I really appreciate your response and feel largely the same way. One issue always tends to bug me with this though. Are there not countless other people in other religions who have experienced God and shown the fruit of the Spirit? How does one prioritize the historical claims made by Christianity with the plurality of religious experience? I have to honestly wonder, if I grew up in a country predominated by Muslim or Jewish beliefs, would I have been a Muslim or a Jew? It seems geography has something to say about religious beliefs. So in your view, what separates Christianity from the other religions in the world. I would not argue against them being different pathways to God and salvation, but what makes Christianity special?
William Jame’s The Will to Believe was a seminal work for me in returning the faith long after I realized my “all of nothing” version of Christianity and the Bible was untenable and I spiraled into atheism. It was a long road back but I made it. I really feel there is no certainty. I don’t think you really prove your way into belief in God or Jesus. I know there are whole systems of apologetics like Norman Geislers that try to do this (and tremendously fail at it), but it took me a while to live in a world without certainty.
But I have to be honest. A world without God, a world where we are just animated stardust, where truth is just one chemical reaction in the brain and a lie is another. I can’t accept that. is there really free will and choice? We seem to assume so in all of our interactions yet is everything really just capable of being deterministically boiled down to pure math and physics? A purely materialistic universe is cold, harsh and devoid of meaning to me. I just can’t live like that and I think most people would be hypocritical to even try.
Correct or incorrect, everything tells me there is really “good” and “bad” in the world. There really is truth, right and wrong. I just don’t see how without God you can get any real meaning in the world. I mean a rapist might as well be a shook up coke bottle and philanthropist a shook up Pepsi bottle. They both just fizz in different ways. When we see those reactions we fizz in our own ways. How can we truly believe in real evil and goodness if all we are is animated stardust, assemblages of atoms, subservient exclusively to chemical and physical laws, with a blink of an eye existence, on an infinitesimally small planet dizzily orbiting a sun? Without God, what does it all ultimately matter? I think the majority of those who deny God live their lives under the pretense that morality is real, there is truth and goodness and purpose and meaning in the universe.
Yes, there is certainly an aspect of enculturation to all religions. So, I am really fascinated by the many stories I’ve heard of Muslims who say Jesus appeared to them in a dream during Ramadan and gave them an address of someone who could tell them more. Or isolated tribes who hear the gospel for the first time and welcome it as the good news they have been waiting for. When you get out of the Western world, there are so many crazy miracle stories in Jesus name. Even if only a percentage of them are true, that’s something. Again, I don’t think it’s proof and I understand everything can be explained away by other narratives. But it’s compelling to me.
I love the account of the ‘redemptive analogy’ already in place for the Sawi aborigines in Western New Guinea, who, when they first heard the Gospel story, thought that Judas was the protagonist.
More than half of the Sawi accepted Jesus Christ
Though I’m very skeptical towards the miraculous aspect I do believe that no matter the person, tribe, or nation the story of Jesus resonates with everyone who has even a inkling of righteousness in them.
One thing that I’ve always remembered when hearing the fact that everything can be explained away is this dark example I heard once.
If you walked into a room and saw a man on the floor with a knife in his chest yelling to keep another man away from him before dying and they found the other man’s finger prints on the knife and threatening texts you could safely presume what happened.
Sure you could say maybe the man came there to apologize or maybe someone else was texting on his phone. You could argue that perhaps his fingerprint was on the knife because he was there helping to cut up some vegetables or maybe he picked it up off the ground. You could even theorize that maybe the victim was saying keep the other man away because he did not want to be seen in such a condition or that he knew the other man could not handle the sight of blood. There are several ways to explain away what happened but the most obvious is that the angry man showed up and stabbed the guy who is not afraid of him.
There are two problems with that.
- I don’t believe any such thing. I am no Deist. I believe in God’s intimate involvement in everything.
- God is not a prisoner of the measure of time in the physical universe or any measure of time for that matter. Science has discarded the notion of absolute time. So God can use time as He chooses. If God were not interested in what was happening then there is no reason for Him to wait, just as there is no reason for there to have been an infinite time before creating the universe.
But I don’t believe in proofs, except in mathematics. Even in science all we have is evidence for what is reasonable – not proof. So I don’t find any so called proofs convincing. Proofs are not why most people believe anyway.
Oh and perhaps I should tell you that I wasn’t raised in a belief in any kind of religion. You can read more of my story here where I do a chapter by chapter review of Francis Collin’s book “The Language of God.”
I would shift the goal of apologetics to defending the rationality of Christianity – not proving it to be true.
What culture would that be?
Sounds like God as Christianity conceives Him is a prisoner of the common notion that His powers are limitless provided no logical impossibility is involved. What would count as “limitless” when the Bible was assembled was probably something far more limited since our own powers and imagination have increased so much since then.
This would be my understanding of Christian Apologetics too.
For instance, no discussion of apologetics is complete without reference to 1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV2011):
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone (Gk: apologia) who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
The context of giving “an answer to everyone” (a Christian apologetic) in 1 Peter 3:14-16 is…
- Responsive - the non-Christian is asking for a reason; the Christian provides one (v15)
- Defensive* - The non-Christian is asking why the Christian has hope in face of suffering and malicious talk rather than throwing in the towel and heading back to temple. Or the Christian faces public or official persecution and is asked to defend themselves against the accusations. Cf. Mark 13:11 for a similar idea. Also worth pointing out that Peter assumes the Christian has not brought this down on themselves by being an argumentative so-and-so.
- Reasonable - Peter expects us to provide reasons not proofs or even evidence (though reasons may appeal to evidence)
This is also what I see in ‘classic’ apologetic works like Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, for example, which seeks to defend (among other things) the rationality of Christianity apart from appeal to the Bible. Or Justin Martyrs 1st and 2nd Apologies where he attempts to defend the reasonableness of Christianity against various objectors.
*The preacher in me is disappointed that I could not come up with 3 Rs…
Sorry for being so idle on responding to you guys.
I would argue that the conception of God even by Old Testament standards is pretty overwhelming. There was an angel in the Old Testament that killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroying_angel_(Bible)). Think about that. God didn’t even have to do that himself. He relegated it to a created being.
Also, assuming you guys believe in a literal Satan, and a literal imprisonment and war against him in Revelation, that was also relegated to an angel. God didn’t even consider Satan himself worthy of direct confrontation!
For those who are in (or have struggled with) a religiously-reactive atheism, I think one of the problematic mindsets that seems to most persistently linger is the notion that one religion, if it be true, must be the exclusive holder of all truth, and all-things-God. And by default, then, all other religions must just be completely wrong about pretty much everything (or at least in any areas where they disagree with the ‘true’ religion). But God, as revealed in scriptures, has already proved to be no respecter of such religious boundaries. Shoot … a pluralism between Judaism and the fledgling Christianity is completely baked into our very origins - even to the extent of being problematic for early followers trying to sort themselves out with the new gentile converts coming on board. So right away, before the New Testament has even been written, the notion of “one religion exclusively contains all of God’s genuine work in the world” is already a thoroughly exploded notion. God may make choices of certain people, families, even nations, to accomplish special things for the purpose of blessing the rest of the world, but I think the case can be made that it is unscriptural to insist that all truth about everything (even important things!) is only to be found in Christianity alone. No major system of beliefs is going to be wrong or unhelpful about absolutely everything it promotes. And even on the points where it might be, God loves to even make use of that! God seems to take greater joy in knocking down our walls and preconceptions, than helping us build them.
We must be careful not to be too pluralist https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Acts%204%3A12
It doesn’t sound much odder of an idea than that the natural world caused itself into existence, somehow. In any case, there are a couple problems with this reasoning. Why does it matter to God if it takes one day or one billion years? God is not “in time” and does not “experience” time like we do. A being like God would have no relative difference to themselves whether something took a split second or a trillion years from our own perspective. Secondly, the idea that God needs to do things “quickly” or something like that (relative to us) is predicated on the idea that God must be “efficient” or something. But you only need to be efficient if you’re lacking time. God has all of time. He can, therefore, bring things about whichever way He likes, however long they take, so long as they are the best way in the end. Finally, Jesus came to Earth around 2,000 years ago. Only 2% of all humans to ever exist lived before Jesus. Framed this way, time seems kind of irrelevant.
What I’m wondering is this: In this Christian-Naturalist culture, you all still accept the divinity of Jesus and the reality of Heaven and/or the Resurrection.
Interestingly, this is how Christian intellectuals and scientists viewed the world in the 16th-17th centuries.
What are the most convincing proofs for you?
I think that the reality of Christianity, imbued in the resurrection, is the only really good reason for explaining how Christianity, as a religion, ever came about in the first place. Namely, I don’t think there would be a Christianity if there was no resurrection.
I hope you change your mind about that. It seems that in order to do full justice to the stranger you must allow that their ways which are strange to you might still be worthy. The trick, it seems to me, is to find a way to give the stranger the benefit of the doubt without lessening your commitment to worshiping God in the ways which you’ve found. Not even those who claim to have met God can say with certainty that God could not or would not appear to another some other way. It isn’t a matter of God being false in some forms and true in just one. Narrow consistency appeals to us and makes our understanding easier. But we know that what God is is beyond our understanding so why not refrain from insisting on such things. I’ve been told that was the mistake the Pharisees made.
Careful or you’ll erase every problem I have with Christianity.
Nope. God is free to limit His power as He chooses also. He is NOT even confined to that.
Next you will be arguing that God is a prisoner of His own will and desires, which I consider to be an incoherent argument.
There is a logical difference between what appears to be limitless and the abstract concept of limitless because human imagination has increased in every person’s lifetime. Try to imagine what it was like when Homer finished one of his stories and told it as poetry in front of an audience around 700 BC, since that has fired the imagination of every generation since.
YES! And that has a part in the reasons I have for choosing Christianity.
And I could add to the reasons I gave, the fact that Judeo-Christianity with its scriptures compiled by so many authors over a long time is no creation of the imagination of one person – as many other religions seem to be.
Of course not. I consider the whole idea of a war between God and Satan to be ludicrous and not a part of Christianity. That is Zoroastrianism.
Exactly. 11 character limit achieved
The adversary is good at creating counterfeits with enough truth to deceive the unwary.
How is this anything more than an empty claim without substance since you give no explanation.
In mathematics infinity is often described as a limit. But doesn’t put a cap on it – doesn’t make it limited. Are you playing word games. To be sure there are higher orders of infinity – and we have only grasped a few of them.
I certainly don’t accept your claim. This does not limit the character of God – quite the opposite. It does not say that God cannot be like you in all your limitations, but only that He can be like every single one of us. His limitlessness is all about inclusion not exclusion – transcendence AND immanence.
OK. Population at the time of Christ was OOM one hundred million, (100,000,000,000) in the previous OOM 100,000 years there will have been 10 x that, so a billion. And that represents 2% of all humans, to now I presume, who therefore number 50 billion. The NCBI reckons 100 billion. Should be trillion by the next ice age maximum. They reckon 300 million alive back then. 10:1 dead to living so 3 billion to then. 3%. I’ll buy that for a dollar.
[the above referenced to Acts 4:12 where “there is no other name given by which we must be saved.”]
Being too pluralist almost never seems to be much of a problem. Almost like worrying about getting too much exercise. We seem to be much more caught up in building all our little walls, fortresses, and policing the perimeters. Most of scriptures are an exercise in people learning to break those habits rather than encouraging them. But that said … yes … it is good to know who you are, individually and collectively.
From John 10:16:
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
That Christ is our one and only salvation doesn’t mean that Christ is limited as to whom he can reach.