Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to Prepare for Trial

At the moment I am caught in the rut of methodology.

There are times when I think that there is little more to be brought to the table regarding theism. How many arguments have been stated and re-stated, and chewed to death? Is there anything that hasn’t already been presented six ways to Sunday?

So rather than contribute another blog on “who wrote the Gospels?” (which, *ahem* I have been framing together a blog on for about a week) I figured on taking one last stab on my methodology.

But rather than put it in the form of some theistic argument, I thought to share how it works in life. How it works in the situation we litigants often face when two sides tell completely different stories, and we are all attempting to ferret out what actually happened. When we are looking for truth in a courtroom.

Maybe this is what benefit I can bring to the table—rather than yet another armchair scholar’s opinion on rehashed material.

When do we start preparing for trial? From the first moment we meet our client. We immediately start gauging their mannerisms, their way of speaking, their story. Even their appearance. Everything viewed through the light of how a juror would perceive them.

And at that initial meeting, we begin mentally tearing apart our client’s story. I’ll let you in on a secret—your lawyer doesn’t completely believe you. We know that people lie to professionals. Just like I tell my doctor that I AM eating balanced meals, and I DO exercise regularly, and the doctor looks at my blood pressure with my cholesterol level and doesn’t believe me.

As the client is informing me that she only had 2, maybe 3 beers that night, when her blood alcohol level was .18, I know she is not telling the truth. It is a physical impossibility. (It is well-known that any amount a person claims to have had in alcohol when talking to a lawyer, judge or police person is going to be down played. “Two or three” really means “Four or Five.”)

Part of this is hard, jaded experience. As a young lawyer, I had a client that owed a great deal of child support. I truly believed that this person was incapable of paying more than a nominal sum. The Judge (a friend) pulled me into chambers and warned me that he was throwing my client in jail, with a substantial bond. I begged. I pleaded. I coerced. I did everything I humanly could to get the judge to understand that this person simply did not have the money. I knew where they were living. Heck, I was even doing the case for free to help them out.

All to no avail. The judge (who had seen more cases like this than I had at that point) was unmoved. I still remember being physically angry with the Judge for doing what I thought was a complete injustice.

So my client went to jail. With a substantial bond. And stayed there for less than three hours before coming up with the money.

That was a good lesson for a young lawyer. They had me completely bamboozled. You see that a few dozen (hundred) times, it makes you realize that people are not always honest with their lawyers.

Understand, that is perfectly fine by us. It is THEIR case. If they get caught in a lie, it only hurts them. Just like my lying to my doctor about what I eat does not clog a single one of his arteries. It only hurts me.

That is why, even in the very beginning, we start to gently probe our client. If they drove out of their way for half an hour, why go to that particular store for a common item such as toothpaste? Is a jury going to believe that the person drove that far, simply because the store had Colgate for 25 cents less? (No.) Is the jury going to believe that the person drove that far because their boyfriend works at the store next door, and my client wanted to see if his car was there? (Yes.)

We begin to ask for documents or other evidence that will support our claims. We also may start to gingerly (and sometimes not so gingerly) point out the holes in their story and the lack of believability. Over time, we will need to bring the client into the hard reality that their story may not sell to another person who is not so inclined to believe them.

We see this over and over. The person has put together the facts in their mind prior to coming to an attorney. They have mulled and contemplated, and perhaps shaded a few of the facts. (When preparing a witness for trial, we call it “sanding.” As in “taking the rough edges off.”) They often have tried this story out on a few friends or relatives. And these friends, wanting to support their buddy, say, “Hey--that makes a lot of sense.”

They somewhat expect their attorney to do the same. So they have built up this story, and have more than half-way convinced themselves that it is both true and convincing. Sometimes the initial meeting is their first shock that it isn’t so believable when another person starts to inspect it and probe it.

I know my client is going to be cross-examined. Very likely by a person who is an expert in cross-examining others, and is not their friend. I know that no matter how smart my client may be—unless they are a professional witness, a trial lawyer is cleverer at cross-examining than they are. They won’t fool him or her. Time to prepare them for that.

After we start a suit, we have a period called “discovery.” Exactly as it sounds—we “discover” things about the other side and they “discover” things about us. This includes document requests, exchange of exhibits and witness names, and depositions (testimony under oath) of the parties, and witnesses.

Essentially, I am looking for all the admissible evidence that will either:

1) Bolster my claim; or
2) Harpoon the other side!

But don’t forget—the other side is doing so as well. They, too, are looking for evidence. And we are very accustomed to searching.

“Well…you can look at every item in this office, but you can’t look in this box.” What box is it that I am most inclined to review? Or there is the other extreme (which is equally humorous), “Oh you want the specifications on the 1987 Chevette’s rear brakes? Well, we can’t limit those down, so here are the specifications on ALL the parts of ALL the Chevette’s for a period of five years.” Nothing like getting 50-60 banker’s boxes of documents from the other side to know that there is something within worth finding, but it is buried deep!

“They don’t have a copy of this letter. Don’t worry, it will never come up.” I wish I had kept track of how many times I heard that from a Client (or substitute “witness” or “testimony” or any other piece of evidence) and then surprise, surprise—it comes up!

Or “ask her this question and she will tell the truth.” No. She won’t.

Another pointer—when an attorney asks you a question under cross-examination, they already know the answer. If they don’t, they are not a very good trial lawyer. See, we only ask limited questions on cross-examination. Very specific, very determined. It has been compared to surgery, only cut what is necessary. No more.

While I may not know all the answers, of course, very often either a “yes” or “no” will get the witness in trouble in some way. And I know it. So I ask it.

It is common for my client to demand that I ask questions I don’t know the answer to, in the firm belief the other person will tell the truth. If I can’t verify it—I don’t ask. It looks like this:

“Ask her if she is having an affair.”
“Ask her!”
“Look, do you have anything to prove she is? A hotel bill? A picture? A video recently released on YouTube?”
“No, but I think she is. Ask her!”
“Fine. Your funeral.”

“Ma’am, is it true you are currently having an affair?”

“Nice job, there. Not only did we gain no new information, but we just proved she is NOT having an affair. Happy?”
“Ask her if she is lying!”


Occasionally, we are left asking a question we do not know the answer to, but only because to NOT ask the question is worse in the eyes of the jury.

I was once questioning an ex-wife that was pretty crazy. Had some very questionable testimony, and I could see that the jury thought she was a crackpot. Nuts. Someone to not be trusted. I got so caught up in my own cleverness, I forgot the basic rule—“Know the answer to the question.”

My client informed me that she had once sued the governor for $1 Million. I had no proof of this. No lawsuit papers. Nothing. But it seemed to fit, and I was doing so well, I blurted it out:

“Ma’am, you once sued the Governor for $1 Million over this matter, true?”
“That is NOT true.”

Uh-oh. What do I do? I had just rehabilitated her as being NOT a crazy person. I could see the jury turning to me with a question in their eyes—“Maybe she is not so bad? Why would you ask such a question?”

I was trying to think up a follow-up question, when the witness kindly helped me out by following up with:

“I sued him for EIGHT Million Dollars. And I sued the Mayor, the sheriff and the local police force, too!”

Saved my bacon, I can tell ya!

Why do I say all this? Because forefront in my mind is that I have an enemy. I have an extremely experienced litigator on the other side that is doing everything in her power to bolster her client’s claim and harpoon my own. If I have a letter that I think is beneficial to my position, I know that it is her desire—no—it is her job to paint that letter in the worst possible light. In the same way, if there is some item that supports her position, it is my job to make that as insignificant as possible.

We get very good at this. Law Schools are taught by the Socratic Method. Where the professor teaches by asking questions in the hope that the students figure out the answer. This results in randomly calling upon students and demanding a response. In my first year of school, the following exchange happened:

Professor: Person A was struck by Person B in an automobile collision and suffered horrible injuries. Student 1, you represent Person A—what would you do?
Student 1: I would sue Person B for negligence.

Professor: Very Good. Student 2, you represent Person B—what do you do?
Student 2: I would counter-sue!
Professor: You would…what?
Student 2: Sure! The way I figure it, it is Person A’s fault for being so injured. Think of the mental anguish Person B will go through—knowing they have injured someone. If Person A was not injured, then Person B would not have all this mental anguish. Therefore I would counter-sue!

That is what we deal with almost everyday. Trying to turn straw (or worse) into gold. What keeps us in check? The fact the other side is trying to do the same as well.

My enemy will provide me with no “gimmies.” I will not be able to put up a single item of evidence that won’t be challenged, questioned and the support for it demanded to be presented.

“Gee, can’t we let this in?” will never fly. Not with the Judge. Not with my opponent. “It sure seems reasonable to me” has no bearing in a trial. No persuasion. What may be reasonable to me could be completely unreasonable to every other person in the court room.

Simply because my client says it will never be enough. We even have a name for that “Believe-Clientitis.” It is where the attorney is so convinced by what their client says that they consider any statement that even remotely counters as preposterous.

MY client assures me that he would NEVER have said such a thing. And I believe him.”
[Uh-oh. Trouble right there.] “Were you there, Counselor?” (We usually reserve the term “Counselor” for Lawyers we are not very impressed with.)

“No, but I KNOW my client, and he would NEVER have done that.”
“How ‘bout we do a lie detector test—winner take all?”
“Yep, that’s right. If your client passes, we fold and go away. If he fails, we get everything we want.”
“Er…well…I don’t think they are very reliable.”
“What are you worried about? If your client couldn’t have done it, then even the most unreliable test will still pass him.”
“No…I don’t think we are interested in that.”
“Look, Counselor. You weren’t there. I wasn’t there. This is why we have trials—to let a jury of independent people make the determination as to what happened. Before either of us gets all wrapped up in whose client is telling the truth on something you and I can’t confirm, let’s try and look at what a jury would say…”

(I have only had one attorney take me up on the lie detector test. But as we were working out the paperwork, his client backed out. Huh.)

With all this in the back of my mind, I start preparing for trial when I first meet my client. I continue every time I touch the file. Every deposition, every meeting, every conference. You know the trite saying as to the three greatest things needed to sell property? “Location, Location, Location.” Well, the three greatest things need to win trials is “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.”

But what are we preparing for? We are preparing to present our evidence, with the best arguments possible, while another person presents countering evidence, with their best arguments possible, to a jury of people who will determine what they think is the closest we can come to the truth.

In this preparation we cannot ignore the other sides’ evidence. To do so would be both unprepared, and unpersuasive. We cannot ignore the weakness in our own position. If I wouldn’t buy my own argument, there is little likelihood a juror would either. We don’t get to determine what is “important” and what is not. We may try to persuade the jury some things are more important, but to ignore an argument as “unimportant” is to invite disaster.

We can’t become enamored with our own arguments. This creates blind spots in which we think we are brilliant, and other people are not so convinced.

What does any of this have to do with theism?

Because when I first encountered atheists, I realized I had a bad case of “Believe-Clientitis.” I had NOT reviewed the other sides’ evidence. I had NOT taken the likelihood of their arguments being persuasive to a jury.

I had done in my spiritual life what would have been cataclysmic in my professional career. You know those dreams of being in a Final exam, but realizing you haven’t studied? This was like a slap in the face—I was in a trial in which I was completely unprepared.

For the first time, I began to review my own Christianity, just like I would review a case on behalf of a client. Sure, I initially figured that all it would require is a little study; a little discovery, an exchange of exhibits and witnesses, and then Christianity would come out shining again. It was “Truth,” after all, right? Even if my method was not completely reliable, a thing as grand as Truth from a God should easily withstand the test.

It was only as time after time, passage after passage, historical marker after historical marker, philosophical problem after philosophical problem that I realized if I represented Christianity, I would never want my case to go to trial. No matter how prepared, it would not convince the neutral jury of our legal system.

I know people have problems with my methodology. But it is what I do every day. It is how I have watched conflicting positions resolved countless times.

If I had a desire, it would have been for my client to win. I wanted Christianity to come out on top. However, I have that same desire for each of my actual clients. Clients that I know, despite my desire, will not. Clients whose positions do not conform to reality.

Eventually I was faced with the decision of how to tell my own Christianity it would lose?


  1. DagoodS,

    What do you think about the possibility that the entire "jury" of the United States electorate carefully reviewed the evidence and decided that George Bush would make a good leader? Sorry for the political reference (Doubly sorry if you are a Bush fan). It doesn't offer me much hope that God would do really well in such a situation.

    What hope do you think there is in a jury trial for a guy who's innocent and chooses not to hire a lawyer? Will the truth still come out?

    I don't mean to be flippant. I wish I could frame my knowledge into something that would offer you the challenge you ask for, because according to your methodology, truth emerges most meaningfully when there are two sides with similar but opposite goals and roughly equivalent abilities.

    Don't stop arguing- for you, it certainly appears to be a good way of sorting through information. Hopefully, your arguments will challenge others who have thought it unnecessary to think and make choices for themselves. And it is very interesting to me to have gained a peek into your perspective.

    Please don't think I'm knocking your methodology. Generally speaking, it's just as good as mine. Both of them help us to make judgements based on our individual priorities. Beyond that, I think they offer us a valuable critique of our own thinking and what is presented to us. Both of us have held our ideas up to the light of such methodologies and recognized holes. That is great, and necessary.

    Coming to a knowledge of the Truth, if Truth be indeed God, will require more than a methodology, more than a judgement. It will require evidence greater than the kind that can be bagged, labelled, and lugged into the courtroom. It will require nothing less than God revealing himself directly to a whole person - body, mind, and spirit.

  2. "Coming to a knowledge of the Truth, if Truth be indeed God, will require more than a methodology, more than a judgement. It will require evidence greater than the kind that can be bagged, labelled, and lugged into the courtroom. It will require nothing less than God revealing himself directly to a whole person - body, mind, and spirit."

    I'm pretty certain Dagoods is working on this,so forgive me. From what I have read of Dagoods stuff, he had this. He was a Calvinist after all.

    When did "God" switch his modus operandi? Back in the day, "God" purportedly gave a sign or miracle to back up the assertions of the person speaking for "God." Or, God would show God to a group of people simultaneously.

    Jennypo, I think it will take more than "God revealing himself directly to a whole person - body, mind, and spirit." It did in the past. In the past there were corroborating signs and miracles or a whole group got the revelation. Now we have individuals claiming they have had a revelation of God with nothing to substantiate it for the individual receiving the revelation. Nothing to demonstrate to the 'receiver' that they have indeed heard from God.

    But, if you insist that God will have to do the revealing himself, that that is the way God does things, why would you even talk about it? What's the point?

  3. Jenny and Paul are right. I would only add that "most likely" doesn't count with the supernatural when the acts are attributed to God, a supernatural being. If I say I can jump across the English Channel you would be right to judge that I am lying. I am not supernatural.

    But the testimony of the apostles can't be thrown out, not even Paul's, based upon the "most likely" method. After all, it is "most likely" that a supernatural God would be able to do supernatural things.

    How then can you tell if someone is lying about a supernatural encounter? The Bible correctly tells us to look at the fruit it bears. If they drown their children in a bathtub, the vision was not from God. If the person cleans up their language and their life, becoming a responsible adult and parent, the question should be, "How can I prepare for that encounter?"

    It's not unlike that child support deadbeat. You believed he was telling the truth, until you saw he didn't blink at posting bail. That was the fruit of a rotten tree, the tree of lies.

    Sometimes you don't know the truth until well after the trial's over. Ask O.J. Simpson.

  4. "How then can you tell if someone is lying about a supernatural encounter? The Bible correctly tells us to look at the fruit it bears. If they drown their children in a bathtub, the vision was not from God. "

    How about if "they" offer their kid up on an alter to God? Or divorce their wife and marry a prosititute? Wipe out an entire tribe of people? Kill an abortion doctor?

    When did the standard change over from God directly affirming a course of action in an obvious, unquestionable way to "fruit?"

  5. When did the standard change over from God directly affirming a course of action in an obvious, unquestionable way to "fruit?"

    That's an easy one. Answer: at the cross.

    A few points to consider about Gen. 22
    1) Isaac was a supernatural child. His parents couldn't have children.
    2) Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill. Yet Abraham said the Lord would provide the lamb for the sacrifice, which he did.
    3) The location of that site is the Temple Mount. Two thousand years later, Jesus was sent to die on the cross from that very same spot.
    4) Gen. 22 makes no sense without Jesus.

  6. Paul from Virginia,
    I noticed this tacked onto references to the OT; Kill an abortion doctor?

    Obviously that's contemporary bad fruit. I'm curious as to why it's tacked onto the usual OT suspects.

  7. Catching up…

    jennypo: What hope do you think there is in a jury trial for a guy who's innocent and chooses not to hire a lawyer? Will the truth still come out?

    No question it would be harder. However, you still have a judge who is monitoring what evidence gets in. The Prosecutor cannot run rough-shod. Further, jurors are not necessarily mesmerized by what attorney’s say. They may even put a heightened burden on the prosecutor (what with the American ideal of “routing for the underdog.”) This situation of both an innocent person (I have never had one) AND not choosing a lawyer would be something that I would not generally consider in my methodology.

    It is not what I normally face, nor is it something I would use as a method. I would like comparison of the best arguments with the best evidence.

    Jim Jordan: I would only add that "most likely" doesn't count with the supernatural when the acts are attributed to God, a supernatural being.

    I would agree. Most Christians, though, use this argument all the time when it comes to creationism. They like to argue how unlikely natural abiogenesis is, or how unlikely the Big Bang occurred, or how unlikely evolution could occur—all of which is then used to argue it is “more likely” that a supernatural being performed a supernatural act.

    I agree that claiming creationism (a supernatural act) is “more likely” doesn’t count. Can you agree to that as well?

    And, as I have said time and time again, if all we were talking about was how many strikes a supernatural batter gets in a supernatural baseball game, against a supernatural pitcher, all played on the supernatural plane…well…we have no ability to verify any of that information.

    However, THESE are claims of a supernatural being interacting on a natural plane. These are claims of acts, no matter how fantastic, that actually occurred in our time, our space, with our physical beings, our atoms, and our physics. While it may be fantastic to happen, the claim is that Peter (an actual, natural person) got out of a boat (an actual, wooden, floating piece of material) in an actual storm (with winds, and waves) and walked on water (not ice, not rocks under the water, but his natural feet (with its atoms) were in contact with water (and its atoms)) at a certain point in time.

    I know you cannot jump across the English channel. ‘Cause I know the size, and the human limitation. If you did, and even if that is a claim of a “supernatural act” it was still done, at least partially, in a natural fashion with an actual channel, actual time elapsing, actual space moving, etc.

    Jim Jordan: How then can you tell if someone is lying about a supernatural encounter?

    Probably shouldn’t have used Paul for this one. Paul describes his salvation event, the events of Damascus and travel to Jerusalem in Galatians 1-2 and 2 Cor. 11:32. This does NOT conform with what the author of Acts Claims in Acts 9, 22 and 26. (In fact, even the accounts within Acts vary.) One of the two is not accurately telling what happened. What “fruit” would I look for? What was Paul like before his conversion? If the author of Acts was not accurate about Paul’s salvation experience, why should I surmise that the author WAS accurate about what Paul was like prior to something he is inaccurate about?

    See, you accept these as history, and then say, “Apply the methodology.” I look to see if they are history using the methodology first.

    Jim Jordan: Sometimes you don't know the truth until well after the trial's over. Ask O.J. Simpson.

    Again, probably not the best example to use. A Jury DID find that it was “more likely” O.J. Simpson committed the murder of two individuals. Actually supports my use of this methodology, if you think about it!

    As to the “change”—was it at the cross, or was it during Jesus’ ministry? Did John 13-14 not kick in until after Jesus died, or were these commandments in place prior? How much earlier? Does it go back to Lev. 19:18?

    God said as far back as Mosaic Law (Deut. 30:8-9) that if one obeys God, they will have good “fruit.” What, exactly, are you saying is the difference between, say Deut. 30:8-9 and John 14:23-24?

  8. Paul wrote:
    When did the standard change over from God directly affirming a course of action in an obvious, unquestionable way to "fruit?"

    Jim wrote:
    "That's an easy one. Answer: at the cross."

    Paul wrote:
    "And these [signs] will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Lk. 16:17,18

    "But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God exclaiming, "God is really among you!" I Cor. 14:24,25

    These couple of scriptures, words purportedly spoken by Jesus and Paul, do not speak of "fruit" but signs. And pretty spectacular signs at that. These were after the cross.

    You offer me an "easy" answer, with no reference to where you got it. I offer you a simple one in return, words from the book that I'm guessing you believe to be the word of God? I do not see how you so easily dismiss these, I guess you know them...and that's just a small sampling.

    Jim wrote:
    "Paul from Virginia,
    I noticed this tacked onto references to the OT; Kill an abortion doctor?

    Obviously that's contemporary bad fruit. I'm curious as to why it's tacked onto the usual OT suspects."

    Paul wrote:
    Yeah, why not? A "Christian" from North Carolina (if I remember correctly) killed an abortion doctor because he believed the God of the bible told him to. I see little difference between God telling someone to kill their kid, or kill an entire people or kill and abortion doctor. The bible says God doesn't change. In each of these cases it is God who is purportedly ordering the killing, but people doing the killing. Abraham and Israel are okay with you, because it's written in a book that God told them to do this...the abortion doctor isn't so lucky. Maybe in a couple of thousand years people will read of the abortion doctor in some book he wrote and judge that he was okay too.

  9. Let me first assert that I am not dissing DagoodS' methodology, for the simple reason that my own methodology is subject to the very same weaknesses I want to identify in his. What I would like to point out is that any methodology of ours, while certainly necessary when discussing truth and useful in discovering truth, comes up insufficient to bring us to knowledge of Truth. This is not to say it can be ignored. We are responsible to make use of every brain cell, every synapse, every logical power available to us as we search for truths and Truth. But I maintain that these are not enough in knowing Truth.

    DagoodS, one trouble your methodology offers you in relation to Truth is that you must take the place of the judge. As you point out in your previous post, a judge may take that position only after a large amount of both study and experience in relation to the practice of the law. How are you to obtain such knowledge and experience of Truth? And then, if you would judge the truth well, you are to a certain extent dependent on those who argue for or against it. If they fail to do their jobs well, your ability to judge is compromised. Or, if you are not the judge, who does take that place?

    I can certainly understand that this method appeals to you in dealing with truths, as mine does for me. I also admit that the questions it raises for you must be both asked and resolved if you are to know Truth. But I don't understand how such a methodology might lead anyone to knowledge of Truth.


    I do insist that God will have to do the revealing himself. But truth of any sort is not easily recognized, and Truth, if God be Truth, must be pursued with every power that we have of discerning meaning and reality. Our methodologies are useful. They are not nothing. But neither are they enough.

    DagoodS' questions, if they spring out of honesty and his best powers of reason (and though I cannot judge such a thing, I believe they do), are questions that must be asked. I am not belittling his experience, nor am I asking him to put the inconsistencies and questions he has identified away and "just believe". I only make argument with him because I want to urge him not to depend on the ability of Christians or others to answer him. Such questions can only be answered by God.

  10. jennypo, I would agree that no methodology is sufficient to determine “Truth” with a capital “T.” But, as you say, we try to get as close as we can, ever mindful that new information may cause us to modify what we think is close to the truth.

    Again (and again and again) what methodology do people have in effect to make that determination? That they are wrong? What I see most use—observation, determination of credibility, and review of bias—all get thrown out the window when it comes to claims of theistic events. All of a sudden, it is “What convinces me must convince you” With little openness to being off the truth—even to the point of being completely wrong.

    You are also correct, that in the end my methodology (like ALL methodologies that I have seen) eventually reduces to my personal determination. That I become the judge of what would be convincing to a neutral person. I have no choice; I have to work with what I have…

    I have proposed numerous times that we (another Christian debating with me) submit the question we are discussing to a neutral person. That we don’t use just ourselves, but try to use someone uncommitted to the conclusion. Curiously, it is always, ALWAYS the Christian that backs away from this prospect with weak defenses of “there are no neutral persons” or some other such nonsense.

    Until I can get a person with whom I am discussing to use something else, I guess I am stuck trying to be as neutral as I can, with the method I have.

    Like Paul, I am a bit confused about something—if the only way I can determine God exists is if He reveals himself to me—what difference does it make how much I seek that truth? If God chooses to not show himself to me; no matter how hard I look, I cannot find him. If God chooses to show himself to me; I can’t miss it.

  11. Though he reveal himself, God is so easy to miss for the one who's not looking for him! What was the difference between Peter and Judas?

    The will.

  12. jennypo,
    You have never come across to me as "dissing" Dagoods, or anyone for that matter. You just don't come across that way. You seem a careful and considerater person.

    you wrote:
    "DagoodS' questions, if they spring out of honesty and his best powers of reason (and though I cannot judge such a thing, I believe they do), are questions that must be asked."

    and then wrote:
    "Though he reveal himself, God is so easy to miss for the one who's not looking for him! What was the difference between Peter and Judas?

    The will. "

    What I read here is that people such as Dagoods have easily missed God because they were not looking for God. This is an example of where one, such as yourself, values a belief over a person. If you have known Dagoods for any short period, you know he has looked for God. The intricacies of his questions are evidence of that.

    A person who asks questions is looking. It is the person who doesn't ask questions who is not looking.

  13. Jennypo,

    I was going to leave this be; but as paul seemed fit to respond, I might highlight one point.

    There are a number of ways in which to hide an object, but one of the most effective ways to do so is to mingle it with a large quantity of similar objects. A diamond is very sufficiently hidden by mixing it in a pool of cubic zirconium’s. The only way for us to “find” it is to divine a way to tell the difference.

    It is (perhaps) a bit easier for a theist, because they already have a god belief. Oh, it may need a bit of modifying, and it most certainly does not correspond to what the actual god would be like—but at least they have something to start with. As a non-believer, I have nothing. I have a pool of sparkly items, and I am informed that somewhere within there is a diamond, amongst all the CZ’s. And the only way I can determine which is which, is if the diamond chooses to reveal itself to me.

    You are right—it may be a matter of will. How many questions can I ask? How many books can I read? How many people can I interact with? How much thought can I place into this idea of a diamond in the pool before I get tired?

    I have waded in that pool. I have searched, listened to a variety of experts as to what to search for, and have spent as much energy as I possibly could in the hopes of finding that diamondd. My life would be easier if I found a diamond.

    At some point, I reach the conclusion that if all that effort is not enough, then I don’t know what else to do. Because for all I know, I am looking for the wrong thing. If I am told that diamonds are ONLY blue—I will never find the correct diamond among the CZ’s, ‘cause I am looking for the wrong thing.

    How can I ever be assured I am looking for the right thing, if I have to know what the right thing is, before I can search for it?

  14. ***A person who asks questions is looking. It is the person who doesn't ask questions who is not looking. (paul)

    Oh yes, paul, I agree with you here! I'm not trying to say that DagoodS isn't looking. What I want to say is not that he doesn't have the right belief, or isn't looking the right way. The point I'd love to make is just the opposite - that looking is the main thing; that the fact that he hasn't found is no condemnation of the search; that anyway, God is not easily found.

    But let me explain what I mean by "not easily" - not that he's easy to miss if you don't look for him the right way, but that looking for him is difficult and he's easy to miss if you're not looking.

    I forget when I'm typing away here that you've been beaten to death with "Christian" thinking. I am too easily content with understanding my own meaning and not with considering how it sounds to you and DagoodS. Sorry, and thanks.

    DagoodS, I'm really not asking you to do something different. I would love to offer you, in some small way, such encouragement as a stranger may offer to keep on. I know it's exhausting, but I did get answers to my questions, and I'm no better than you - guaranteed!