Believing Scientists Respond: Why Are You a Christian?


(Christy Hemphill) #23

Yes, the primary reason. It was Paul’s primary reason too, I think. But I’m pretty post-modern, so I think all my knowledge, experiential and otherwise, is subjectively filtered through my personal experience, I don’t think “personal experience” is some kind of inferior truth.

I don’t find people who see the world differently to be threatening to my own belief system. If I was friends with that person, I would listen to her experiences and try to understand where she was coming from. If she wanted to hear about my experiences with Jesus, I would tell her. I don’t think it’s my job to convert anyone or point out where I think they are wrong. As a Christian, I think it’s my job to live a life of love and service in Jesus’ name and share about my personal hope in Christ if I’m asked about it. But, how other people respond to Jesus is their business and I feel no obligation whatsoever to try to argue people into sharing my faith. I don’t even think it can be done.


(Christy Hemphill) #24

I think so. If you could prove historically that Jesus did not raise from the dead, it would discredit Christianity. That’s why so much apologetic effort has gone into defending the Resurrection as a historical possibility.


(Gary M) #25

So if you believe in the Christian God due to your personal experiences and the other person in our hypothetical discussion believes in her God due to her personal experiences, how would a third party like myself be able to know who is right?


(Gary M) #26

So your belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the Creator of the universe and as your resurrected Lord and Savior is primarily based on your personal experiences, but, if evidence turned up proving that Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, this would cause you to re-interpret your personal experiences as having not been caused by Jesus?

If evidence can overturn your interpretation of your personal experiences, doesn’t that indicate that, in reality, you believe that evidence is a more reliable indicator of truth than your subjective personal experiences?


(Mervin Bitikofer) #27

I think Christy has already given a good answer which I chime in with as well. I’ll even add a bit (for me) that obviously Jesus mythicism would scuttle my faith, but even something a bit less silly than that: If early scrolls were discovered tomorrow that made it clear that the early disciples were not in fact faithfully repeating what Jesus had taught them, but were instead “inventing” the bulk of his sermons and teachings - making up their fledgling religion to rescue it from the tatters of the crucifixion event; this too would be a death blow to my faith. Of course such a discovery would coincide with the demise of resurrection evidence too, so that answer is still tied in with this.

Note: By this I don’t mean that the presence of discrepancies, exaggerations, different-point-of-view issues that will always be present with multiple or long human accounts worry me much. So I most emphatically reject the approach of those whose “faith” is so brittle and fragile that they need a perfectly dictated “holy book” that will stand up to their modern demands and notions of what such a book should look like - obliging themselves toward whatever gymnastics are necessary to explain away the textured humanity found in the accounts. While I may have emerged from such an outlook, I emphatically reject it for the bibliolotry I recognize it to be now. What I’m saying is that if the thrust of the central message(s) of Jesus teachings were all just made up on the fly, I don’t think my faith would survive.

The accounts of the appallingly embarrassing failures of the disciples militate (for me) against the possibility that they were the originators of the entire story. Did their own biases creep in there as they (and/or their own later followers) got their words down on paper? Sure. Maybe even an extra story or two (such as the woman caught in adultery in John’s gospel). As long as those things aren’t contrary to the spirit of who Jesus was and what he taught, those things don’t bother me over much, and I’m willing to see them as incorporated into the narrative of “who Christ is and was” and “who we are in Christ” all under the authority of that very Spirit.


(Christy Hemphill) #28

No, because the whole process of personally evaluating evidence is a subjective personal experience limited by my intellect and worldview, and shaped by my prior subjective personal experiences. Any kind of historical process that convinced me Jesus did not rise from the dead would have subjective interpretive elements included by the researchers presenting it. In the end, it would be my subjective personal assessment that deemed it convincing. I don’t think there are many purely objective things in life (2+2=4, maybe).

Plus the greater your experience base with something, the more you rely on it to process and understand new information. I have a long and complex experience base with certain relationships. It would take a lot of evidence to convince me my parents, my husband, or God never really loved me. Any facts you showed me that pointed to such a conclusion would be filtered through my vast experience of being loved. I don’t think I’m very unique here. That’s how human minds work.


(Christy Hemphill) #29

It’s not math, you aren’t entitled to a correct answer. You would have to go on your own subjective, personal, experience-based assessment of reality.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #30

Can you say more about that? I’m pretty sure you don’t mean that correct answers can’t exist or that it is impossible for us to be [generally] wrong [or right] about spiritual and religious matters. But I guess I don’t know where you’re going with this, then.


(Gary M) #31

We are agreed that the Bible contains some “made up stuff”. Most Bible scholars believe examples of this phenomenon are the Woman Caught in Adultery story, the Guards at the Tomb story, the Angel Stirring the Water at the Pool of Bethesda story, and the Dead Saints Shaken out of their Graves story. Only very conservative scholars believe these events really happened. You have already insinuated that you do not believe in the historicity of the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2.

So if these stories are theological or literary inventions, isn’t it possible that the detailed appearance stories of the risen Jesus in Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts are also theological/literary inventions? If so, would that change your mind about the strength of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? In other words, instead of eyewitness claims of seeing a resurrected body, the real appearance claims were vague, without details, as we see in First Corinthians 15. Maybe everyone in the “witness list” in the Early Creed saw…a bright light…and believed it was Jesus.


(Gary M) #32

So if I interviewed a Christian like yourself and a member of all the 20 largest world religions and each person told me that they had numerous, very intense, very real, personal experiences that convince them, without a doubt, that their god is the one true god, how would I be able to figure out who is right?


(Christy Hemphill) #33

I’m just saying that the truth about who Jesus is isn’t something that can be calculated or logically deduced or reasoned to from evidence. We don’t stand over Jesus and compute his “correctness” in order to come to faith. That isn’t how it works.


(Christy Hemphill) #34

You would need to seek God and his truth and personal revelation for yourself, not depend on other people’s testimonies.


(Gary M) #35

How would I do that? I know of several people who have prayed to “God” to tell them which religion is true, and after praying, some of them decided it was Allah, some decided it was the God of the Mormons, and some Lord Krishna. So praying to “God” doesn’t seem to be a reliable method of determining the identity of the true God.


(Christy Hemphill) #36

It still seems like you are approaching a potential relationship as a science experiment. I would say that is a wrong-headed way to approach a relationship.

I don’t conceive of Christianity as a set of correct propositions to believe really hard, so I don’t really resonate with any endeavor to test it for correctness. The Christian life (described in the Bible and practiced by the first believers and countless generations since) is entering relationship with God through Jesus, being adopted into God’s family, being loved, receiving forgiveness, being transformed by grace into a new person, and then going out and doing good things in the world to honor that relationship. It is a highly experiential faith fueled by receiving from God and tested by giving back to God. We don’t “determine the identity of the true God” as if we are the agents and God is the object of our agency. God is the agent. God reveals himself to people. Humans don’t control God’s self-revelation.


(Mark D.) #37

I’m not invested in a community building God as Christians are so the fact that different people in different cultures end up believing in a different God or at least God by a different name doesn’t bother me. The idea of approaching something so subjective with the intent of discovering a unique objective truth seems a little absurd to me, as I guess it does to you. But I don’t think this crew is involved in any query to find that answer. So it isn’t as though they are misapplying science when they end up praying to the God of the bible. In fact most here accept that science can’t lead you to God, or not unless you’re already leaning that way.

But what interests me is that so many people in so many places have believed in God by one name or other for as far back as we can discover anything about what people believed. To me that is interesting and deserves an explanation. I don’t think science can discover God but I think it can get at why faith is as common as it is.

If you go back far enough, you would come to some of our ancestors who had no conception of themselves as individuals. Their ‘self’ did not yet exist. They did stuff and processed information but none of that resulted in a steady center of self identity. Nowadays we take for granted. I personally wonder which our ancestors experienced first their sense of self or their sense of God. Wouldn’t surprise me to learn God came first. Now, for me, both arise in the same place and have the same existential footing in the world since both are creations of our species’ consciousness.


(Gary M) #38

So unless I receive a “revelation” there is no way for me to discover the truth?


(Gary M) #39

So because most humans have believed in the existence of a “God”, that is strong evidence that God probably exists? Most people throughout human history believed that the sun circles the earth. They were wrong.


(Christy Hemphill) #40

You can know about God, but until you actually know God, you can’t know the full truth about him, and you can’t assess whether the things you know about him are true. Same as any other relationship.


(Gary M) #41

With another human being, I can talk to him, listen to him, and touch him to make sure he is real. We can’t do that with your invisible God. How do you know that your God is real and not just in your imagination? Isn’t it possible that all your “experiences” that you attribute to your invisible God were simply odd coincidences?


(Christy Hemphill) #42

I don’t know with absolute certainty. Not the way I know 2+2 is 4. And my confidence wavers at times. That is the nature of faith.

Yes, that is a possibility. One I have considered on many occasions.