Believing Scientists Respond: Why Are You a Christian?


(Gary M) #43

Interesting. If so many people use faith to determine which religion/God is true, yet find completely different answers (some find Jesus, some find Allah, some find Vishnu, etc.), is faith a reliable method of determining universal truth claims?


(Mark D.) #44

Depends on what you mean by God. I don’t believe a literal Omni intentional being exists any more than you do but I do believe there is something that gives rise to God belief for reasons already given. If you want to understand what either they or I have in mind you’ll need to extend yourself and the principle of charitabity far enough to avoid winning against only a straw man.


(Christy Hemphill) #45

Probably not by itself, no. I don’t think faith or personal experience with the divine determines the truth claims, anyway, it’s just part of evaluating their validity. Most Christians will tell you it is not just faith or personal experience with God that is determining the truth claims, it’s direct revelation in Scripture and the life of Jesus. That revelation can be cross-referenced with other ways of discerning reality (reason, intuition, imagination, experience). It’s not like all Christians just automatically believe what the Bible says or the truth they think God has personally revealed to them. There are standards you can check some truth claims against. I don’t know how it works with other religions.


(Gary M) #46

Sorry. I meant no disrespect. I was simply trying to point out that just because many or all ancient cultures believed in the existence of a Creator is not necessarily good evidence that one exists since they also all believed that the sun circles the earth.

This is why I think it is dangerous to base universal beliefs (beliefs that we expect to be true for everyone at all times and places) based on personal experience. My personal experience tells me that the sun circles the earth. It rises in the east and sets in the west each and every day, to repeat itself day after day, year after year. I have experienced this phenomenon over 20, 800 times (my age, 57, multiplied by 365 days per year). I seriously doubt that any of you have experienced 20,800 miracles in your lives. Do you see my point? Perceived miracles/personal experiences are not reliable indicators of universal truths.


(Gary M) #47

What do you mean by “direct revelation in Scripture”?


(Christy Hemphill) #48

The idea that the Bible reveals specific truth about God that isn’t accessible by other means. Like “Jesus died for your sins to reconcile you to God.” You can’t reason or intuit or experience your way to that.


(Dominik Kowalski) #49

This is certainly not scholarly consensus. Even though this cases aren´t addressed in topics of resurrection studies as most important data, they´re definetely not dismissed as “invented”, but rather as perspective. An example from Gary Habermas was, that when you´re talking to your Professor in university, you probably cannot recall if there were 3 or 5 other students in this room, because the exact number didn´t matter. Also, not a small minority, but around 2/3 of scholars today believe in the empty tomb, and those who do, say, that women discovered it. This is not enough for the “minimal facts approach”, but far from a dismissed position.

Don´t build up that dichotomy, that´has been addressed by enough people in the field. Linguistic differences point to a different understanding. Augustine already addressed this in the 4th century. My favourite example from this forum explains this perfectly, in my opinion:

Bart Ehrman and even Gerd Lüdemann would agree that the disciples believed to have seen the risen Jesus. The latter one said in the past that we have to see the (apparent) experiences of the apostles with Jesus after the crucifixion as historical, and if you knew which background Lüdemann has , you´d know that this really is something.

Of course, if we´d only have Paul, it would be a good case, but not different to the many spiritual experiences that people have with God until today. But combined with the witnesses who saw the risen body and added to the fact, that Paul recognized Jesus as who he is, this is strong evidence. Without the eyewitnesses of the risen body, Christianity would have a weak case and probably wouldn´t convince me.

This is just speculation and no scholar would subscribe to this. It seems also very unlikely to me, that, if this were the case, the seen light would be able to show his wounds. The one time where there obviously was “just” a light, in the Damascus experience, its clearly described that way. This leads to the conclusion that the experiences in the other cases, were of other form.

Let´s be clear at first. The decision, for me is not Christianity or Agnosticism, if there would suddenly come up some unexpected data, that shows, that the resurrection story is a lie, I´d still be a theist, since we have enough, strongly supported cases of miracles throughout human history and until today. Also, saying “how to know the one true God?” is already setting up a wrong premise. I don´t think that anyone here would say, that we fully know/understand Gods nature and I believe it´s arrogant and almost blasphemical to think we could ever do. Christianity offers a perspective, since it claims, that Jesus was Gods representative on earth, we could know God, but only through him. Also I don´t think that Islam and certainly not Judaism are worshipping a different God, but I think in case of the first, it is from a wrong perspective. Sikhs are very similar. And I recently had a conversation with a Hinduist. He sais that, taking it strictly, Hinduism is monotheistic, since the worshipped beings are solely spirits “descending” (I don´t quite understand that part) from the one God Brahma, who himself is unpersonal. In this cases, to judge it fairly, we would need to analyse to proposed evidences, which are given to support the belief. Sure, if we have the spiritual expereiences, they are always altered through the cultural glasses which are available. But I could agree with the notion, that what a Hindu calls spirit, and we angels, are ultimately the same. Therefor I don´t rule out any claim of other religions out a priori.

Again, look at the data, and, if available, the historical-critcal analysis. The reason why I´m not a muslim is, that the claims are different, we don´t have a mere prophet here, but Gods representative and the evidence for him, his actions and his resurrections are strong. Therefor Christianity is enough for me, because there is no way to escalate it further, we have someone who defeated death ultimately. Craig Keener gives many examples of miracles in his books, over pretty much all cultures, which is why I absolutely accept it, that if an Indian got healed miracolously, it wasn´t Jesus but Krishna/any other spirit or just God himself. But this depends on the cultural perspective applicated, and those perspectives are what should be analysed to figure out, if they´re reasonable or not. And this lead to conclusions, e.g that it is more rational to assume that in my experiences I saw Jesus, rather than Zeus, because from earlier analysis, we could conclude, that there is enough evidence to say, that he existed, worked miracles and rose from the dead, nothing is available for Zeus.

Isn´t this something, where one could apply Occams razor? I always wanted to do that…
But let´s again have look n the resurrection, the backbone of Christianity. If it´s true, Christianity is true, if it´s false, Christianity is false. One thing you can see among sceptical scholarship is, that you rarely, if even occurring at all, see any professional scholar trying to come up with an alternative naturalistic explanation which comes around the resurrection and still explains the following events. Hasn´t worked at all, and nowadays the common answer of the sceptical scholars, is that there has to be something else, which they don´t know, but nothing is proposed anymore. One could be a bit malicious of course and say, that this shows perfectly that our decisions are not solely factual, but very much influenced by emotions.

Or with other words, if it looks like a duck, moves like a duck and quacks like a duck, what is it?

Perfect way to summarize. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, and we don´t confirm our faith only for once until the end of time, but over and over again.

That very much depends. Every scientist or persona on the street can confirm you, after reflecting what they´re doing, that a significant part of they´re work a relying on presuppositions, which ultimately rely on faith. And to connect Jesus to the universal truth claims, the fascinating thing is, that although Christianity has so many different forms, every direction is similar or even the same in its cores. Jesus was the son of God/God himself in human form/representative on earth, died on the cross, rose on the third day in bodily/spiritual form, the disciples saw him. We differ on the perspective of e.g. creation (how exactly?), original sin(how, when, isn´t it rather an original blessing?), image of God(morality?, consciousness?, literally?), but the roots are the same. And I don´t think it matters at the end if I call the being God/Jesus and you Allah or Krishna or Jehova.
Or the way I´d put it, I can discuss this with my friends in university, I say God, one says spirit, a third force, another one intelligence, and ultimately it leads to the same, don´t you think?

I don´t think you meant that faith relies on no facts or evidence here, so I did not address it.

I let this stand here and would even support it , but I´d add that, if your claim has quality, witnesses or something similar, then it has a point. The mentioned book from Craig Keener “Miracles” addresses this in an outstanding way.

I´d use this phrase when I want to describe, that I believe that the new Testament describes real events, which shows God reality and his wellmeaning towards us.


(Gary M) #50

Are you saying that a supernatural reaction occurs if I read the Bible, revealing secret wisdom to me? Mormons and Muslims tell me the exact same thing about reading the Book of Mormon or the Koran. Do all of these books contain supernatural powers?


(Christy Hemphill) #51

There is something spiritual that happens when some people read the Bible, only you can tell us what happens when you read the Bible.

I wouldn’t call it “secret wisdom” so much as personal insight. I’m sure some Christians disagree with me, but I think that the Bible is God’s word because the Holy Spirit continuously uses it at some spiritual dimension in individual lives to bring conviction, impart wisdom, mediate grace, and build character. I don’t think there is anything magical about the words themselves. Without the Holy Spirit working in individual lives and through the church, the Bible is just a collection of ancient writings and moral teaching.

I can’t speak to what happens to Mormons or Muslims. I certainly believe God is big enough to work through many different traditions to reveal himself to those sincerely seeking him. Of course at some point, different religions make mutually exclusive truth claims, and if there is only one reality, they can’t all be right about everything they say is true.


(Gary M) #52

What percentage of scholars would need to hold this position for you to accept that it is a consensus position that some of the stories in the Gospels were invented for theological purposes? 80%, 90%?

Even William Lane Craig says that it is the overwhelming scholarly position that the story of the Guards at the Tomb is not historical, even though he himself believes it to be historical. I am not trying to debate the historicity of these stories, but simply to point out that the majority, even the consensus majority, of scholars doubt their historicity.


(Dominik Kowalski) #53

Don´t twist my words, rather read my whole point.

I did not address the guards of the tomb, but rather the empty tomb itself and that this is found out by women. This is the belief by the majority of the scholars, but not accepted by the sceptics as a whole, therefor not included in the minimal facts approach.
I believe that there are stories invented for theological purposes, I think the birth story is mostly one of them, but we have a pretty good idea which of those can be seen as historical.

Edit: To be clear I´m not believing in the biblical inerrancy at all, it has to be examined, like every other historical book, when it makes historical claims.


(Gary M) #54

So how would I found out which religion is true? Reading a book and waiting to hear from a spirit? Other religions claim that if I read their holy book a God or a spirit will speak to me. So is reading a holy book and expecting a spirit to speak to me a reliable method of determining the truth, especially when you yourself said that sometimes you question whether it is God speaking to you or just you speaking to yourself (your imagination).


(Gary M) #55

I think we are on the same page. I too believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb.

I agree, we should look at every story in the Bible as we would look at every story in any other book from Antiquity. What we typically find is that some of the stories in these ancient texts have at least a kernal of truth and others are complete fiction. My point on the topic was to point out to “Mervin” that if we accept that fictional stories do exist in the Gospels, how can we be certain that the detailed appearance stories of people seeing, talking to, and touching a resurrected corpse are not also fictional?

I, as do the majority of scholars, believe that at least some of Jesus’ followers sincerely BELIEVED that he had appeared to them. The question is: Why? Was it because they saw a walking/talking body or was it because they saw a bright light or a shadow (an illusion)? Or was it because they had vivid dreams of a risen Jesus, such as the dream which allegedly occurred to Joseph about fleeing to Egypt? People in that era seem to have taken their dreams/visions very seriously. Maybe one or two of them experienced hallucinations (I don’t think they all did and definitely there is no such thing as a “group hallucination”).

Bottom line: If we can’t be sure if the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are historical, how confident can we be in the historicity of a literal bodily resurrection of Jesus?


(Gary M) #56

Show his wounds? I don’t understand. If there was only an illusion, a bright light, there would be no body and no wounds. Many people have experienced seeing a light and believed it to be a supernatural being, an angel or even Jesus.

No scholar believes that it is possible that the appearance stories are based on an illusion?? Can you provide a source for that? Raymond Brown, a highly regarded Roman Catholic NT scholar, and a believer in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus, states in “The Death of the Messiah” that it is very possible that the appearance stories in the Gospels and Acts are theological inventions (fiction). If these stories are fiction, why must we insist that the witnesses in the Early Creed claimed to have seen a body when the Creed never tells us what they saw?


(Gary M) #57

So because Christianity has a “higher claim” that makes it more likely that it is true?

I thought that Christianity believes that Jesus was not just God’s representative, but God himself, the only true God, and that people must believe that Jesus was and is the one true God in order to get into heaven. Am I wrong? Are you saying that as long as someone worships A GOD, that is all that matters?


(Christy Hemphill) #58

By hanging out on internet forums and quizzing people. That’s definitely the way to go. :grinning:


(Mervin Bitikofer) #59

How do you decide between math or science which is true? I’m leaning toward math personally, because the other day I heard about a scientist that was wrong about something. So that’s making me think that science is probably wrong and math is the true religion. On the other hand I encountered a math enthusiast the other day that got a sum wrong - so maybe it’s math that needs to be thrown under the bus.


(Gary M) #60

If the Creator of the universe thinks that it is very important that we know who he is, it seems strange that he would not have created an easier method for seekers of truth to find him. Faith doesn’t seem reliable as so many people of very different religions claim to use it to find so many different Gods. Reading every holy book on the planet doesn’t seem reliable. Waiting for an invisible spirit to impart secret knowledge to us doesn’t seem reliable.

So what it seems like you are telling me, Christy, is this: “If you read my holy book, the Bible, and pray to my God, Jesus, and believe, this is proof that God has revealed himself to you. If you read the Bible and pray to Jesus but do not believe, this proves that God has not revealed himself to you. You will never believe, Gary, unless God chooses to reveal himself to you.”

But this is a self-fulfilling prediction which guarantees that your belief system cannot be proven false. Is this a logical way to think? Is it logical to believe a universal truth claim for which there is no way to prove it false?


(Gary M) #61

I didn’t realize there was a dichotomy.

I am not claiming that one must choose between religion and science. But there is a big difference between the two fields. If one day we find out that the Law of Gravity is false, science will not fold and disband. There are no sacred cows in science. Every scientific “law” is simply a theory, and all theories are open to revision or complete abandonment. However, if one day we find out that Jesus died and stayed dead, traditional Christianity will most likely close shop.


(Christy Hemphill) #62

Seems to me, seekers of truth from very disparate cultures across the globe have been finding him just fine for thousands of years, and reporting very similar experiences.

Again, faith is a relationship that requires a certain amount of sincerity of intention. It’s not a formula, or an experiment, and logic and proof don’t apply to the outcomes any more than logic and proof apply to falling in love.

I am not at all bothered by the fact that you find my faith illogical and unfalsifiable. My faith isn’t a hypothesis to prove or an argument to defend. You can’t prove or argue me out of faith anymore than I could prove or argue you into it. I really don’t understand your need to prove my relationship with God “false,” whatever that means. What does that buy you? Do you need my faith to be shaken to feel better about your absence of faith? If you are happy and at peace not believing in God, how does what I believe matter? May you live long and prosper. :vulcan_salute:t2: