Without Science…

Over the last month or so I have been in discussions with a number of Theists. One of these people is using me as an out, a means of increasing his resolve and faith in god. As silly as that sounds, the most recent volley of emails resulted in a very peculiar position being had.

I will be the first to point out to anyone that I am a scientific person, that means I will follow science where it goes no matter how it relates to my current understanding of the world. I wont, necessarily, jump off a bridge immediately after science says humans can fly, but I will at least ponder the altitudes I might reach in doing so.

One question i do have for you is what your views on the shroud of turin and similar icons that have come forward in the last few centuries that are used to add science to the religious curriculum. Given the situation where science steps forward with irrefutable evidence for Jesus’s existence and that he is shown to have actually pulled off the miracles that he is said to have, would that effect your beliefs in any way?

What would you feel if science came forward supporting another belief?

Me – Apr. 12

As for the Shroud of Turin, I am without opinion. I don’t know whether it was truly Jesus’ burial cloth or not, and it really doesn’t matter that much to me… even if it were, it is still merely a physical object, not Christ Himself. The Catholic Church often has the problem of worshipping relics rather than their Savior. The main difficulty I have in taking a firm stand on its authenticity is that if I said it was authentic, then what if it was disproved? It wouldn’t mean Christ didn’t resurrect or died, although it would possibly weaken my faith as well as be a stumbling block to non-believers. As for the scientific support of other beliefs, I will not address because it is hypothetical and irrelevant as well as impossible. However, in a sense, it has supported Atheism (a sort of belief system, although very broad). Science is studied and discovered by a sinful and prejudice man. Also, science is always changing; always being proved and disproved.

Theist – Apr. 14

My immediate response was to bask in the glow of someone who understands that his beliefs are clearly not of this reality, untestable and moreover that they or not logical and to accept that he may be one day proven wrong. Unfortunately that is not at all what he meant.

God took the liberty of creating this world where magic and miracle do not take part in our daily lives, and a brain was given to us to be able to parse through the details and be able to navigate our way through this world. We use our brains to differentiate between red or blue, which detergent to purchase based on our needs and monetary situation, whether to punch a guy out for swerving into your lane, what punishment to impost on a rapist and every other aspect of our daily lives. Yet this situation revolving around religious beliefs is off limits. There are a number of quotes that support your assertion that we are benefited by having faith in spite of our lack interaction with God, but these are words coming from people who actually met god, or if you are involved in the romantic interpretation – written by god…

Me – Apr. 17

[Yes], I understand your analogy. Although Christ can be supported by logic, He can’t be visibly seen or spoken to etc., which, I understand, seems unfair. Especially seeing as Moses got to talk to God and the peasants in Israel witnessed Jesus’ miracles.But, first of all, who are we to say what is fair?

Theist – Apr. 18

The position is basically that he doesn’t think that science applies to his conception of a god, and that is not only derailing me, it means that his god cannot do anything and doesn’t manifest in reality.

  • if his god manifested as a sphere and floated over a city in South Africa, it could change our weather patterns.
  • If his god were able to manifest as a car, he could making driving absolutely amazing.
  • … a pair of dice would allow him to be able to influence our understanding of chance and probabilities.
  • This list goes on into infinity

In the comments below i will insert our email exchanges up to this point.

  • Bob

    Dear Bob,
    I enjoyed reading your paper, although i have not yet had time to read the second one. I must admit, i did not completely follow you throughout your essay and was not sure exactly where you were coming from. It was well constructed, and it is true that Christians should begin to know what they believe in- however, there are a couple of things that did bother me– one: you, along with most atheists (and i will admit i fall under the same category when it comes to this type of thing) stereotyped the Christian congregation. You used polls and examples from some people you met at a Lutheran Church as representatives for Christianity. Really, there is only one Representative for Christianity, and that is Christ Himself. Of course, Christians are called to follow and be LIKE Christ, but we all fall short. Neither things on a large scale like the inquisition, nor things like polls and statistics of supposed believers, nor those on the smaller like a hypocritical Christian neighbor should be used against the Christian faith… this seems like a contradiction to your own paper in a sense- you are striving to know what ‘believing in Christ really means’, yet you shortchange your self at a Christian; go straight to the source-Christ. But i do understand what you mean about Christians not investigating the history and meaning behind their religion… however, i dont think that doing so would alter their faith… i must admit that i have not gone deeply into the the Hebrew words for Christ and so on and so on, something which might be unbelievable to an educated student like yourself, but the fact is that the majority of Christians dont NEED to know all these things, they just need to accept Christ into their hearts and pursue Him diligently (something which very few Christians do). Also, i was interested in your comment about hume (i had followed this story before because i play a lot of golf)… i’m not sure exactly what youre trying to say about him…….. Another thing, i hope i dont sound to scathing or rude in any of this, i am merely trying to discuss Christianity/Atheism, and i hope that you can treat me as a distant friend with different views rather than a assignment for a class. You must be patient with me, however, because you are much more studied in terminology and such than me— i hope we can set up a time to chat online again… possibly this coming monday or tues.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    Thank you for the quick reply.

    I am always online and if you are so inclined we can take the discussion to gtalk or AIM without issue. I too hope you don’t take anything that i say as untoward or rude. As i said before i take an abrasive tone from time to time and would be quite disappointed to find out that i had offended you with my choice of language or assertions.

    While i will go ahead and agree that i grouped Christians together i think that i did a pretty good job covering the bases. I talked to and read from a spread of believers including evangelists, lutheran’s, my family (baptist, protestant, and episcopal), catholic teachings and beliefs, fundamentalists and then i wrote my paper. No matter where i looked there were groups of people who just plain didn’t understand the historicity of these figures that were so well flocked to. How can you simply assert that Christians don’t need to know about what was going on during the time and what was going on before? Not only does that disarm your beliefs because you are unwilling to question your roots and origins, but it allows people to believe in Jesus without actually knowing anything about him.

    This unwillingness to reach back there leads to the same fundamentalist beliefs that many Christians hate within Islam, and while i would clearly be overstepping my bounds to reach out to the middle east and draw a comparison to what is going on with Christians here in America… Jesus Camp showed a group of people who clearly demonstrate what i am talking about. To not question the foundation of something that is so widely accepted as being an inspired message from god is to allow fundamentalists to simply draw a black line beyond which they dont need to know anything and build their lives around a message that may not have been inspired by the divine.

    Atheists and Theists alike, joke about the origins of the bible. A romantic literalist approach is to say that god, basically, held the hand of man to write the bible, which is where Islam bills itself. Christianity itself cannot completely divorce itself from this notion because no matter how you spin it, the bible has to be divine in nature for it to be used in the way that Christians require. You may not be a literalist and you may have your own individual notion of what god is; you may have your own ideals and inspired beliefs about what your god does, but if you call yourself a Christian you are saying that you are able to accept the baggage that comes along with it. This is just as i, as an atheist, have to deal with the irritatingly long laundry list of things that no atheist believes but popular religious figures have seeded into the minds of believers over the last two thousand years. Here are just a few:
    Atheists believe in the Devil, Satan or another evil diety.
    Atheists believe in god, in their heart and will repent in the last minutes of their lives
    Atheists have no morals
    Atheists believe in evolution
    Atheists hate god or had something happen to them to cause them to stop believing in god
    Atheists have just not heard the word of the bible. Sharing it with them will help them find their way to god
    Atheists are uneducated in all things spiritual and just need to be taught to help them find their way to god

    This list goes on and on, but the point is simply that there is baggage that i carry with me to be able to call myself an atheist. I could have chosen Bright, Free Thinker or any of these other new agey labels but by and large they are offensive to the believing community and so i try to ignore them. Being an atheist simply means that i don’t believe in any gods, and nothing further. I could be an atheist priest, rocket scientist, biologist, hippy or any other number of things without need to worry about the label being misapplied.

    Since you took issue with my stereotyping of Christians why don’t we start from the ground and build up?

    What do you believe and why?
    What sets you apart from the Christian depicted on wikipedia? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity
    What about Jesus’s history do you think is unnecessary for the common believer to know?

  • Bob

    I believe in the JudeoChristian God because while reading the Bible some 8 or 10 years ago I realized that humanity is not how it should be and is in need of Redemption, which is why God sent Christ to die for me so that then if I accepted Him i would have new life and complete redemption at the second coming….. I’m still not sure i follow your train of thought- I believe that all that is needed for one to be saved(therefore becoming a Christian) is their willingness to accept God, no matter how little education on the subject they have had before. Education/ exegetical knowledge of Christ deals with the mind while God deals with the soul. However, this does not mean that extra knowledge is not a good thing for every believer to have, but i am saying that it is not necessary for one to be saved. You seem to be approaching Christianity as a mindset (which is logical if you do not believe in God), but it is much more… a true Christian can’t just wake up one day and start becoming an atheist- i believe that once you accept Christ and the Holy Spirit comes inside of you it is impossible to turn back and no longer be a Christian: so, when you begin to look at Christianity under that light, there is no necessary reason to study ancient manuscripts and hebrew words or what have you- the only necessary ingredient is faith. Knowledge of Christ is a great thing to have, but an abundant head knowledge that may never even be used for His glory is not necessary in the life of a Christian.

    “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39,40

    – Theist

  • Bob

    That seems like an odd position for someone who came to an atheist website to be able to strengthen their own resolve regarding the lord. If you were to put yourself into god’s shoes would you treat two believers, one who unquestioningly followed the bible and one that did the exact opposite but still found the faith to believe, the same?

  • Bob

    It may seem an odd position, but for me, i’d like to personally strengthen my faith because i have my whole life ahead of me and already know of some places in the future where my faith will be challenged- when that time comes, i want to be ready. Studying about God is great and should be a part of every Christian’s life, however some need it more than others… some would rather be out serving or praising God than sitting at home studying… i’m not sure what you mean by “treat” two believers, but the word “questioning” may not be the best choice, we are not to “test the Lord our God”, rather we our to “meditate on His Word day and night”.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    Why dont we work from this position, strengthen your beliefs by trying to sell me on them. make the unbeliever believe.

  • Bob

    Alright… good idea- however, I have a feeling you’ve heard everything I’m about to say before, seeing as you are (it seems) devoting your life to studying world philosophies/religions- you may even know more about Christianity than I do. And also, I think you already know this, but I am not one of those “door to door salesman for Christ”, who yells “you’re goin’ straight to hell!!”, and who will argue hoping to obtain your Salvation– C.S. Lewis once said that it is impossible to be converted through an arguement (although we aren’t exactly arguing, I think the idea holds true), because they are too oblique; in an arguement (or even discussion, like we are having) you are thinking about your thoughts about religion; it is only when you think directly about your religion that you can alter those thoughts and give your life to Christ. However, it’s a good place to start, so I’ll attempt, although the words are not strangers to your ears:

    “Have you ever thought about where all this came from or what the purpose is? Evolution simply doesn’t fully answer the question, after all wouldn’t it make more sense for a God to exist for eternity rather than an inanimate atom? Also, how come all of humanity has a sort of ingrained moral compass or code, that although separated by thousands of miles, culture, and language, remains the same? And if these ingrained moral laws are just natural instinct for the survival of our race, then why do we disobey them? I’m sure you noticed that there’s something dreadfully wrong with this world we live in. People kill their own kind every day in wars, children are left in dumpsters to die, the death toll of drunk college students dying every year are through the roof, family members die unexpectedly, and children who haven’t even finished grade school are tragically lost in everyday car accidents. All of these things occur because of the Fall. The Fall is the moment (whether 6,000 or 6 billion years ago) when man, a being created in God’s very image, decided he simply didn’t want God to be the main priority in his life, so he willingly disobeyed a loving Creator who had given him everything in the world, including an opportunity to walk with Him! Ever since that fatal decision in the garden (I believe in the literal Garden of Eden, others believe it to be a metaphor, either way, the fact is that the Fall occurred at some point in time) man has been disconnected from God because of Sin. Man’s sin introduced a sinful nature that was apparent in every offspring. Man, once an image-bearer of the Eternal Creator, is now marred and is a fallen image bearer. Nothing is as it should be, yet we still have glimpses of God through things like conscience, nature, and Scripture. For ages, man had to make animal sacrifices several time a year to atone for his sin. To repair man’s broken condition once and for all and to patch up the disconnect caused by man,God sent His very own Son to Earth to take on the sin of man, if only man would be willing to accept Him. Christ was 100% man and 100% God at the same time, He never sinned, yet He was brutally killed for the sins of the human race. If you accept Christ into you heart, the Holy Spirit will begin to live inside of you and your sins will be forgiven- and the wall that, generations ago, sin put up between man and God, will begin to crumble. Although we cannot physically walk with Him because we are still stuck in our fallen body, mind, and world, we can now speak to Him through prayer. Accepting Christ today will partially Redeem you, or fix your human problem, although complete and full Redemption will not occur until the second coming of Christ when the wall of sin will come crumbling down and we will have an eternity to spend in direct communication with our Creator.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    Okay,

    You are correct, I have heard much of this before. It is almost as though there is a script or a place where these conversations are being congregated together for notes. I, fortunately, am not devoting my life to the study of world religions. I think that would be a mighty waste of time and energy, but i think ill take a few minutes to respond to a few holes i see in your sales pitch.

    1) “Evolution simply doesn’t fully answer the question…”
    Evolution has nothing to do with the origins of life. Evolution is a fact, it is simply the process of gradual change of form away from where something is currently. The theory of evolution through natural selection is the theory and it will likely never be changed from being a theory as it will be tested for all of time. One point i would like to tap quickly is that i find it rather humorous that when i point out that i am not an evolutionary biologist my thoughts are quickly ignored, but a religious person may have their own beliefs about it, however they may differ from reality. It is a bit peculiar.

    2) “wouldn’t it make more sense for a God to exist for eternity rather than an inanimate atom?”
    No. Despite the thoughts that may be shared, there is no accredited scientist who says they know anything about where the big bang is rooted, or in different words… no one knows what happened before the big bang. The universe could have been a singularity (not an atom but a singularity of space and time), it could have been a bowl of petunias or anything else that your imagination would allow you to go. There is no way for our science to step back beyond the Planck time, at least not yet.

    3) “how come all of humanity has a sort of ingrained moral compass or code”
    Sociologists and Anthropologists would quickly argue against this statement, and I will too. If you haven’t already heard about it, think about the last decade of genocides in Africa, Eastern Europe or South Asia. Think about the conflict between the middle east and the rest of the world. Think about the differences in laws that get passed in the united states. There is no ingrained moral compass or code. If anything i think that you should look into a role called International Relations. While not morally rooted it is very focused on following the way that differing groups interact in order to set up their rules so they can barter or communicate. Think about how morality has changed over the time humanity has been documenting things, possibly as early as 4-7000 years BCE. Morality, Conscience and Cultural norms have evolved greatly over these ~9000 years.

    I think it is also important to realize that if these morals are as ingrained as you suggest they shouldn’t be able to be disobeyed because we would all have them and do right when confronted with the opportunity to do otherwise.

    4) The Fall of Man =(
    i will ignore the comment about the literal beliefs in Eden because that is unnecessary to comment on. There is a book that walks through the story of Adam and Eve with the same outcome that you describe here (Why do bad things happen to good people – Rabbi Harold Kushner). The problem with that eden story is not the beauty of the garden but the fact that god gave man a choice without the ability to think about the possible outcomes.

    Your understanding says that “[Adam] decided he simply didn’t want God to be the main priority in his life,” which is not what actually happened in the story according to my book.

    “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Genesis 3:6 King James Bible

    This does not say that Man himself ever knew what he was eating nor did he say that he wanted to do any of the things you say he does in this book. Which translation of the book are you using for this interpretation?

    Another thing of note is that just above it there is a discussion between the snake and the Eve, where she says that god has told her that she will die if she eats of the tree and when she eats she does not die. You could only interpret this to be that God promises that he will give them the ability to die, but even that interpretation is soft and seems a bit too convenient.

    5) “Christ was 100% man and 100% God at the same time”
    Are you saying that Humanity is within the spectrum of being god? If i were to say that something were 100% dog and 100% cat, at the same time! you would surely say i have lost my mind. but if i say something is 100% round and 100% a circle that makes sense because all circles are round. The only way that you could possibly be 100% man and 100% god is to say that they are sub divisions of each other or at least that one is contained within the other. If it is the case, does that make me, as a human being, some percentage of god?

    Do you think that hell, or a lack of salvation if that is your interpretation, is being divorced from god?

  • Bob

    I will try to address your responses in the same order you wrote them:

    I know it does sound very familiar which is one reason i was hesitant to do it- the Good News is an amazing message but people (especially learned people like yourself) begin to detest even the sound of it because it may sound much like a ‘broken record’ (which is understandable).

    1/2) I do realize that evolution is a fact. I did not think it necessary to distinguish what type of evolution or to what extent because we are in a broad theological discussion and i thought you would realize i was speaking of evolution by means of natural selection. I personally ‘believe in’ microevolution and small adaptations rather than macroevolution- although i have heard some very convincing arguements towards Theistic evolution (by means of natural selection), the most persuasive of which came from C.S. Lewis (i mention him a lot, i realize, but it is because i believe him to be the most profound philosophical theist of the last millenium. However, the point I was trying to stress is that the first thing, whatever it was and wherever it was, had to come from somewhere. By answering with all these complicated ideas about the universe being a singularity and so on merely sidestep the question- where did that universe come from? I hate to be so basic and bland, but sometimes you have to ‘get back to the basics’. [P.S. I did not in any way mean to be abrasive in the statement “evolution simply doesn’t answer the question”; i thought we were coming from the standpoint of ‘selling’ my beliefs in a concise way, and i thought that it would be a very general ‘sale’ to the general nonbeliever, it was not pointed towards you. I do not pretend to know anything about evolution because I don’t, i only know the bear essentials- all i know is that “in the beginning God created”]

    3) I would like to discuss this subject further, but for the sake of time I will wait because it leads into many rabbit trails- when a break in the discussion comes i would love to explore it further. Also, in response to your comment that if we had these morals ingrained we would all do right – i thought i had answered this almost word for word in the ‘sales pitch’. (fall, etc.)

    4) My comment about the literal meaning of Eden was not meant to be commented on, it was actually an attempt to avoid the impossible subject of what is symbolic in the Bible and what is not. However, in response to “the problem with that Eden story is not the beauty of the garden but the fact that God gave man a choice without the ability to think about the possible outcomes”…. God gave them a choice in order to give them freedom and test their loyalty; if Adam had been faithful to God he wouldn’t have cared about the outcomes- unfortunately, he did care about the outcomes, in fact the whole reason Eve ate the fruit was because she thought her “eyes would be opened” and she would be “like God”- God doesnt want man to choose Him because of the outcomes, but because of the relationship, a fact that Christians including myself struggle with today.

    In response to your statement about man’s motive for eating the fruit— you were right to quoted Genesis 3:6, however, you seemed to ignore the part that says “a tree to be desired to make one wise”- Eve chose the fruit because she thought she would be like or better than God after she ate it, therefore,as I said, she thought she no longer needed God in her life. In response to your sarcastic and somewhat offensive question “Which translation of the Book are you using for this translation?”, I am using the NIV/NASB/ESV/KJV/NKJV/etc.

    5) By using percentages I merely meant to say that He was fully both, not imply a mathematical impossibility. No Christian fully understands this concept, it is one of the concepts of Christianity that must be taken by faith.I have heard a couple of good explanations for it that i’d like to discuss later on, but I have to go now, please remind me later.

    I feel that we are getting into a cyclical pattern of ‘critiquing’ each others responses rather than having a dialogue. I’d like to set up a time to chat in the near future if that is ok with you.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    I don’t differentiate between critiquing and dialog because the ultimate point of this conversation is to convey a message. The only issue with actually sticking to a chat type of dialog is that points can fall through the cracks as we press forward with our topics and assumptions and holes in arguments aren’t addressed. The only real solution to that is to make a statement and spend a half hour trying to make sure that both of us accept it, instead this medium is actually quite conducive to relaying the information that is still foggy.

    I wasn’t being condescending in asking about your translation, and my actual quote was “Which translation of the book are you using for this interpretation?” which is to say that the King James bible does not make it sound like Adam knew word one about where the apple came from and thus why would he be included in the punishment and not just women? I understand that you included the entry about the desires they may have had, but i still don’t agree with the interpretation. My Hebrew is not as strong as i would like it to be but with help I’ve been able to understand the Jewish interpretation better and it doesn’t sound like anything near the “original sin” or “the fall” was ever supposed to be.

    You did bring up choice here and i would like to understand what you mean by that. If i were to turn to my child and tell them that he can either spend his life attempting to fly to the moon or i will have to stick hot pokers in his eyes, have i really given him a choice. Do something that he will find incredibly difficult, and in many peoples view impossible, or be punished in a way that is both irrevocable and life long. Although this is a caricature of what we call punishment today, how is this anything fundamentally different to what you are pushing forward as an example of god’s grace where all we have to do is devote our lives to believing and loving him when he is clearly at odds with our testable reality at the cost of losing our eternity in hell, or without his salvation?

    One question i do have for you is what your views on the shroud of turin and similar icons that have come forward in the last few centuries that are used to add science to the religious curriculum. Given the situation where science steps forward with irrefutable evidence for Jesus’s existence and that he is shown to have actually pulled off the miracles that he is said to have, would that effect your beliefs in any way?

    What would you feel if science came forward supporting another belief?

    Regarding having another chat style dialog, i am always online and even have YIM and am online practically 24 hours a day. If im ever online and not working i would be glad to have a second chat styled dialog.

    =) I hope you have been safe during the past few rain storms.

  • Bob

    Thanks, and you too (about the rain). I apologize for the misunderstanding, unfortunately the downside to internet communication is the lack of voice tone. As for Adam knowing what the fruit was, I would think that the fruit would have been recognizable, although that is merely speculation. However, in Gen. 3:6, Adam is with her (which, to me, it seems would mean that he was at least in the vicinity if not right beside her, so that he knew which Tree it was coming from). Obviously he was in the Garden ‘with’ her, but I think that there is a reason the word is put there…

    “… she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (KJV)

    “… She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (NIV)

    Also, about the interpretation- the Garden of Eden has many different interpretations. As ‘interpretations’, I am referring to the original sin, not the order of Creation etc. From what I have personally drawn from the account as well as read in commentaries, the one I speak of (obedience/pride/self-sufficiency) is not only the easiest to understand, but also the easiest to draw other points from and also (as far as I can tell) the interpretation that seems most accurate. If you don’t mind, I’m going to quote a little Lewis (I know this gets annoying, but hang with me) because he puts it much better than I could ever hope to.

    In referring to the Fall…
    “This sin has been described by Saint Augustin as the result of Pride, of the movement whereby a creature (that is, an essentially dependent being whose principle of existence lies not in itself but in another) tries to set up on its own, to exist for itself. Such a sin requires no complex social conditions, no extended experience, no great intellectual development. From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the trerrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it.”

    As for your analogy, it would seem to hold water, except for the flying to the moon part. The whole foundation of grace and Salvation lies in that we aren’t saved by works. That Christ reconciled us- that instead of flying to the moon, it is much more comparable to swimming on a nice summer day— the pain and toil of sin has already been overcome; sure, we have to deal with it, but we can stand comforted in the assurance that Christ has already paid for us in full. So, yes, the choice seems less and less of a ‘choice’ as we understand the word today… when I think of choice, I think of choosing between chocolate or rocky road- both end up good. And yet, if, as you infer, the choice of Christianity is simply one between hell and embracing Jesus, then yes , you would think it would be an easy sort of choice– and yet, the majority of people do not.

    In response to the question about evidence… I need not deal with hypotheticals, because irrefutable physical evidence for Christ’s miracles (the greatest and most important of which being the Resurrection) will never be discovered.

    “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
    Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

    … faith is the foundation of Christianity, and the word itself means to be certain of what we do not see. If God gave us irrefutable physical evidence, then we would be “certain of what” we do “see”, which contradicts Christianity itself. As for the Shroud of Turin, I am without opinion. I don’t know whether it was truly Jesus’ burial cloth or not, and it really doesn’t matter that much to me… even if it were, it is still merely a physical object, not Christ Himself. The Catholic Church often has the problem of worshipping relics rather than their Savior. The main difficulty I have in taking a firm stand on its authenticity is that if I said it was authentic, then what if it was disproved? It wouldn’t mean Christ didn’t resurrect or died, although it would possibly weaken my faith as well as be a stumbling block to non-believers. As for the scientific support of other beliefs, I will not address because it is hypothetical and irrelevant as well as impossible. However, in a sense, it has supported Atheism (a sort of belief system, although very broad). Science is studied and discovered by a sinful and prejudice man. Also, science is always changing; always being proved and disproved.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    I think you missed the point in my example. I was using the idea of flying to the moon to symbolize a difficult task. One that with time, energy, physics and so forth we can find a solution but it is not something that a young boy can attain. I am essentially telling my boy that i intend to stick pokers in his eyes by giving him a task that i know he will fail at. Similarly, believing in Jesus or God is an impossibility for anyone who wants to actually use their brain to come to a conclusion about things.

    God took the liberty of creating this world where magic and miracle do not take part in our daily lives, and a brain was given to us to be able to parse through the details and be able to navigate our way through this world. We use our brains to differentiate between red or blue, which detergent to purchase based on our needs and monetary situation, whether to punch a guy out for swerving into your lane, what punishment to impost on a rapist and every other aspect of our daily lives. Yet this situation revolving around religious beliefs is off limits. There are a number of quotes that support your assertion that we are benefited by having faith in spite of our lack interaction with God, but these are words coming from people who actually met god, or if you are involved in the romantic interpretation – written by god. This is the worst type of evidence and ill explain with an example from reality.

    Adam comes to me. He is a friend of mine and not predisposed to lying or exaggeration. He has a message – “I met Bruce Springsteen last night. We drank beers, traded wives and we even rode each others motor cycles. It was fabulous. ” – Whether he has or has not met Bruce is irrelevant. I will likely not believe it at face value because this type of claim is not something that is well supported, seeing as how it comes from him and no other source, and it is also uncommon. At that point he has the option of showing me a woman that claims to be Bruce’s wife or a motorcycle with Bruce’s signature on the side, but none of that is more than evidence for and not a necessity for it to have been Bruce’s, and even if it were that would still leave the door open for Bruce to have been robbed. It wouldn’t be until i spoke to Bruce that i would be able to conclude that it had happened as it was said, or to have watched it initially myself.

    The example is silly, sure bit i use it to help explain how your position looks to a non-believer. Never once in that statement do i say that i Believe he did not do those things. Never once do i tell him that his situation couldnt possibly have happened.

    My response to your assertion and quotations is simply that it is quite odd that God found it justifiable and necessary to expose himself to the people of the world some 2000 years ago and has not seen fit to do it since. What is the significance of 2000 years ago? Why did he choose to send Jesus down then? What is the reason that he has refused to actually impart any further acts of his will on us since then?

    And just as a quick side note regarding Adam’s knowledge of where the fruit came from and the choice there: I have been in public with my mother and had her divine food without me knowing where she got it. Your interpretation is also flawed in that it makes it sound like they (adam and eve) were able to discern between right and wrong without the knowledge of good and evil, obedience, pride or self sufficiency and to that i have to ask how you can believe that and believe that the fruit gave it to them. I am just trying to wrap my mind around what the purpose of the tree was and more than that, why the punishment is so horrible for having eaten it. If anything the serpent was explaining that God has lied to them and simply used that as a device to show their naiveté.

    Either way, I will say that i am glad you are not looking for scientific evidence to support your faith. that is at the very least something i can respect within your faith. More power to you.

  • Bob

    Thank you- and yes, I understand your analogy. Although Christ can be supported by logic, He can’t be visibly seen or spoken to etc., which, I understand, seems unfair. Especially seeing as Moses got to talk to God and the peasants in Israel witnessed Jesus’ miracles.But, first of all, who are we to say what is fair? Christ bled and died for wretched man’s sins while He was Himself pure and spotless… how could this be ‘fair’? I am not suggesting that this is a true answer, but more of a humbling side-step.

    The real answer to the problem I have already stated before but I will again (although it sounds like a broken record).. if God showed miracles to us today what choice would we have but to follow Him. This would be more of a forced slavery than a humble and loving submission- God wants and desires the latter.
    God is a Person, and he desires love (another concept that is hard to understand)

    As for the occurrence of miracles in Christ’s time as opposed to these– If you read through the NT you’ll notice that very rarely does Jesus perform miracles before He first teaches, and He teaches to places that have not heard of His arrival and fulfillment of the Law, which begins a new chapter in the JudeoChristian faith. In every town He would teach the previously unheard news, then perform a few miracles, and then move on to the next town. After His resurrection, He gave the Great Commission to His followers, telling them that the Holy Spirit had been given them and they were given the power to cast out demons and perform miracles in His name to the uttermost parts of the world. Whenever they would leave a town that had previously not heard the Good News, and, upon hearing it, rejected it, they (Christ’s followers) would shake the dirt off their feet as a testament against that town. America consists of citizens who have heard the Good News but have not accepted it by faith.. we don’t need miracles to introduce the Good News because we have already heard it, and at this very moment Christ “stands at the door” and “knocks”—-I have heard that there are great miracles going on in other areas of the world in this age- places like China and Korea where Christianity is constantly being ‘squelched’ by the government etc.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    I spent a couple hours yesterday trying to bullet point a response to you but I realized that there is a common thread throughout these arguments and it makes my purpose here difficult to understand. These discussions began as a means for you to test your beliefs and increase your resolve, and in the letter before this you admitted that science is not going to be useful in supporting your beliefs. If you throw out science you throw out everything that we know and love (Logic, Mathematics, Physics, History, Chemistry and so forth).
    Science is not a group of things that have been brought up out of no-where. They are simply the claims that have been shown to pass through the gauntlet of rigorous scientific testing. There is nothing stopping a supernatural claim from passing the tests of the scientific method and moreover becoming a part of science. The problem is that these claims are made up out of whole cloth and are unsupported by reason or logic, or they are contradictory when posed against things we already know, so they are thrown out and or they fail to pass scientific scrutiny.
    The position you hold, where science cannot sway your beliefs is really quite difficult to understand and I would wager that it has likely cost you a lot of energy and time. I am confused about what role I play here and what you intend to get out of this.
    In short, unless you can agree to put your beliefs up for scientific scrutiny I don’t know where you expect this conversation to go because all that we know about our world is scientific. I am also interested in your assertion that God is a Person, and also that Jesus is supported by Logic. Both of those intrigue me, but I am not comfortable stepping away from science in order to reach them.
    Also, it has been suggested that a flow chart be made to show many of the contradictions and or problems with the position you have illustrated thus far and i think i will be doing that with a friends help over the next week or so, if i have time.

  • Bob

    I apologize for the delayed response. Also, I apologize for my misleading terminology… by science I meant meant common beliefs held by most “scientists” today. In response to your question, no, I do not think that Christianity can ever be disproved by science, that is true science. I apologize, unfortunately today’s Christians (including me) have the fault of generalizing terms… by using an overarching (and vague/ false) such as ‘science’. I realize that I unknowingly interchanged the two meanings of science in my last message. However, there are not many terms to express what I really meant by the word half of the time.. so, from now on, I will do my best to stick to “modern scientific beliefs”: I will use the word “science” for the actual field itself rather than those who study it. As for your/my purpose in this discussion, I am trying to strengthen my resolve; so far, you have caused me to do some research that has strengthened my resolve. I believe that the only question which I have not seemingly sufficiently answered so far is the one about modern day miracles as opposed to ancient miracles… and what better book to read than “Miracles” by Lewis. I’ll let you know if I see anything significant. I know it appears ‘weak’ to have to research things rather than already know them, although you must admit that it is easier to debate about a subject if you are a skeptic rather than a believer. As for the flow chart, that sounds good to me, and I would like to see it sometime in an attachment. Once again, I apologize for the vague vocabulary.
    – Theist

  • Bob

    I think I have always been in research mode, as long as I have been alive. My perspective is simply to expand my knowledge and understanding of the world as best I possibly can. This is because I am quite aware, as I’m sure you are, that beliefs inform decisions. I don’t want to get into a position where my beliefs will ever drive me toward a decision that is incorrect, so I respect your research decision in a way that only a skeptic could.
    As for your comment about being able to argue better as a skeptic versus a believer, I think you have it quite wrong. Being a skeptic does not in any way improve your arguing position, and it doesn’t improve your knowledge in and of itself. Good skeptics support their beliefs with ample research and testing, but that is not a requirement in any way. It is also true that many people who call themselves skeptics are not. What does improve your argumentation is being right, and supporting that position with ample good evidence. Without either of them you are destined to fail.
    Specifically, regarding the god topic, this could be taken to the logical extent of applying the same rules of logic and scientific study on it. In this situation a group of people have made a claim (God Exists and he is The God of The Bible). Both of these claims need to be supported in some way shape or form beyond a book referencing it and or word of mouth about some miracle having happened to a cousin of a friend of a friend of my uncle’s neighbor. Without focusing on the god existence claim, you brought up miracles:

    What constitutes a Miracle?
    Why haven’t any been documented anywhere other than the fiction section?
    What is good evidence for Miracles?
    When was the last miracle?

    If you go back a few letters I asked you to explain what you believe and why. The emphasis I wanted to focus on was the Why portion of that. You seem to have explained what you believe but you haven’t really supported the Why end of things. Also, I asked you to explain what sets you apart from the typical Christian. I don’t think you actually addressed it. Often, Christians are quick to be offended by being grouped with Christians. From my stand point I can see that it can lead to generalization, but only in the same way that the term Atheist carries connotations that I have to battle through. If you remember the questions that I shared with you, many of them were questions you had asked me when we first met.
    As for Science and a group of Scientists, I think that is an unfortunate situation that you think that a group of scientists have any sway on anything having to do with the world. It is one of the reasons that we do peer review before anything is accepted. Unfortunately, Science is already defined and I think we should stick to the terms that Google provides when you try to look something up, because at least there we can come to agreement on terms.
    I am still confused by your statements though. Are you allowing Reason, Logic and Evidence back into this debate? Before we take any further steps I need to make sure this is clear.
    Below is a list of a few of the questions I think have been unanswered or not clearly answered so far in these emails:

    How can you simply assert that Christians don’t need to know about what was going on during the time and what was going on before?
    Where do you get your morals from?
    What about Jesus’s history do you think is unnecessary for the common believer to know?
    What sets you apart from the Christian depicted on wikipedia? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity
    If you were to put yourself into god’s shoes would you treat two believers, one who unquestioningly followed the bible and one that did the exact opposite but still found the faith to believe, the same?
    Do you think that hell, or a lack of salvation if that is your interpretation, is being divorced from god?
    Per our April 12 email – How is the situation regarding pokers and flying the moon anything fundamentally different from being told to devote my life to Jesus/god and believing in him/them or going to hell?

  • Bob

    What I meant by the statement about skepticism is not necessarily the amount of research necessary but rather that defense is often more difficult than offense (it takes several paragraphs to answer a question whereas a question is only one sentence long). And because of the particularity of the Christian faith vs. Atheism sometimes more broadness, the Atheist usually asks more questions than the Christian, which is understandable. I in no way meant that Atheists do not have good research to support their claims.

    As for our discussion, it seems we are back to square one (mainly because of my inability to answer some of these questions sufficiently). I guess I will try to address the miracle questions first because they are the ones that I have the most difficulty explaining, especially to an Atheist.

    It seems to me that our conversation is in a deadlock because you require 100% physical evidence while I still maintain that Christianity is a step of faith. Although I do believe that any true scientific discoveries or logical conceptions will align with Christianity, there are some parts of my beliefs that will never even be addressed by science and logic… don’t get me wrong, I would love to discuss these things, however, on a subject so delicate as miracles, I do not believe they help. The main difference between you and I is that I believe there is something beyond (or maybe behind would be a better word) Nature whereas you believe that nature is all there is, that it is one great interlocking procession of events in time- a giant cause-and-effect. As Lewis says in Miracles, it is impossible for you to ever believe in miracles, because the term itself is a product of Something (God) that, to you, doesn’t even exist. I know this repeated ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ can be annoying when looking for facts/scientific proof, but you must understand that there are a few parts of Christianity that are like that, such as the Trinity. I’d like to engage in a discussion with you on a little more concrete issue sometime, but I will try my best with miracles… if you want a true challenge, I would suggest getting a copy of ‘Miracles’ and reading the first five chapters (although I understand this is probably not going to happen- if you asked me to read an Atheistic book, I might would decline 😉

    Besides the issue of faith’s interplay with miracles as well as Lewis’ amazing arguement for them, I was reading the Bible the other day and happened to read a passage in Psalms:

    “We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth. It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. It was you who crushed the heads of the Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert. It was you who opened up springs and streams; you dried up the ever flowing rivers. The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”
    -Psalms 74:9-17

    This sounds very similar to God’s rebuke of Job… whenever the question arises in the Bible, the Creator squelches it with (paraphrasing…)’Look at all I have created, a beautiful witness to me, and yet you ask for more?!’…..

    Once again, I know it seems I’m ‘throwing logic out the window’… but this is a subject which I cannot prove to an Atheist- the Supernatural cannot be made clear if the Natural is all that exists.. somewhere, faith has to step in.

    – Theist

  • Bob

    Good Morning,

    Your previous mailing confused me quite a bit. One thing that Reason and Logic provide us with is a means of being able to draw out a conclusion about some slice of the universe’s truths. A course in Deductive or Inductive logic or a philosophy course which shows you how to build a truth table would illustrate this with a statement set like the following.

    All Human Beings have backbones.
    I am a human being.
    I have a backbone.

    There are a number (something like 20) of sound logical argument forms, each of which carries with it a truth table and shows that if you are able to validate the premises your conclusion must follow.

    Yesterday you made a statement which I will paraphrase, but please note that I am not focusing on the context, only trying to point out a logical falsehood. “I in no way meant that Atheists do not have good research to support their claims.” I think I understand what you meant here, but the problem is hidden in the undertone and as I’ve been taught, if I don’t speak up I am complacent. Atheists make no claims. There is a multitude of places where atheists are asserted to have many points of view, but they all miss out on the overarching issue – Atheism means a lack of belief in any god. There are Atheists who believe in Ghosts, Aliens, That Jesus was a real man, that cars will surely fly and or that a teapot is in orbit of Saturn. Atheists may believe in anything they want, and that is simply the statement.

    On the other hand, you have stepped forward as a theist. You are making a claim, and that is why you feel like you are on the defensive. You are asserting a claim, not only that a god exists of supernatural powers, but also that it is a god to be called HE and that HE is the Christian God. You are willing to back up your faith with quotations from C.S. Lewis and or the bible, and probably a multitude of other believers, but that is not evidence in any way. The problem is that you have no evidence physical or otherwise.

    As a quick side note about the evidence claim you brought forward, I don’t think that is correct. I am not looking for 100% physical evidence. I am looking for reason, logic and sound premises. A prime example is the Black Hole. When these were first thought up there was zero evidence for them and people were split. Sure they explained things but they were thought to be absurd and unnecessary. Mathematics and Physics came together and drew out a conclusion based on the understanding of the universe…

    If enough mass is concentrated it will lead to a black hole.

    This statement in and of itself was not enough to cause the claim to be accepted or thrown out. Physics and Mathematics showed it to be a necessity for our universe and with time we found them at the center of every large galaxy we have searched for them.
    Not only can we never touch or even see them directly, we know where a number of them are and continue to uncover evidence for many more every year. We don’t need a spoonful of matter from them or a microscope to focus. We look around them and see what else is going on. We can see Gravitational lensing, distortions of time based on gravitational effects and so forth. There are entire books written about this subject and it is quite fascinating.

    I chose this to illustrate that Logic and Reason do not need to be measured to be shown to be true, but they are dependent upon their premises.

    If I clean my room then my mom will let me go to the concert
    I cleaned my room
    My mom let me go to the concert.

    If I clean my room then the moon is made of cheese
    I cleaned my room
    The moon is made of cheese

    Both of these are using the exact same logical form, and their truth tables are identical. The problem here is the second claim is garbage.There is no spoonful of “my mom will let me go to the concert.There is no mass to cleaning my room. it is simply a statement of a possible outcome, a premise to the argument.

    Getting back to the discussion, you will probably be surprised to hear that I have read the first couple chapters of this book and found it quite disappointing. In a very heavy handed stroke he essentially says that naturalism is flawed because he can’t wrap his mind around something, and that is what miracles are. This is a logical fallacy called Argument from Ignorance, which in simplest terms says “I don’t know how it happened so it’s got to be magic.” If you try to use this argument with friends or family they will surely see through it, and with exercise in logic you too will start seeing them.

    While I recognize your reluctance to be willing to step into the Atheist primer willingly, I can’t help but be disappointed to hear that you are not already doing so. You will note that in spite of your defensive position I have not been advancing any position on to you. I haven’t quoted anything but previous emails, pointed you to youtube videos or even felt the need to break open the bible with exception of re reading the Adam and Eve portion of the genesis story. In my eyes all I can see is an inability to be clear with your own point of view, so you feel more comfortable stepping behind another’s. That is not to say that the other person’s P.O.V. is stronger or that you are weak, it only is the truth. So far you have quoted C.S. Lewis as though he were the preacher up on high and I can’t help but smile because, as I’ve already been accused of generalization regarding Christians earlier, there is going to come a point where even C.S. Lewis will cross out of your comfort zone.

    While you may see this as a deadlock, I can’t agree. You have successfully begun the process of cleaning up your beliefs. While your resolve may be unaddressed at this point in time you are going to have to put something up that isn’t as easily retrievable as a C.S. Lewis or bible quotation. We all have deep seated beliefs that we are afraid of exposing and as an offer, why don’t we take a week to explore my beliefs instead of frustrating you. I offer my mind up to you and you may ask me any question that you may have about Atheism, My positions, Politics, or anything else for that matter. I am an open book and quite willing to discuss the pages therein.

    But, this discussion about miracles is not completed just yet. =)

    I hope you are well and look forward to the next phase.