were never taught this before. 🙂

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  205. The ecclesia.org website that portal001 shared with us supports the Majority Text view. Their premise is that the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture requires that the early manuscripts cannot point to the original text better than the later manuscripts can, because these early manuscripts are in the minority.

    To me this would be like saying a 4th Edition of a book with 1 million copies in print would have to be more accurate than a 1st Edition book which had only 100 copies in print.

    I would like to hear what Nate and others think about this.

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  206. This has been a really great discussion so far. Thanks for kicking it off, portal!

    To me, it comes down to this: when people give preference to the KJV, it’s not based on anything other than the end result they’re shooting for. They believe the Bible is God’s word, and the KJV fits their preconceived ideas about what God’s word should be better than any other translation. Plus, since the KJV was all that anyone had for centuries, what does it say about God if he didn’t make sure people had an accurate translation of his message for all that time?

    But that approach is like the person that shuns all the evidence saying cigarettes are bad for you because they like to smoke. Their position is based entirely on what they want, not where the evidence points. But sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.

    The fact is, our earliest manuscripts show a clear evolution of the “sacred” text. The story of the woman caught in adultery that kc referenced earlier is a great (and glaring) example. That’s one of the best stories in the Bible, but all evidence points to it being a much later addition. Wikipedia has an excellent write up about it here.

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  207. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your feedback and thoughts 🙂

    I do have another question though, what is the evidence to indicate that these more recently discovered manuscripts are actually older?

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  208. kcchief1 the about section of the website doesn’t seem to me as being necessarily postioning themselves as “Judge and Jury”. If anything they seem to be stating the opposite.

    In regards to formal education they state that a “degree” is a Masonic concept, not a scriptural one. This is a pretty bold thing to state, but I don’t think its dismissing formal education out of hand, or poo pooing it 🙂 They even state that “this is not an argument against education”.

    It seems to me that they outline their intensions – “What are we advocating? We are advocating, first, a humility concerning our knowledge of God’s Truth, and second, a serious and continuous search for God’s Truth..”

    Given, they do express this in quite a confronting way. Thats what I got from it anyway.

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  209. And for the record I’m not now suggesting that a “degree” is necessarily a Masonic concept. That was their words; I don’t want to risk a tangent by starting on any conspiracy theories 😉

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  210. @Portal, not trying to “Pick” on ecclesia.org In looking on the Internet , there seems to be a lot of people taking sides on this issue. I checked out about a dozen sites and though not a scientific survey, it appears the “hard line Christians” feel the “majority texts” are the true word of God and the “minority texts” are for “progressive christians and atheists” to hang their hat on.

    As a Deist, it doesn’t impact me but I still find it fascinating and will continue to research the subject .

    Thanks Portal for bringing up the matter. Gives me something new to research. 🙂

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  211. Portal,

    There are several techniques used for dating manuscripts. For one thing, Greek manuscripts are older than Latin ones. We know that because of the cultural changes during the Roman Empire. Sometimes, fragments of manuscripts are used in radio-carbon dating to get the approximate age. But even more importantly, the changes in writing styles show some clear differences in when various manuscripts were written.

    Here are some handy resources that can provide a bit more information:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscripts#Dating_the_New_Testament_manuscripts
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncial_script
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_minuscule

    Also, consider this passage from a paper I ran across at this link.

    …we can date papyrus manuscripts, any manuscript for that matter, simply by looking at the way it is written. Handwriting is a product of human culture and as such it is always developing. Differences in handwriting are bound to appear within one generation. Just compare the handwriting of your parents with your own. Or look at your own scribblings of a few years ago. It is the same handwriting as today but an expert, a paleographer, can distinguish not unimportant differences. He cannot establish the exact date but he can confidently place one handwriting in the 30’s and another in the 80’s. Even printed texts can easily be dated according to the outward appearance of the type or font used by the printer.

    For such an ancient period as that between A.D. 100 and 300 it is of course much more difficult to be confident about the date of a manuscript. There is infinitely less comparative material. Nevertheless we are now in a fairly comfortable position to date papyrus manuscripts according to their handwriting. We do not have to rely on manuscripts of the New Testament only. We have hundreds of papyrus manuscripts of Greek pagan literary texts from this period and again hundreds of carefully written papyrus documents that show the same types of handwriting. These documents are very important for paleographers because they are often exactly dated. As a rule New Testament manuscripts on papyrus are not. A careful comparison of the papyrus documents and manuscripts of the second and third centuries has established beyond doubt that about forty Greek papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament date from this very period. Unfortunately only six of them are extensively preserved.

    Even within the period that runs from c. A.D. 100-300 it is possible for paleographers to be more specific on the relative date of the papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament. For about sixty years now a tiny papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John has been the oldest “manuscript” of the New Testament. This manuscript (P52) has generally been dated to ca. A.D. 125. This fact alone proved that the original Gospel of John was written earlier, viz. in the first century A.D., as had always been upheld by conservative scholars.

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  212. I think this is a fairly important issue,

    I mean if the more recently discovered manuscripts are actually older then they potentially could also be more accurate. Although but (and this might be very sceptical to say) just because a manuscript is older doesn’t necessarily make it more genuine or accurate, a earlier manuscript could have come from another source, say from a mystery religion

    i.e a group that existed during an earlier time that has also included its own spin on things. However, I admit with this sort of attitude you could really question any source and never have enough evidence.

    However say if the KJV is more accurate/or older then this would have direct implications for newer translations.

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  213. Daniel Wallace, a New Testament scholar who has served as a consultant and editor on at least five Bible translations, told The Christian Post earlier this year that Bible readers can benefit greatly from reading various translations.

    “I think that English speakers should have more than one translation. If we have in our background a history of Christian thought in the Western world, especially in the English-speaking world, it’s part of our tradition and it’s important to own a lot more than one translation,” said Wallace.

    He suggested the King James Bible for English-speaking readers, citing its “elegance and its cadence and the beauty of its language.”

    “But it’s not the most accurate anymore,” Wallace added of the KJV. “So it’s elegant, it’s easy to memorize out of even though the language is archaic, but it’s not always real clear and it’s not always real accurate.”

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  214. I have enjoyed reading , “The Oxford Study Bible” and “The Jewish Annotated New Testament”

    As Daniel Wallace said above, “we can benefit greatly from reading various translations”.

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  215. Hey Portal,

    I think you’ve hit upon a very difficult problem that I always had while I was a Christian. What version or manuscript copy should we trust is the one that God chose to communicate to us with.

    We have empirical evidence that there were tons of mistakes and changes as many copies were made, and the amount of those changes increases as you get closer to the time they were originally written. But there is a period of more than 100 years where we have so few manuscript copies, and so we have don’t have any empirical evidence of changes and mistakes in that period. But a reasonable estimate could be made if we were to continue the curve backwards of amount of changes versus time, and then it would be fair to conclude that there were even more changes during that “hidden” period of time.

    If that’s confusing the following may make it clearer:

    http://www.richardcarrier.info/NTReliabilitySlideshow.pdf

    It’s used by Richard Carrier in a debate with JP Holding that you can find here

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  216. @Nate

    This manuscript (P52) has generally been dated to ca. A.D. 125. This fact alone proved that the original Gospel of John was written earlier, viz. in the first century A.D., as had always been upheld by conservative scholars.

    Statements like this have always fascinated and bothered me. There seems to be no evidence to clearly demonstrate why a first century date for the original should be considered and not , say, a year or two before. I admit to not being clued up on palaeography, but why not AD 115?

    Based on what I’ve read there seems a fair amount of misguided bias for early dating. In fact, the AD125 date seems tenuous at best.

    I found this article on Vridar after scratching around a bit. Interesting take.

    http://vridar.org/2013/03/08/new-date-for-that-st-johns-fragment-rylands-library-papyrus-p52/

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  217. Sure thing Portal! No pressure. Just thought that added some extra information that might be helpful if you find the time. I linked to the debate because I think it’s important to try and see and understand all different opposing viewpoints.

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  218. It took me this long to find out how to follow you on here, for years i been following you in email, but i missed quiet a few interesting articles some of which i could not find today, wrongly thought i would catch up. here is one- okay, i just always hoped and assumed that someday i would know the truth and the truth would set me free. I was listening to this country song on television, he said that sometimes the truth does not set you free, lolololololol, whewwww!!!! What a nightmare, I never even considered that possibility, lolololol. Ouch, that is the very definition of Hell, a nightmare indeed.

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  219. Thanks for the heads up, John! I’ll check it out.

    Hi ratamacue0 — thanks for the compliments on my blog! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog. I’ve only skimmed through your post so far, but I can see that you’re in a crisis of faith at the moment. Having been there myself, I can sympathize! Good luck as you study your way through it.

    Since you’ve commented on my About page, you’ve probably seen the links I have above to the major things that contributed to my loss of faith. Feel free to check those posts out if you think they may help you in some way. And if you haven’t run across it yet, you might also enjoy http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com. Marcus started that blog a few years ago to document his own crisis of faith, so you may find it interesting.

    Feel free to comment here any time, and I’ll definitely be commenting on your own blog soon. Take care!

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  220. @ratamacue0 — just so you know, I commented on your blog, but it will likely get caught in your spam. You’ll probably have to approve it, because I had 3 links in it.

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  221. @John

    Thanks for the link to that article. I commented this morning, and I assume he’ll it. But just in case he doesn’t, this is what I said:

    Hi there, herose4grace

    I enjoyed your post. It’s obviously well thought out and well researched. I was completely with you right up until the last paragraph. Let me try to explain my thought process a little bit, but my goal will be to remain respectful of you, your beliefs, and the aesthetic you’re trying to maintain on your blog. I’m only looking for a rational, respectful conversation.

    The majority of your post dove into the details of theodicies that deal with the problem of evil, and you exposed the faults in all of them. You seemed to settle (as I used to) on the notion that all will be made right in the end. As Paul said, our light affliction pales in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us at Judgment. But what about those who aren’t Christians? I’m not sure what you believe about Hell, but most Christians that I know view it as everlasting punishment for non-Christians. As you said in your comment to John, atheists have not been given the kind of understanding that Christians share. But if that understanding would save us from Hell, doesn’t our lack of it implicate God in what will befall us?

    Back to the problem of evil, you suggested to John that the difference between Earth and Heaven is that the forces of darkness are allowed to influence us here on Earth, but won’t be able to in Heaven. Doesn’t this still revive the problem of evil? If Human nature is such that we would not sin if not influenced by the forces of evil, then is it fair to punish any human for their sins? Why did God allow us to be influenced by forces that would damn us eternally, when he could have prevented all of it? Doesn’t he become much like the man watching his friend drown that you referred to in your post?

    Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss this with you as a fellow truth-seeker.

    All the best,

    Nate

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  222. While you sight some empirical evidence that contradicts the biblical account, it is my opinion that your evidence is man-made as mine is divinely inspired. That being said, it is ok for a man to believe in a man if that is the desire. Yet, I believe the messasge in Daniel, the entire book, is that we have a choice to believe in the God of the Bible or not, and as a result of our choices there are consequences. So my faith is not wavering, but I respect the fact that you have put your faith in mankind. It is not one’s place to decide for another, but it is one’s place to decide for one’s self on any issue. Just when a decision is made, the consequences are owned by the decision maker and not anybodyelse. Please do use the argument that the Bible was written by men. This is true, however, the written words are holy and divinely inspired by God. I do not waver on that.

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  223. Steve, I know you’re addressing Nate, but I’d like to offer some thoughts I have on this. At some point I just don’t see how any of us can avoid the reliance on human reasoning. Indeed many theists don’t toss out all human reasoning as useless. We could claim that all correct reasoning comes from a divine entity but the problem with this is that anyone can claim divine inspiration for whatever particular reasoning or claim that they want. As just one example, when the Mormons tell me that their faith is divinely inspired and the Christians tell me that a divine entity has informed them that Mormonism is incorrect then the term divinely inspired ends up being unhelpful.

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  224. Hi Steve,

    I appreciate your comment and the kindness with which you gave it. In the end, I have the same view as Howie. I think you and I are both relying on men. After all, you didn’t personally meet the writers of the Bible, nor do you really know who they are. You’re trusting their claims in the same way that we tend to trust the claims of trusted news anchors, scientists, or even (if we’re feeling especially gracious) politicians. But as Howie said, sometimes people mislead us. Often, they’re not even aware that they’re misleading us. They may honestly believe what they’re saying, but they could still be wrong. In each instance, we weigh various factors to decide whether or not we believe what they’re saying.

    So when it comes down to it, there are specific reasons that you find the writers of the Bible to be believable, just as there are specific reasons why I don’t find them believable. But that’s our real difference. It’s not that I’ve decided to listen to men and you’ve decided to listen to the divine (and you may not have even been making that statement — I’m just using it as a clarifying point); we’re both listening to a multitude of people and making our judgments about whom is most trustworthy. If you’d ever like to discuss why you think the Bible is actually divinely inspired, you’re always welcome here!

    Thanks again for your comment 🙂

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  225. Hi Nate,

    “I’m in my mid thirties, and I have a wife and three children that I love dearly. My hobbies are religion, philosophy, playing guitar, reading books (and comics!), playing video games, and watching TV.”
    I’m in my mid forties, and I have a wife and three children that I love dearly. My hobbies are playing guitar, reading books, and watching sports (the order fluctuates).

    I just heard about your blog from Nan. I look forward to reading more!

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  226. Thanks for the comment, charles! I’ve read your “journey” posts, and I enjoyed them immensely. I look forward to catching up on your other posts as well, and I hope you decide to comment from time to time here too!

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  227. Hi Nate,

    I’m a fellow seeker and just wanted to say thanks for your honesty on your blog. It’s very refreshing. I like how you don’t degrade one side or the other (there’s far too much of that on the Internet) for their stance, but hold truth as the ultimate goal, wherever that leads.

    I also thought you’d be interested in a guy named Nathan Wheeler. He’s got an interesting (and I mean it) life story, whatever you make of it. It takes some time to get through his main videos (it’s a 10+ part endeavor), but I felt it has been interesting “food” to chew on. You can find the first video here: https://youtu.be/W-OlwZLCzrc

    I’m interested to hear what you think of him, not because I’m encouraging you to either atheism or christianity, but because I think it would lead to excellent discussion.

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  228. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the kind comment! And I agree with you that it’s much more useful to keep the conversation civil and respectful, though I’m not perfect at it. Also, thanks for the link to Nathan Wheeler’s Youtube channel. I’ll definitely check it out and let you know what I think.

    I haven’t posted much lately, but I’m going to try to remedy that soon. I hope you’ll hang around and comment any time you feel like it. Thanks again!

    — Nate

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  229. Nate, I like the new look. I must admit my initial fear when things came up differently was, ‘don’t tell me Nate is going to take his blog private’.

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  230. Thanks, Peter! Yeah, no worries. I really don’t want to lose the WordPress community feel of the blog, so I have no plans to do anything that drastic. 🙂

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