Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Dear Gary”

I have been involved in a conversation with Gary both here (sporadically) and on Gary’s Blog He recently made reference to a few items to flesh out.

Unfortunately, to fully understand my response, I need to back up a few paces, and respond to a specific quote:

Gary, “To be honest, I may read the first book but I doubt I'm going to read all the others, but I appreciate you giving them to me. Why won't I read them? I'm afraid.

The issue is this: I WANT to believe. So the more I read authors who tell me why I shouldn't, the more of that innocent (foolish?) childish faith I grew up with will fade away. I'm afraid of becoming you, Dagood. I don't want to wake up one morning and look in the bathroom mirror, as you did, and realize that I no longer believe; not because I want to stop believing, as you did not want to stop believing, but because the ‘evidence’ has convinced me otherwise.” (emphasis in original)

Boy…been there; done that. Numerous times throughout my entire deconversion process I longed to just set down the books…and walk away. It was hard from a time standpoint (hours spent reading, thinking, listening, watching.) It was difficult from an effort standpoint (the mental drain of locating sources, determining arguments, reviewing evidence.) It was attacking my faith, my family, my relationships and everything I understood about the world. Who would bother to engage in such masochism?

But I couldn’t walk away. Because walking away would give in to the very fear you describe, Gary. If I wanted to know truth—be persuaded by what actually is—I should NEVER be afraid of reading. Of scrutiny. Of testing, probing, prying, pinching, prancing, pushing and punching. While truth may not always be able to prove itself, it certainly cannot shy away or avoid inspection. It should welcome it.

As Paul, said “Test everything; hold on to what is good.” 1 Thess. 5:21

If I walked away, vowing to never read another word on the subject again, I was acknowledging I no longer wanted to know what was true—I only wanted to believe what I wanted to believe. I would let desire dictate my course; not what actually is.

And this is contrary to every fiber in my being. I live my life in realism—dealing with what actually is. Almost every single case involves someone wishing they had done something differently. Not driven that night. Not taken that road. Read the contract. Inspected the property. Paid the penalty provision immediately. But they didn’t. And now they come to me, forcing us together to determine what the best course of action is, based upon the situation we are in. We can’t “create” evidence we don’t have. We can’t go back in time and change a course. We must determine a solution with what we have.

In the same way, as I studied, I recognized I must deal with reality. If God is the Christian God—so be it. If God was a malevolent bastard—equally so be it. Whether God was completely unknowable, partially unknowable, or some theist was spot-on with everything they said about God—so be it. If God was the God of the Protestant Bible, the Catholic Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pantheistic, polytheistic, monotheistic, Republican, Libertarian, Communist, etc.—so be it.

And if God does not exist—while a reality I was not particularly fond of—then so be it. Whatever Christians say, if it is true, it shouldn’t be afraid of scrutiny. Likewise any other theistic or non-theistic belief.

Otherwise, how would we ever know we are wrong about something? Of the three (3) books I recommended, two are written by Christians. The other (Shermer is not a Christian), dealt with topics outside Christianity like Holocaust denial and UFO’s. Why should you be afraid to read books written by Christians?

See, once we eliminate reading non-Christian books out of fear of changing our beliefs--the next, very short step is to stop reading Christian books differing with our position out of fear of changing our beliefs. Then we begin to read only those books completely agreeing with us.

If we don’t learn differing positions, how will we know whether we are wrong? If all you ever do is read what you agree with, you will never change your mind.

So now I am asked:

Gary: “Where do you think you would be today in regards to Christianity if on that day that you came across the atheist blog on the internet, and saw the disturbing discrepancies regarding the death of Judas Iscariot, you had simply told yourself, ‘I don't want to know’, and chose to never again look at an atheist or other blog that questioned the validity of the Bible and the Resurrection?”

My response is the same as above. I am a realist. I DID stumble across Internet Infidels. I cannot erase the chance happening from my mind. As common vernacular would say, “What has been seen, cannot be unseen.” Or if you prefer old school, “You cannot unring a bell.”

I cannot even perform a mental exercise of supposing I happened upon IIDB, read a few posts and told myself, “I don’t want to know,” choosing to never look again. It is completely against everything in my personality. It is against my personal philosophy. It is against my nature of being me. Like asking, “What if someone tickled you and you decided to not do anything about it?” I just….couldn’t. I would react.

I believed in Christianity. This was about Christianity. I love discovery. I love learning. I had no fear of a problem; truth can withstand the scrutiny.

Finally, I must clarify for any possible lurkers... the “disturbing discrepancies” within the Judas Iscariot contradiction were NOT the contradictions themselves. It was the extremely poor methodology being employed in reviewing the various accounts. The Judas story was merely the symptom—the disease was the method of “any possible resolution resolves a contradiction.” Which, in itself, even this method turned out to be a symptom of the invasive underlying disease of poor and inconsistent methodology throughout various tenets of Christianity, including inerreancy, canonicity, inspiration, and historical methodology.

177 comments:

  1. Great answer, my friend.

    In case any "lurkers" are reading this thinking that I have planned this whole "crises of faith" to try and convert atheists on this blog and others, you only have to look at my writings on my blog to see that this has not been my intention. After reading Bart Ehrman my faith was left hanging by a thread. I was ready to walk out the door of Christianity. But, for whatever reason (God or just my attachment to my "security blanket") I didn't leave.

    My discussions with Dagood and Bruce Gerencser have been really good for me. I don't regret them. My conversations with them and my reading of Ehrman have convinced me to no longer try to "prove" the Resurrection or that the Bible is God's Word. I no longer intend to "hit" ex-Christians or other atheists over the head with "you had better repent or you are going to burn in hell", which is probably what I would have done prior to my discussions with Dagood and Bruce.

    If an ex-Christian, or an atheist who is familiar with Christianity, comes up to me and tells me how terrible Christianity is, how many people have died due to self-righteous and down-right evil Christians killing people in the name of the Christian God, I will simply respond, "You're right. A lot of terrible things have been done in the name of the Christian God. I can't blame you for feeling that way."

    But if a believer tells me that they are having doubts about their Christian faith due to all the "evidence" and that they really WANT to believe, they really want to continue to be a Christian, my recommendation will be this:

    1. orthodox/traditional Christianity is based on the supernatural.
    2. You cannot prove or disprove the supernatural.

    Christians should stop trying to find evidence that a dead man 2,000 years ago came back to life three days later and then ascended into thin air, never to be seen by his friends again. Christians should stop trying to prove that the Bible is inerrant, because by the standards applied to any other book, the Bible is FULL of errors and discrepancies.

    But if you stop making excuses for the errors, and simply believe that all the errors in the Bible were made by humans and that the originals, which no longer exist, did not contain errors, that the originals really did come from God, and that God does not make mistakes, who can prove you wrong?? Who can prove to you that a supernatural, all-powerful, invisible being, called God, cannot perform supernatural acts such as writing an inerrant Holy Book?

    cont'd







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  2. cont'd from above

    Who can prove or disprove that Santa Claus exists? No one. You can point to all the children in the world who believe in the jolly, fat man, some of them may even tell you that they have seen him, but there is no concrete evidence of the existence of Santa Claus.


    But just as no one is going to prove to me or you that Santa Claus exists, who can prove that Santa DOESN'T exist? No one.


    You can't prove Santa Claus doesn't exist because Santa Claus is a supernatural being, and supernatural beings defy, by definition, all the rules of establishing fact from fiction.


    I choose to believe in a Resurrected Jesus Christ simply because I want to. And I choose to believe in him, not based on evidence, but based in my belief that the supernatural IS possible. Whether it is just me desperately holding onto my "security blanket' or it is God who has created the belief I have, I can't tell you for sure, but I intend to keep believing in MY "Santa Claus".


    I choose to continue to believe in a supernatural "Santa Claus" because it gives me peace in my heart. It gives me hope when things get bad in life. It gives a wonderful perspective on life and how I interact with the people around me. It makes me a kinder, more giving person than what I was as a qausi-agnostic. It has beautiful customs and holidays. And, it give me hope that I will see my dead mother and grandparents once again.



    A world without my "Santa Claus" would, for me, be a dark, dreary existence. I know that that is not how most atheists and agnostics look at life, but I can't imagine lying on my death bed and looking up at my wife and children knowing that I will never see them again. That I will never see ANY of the people I have loved in my life. That this is the end. It's all over. As the old song goes, "Is that all there is...to life?"


    So if you are reading this post and you want to continue to believe in God, who is a supernatural being, outside the confines of reason, logic, and science, it is not a cop out to stop reading books that tell you that there is no such thing as the supernatural, because the existence of the supernatural cannot be proven or disproven by "evidence".

    If you want to continue believing in Christianity, don't read the Bible with the mindset that there cannot be any discrepancies contained in it. There ARE discrepancies! But how could there not be: human beings have their fingerprints all over this Holy Book? We orthodox/traditional Christians do not believe that God dropped the perfect Bible down from heaven into someone's lap! Chalk the errors up to humans and continue to believe that your supernatural God is not responsible for any of the errors. Believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead just because you want to, or God wants you to, even if the only "evidence" is the word of one man named Saul of Tarsus.

    As long as you hold onto the belief in a supernatural God, NO ONE can prove you wrong, my Christian friend! It is only when you use your own intelligence against such well-read, well-studied people like Dagood and Bruce are you going to have problems.

    Bottom line: Don't debate atheists and ex-Christians regarding the "evidence'...just love them and be kind to them! Isn't that what Jesus would do?

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  3. Dagood,

    You and Bruce are very smart guys. I also believe that you both have very good, kind hearts. I would strongly encourage you to point any new "doubters" to my above comment. Why?

    I'm a doctor. When I first started out as a doctor I believed it was my duty to always tell my patient the truth. I have learned after 20 years of practice that the truth is not what every patient wants to hear. Some patients want to know that they only have three months left to live. Some don't want to know. These people just want to live every day as if nothing is wrong. They don't want the "truth" hanging over their head.

    So now instead of always telling my patients the truth, I ask them instead, "How much do you want to know?"

    I would humbly suggest that you do the same with Christians who come to you for advice on the "evidence" that proves Christianity as false. Some of us don't want to know "the truth". We are happy with what we perceive to be truth, even if it may be false by the "evidence".

    Miracles do happen in medicine. We can't say for sure how they happen, but some truly amazing cures have occurred against all odds. I believe that there are a lot of Christians like me who want to hold onto to the sliver of hope for the "miracle" that the Bible is true, because the impossible according to all the evidence, may just be possible.

    I wish you all the best, Dagood.

    Gary

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    1. Gary,

      I suspect that man's inclination towards the transcendent was hard-wired into his psyche by evolution. When our ancestors achieved consciousness, they became aware of their own mortality and they needed a mechanism to cope with that without sinking into despair. If that is so, then there is no reason that anyone should feel any worse about indulging their need for Santa Claus than they do about indulging their need for sleep.

      If there is a life after death, I hope that my parents are enjoying each other's company again. However, I don't think that their lives had any less meaning if they are not. They were good people who made the lives of those who knew them better. I can treasure that even if that is all there is.

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  4. but I can't imagine lying on my death bed and looking up at my wife and children knowing that I will never see them again. That I will never see ANY of the people I have loved in my life. That this is the end. It's all over.

    There is a flip side to this. Just as you can't imagine the agony of thinking that your life will truly end at death, there are many who can't imagine that those who they watch die "without Christ" will suffer eternal punishment. Your comfort comes with a price.

    Either this life is all there is, or it isn't and many people will spend eternity suffering...according to your worldview. The same view you find so comforting is simultaneously torturous to others.

    liza

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    1. You make a VERY good point, Liza.

      I don't like the concept of "Hell" either. If I were God I wouldn't have created such a horrible place. I do not know how a loving God could create such a place.

      Although I am not going to throw out this orthodox Christian belief because I think it is unfair, I have no intention of ever bringing this issue up to a nonbeliever unless they ask about it. I know that conservative Christians won't like me saying that, but I think that all Christians should follow that practice.

      I think that Christians should be known for how kind, loving, and generous they are, not how well they can beat people over the head with hell-fire and damnation.

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  5. Trying to hold onto your faith in the manner you espouse is not going to work for you for long if you have any internal intellectual integrity. It might bandage things together for a while, or get you through several months or a year, but eventually it will collapse.

    The problem with putting your belief in a disprovable, supernatural category is that you are basically making it meaningless. You have so protected your belief in God by taking it out of the realm of observable reality and history, in order to keep it safe and intact, that you have rendered it entirely theoretical and useless.

    You may think that you can consciously choose to believe something simply because it appeals to your sensibilities even though part of you seriously suspects it is just a mental trick like a child believing in Santa Claus....but that will only get you so far, because you are not a child. You know that belief in Santa Claus is wholly perpetuated and encouraged by parents, grandparents, teachers, and the culture at large. Children are tricked into believing in S.C because the people they trust purposely deceive them. Children believe because they can't conceive that so many people would really tell them something so outlandish if it wasn't true. After all, everyone talks about S.C. There are books about him, movies about him, warnings from parents about him watching them, keeping tabs on them. The myth is sustained by a great many people with varying motivations and interests.

    Do you really want to compare your choice to believe in God to the choice of a child to believe in S.C.?

    I think you can see where that leads and surely you don't need other people to draw the connections for you....do you?

    If God is not observable in anyway, if he does not show up in any tangible way, ever,...then there is no difference in assuming that he does not exist.

    Another thought....you discuss how the bible is covered in human fingerprints, thus explaining those errors and problems found within it. You are willing to admit that somewhere between God and humans things can get lost in translation. And yet you fail to recognize that the very presuppositions about God's original message being inerrant, God not making mistakes, etc...all come from and are theorized by humans...those humans you already admit made errors.

    It's all human reasoning all the way down.

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    1. Well, you bring up some very good points, but here is why I think that you are wrong about me not lasting long with my current belief system: There is zero evidence that Santa Claus ever existed. There is ALOT of evidence that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Even Bart Ehrman, Dagood, and Bruce Gerencser believe that Jesus existed.

      No credible eye witness has ever stated that he saw Santa, his sleigh, and his reindeer flying overhead one night. One very credible eyewitness states that he SAW a resurrected Jesus. This eyewitness was Saul of Tarsus, the apostle Paul. Bart Ehrman and most other NT scholars believe that Paul is a reliable source for information on Jesus of Nazareth.

      Not only is there no credible eyewitness who has said that he has seen Santa and his reindeer flying overheard, but there is no one who has met with two other persons who believed that they had seen Santa and his flying reindeer. Paul says in I Corinthians that he SAW Jesus of Nazareth, on the Damascus Road, after his crucifixion. Paul also says that he met with Jesus chief disciple, Peter, and with Jesus brother James, for fifteen days. Is it really possible that these three men spent fifteen days together and never discuss that each one of them believed that they had seen a resurrected dead man??

      Has any credible eyewitness of our flying Santa Claus ever been willing to die for his belief in Santa? No. At least one eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus was willing to give his life for this belief: the apostle Paul.

      How many educated, devout Jews do you know that have converted to Christianity because they saw Santa and his reindeer flying through the air? Saul of Tarsus was an educated, upper class, Jewish Pharisee who saw enough evidence to convince him that a peasant from the backwaters of Galilee, who was crucified as a common criminal, was the long-expected, triumphant, all-conquering Jewish messiah, and not only that, that he was God himself.

      So are these “facts” enough to convince a jury, or a neutral third party as Dagood demands, of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and that he is Lord God of heaven and earth? Nope. The chances of a dead man being resurrected is just about as likely as a fat man flying through the air in a sleigh with reindeer.

      There is zero evidence for believing in Santa.

      The evidence for a resurrected Jesus isn’t enough to convince a jury, but it is enough to convince me.


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    2. Gary, from a child's perspective, there are credible witnesses for Santa Claus. Those witnesses are the child's own parents and friends, both of whom have credibility in the child's life.

      Your current argument has whittled justification for your belief down to one source, Paul's eye witness testimony. You have staked everything on him as a "credible" witness. But what makes him more credible than any other person?

      Many, many people who are otherwise educated, devout, and who are "unlikely" to change belief.........do.

      The question is not whether Paul believed that he saw Jesus, the question is whether he actually did see a resurrected Jesus. People die for dearly held beliefs all the time....even if those beliefs are not factually true.

      You can't measure whether something is objectively true throughout the universe by using human psychological behavior as its only evidence.

      Your evidence is that a person totally changed their mind about something and committed the rest of their time on earth to a passionate cause. People do that all the time in large and small ways...but it doesn't mean that their cause is true.

      If it did, then Tom Cruise, Joseph Smith and Mohammed provide compelling evidence that Scientology, Mormonism and Islam are true.

      What you call "evidence" is readily available for all sorts of beliefs.

      I anticipate that your next objection would be that Tom Cruise, Joseph Smith, and Mohammed are/were liars, or scam artists, or very deluded. You can probably think of all sorts of reasons why you don't believe their "evidence".

      I would say that the only difference that you more favorably and uncritically accept Paul's testimony is because you simply want to, not because you can objectively declare him as somehow intrinsically more trustworthy.

      liza

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    3. "You can't measure whether something is objectively true throughout the universe by using human psychological behavior as its only evidence."

      Maybe you can't, Liza, but I choose to do so. Again, I am not presenting evidence to convince a jury or even to convince you. I am only presenting what I believe to be sufficient evidence to convince me.

      I have already admitted that Christianity is foolish by all modern standards of reason, logic, and science. But it is a foolishness that I choose to believe.

      I gave my evidence to the other commenter because he felt I had nothing to base my belief on other than a desire to believe in the supernatural. But you are right, my evidence boils down to the testimony of one man---Paul.

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    4. Gary,

      If you are only presenting what you believe to be sufficient evidence to convince you, then you are dealing with subjective truth rather than objective truth. On the other hand, I don't think that it is necessarily wrong to do that as long as you recognize that Mormons are equally justified in relying on the testimony of Joseph Smith, Muslims are equally justified in relying on Mohammed, and Scientologists are equally justified in relying on L.Ron Hubbard. If I were personally convinced of the reality of my personal encounter with the supernatural, I think I might be justified in believing in God, but my personal encounter wouldn't provide any justification for anyone else to believe in God.

      On the other hand, I suspect that you may not be satisfied doing that for long.

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    5. "If I were personally convinced of the reality of my personal encounter with the supernatural, I think I might be justified in believing in God, but my personal encounter wouldn't provide any justification for anyone else to believe in God.

      On the other hand, I suspect that you may not be satisfied doing that for long."

      So the question is: Can I still be an orthodox Christian, whose first and foremost command is to "go and baptize/teach all nations" and do that without hitting people over the head with hell-fire and damnation?

      I think that there is a way to do it: Be a kind person. Help your neighbor. Be generous to those in need. Instead of telling others that they had better repent or else, love them and be kind to them in such a compassionate manner that THEY will ask: What is it with you? THEN share with them the "Good News".

      Like I have recently said, I never again intend to go on someone else' website or walk up to someone on the street and tell them that they are going to hell unless they repent. I want people to see my faith by my actions, not by my words.

      So just to be clear, yes, I believe in a resurrected Jesus because I want to, but also because there is enough evidence FOR ME to believe it really did happen.

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    6. Gary, the other anonymous comment was from me also...I only forgot to sign it

      And...just so everyone knows...I do know that L Ron Hubbard was the inventor of Scientology...I only listed Tom Cruise because more people are familiar with him and he represents the modern face of Scientology most recognizably.

      Just adding that so people don't think I'm stupid! lol

      liza

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    7. Gary,

      There may be enough evidence for you to believe, but there is nowhere near as much evidence as you once thought there was and your fellow believers still claim there is. You will need to make peace with that, which may not be as easy as you think.

      If there is a God, he gave me the capacity to reason about the world in which he has placed me. If I don't use that gift as best I can, I think I would be like the servant who buried the talent he was given in the ground rather than investing it, and if God would punish me for reaching the wrong conclusion about him, he is not a God who was worthy of worship anyway..

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    8. I understand where you are coming from, but let me give you this analogy:

      You are on a jury that has to reach a verdict about the following issue: Numerous unnamed, unverifiable reports have been circulating for years that one of Farmer Brown's dairy cows can speak French, fly in the air like an F-15, and has said, in perfect French, to over 500 persons, that she is God. Five hundred of these witnesses having seen her fly at the same time.

      However, none of these local witnesses can be found to verify their testimony.

      But, one witness comes forward who says that he saw the same dairy cow do an upside down flyover of Washington DC and that the cow spoke to him in perfect French, convincing this witness that she, the cow, is God.

      The single witness is: Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy.

      Is it possible that you are other members of the jury would render a verdict on the truthfulness of this story, simply based on the testimony of this one, highly respected, very educated man?

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    9. I don't see how I could because that is not the way I use evidence to reach conclusions about what is likely to have happened.

      Evidence is an effect from which a cause is inferred. If I come across a body with a knife sticking out of its back and that knife has little swirly patterns on the handle that match the patterns on a specific person's fingers, I consider the fingerprints evidence of who did the stabbing. I can draw this inference because I understand the processes of cause and effect that cause the patterns on a person's fingers to appear on other objects and I believe that those processes act consistently, if not invariably, If I thought that those patterns appeared randomly or by divine fiat, the fingerprints on the knife handle wouldn't be evidence of anything. I couldn't say that it was Professor Plum with the knife in the library.

      Because I rely on known patterns of cause and effect to draw inferences from evidence, I find it hard to see how I could ever justify concluding that any particular evidence had a supernatural cause because a supernatural cause is one that doesn't follow known processes.

      When the evidence for a supernatural event is a fantastic story, I have to take account of the fact that the usual cause of fantastic stories is some combination of common human foibles such as ignorance, superstition, delusion, gullibility, exaggeration, wishful thinking and prevarication. I would certainly be baffled by Justice Kennedy's story, but I doubt that I could conclude that it was objectively probable that it was true.

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    11. I should point out the following:

      Many of the ex-Christians on this blog and on Bruce's blog sound as if they are ex-Evangelicals. Evangelicals and Lutherans have a very different perspective on "believing" and faith.

      Most evangelicals believe that an unbeliever can read the Bible and hear the story of Jesus and then make a "decision" whether or not to believe, based on the "evidence". Lutherans do not believe in this concept.

      Lutherans believe that unbelievers are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ because they are spiritually dead. They are incapable of choosing God, they are incapable by their intelligence and reasoning to come to God. Lutherans believe that God, by his divine election alone, "quickens" the souls of unbelievers by the power of the Word, gifting faith, and creating belief. We believe that belief is a choice made by God not by man.

      So, (conveniently??) we have covered our bases so that we can say this, "No amount of evidence, even a video tape of the Resurrection, will convince a nonbeliever of the validity of the Christian faith, unless God chooses to gift it to you.

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    12. So, after my conversations with Dagood and Bruce, and my reading of Ehrman, I now readily admit that there is not enough "evidence" to convince the average modern, educated person that Jesus of Nazareth, living 2,000 years ago, was resurrected from the dead, and is now the living Almighty God of heaven and earth.

      I think that Christians should stop trying to use their "faulty methodology", as Dagood puts it, to convince unbelievers of a supernatural event by using "evidence". All we have are copies of copies of copies of documents written almost 2,000 years ago by a man named Paul in which he says that he and 500 plus people saw a resurrected dead man. That kind of "evidence" will not fly in a court of law.

      Such "evidence" will NEVER be enough to convince the skeptic, so we should stop trying to convince skeptics with evidence.

      We should share our faith by truly being Christian,,,Christ-like...and not self-righteous, judgmental people.

      That is the type of Christian that I intend to try to be and the type of Christian I will teach my children to be.

      What non-believers do is NONE of our business.

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  6. i am Mrs mercy i am hear to give testimony of how i got back my husband, we got married for more than 2 years and have gotten two kids. thing were going well with us and we are always happy. until one day my husband started to behave in a way i could not understand, i was very confused by the way he treat me and the kids. later that month he did not come again and he called me that he want a divorce, I asked him what have i done wrong to deserve this from him, all he was saying that he want a divorce and that he hates me and do not want to see me again in his life, i was mad and also frustrated do not know what to do,i was sick for more than 2 weeks because of the divorce. i love him so much he was everything to me without him my life is incomplete. i told my sister and she told me to contact a spell caster, i never believe in all this spell casting of a thing. i just
    want to try if something will come out of it. I contacted Drehiaghe for the return of my husband to me, he told me that my husband have been taken by another woman that she cast a spell on him that is why he hates me and also want us to divorce. then he told me that he have to cast a spell on him that will make him return to me and the kids, he cast the spell and after 3 days my husband called me
    and he told me that i should forgive him, he settled to apologize on phone and said that he still love me that he did not know what happen to him that he left me. it was the spell that the Drehiaghe shrine casted on him that made him come back to me today,me and my family are now happy again today. thank you DR.ehiaghe for what you have done for me i would have been nothing today if not for your great spell. i want
    you my friends who are passing through this kind of love problem of getting back their husband, wife , or ex boyfriend and girlfriend to contact ehiaghespellhome@gmail.com and you will see that your problem will be solved.

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  7. Haha, Gary. Your example of a patient with 3 months to live hit close to home. When introducing myself to client, I explain my personality. I tell them I will treat them how I would like to be treated--how I like to know what the truth is, and my solutions to any problems. I tell them if they want smoke blown in their ear, or a lawyer who will tell them we will win millions of dollars…to go find another attorney.

    And the example I use is the same—if I had only 3 months to live, I would want a doctor to tell me, and give the possible solutions (experimental treatment, or hospice or nothing) and that is how I treat clients. I think this demonstrates the difference between your and my approach to life.

    Gary, “So now instead of always telling my patients the truth, I ask them instead, ‘How much do you want to know?’

    “I would humbly suggest that you do the same with Christians who come to you for advice on the ‘evidence’ that proves Christianity as false. Some of us don't want to know ‘the truth’. We are happy with what we perceive to be truth, even if it may be false by the ‘evidence’.”

    Curious. While I have had Christians explain they are entitled to lie to me about evidence because I am “the enemy” and we are at war, I don’t recall a Christian ever requesting I withhold evidence when speaking to Christians to allow them to insulate their beliefs. And I should note-- I do respect others’ wishes regarding their blogs. I get how some Pastor writing a blog about the church’s prayer request doesn’t want a skeptic like me barging in discussing Documentary Hypothesis.

    But a Christian who comes to me for advice on evidence proving Christianity is false—I should refrain from giving them the evidence because it might make them unhappy? Alas—life is sometimes hard. Sometimes reality is…unhappy.

    But an ever bigger BUT…

    Christian beliefs have consequences. If all Christianity did was argue over which direction toilet paper rolls should be placed on dispensers, I would happily leave it entirely alone—reveling in its lack of evidence, and willful refusal to research its own beliefs. But it doesn’t stop there. It furiously injects itself into my society, demanding preeminence in my schools, government and public institutions.

    It impinges social welfare by insisting its unfounded moral principles be enforced on others, such as same-sex marriage denial, terrible contraceptive advice, and archaic regulations. It unnecessarily contends with science in areas like evolution and climate change making our society less intelligent and less informed through its battles. It provides an astounding vehicle for bullies, misogynists, madmen, rapists, greedy and deviants to harm and destroy others…all in the name of doing “God’s work.”

    And I am to refrain from presenting evidence this is all based on poor methodology, lack of understanding, and refusal to even review opposing positions because it might make someone unhappy?

    No, sir. I will not.

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    1. I guess I didn't explain my request to you well enough, Dagood. Let me explain.

      When I went onto Bruce Gerencser's blog, I genuinely wanted to understand the atheist's position. I was not feigning my interest. But there is no doubt that I hoped to "rescue" Bruce from his deconversion. I assumed that his deconversion was due to the same very negative, judgmental flavor of Christianity that I grew up in---Baptist fundamentalism. I hoped that I could help him see that it wasn't "true" Christianity that had so turned him off to God, it was only fundamentalism.

      Well, I was wrong. Very wrong.

      Bruce had done the extensive study that you have done and came to the conclusion that the Bible is riddled with contradictions and errors, that there is only hearsay evidence, if that, for the Resurrection, and that there is no evidence that ANY god exists.

      So I came into the discussion thinking that I would "blow the atheists out of the water", kind of like how you perceived your interaction with the Atheist blog that you stumbled upon would be, when you began your deconversion.

      Bruce did not attempt to destroy my faith. I credit him for refraining from doing that. It shows he has a good heart. He referred me to Bart Ehrman and Bart Ehrman blew belief system out of the water and almost destroyed my faith.

      My faith is my life. It would wreck havoc on not only me but my family if I deconverted. So this issue is not just a debate over the goodness or badness of Christianity, this issue involves the lives of real people and families who can be devastated when their world is blown to smithereens.

      So here is what I am trying to say: When another blow-hard Christian like myself comes onto your blog thinking that he is going to blow your atheist beliefs to smithereens, ask/tell him this:

      "I have had numerous Christians like yourself come onto my blog trying in the attempt to prove me wrong; in the attempt to convince me of the validity of traditional Christianity. In each case I have blown him or her out of the water with the facts that I know and have intensely studied. Some of these Christians were left struggling to maintain their faith after our discussion. Are you prepared to possibly lose your faith by the evidence that I can show you. I was once a devout, born-again, church-going Christian. Now I no longer believe that ANY god exists. The evidence that I would present to you is the evidence that destroyed my faith. Make VERY sure you are prepared to face this situation if you want to continue this discussion with me because once I start, I will not finish until your faith in the Christian god is utterly and completely demolished.

      You are a good person, Dagood. This isn't about winning a court dase. This is about real people and their families. Have compassion on them.

      If someone is an arrogant, rude, insulting jerk, by all means, blow him out of the water without any warning. But many of the Christians who will try to reconvert to the Christian faith are doing so because they care about people. They care about you. Your story is very touching. You sound as if you accept your atheism as you accept gravity, but you seem resigned, in a sad way, to a world view of "it is what it is".

      I encourage you to speak out against Christians trying to impose Christian morality on secular society. We shouldn't be doing that. If you read my blog, I preach the same thing. Our morality is for us in our churches and in our homes, not for unbelievers.

      But, have a pity, Dagood, on the people who think and hope that they can rescue you from your loss of faith, your perceived sadness, or at a minimum, your resignation to what is. That is all I am asking.

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  8. Gary,

    If I might: I haven't waded into this ongoing dialogue, though I've been lurking. I do that a lot here. Dagoods is so knowledgable and also very compassionate. It is for that reason that when someone comes to my own blog in a panic, wringing their hands, unable to breathe under the weight of their crumbling faith I, many times, direct them here.

    He gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten on the subject: Just continue breathing, put one foot in front of the other(that is a paraphrase, of course).

    Having lurked for pretty much this entire conversation I can say that Dagoods hasn't been ruthless with you. You came looking for the information. You said so yourself; that you wanted to understand the atheist perspective; to know what makes a person lose their faith. You were surprised by what you found, but that is not the fault of Dagoods. It nearly destroyed your faith; that is also not the fault of Dagoods.

    I have a philosophy about opening cans of worms; asking questions. Don't ask me a question if you don't really want the answer. Dagoods, myself, nor anyone else would have any way of knowing that you didn't really want the truth. You asked the questions. He and Bruce answered your questions.

    Dagoods knows what families - people - stand to lose when confronted with the loss of faith. That is why he handles himself with compassion. I think it is the onus of the questioner to be prepared for the answers rather that the person questioned to judge the ability of the questioner to handle them.

    That is just my two cents worth.

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  9. Dagoods,

    As always I'm impressed by the way you've meticulously and patiently gone through this. Would you mind if I linked to this post?

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  10. I place absolutely no blame whatsoever on Dagood. He has been very kind and patient with me. I came to him asking questions, not the other way around. I am just suggesting that he consider warning people up front of what they are getting into when they come to his blog with the idea that they have the one bit of evidence regarding God and the Bible that is going to help Dagood "rediscover Jesus". They are in for a devastating blow to their faith and they should be prepared for it.

    I agree that Dagood has no responsibility to worry about the sensitivities of questioners coming to his blog. We are all adults. However, knowing how kind and considerate Dagood is, I hope he will consider giving a "full disclosure" before he diassembles these poor peoples' worldview.

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  11. Gary,

    For full disclosure, be prepared—this comment will be brutally forthright. (And a great demonstration of how effective such disclosures are, as you will read it anyway. *grin*)

    Your concern regarding “full disclosure” is misdirected. For years you attended various institutions studying theology. You have attended Church, Sunday School, Bible classes, Bible study and countless general discussions surrounding Christianity and/or the Bible. How many of those Pastors, Priests, Deacons, Bishops, Teachers, Leaders provided you with “full disclosure”? How many indicated, prior to speaking, there was vast study, documentation and material opposing their position, and they simply weren’t presenting it? How many suggested the listener google the opposing position to determine what the other side was saying?

    How many sermons or teachings started off with the Christian disclosing there was information contrary to what they were about to say and the teacher either didn’t know it, or knew it and was misrepresenting it? Prior to interacting with us, were you aware of the Synoptic Problem? Of Textual Criticism? Of Canonicity? Of the varying positions on inerrancy? Had you ever studied Roman or Jewish Law in the First Century? Had you studied the historical difficulties aligning Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s own writings?

    Had the teachers disclosed the varying positions on authorship? Or even that there were varying positions? I understand you are a young-earth creationist—how many teachings discussed Jewish midrash? Or Documentary Hypothesis? Or the multiple means of dating the earth? The extreme difficulty regarding a fossil record of less than 10,000 years? (Animals would have to be living on top of each other.) How many “full disclosures” have you seen regarding the actual demonstrations for evolution?

    I’ll safely bet not more than 1 in 1,000 such teachings even mentioned opposing positions, and of those, not more than 1 in 10,000 accurately portrayed opposing positions without strawmen, misquoting or misrepresenting.

    So you happily (and very understandably) traipsed through life, learning a fairly narrow theological position. Then you stumbled across Bruce’s blog, Ehrman and eventually…me. And I presented truth. Evidence. Argument. Now you start to understand the opposing position and it scares you how true it appears. It scares you so badly, instead of pursuing truth, you would embrace a lie that brings a smile rather than a truth you think would bring a tear. You are so rawly aware of this, you honestly and forthrightly indicate you will read no more on the subject BECAUSE it will cut through the mistruths you prefer.

    And you want the person demonstrating the truth to give “full disclosure” while those presenting the lie are given a pass?

    I am sorry, but as much as I defer to other people’s wants and needs in conversations, here I will absolutely draw a line. I may be wrong—I am human; I am sure I am wrong with something. But I will always share what I see as convincingly and persuasively true. Let those who have been misrepresenting to you either their expertise or their knowledge stand for their own actions and give “full disclosure.”

    I have no duty to protect others from the truth.

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    2. After my interactions with you and Bruce, and after reading Bart Ehrman, I wrote an article on my blog blasting Christian pastors for not discussing the presence of scribe alterations and errors in the Bible. I stated that withholding such evidence is more dangerous for lay Christians than presenting it to them. Withholding it makes it look as if Christianity is hiding something.

      However, your very well-studied position on the Bible and Christianity is only dangerous to Christians who believe that the Bible is inerrant on EVERYTHING, including history, astronomy, geography, etc. It is only dangerous to fundamentalist Christians who refuse to believe that God would allow humans to make errors while copying the text, or even making small errors while writing the originals, that would eventually be incorporated into our modern Bibles.

      Once again, if a Christian simply sticks to the basics: God exists. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and rules the world. God inspired human beings to write his Word to mankind, but allowed these humans to make minor errors in the writing of that Book... no one, including Dagood, can prove those beliefs wrong. Dagood cannot prove that God does not exist. Dagood cannot prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Dagood cannot prove that God' Word was perfectly transmitted to the authors of the Bible.

      And, very importantly, NONE of the errors in the Bible change the MESSAGE, and that is what is inerrant, not every fact of history, or every casualty count in every battle in the OT.

      Pastors and Christian educators need to do a better job of educating Christians regarding the apparent discrepancies and minor errors in the Bible and all the scribe alterations so that when one of us comes across a "Dagood" or "Bruce Gererncser" on the internet, we are not shocked by "undisclosed information" and our faith shaken by the facts you present.

      So, yes, you are right, Dagood. It is not your responsibility to warn Christians that you may destroy their faith, it is the Church's job to better prepare Christians to withstand such attacks...and to respond with love and kindness.

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    3. Gary,

      What made me lose my faith wasn't just inerrancy and the small mistakes and inaccurate portrayals of how the natural world works, etc.

      The problem with reading the Bible is not a matter of whether or not you buy into inerrancy, or whether you can live inaccuracies in your hoy book.

      There is a deeper problem within the Bible. When Christians read the Bible, even those who do not buy into full-fledged inerrancy, they are reading it as historical, well-preserved, unaltered, accurate portrayals of events that transpired 2,000 years ago. Give or take a few errors, they think of the Bible as relatively reliable as a source of information, declaring it as reliably written and put together.

      When you start reading the Gospels one at a time, imagining that the author of each gospel intended his version to be the version that communicated the complete truth about Jesus, you can spot some problems that have far-reaching implications.


      Here's one example:
      Mark 10:28-31

      28Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
      29"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

      Luke 18:28-30
      28Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

      29"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."

      Matthew
      28Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.


      Do you notice how "Mark's" Jesus promises earthly, physical rewards to those who follow him? Jesus is telling his disciples, very specifically, that they are going to be rewarded with 100 times more than what they had in their current lives.

      That did not happen.

      So "Luke" is writing his gospel and he tones that passage down a bit. Suddenly, there are no specific rewards promised, just a promise by Jesus that there will be rewards...in this life.

      Finally, we get to Matthew. All of a sudden Jesus says that the disciples will be rewarded in a future age to come, once he is on his throne. There are no earthly rewards promised anymore. All the promises pertain to the future age to come.

      Do you see the problem here? The gospels that people trust to have the words of their savior recorded correctly do not agree. What Jesus said has been altered...probably because by the time Matthew has been written it has become painfully clear that there will be no earthly rewards for his disciples.

      Well you can't have Jesus being so easily disproven, can you? So "Matthew" adjusts what Jesus said. In his mind obviously Jesus must have meant future rewards.

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    4. (cont.)

      This may seem like no big deal to some people, but what it made me realize was that the gospel writers were more than willing to adjust Jesus' very words if they didn't quite fit with how things worked out in reality.

      When that sinks in, you can realize that everything you think is so historically accurate may not be.

      Another example in this vein is the story in John about the woman caught in adultery. Even conservative scholars will readily admit this story doesn't show up in the earliest versions we have of John. It is added in hundreds of years later.

      That leaves 2 options.

      1. The story happened but was purposely kept out of the gospels because someone didn't like the implications of it.

      2. The story was a later, fictitious account that was added long after Jesus' time but was included because people thought it seemed like something Jesus would say or do.

      Those are not appealing options if you want to trust the Bible as inspired and reliable. It means someone, somewhere had an agenda.

      So what's the big deal if Christians lose that story? Well, it is a huge part of how Christians view Jesus, how they imagine him to be. Where else do we see Jesus being so compassionate? Hardly anywhere else. You can't underestimate the importance of this portrayal in Christian mythology.

      Ince you understand how the Bible came to be and how it doesn't harmonize the way you think it does...well, things just fall apart.

      One other example.

      The synoptic gospels portray Jesus constantly talking about demons and spirits, casting them out right an cleft.

      Suddenly John decides to write his gospels and all the demos suddenly disappear. There is not a single demon in the entire gospel. What was a staple of Jesus ministry is totally excised in John, not even a whisper.

      Even the gospels do not agree on their portrayal of what Jesus was like when you read them separately from each other and take them on their own terms.

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    5. ugh...stupid auto-correct an typos combine to undermine my comment...sorry! lol

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    6. I agree with you, Liza, that if you are a Christian who believes that the Bible can be read as a college level history book, that every statement of fact can be proven, that an editor has made sure that there are no errors in the book, then you are in for a rude shock when you read the Gospels in parallel as you have just shown.

      So what do I think happened? I think the event with Jesus telling his disciples about future rewards really did happen, but the story became embellished and even changed by the time that each writer of the Gospels sat down and wrote out the story. I no longer believe that Matthew was written by the Apostle Matthew, for instance, and I'm not sure about the authors of some of the other books of the Bible, but my point is, the MESSAGE is inerrant, even if some of the facts got mixed up.

      Bottom line: In your first example, one or several of the authors got his story wrong in the details. But all agree that Jesus promised rewards for those who gave up their previous lives to follow him.

      As far as the story of the woman caught in adultery. If you are a fundamentalist, as I once was, to learn that even orthodox scholars believe that this story is an embellishment is devastating to your Faith. This is why Ehrman's presentation of this issue really shook me up. Pastors should have told me this instead of allowing me to find it out from an atheist. But if you take that story out of the Bible, does it change the message of the Gospels? No. I don't think so.

      Bottom line: the message of the Gospel and the core doctrines of the Christian Faith are not contradicted in the Bible. I know that Ehrman and some of you will disagree on that, but that is what I believe. All the other errors and discrepancies that are truly present in our Bibles and even in the existing manuscripts are due to human error...ALOT of human error.

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  12. Ruth,

    Of course you can link this. I had forgotten that bit of advice. Hmmm…even I manage to have moments of brilliance.

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  14. Ahh…if my position is only dangerous to Christians who don’t believe like you do, Gary….why are YOU afraid?

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  15. Gary wrote: "Lutherans believe that unbelievers are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ because they are spiritually dead. They are incapable of choosing God, they are incapable by their intelligence and reasoning to come to God. Lutherans believe that God, by his divine election alone, "quickens" the souls of unbelievers by the power of the Word, gifting faith, and creating belief. We believe that belief is a choice made by God not by man."

    Lutherans sure are amazing human beings. I'm guessing Paul and God were Lutherans too.


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  16. Anyone who was raised a Baptist fundamentalist, as I was, knows how hard it is to get fundamentalism completely out of your head. Even though I have been away from it for more than 30 years, some of it is still there.

    I became a Lutheran still believing that the Bible was inerrant in all aspects, including historical details. I believed that the existing manuscripts of the Bible are inerrant, that any discrepancies in the Bible can be explained, and that God did not allow any alterations to his Word. And specifically, God would never allow a scribe embellishment or outright fabrication to make its way into my Bible.

    Bruce Gerencser, you, and Bart Ehrman blew that belief to smithereens. It is true that many in my particular Lutheran denomination (LCMS) believe in inerrancy exactly as do the fundamentalist Baptists. So, in reality, I have only traded one flavor of fundamentalism for another. However, not everyone in my Lutheran Synod believes it is necessary to believe that every point of minutia in the Bible on my nightstand came directly out of the mouth of God. Some orthodox Lutherans believe that only the originals were inerrant. No one can prove that position wrong because (conveniently) the originals do not exist.

    So why am I afraid? Because there is still a part of me that wants to believe that there are no errors in my Bible, and the more I read literature that tells me that there ARE errors in the Bible, the more it feeds that fundamentalist paranoid, black-and-white worldview-only part of me that I have not been able to purge from my consciousness.

    I don't think that the average (moderate) orthodox Lutheran would have a problem digging into the "evidence"...but I am still, at least in a very small part, a fundamentalist Baptist, somewhere deep in my psyche.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  19. Gary,

    As way of background, I suspect that I have much more sympathy with the need to believe than Dagood does, but my background is a good bit different. I was raised by moderate Catholic parents and embraced fundamentalist Protestantism for a couple of years as a teenager. After I decided that wasn’t for me, I wavered between liberal Christianity and agnosticism for most of my adult life until landing pretty firmly in the latter camp some ten years ago. Unlike Dagood or Bruce Gerencser, I suffered no social consequences as a result of my unbelief. None of my friendships or family relationships were affected.

    I would like to point out that the people who come to this blog the idea that they have the one bit of evidence that is going to help Dagood rediscover Jesus come as the result of lies. Someone has lied to them about the reasons people like Dagoods think the way they do. Perhaps the have been told that his unbelief is the result to his presuppositions, but when they get here they find that his unbelief is in fact founded on conclusions that he had drawn from the evidence. They may have been told that he is willfully ignoring some key apologetic argument only to find that he has carefully considered it and has a well reasoned response.

    I respect your willingness to acknowledge that Dagood has thought things through and that his conclusions are the product of his intellectual integrity. It is very rare. I have seen may times when Dagood has shown some conservative Christian the weakness of the evidence for some apologetic argument such as the apostles dying for their beliefs or the traditional authorship of the gospels only to find that same Christian repeating that same argument on his own blog or somewhere else. Often they will repeat the same lies about atheists like Dagood who refuse to consider the evidence.

    This is makes me doubtful that you are going to be able to remain an orthodox Christian simply because no one can prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. It’s not a very satisfying argument.

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  20. You are absolutely correct. Many Christians want to assume that Dagood had a secret desire to sin or that he holds a deep grudge against God for some event in his past and that is why he left Christianity. I have one Southern Baptist pastor (who I think very highly of, otherwise), who regularly comments on my blog, who is certain that Dagood is hiding some deep grudge against God from his past, and that that is why Dagood abandoned his faith, not due to evidence. (I think part of this pastor's problem is that he can't accept that someone could be truly saved, and then become a nonbeliever).

    I don't believe this for one second.

    I went onto Bruce Gerencser's blog, not to look for a way out of Christianity, but out of curiosity. I wanted to see why a fellow-ex fundie (Baptist fundamentalist) decided to become an atheist. I was also under the delusion that I could convince him that the problem with Christianity is not "true Christianity" but the "cult" of fundamentalism.

    What hit me like a Mack truck was evidence that shook my own faith to the core. As fundamentalists, we were taught that the BIBLE is the foundation of our faith. Therefore if someone provides evidence that the Bible itself is not a perfect book, that it is riddled with discrepancies, contradictions, alterations, and outright fabrications such as the Johannine Comma, it is devastating to our belief system.

    I almost lost my faith because for the first time in my life I was exposed to extremely damaging evidence against my belief system. My faith survived because I was able to adjust my belief system (hopefully due to God's design, and not just me grasping to hold onto something I love). Dagood was not able to do that. For him, it was either all true or all a lie. But I don't believe for a second that Dagood left Christianity for any other reason than his chance encounter with the evidence he found on the internet.

    There are millions of orthodox Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is the Resurrected Savior of the World even if their Holy Book, the Bible, is not 100% accurate on all matters of history, geography, and archaeology. They are able to maintain their faith because their faith is based on the belief in their hearts that Jesus Christ is God, that he exists, and that he was resurrected. They don't need proof for that supernatural event to believe it occurred.

    Supernatural events occur in every orthodox Christian mass/service. It is something we accept as matter of fact every time we step into a church. The bread and wine in our ritual of Communion, supernaturally becomes the body and blood of our dead leader. Orthodox Christians believe that in Baptism our dead God enters the water. So we are used to believing in "out-of-this-world", supernatural events that cannot be proven by "evidence".

    Since fundamentalist Baptists do not have as much "supernatural" contact in their day to today experience, except for praying to an invisible being, maybe that is why a lack of evidence may be more damning to a fundamentalist Baptist than to an orthodox Christian. That is just speculation on my part.

    Another thing is that we fundamentalists were taught that if we were truly saved we would "feel" God within in us. So a lot of our belief was based on emotion. Orthodox Christians do not believe that emotions or feelings are a measure of the presence of God.

    That is why I left Christianity in my twenties. I had been told that if I was really following God's will, I would feel his presence, feel him move me, feel him lead me. I never felt anything.

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    ReplyDelete
  22. I believed in Christianity. This was about Christianity. I love discovery. I love learning. I had no fear of a problem; truth can withstand the scrutiny.

    Yes exactly.

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    1. If one day a group of archeologists digs up a skeleton in Israel, and through advanced DNA testing, proves that the remains are of Jesus of Nazareth, Christians should look at the evidence…and stop believing.

      However, until that day, the only evidence that skeptics have to date is this: the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, contains human errors. This “evidence” is only damning to Christian fundamentalists (including Lutheran fundamentalists, such as myself, prior to this discussion). There is nowhere in the Bible or in Christian Church history where Christians have believed that God himself sat down and wrote out the Bible and then dropped it from heaven into the lap of Moses and other alleged writers of the Scriptures. So the fact that there are inconsequential errors in the Bible only demonstrates what orthodox Christians have said all along: men wrote the Bible. We may believe that a supernatural being, whom we refer to as God, inspired them to write his MESSAGE, but we do not have to believe that God dictated word for word what should be written, in order to maintain our Faith.

      The only other “evidence” that skeptics have presented is that believing in supernatural events such as resurrections of the dead defy human reason, logic, common sense, and the laws of science. But dear skeptics…that is exactly why these beliefs are considered super-NATURAL. Evidence cannot prove that these events occurred…only faith.

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  23. Gary,

    We have quite a bit of evidence to consider. The course of human conduct throughout history—creating gods similar to their own cultures. Other writings, coins, archeological findings, geography, cosmology, etc. of the First Century.

    The lack of confirming writing by other interested authors of the time. The development of legendary material both during the first century and then beyond. The consistent historical methodological approach treating similar claims.

    No, it is far beyond the simple black/white proposition of whether the biblical writings are accurate. We have a great deal more evidences to deal with.

    As for the “SUPER-natural” defense for the evidence…that fish won’t fly. Regardless whether the claim is for supernatural, paranatural, pseudonatural, etc.—the results are here on the natural world. And only the natural world. With natural eyes seeing natural bodies, and hearing natural voices with natural ears, and natural food going in natural mouths.

    If I claim to walk on an unfrozen lake, even if effectuated by supernatural means, this results in my natural feet walking on natural water. In the same way, if Christians are claiming Jesus came back and presented himself in natural form, even if effectuated by supernatural means, the ONLY evidences would be from natural results.

    Certainly you may believe by faith as to events in supernatural realms, but there is no means of verifying such claims. If you want to believe, by faith, Jesus went to a supernatural plane—typically termed, “heaven”—and lives there now, Fine. But the instant one wants to claim any type of natural appearance…here on this world…they lose the defense regarding supernaturalism you are proposing

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    1. "No, it is far beyond the simple black/white proposition of whether the biblical writings are accurate. We have a great deal more evidences to deal with."

      Evidences for what? That Jesus did not exist? Even Bart Ehrman and all other reputable scholars of Antiquity believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived in first century Palestine, was from Nazareth, a real town, and was executed by crucifixion sometime in the early 30's by the Romans. Ehrman presents the case for the historical Jesus in his book, DID JESUS EXIST. According to Ehrman, there is OVERWHELMING evidence of the existence of Jesus and he condescends to anyone who states that Jesus was a myth as "poorly studied".

      Also, Ehrman and all other reputable scholars believe that Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was a real historical person and is a trustworthy source of information on Jesus. Bart Ehrman and all other reputable scholars also believe that I Corinthians was written by Paul and in I Corinthians, Paul says that he SAW Jesus after his execution and that he met with Jesus' chief disciple, Peter, and Jesus' brother, James, (who Ehrman believes WAS Jesus brother, not a cousin, nor just a disciple).

      So we have a historical Jesus. We have a historical person, Paul, who says that he saw Jesus, after his public crucifixion, and Paul says that he stayed with for 15 days, two other persons, whom Paul states were witnesses to this resurrected dead man. Does that prove the Resurrection? No, but it isn't the same as believing in Santa Claus. Christians at least have one very reliable, very trustworthy, credible adult. The same cannot be said of Santa.

      So what does Ehrman believe has NOT been proven to be historically valid regarding Christianity? Answer: the inerrancy of the Bible and the Resurrection.

      I've already pointed out that orthodox Christianity does not stand or fall on the inerrancy of a written book; only fundamentalist Christianity falls when all the (insignificant) discrepancies, alterations, and errors in the existing manuscripts of Scripture and in our printed Bible are pointed out. Any similarities in the Bible to pagan myths and "saviors" is interesting, but irrelevant. They do not prove that Paul did not see what he said he saw.

      So that leaves the Resurrection. We Christians can provide ONE very trustworthy witness who claims to have seen a supernatural event. And our witness is the equivalent of well-respected, well-connected Jewish rabbi in Israel claiming to have seen Jesus Christ and converting to Christianity. Possible? Yes. Probable? Absolutely not!

      Skeptics such as yourself, Dagood, have no evidence that such a supernatural event did NOT occur. You don't have a body. You don't have a skeleton. You don't have Jewish or Roman authorities who gave testimony that the body had been stolen, etc. You have nothing other than your rejection of the possibility of a supernatural event, because it isn't natural. How can you prove that the supernatural is not possible when the supernatural by definition is above the laws of science?

      Yes, you are right. If my supernatural belief comes into contact with the natural world it is possible that evidence is left of such an event. And I have given you such evidence: the eyewitness testimony of a very credible witness.

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    2. I again am very appreciative of my discussions with you and Bruce. They have really helped me to weed out weak arguments for my faith. As I have mentioned before, if asked in the future for evidence of the Resurrection, I will give only this: Saul of Tarsus and the conversion of other devout Jews.

      Ask Jews to give you a description of the messiah according to OT prophesies. Jesus of Nazareth does NOT fit the description! Not even close!

      No Jew living today or in the first century would ever imagine an illiterate, peasant pacifist from Galilee, who was captured, tortured, crucified and killed on a tree by the hated enemies of the Jews, to be the Jewish Messiah.

      Jews do not believe that Isaiah 53 and the other passages in the OT that Christians use as prophesies for a "suffering messiah" speak about the messiah at all! The only passages in the OT that speak about a messiah, for Jews, speak of a great warrior who will conquer all of Israel's enemies, sit on King David's throne, and rule the world with justice and in peace.

      Jesus did none of that. His followers THOUGHT he would do that, but once the High Priests took Jesus in the Garden without even a whimper of protest, even THEY no longer believed and ran away.

      Why would any Jew believe that a dead Jewish peasant, who never fulfilled any of the prophesies related to the Messiah, as believed by Jews, WAS (past tense) the Messiah??

      Answer: they would only believe this by seeing overwhelming evidence with their own eyes...such as a resurrection??

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    3. Here are the qualities that Jews even today say that the Messiah must possess:

      http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm

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    4. What makes Paul such a credible witness? He claimed that a dead man appeared to him. He claimed to get revelations from God. Unlike Justice Kennedy, we have no independent information on the man that would enable us to assess his credibility.

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    5. Read Ehrman's book, "Did Jesus Exist?" He will give you the evidence of why HE believes Paul is a credible witness.

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    6. I've read it and I know that he says that he finds Paul credible, but I don't recall him citing any evidence to support that conclusion.

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    7. I don't recall the evidence he sites either, but I do recall him saying that not only he believes that Paul was a credible source, but that ALL credible scholars in the world believe that Paul was a credible source.

      If you need expert testimony to support your case in court that Paul was a credible source, that's pretty strong expert testimony, isn't it, even if the expert in question doesn't go into all the details and tell you why he and every other expert in the field are in agreement on this issue. This is especially strong evidence if that expert is an agnostic/atheist!

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    8. I'm pretty sure Ehrman never says that, but I'm much more interested in the evidence for the claim than I am in the number of people who believe it. There are a lot of scholars, including Ehrman, who don't believe Paul when he says that Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time.

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    9. Paul cannot know as fact that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once because he wasn't there.

      Paul states that he "received" this information, so he was told this by someone else. this is second hand information.

      However, Paul does say that he knows that most of the people who say that they all saw Jesus at the same time are still living at the time Paul wrote I Corinthians.

      Like you, Ehrman does not believe that Saul of Tarsus really saw a flesh and blood Jesus. He too, thinks that Paul saw a vision or had a vivid dream. But he does NOT think that Paul is a liar or that he makes things up. That is the point I was making: Paul is a credible witness. Paul truly believe that he saw Jesus, and Ehrman believes that Paul THINKS that he saw Jesus, but Ehrman thinks Paul only saw an illusion.

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    10. Ehrman finds Paul credible, but he understands Paul to be claiming a naturally explicable hallucination or vivid dream. You are interpreting Paul much differently.

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    11. Where in PAUL'S statements does he suggest that he saw a vision or had an hallucination? We are not talking about Luke's account in Acts, since Luke would be stating second hand information.

      I am sticking with two statements made by Paul himself, a credible source of information, from his letter of I Corinthians, a letter that all scholars believe is an authentic Pauline letter.

      There is no suggestion whatsoever of a vision or hallucination. Paul gives a long list of persons who say that they saw Jesus and then Paul lists himself.

      Only someone who doesn't WANT to believe that Paul really saw a resurrected dead man would read into Paul's statements that he and the other 500 plus people were hallucinating.

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    12. I'm not saying that Paul understood his or anybody else's experiences that way, but you are citing Ehrman's assessment of Paul's credibility and Ehrman's assessment is founded on that interpretation of Paul's experience.

      If I were a potential witness in a case that Dagood was handling and he heard me tell a story about seeing a flying cow that spoke French, he might think twice about calling me to the stand if he thought that I really thought I saw that. On the other hand, if he thought that I was only talking about a dream I had, he might think that I would still make a credible witness in court.

      Ehrman thinks that Paul is credible because he understands Paul to be talking about some naturally explicable experience. Ehrman might be wrong, but if he is, you cannot rely on his assessment of Paul's credibility because it is founded on a misunderstanding. You have no grounds to think that Ehrman would continue to find Paul credible if he thought that Paul was making the same kind of claims that you think he is making.

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    13. I'm going to get out my "Did Jesus Exist" book by Ehrman and look that up. But again, I'm not saying that Ehrman believes that Paul said he really saw Jesus in the flesh. I think Ehrman believes your position.

      But what I am saying is that Ehrman believes that Paul is a truthful, real, historical person. And that he was not a liar. He was not a fabricator of facts.

      However, I think that Ehrman bases his view of Paul's "Jesus appearance" on the account in Acts, just as many of your are, a NT book which Ehrman himself questions the authenticity of Luke, Paul's companion, being the author, which therefore puts into question the veracity of the facts stated in Acts. It is possible that Acts is a compilation of stories retold multiple times by multiple people such that a few of the details are not accurate.

      For this reason, I am ignoring Acts because we do not have solid evidence of who it's author was and therefore if the facts presented are reliable. However, there is no debate among scholars who wrote I Corinthians: Paul.

      I am only looking at PAUL'S statements of his "seeing" Jesus, not that of the author of Acts. And Paul gives ZERO indication that he had a vision or an hallucination.

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    14. I agree that Ehrman believes Paul to be truthful, but that belief is based on his understanding of what Paul is saying. If we were to find an authentic letter in which Paul claimed to have a seen a flying cow speaking French, we couldn't assume that Ehrman's assessment of Paul's credibility would be the same.

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    15. Now we are getting somewhere!

      I have no problem with you or anyone else saying: "I disagree with Ehrman. I accept that Paul was a real person, and that First Corinthians was written by Paul. I accept as true that Paul is not believed by scholars to have been a liar or "spinner of tall tales". But I do not agree with Ehrman that Paul is a credible source regarding the alleged Resurrection of Jesus because Paul claims in First Corinthians to have seen a resurrected dead man, along with claiming that 500-plus other persons saw a resurrected dead man, and since it is impossible for a dead man to be resurrected, Paul could NOT have seen a resurrected dead man, and therefore Paul is NOT a credible source for facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth."

      But if you and the other readers who have commented on this blog post are saying that based on Paul's own statements in First Corinthians, Paul had an hallucination, or a vivid dream, in which be THOUGHT he saw a flesh and blood Jesus, then you are doing EXACTLY what fundamentalist Christians do: reading into the stated facts your preconceived prejudices for the purpose of denying the plain, simple facts because you don't like them!

      If you want to think that Paul was a wacko, that is fine, but don't try to convince anyone that Paul saw Jesus in his hallucinations or vivid dreams when Paul says no such thing.

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    16. Here’s the problem: Acts may not be an accurate depiction of Paul’s experience, but at the very least it tells us what people of that time thought Paul’s experience might have been. I can’t see any reason to assume that Paul is talking about seeing a flesh and blood Jesus when people who were close to Paul in time and culture did not think he was.

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    17. How do you know that Acts was written by people who were close to Paul in time and culture? According to Ehrman, all the books of the NT, except for the eight or nine that we are sure that Paul wrote, could be legend. Someone heard the story of Paul's conversion, and then told someone else, who changed it a little, and told someone else, and on and on.


      You skeptics seem to want to have it both ways! You want to say that we can't trust the facts in the Book of Acts because we really don't know who wrote it and when, but yet you want to base your view of what really happened when Saul/Paul was converted, not on Paul's own statements, but based on a source you question as reliable!

      Again, you are using the same method to confirm your belief as that of fundamentalist Christians: "I don't want to be proven wrong, therefore I will find any excuse possible to deny the glaring truth."

      Paul says he "saw". Period.

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    18. Gary,

      The question is what Paul meant by "saw" or by "appear." How do you go about answering that question?

      People who are much closer to Paul's time and culture than you or I thought it might have meant that he saw a light or heard a voice. Although we may not be able to use Acts to establish what really happened, we can certainly use it to establish what its author thought happened.

      In Matthew 1:20, it says that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. That tells me that some people around that time might interpret a dream as a genuine appearance of a heavenly being. Maybe some of the appearances listed in 1 Cor. 15 were based on dreams.



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    19. Yes, you COULD be right, Vinny, "some" of the appearances might have been in dreams.

      But ALL five hundred plus??

      Not likely.

      And notice that the author of the Gospel of Matthew specifically states that Joseph "saw" the angel in a dream. Paul never uses the word "dream", "vision", "hallucination", "cloud formation", etc.

      Again, I would say that you skeptics are grasping at straws to hold on to your belief system. I, on the other hand, have demonstrated that presented with sufficient evidence, I will adjust my belief system:

      Cases in point:

      I no longer believe that the printed Bible or even the existing manuscripts are inerrant in every point of minute detail.

      I have admitted that I am wrong that no current Jew would believe that a dead man could be the Messiah.

      I would like to see if some of you skeptics have the same "guts" to admit the same: Paul never insinuates that when he says "I have seen" that he meant anything other than "I saw him with my own two eyeballs." You seem desperate to hold onto your belief that the unverifiable writer of Acts is more trustworthy than Paul himself!!

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  24. Dagood,

    When I first started my discussions with you I thought I could prove that there was enough evidence for the Resurrection to convince a modern jury and win a verdict. You showed me to be wrong.

    I don't think that the testimony of one credible witness will most likely sway every member of the jury, or even the majority, that a supernatural event occurred...but I believe that it is enough to sway at least a few members of the jury. And that is why some devout Jews did believe.

    Is there an example of any other Jewish messiah "pretender" in all of history whose movement continued after he was killed?

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  25. Did Paul witness a supernatural event or did he have a vision? Are the two the same?

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    1. Well, let’s put Paul on the witness stand, or since he is dead, his written testimony on the witness stand. We will then each have to answer your question, Zoe, by using our own reason and common sense, looking at what evidence we do have, just as would every member of any jury:

      From our hypothetical witness stand, in our hypothetical court, the verified, written testimony of a very credible witness (certified by none other than Biblical scholar, Bart Ehrman) Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul, a former devout Jewish scholar, is read aloud. This is his testimony:

      “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” ---Paul, I Corinthians 9:1

      “Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”
      ---Paul, I Corinthians 15:1-9

      It takes a very clever attorney to convince a jury that “I have seen” refers to an illusion in a dream or vision, when the words “dream” or “vision” never appear in the testimony. Why not just accept that “I have seen” really meant exactly what most people mean for that phrase to mean: I saw something with my own two eyeballs!

      Dictionary definition of “to see”: to notice or become aware of (someone or something) by using your eyes.


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    2. did paul write in english then?

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    3. Here it is in Greek with several English translations:

      Stephens 1550 Textus Receptus
      ouk eimi apostolos ouk eimi eleuqeros ouci ihsoun criston ton kurion hmwn ewraka ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw

      Scrivener 1894 Textus Receptus
      ouk eimi apostolos ouk eimi eleuqeros ouci ihsoun criston ton kurion hmwn ewraka ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw

      Byzantine Majority
      ouk eimi apostolos ouk eimi eleuqeros ouci ihsoun criston ton kurion hmwn ewraka ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw

      Alexandrian
      ouk eimi eleuqeros ouk eimi apostolos ouci ihsoun ton kurion hmwn eoraka ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw

      Hort and Westcott
      ouk eimi eleuqeroV ouk eimi apostoloV ouci ihsoun ton kurion hmwn eoraka ou to ergon mou umeiV este en kuriw

      Latin Vulgate
      9:1 non sum liber non sum apostolus nonne Iesum Dominum nostrum vidi non opus meum vos estis in Domino

      King James Version
      9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

      American Standard Version
      9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?

      Bible in Basic English
      9:1 Am I not free? am I not an Apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are you not my work in the Lord?

      Darby's English Translation
      9:1 Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

      Douay Rheims
      9:1 Am not I free? Am not I an apostle? Have not I seen Christ Jesus our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord?

      Noah Webster Bible
      9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are ye not my work in the Lord?

      Weymouth New Testament
      9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? Can it be denied that I have seen Jesus, our Lord? Are not you yourselves my work in the Lord?

      World English Bible
      9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven't I seen Jesus Christ, our Lord? Aren't you my work in the Lord?

      Young's Literal Translation
      9:1 Am not I an apostle? am not I free? Jesus Christ our Lord have I not seen? my work are not ye in the Lord?

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    4. as pointed out by others here, the accounts in acts differ, and some say that the other people with paul either did not see anything, or did not hear anything. (from a brief perusal, it appears that there is some ambiguity between heard vs understood in the translations). if it was a physical appearance of jesus, you would expect that everyone present would be able to see him, no? since according to some accounts in acts, not everyone saw/heard the same thing, that would lend credence to it being a vision rather than an physical appearance.

      and if it was a vision, paul's own words translated as "saw" and "revealed" would also fit. was revelation also a bunch of physical experiences, or a vision? does revelation also use the words "saw" and "revealed" and such?

      as for me, given all the other distortions and inconsistencies in the bible, my opinion doesn't hang on this one event. but i do find it ambiguous. and considering that about 1/3 of clergy actually do not believe in a physical resurrection (ie, people that have studied this issue far more than the laity), a "vision" interpretation is not far-fetched at all.

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    5. IF Acts was written by Luke, Luke is repeating second hand information. If someone other than Luke wrote Acts, which is possible since the author of the book of Acts never mentions his name, then we possibly have some repeating a story that has been retold several times, and the facts could by slightly distorted.

      But there is no question among scholars that Paul wrote I Corinthians and no where in I Corinthians does Paul suggest that he or anyone else had a vision or hallucination of a resurrected dead man.

      You are reading something into the plain simple English that is not there, just because you don't want to believe what the plain, simple English (or Greek) says.

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    7. (Sorry for the deleted comment notices, but I hate leaving typos in my comments.)

      Let's try something. Let's replace the name of Christ with Abraham Lincoln, and all the persons that Paul said saw Christ with the names of persons commenting on this blog, and see what we get:

      For I,DagoodS, delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Abraham Lincoln died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Vinnie, then to SGL and eleven of his closest friends. 6 Then he appeared to Zoe, Liza and more than five hundred of their friends at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to Alice , then to all the readers of this blog article. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me, DagoodS.

      Now, the only possible way any of you would believe that ALL these persons were having the same hallucination or seeing the same vision is if you insist on believing that since it is impossible for anyone to see a resurrected Abraham Lincoln, then it is impossible that any of these people really SAW him.

      You are all reading into Paul's very clear statement your own prejudices: that what Paul says that they all saw was impossible, so therefore, they had to all have been hallucinating the same hallucination.

      That sounds as ridiculous as a fundamentalist Christian saying that since the Pharisees used "Judas'" money to buy the Potter's Field, it is correct for one author of a NT book to say that JUDAS bought the field.

      Both fundamentalist Christians and the atheists commenting here are reading prejudices into very clear statements that should be accepted at face value: More than 500 people, including our credible witness, Paul, SAW a resurrected dead man.

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    8. no, i don't think i'm being as ridiculous as a fundamentalist.

      some of the other accounts of seeing jesus talk about them not recognizing him, and the account is more complete about the circumstances around it, and it's clear from the story that it meant they saw a physical body. there is nothing "supernatural" about the description of some of the encounters (ie, he's not a bright light, booming voice, etc), other than they don't recognize him at first, and that he's supposed to be dead. so i'm not arguing that those accounts are ambiguous in their description of whether they were interpreted as a physical event or a vision. (i just don't believe that it happened, and it may be due to them having visions, or may be rumors, who knows. but the text is not ambiguous in the way paul's encounter is) (also note, i'm not intimately familiar with all the jesus sightings, ie, i don't have dagoods memory, so i'm going with my vague memory here, and probably have some errors.)

      paul in 1 corinthians only mentions seeing jesus in passing, because the purpose of that letter was not to detail the encounter. it just says he "saw", without any detail on what that means, or elaborating on what else happened at that event. was he walking down the road, and a guy came up, shook his hand, and said "hi, i'm jesus," but everything else about the situation was normal? would paul have recognized what jesus looked like anyway? (especially given that some of jesus' followers who knew what he looked like didn't recognize him, according to other accounts.) would there have had to be some sort of supernatural part of the event for paul to even recognize jesus?

      without the accounts in acts, anything would be speculation. but with acts, which have more complete descriptions of the event(s), presumably at least started from paul's description to other people. and in acts, the descriptions clearly make it a much more supernatural event than some of the other detailed descriptions of jesus encounters. and furthermore, from the accounts in acts, it's not clear whether paul saw anything but a light and heard a voice, and whether his companions saw/heard anything too.

      so, could "saw a bright light and heard the voice of jesus" be condensed down to "saw jesus" in 1 corinthians when the purpose was not to describe the event but to say "i'm one of the special people that jesus talks to, so you should listen to me too?" i don't think that interpretation is anywhere near the pretzel logic that fundamentalists go thru at all.

      so let me ask this: based on the descriptions in acts of paul's conversion, did the authors of those passages think paul experienced a vision? or a physical presence of jesus? if the physical presence, how do you explain his companions not experiencing the same thing?

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    9. I'm the one who believes in the supernatural, remember?

      I believe that a (supernatural) human body, with a head, arms, and legs, that walks, talks, and eats, appeared to Saul in a resurrected form. How different was that resurrected form? I don't know but obviously it was a resurrected body different from the body that was placed in the tomb, because that mangled body would not have been able to even stand up unless it had been in an ICU on life support for four or five months. So this resurrected body had supernatural powers that the human body did not or did not demonstrate to others. This supernatural body appears and disappears to different people. It makes itself recognizable and unrecognizable. It walks through closed doors. It ascends into heaven.

      But, this resurrected body can be touched and can be watched to eat food and drink liquids. An image in a vision cannot be touched. This image can be touched.

      Did Paul touch this supernatural body? We don't know. But he met and knew two people who say that they did: Peter and James.

      To believe that Paul, Peter, and James did not discuss their experiences with the resurrected Jesus and compare "what he looked like" is preposterous and only believed by someone who doesn't WANT to believe.

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  27. Here is a quote from the Jewish source above:

    "Jews do not believe that Jesus was the mashiach (messiah). Assuming that he existed, and assuming that the Christian scriptures are accurate in describing him (both matters that are debatable), he simply did not fulfill the mission of the mashiach as it is described in the biblical passages cited above. Jesus did not do any of the things that the scriptures said the messiah would do.

    On the contrary, another Jew born about a century later came far closer to fulfilling the messianic ideal than Jesus did. His name was Shimeon ben Kosiba, known as Bar Kokhba (son of a star), and he was a charismatic, brilliant, but brutal warlord. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, believed that Bar Kokhba was the mashiach. Bar Kokhba fought a war against the Roman Empire, catching the Tenth Legion by surprise and retaking Jerusalem. He resumed sacrifices at the site of the Temple and made plans to rebuild the Temple. He established a provisional government and began to issue coins in its name. This is what the Jewish people were looking for in a mashiach; Jesus clearly does not fit into this mold. Ultimately, however, the Roman Empire crushed his revolt and killed Bar Kokhba. After his death, all acknowledged that he was not the mashiach."

    "All acknowledged that (Bar Kokhba) was NOT the (messiah)." Why? Answer: because he died! The Jewish messiah is not supposed to die. So if someone says that he is the messiah, and dies, he has just proved to all of Judaism, that he is NOT the messiah.

    Jesus didn't defeat the Romans. Jesus didn't even FIGHT the Romans. Jesus was a pacifist. Jesus didn't re-establish the throne of David, and...JESUS DIED!

    Why on God's green earth would Jews abandon a great Roman defeating, fierce Jewish warrior like Bar Kokhba immediately upon his death, but hundreds if not thousands of Jews would believe that pacifist Jesus was the Jewish messiah??

    It makes no sense...unless these Jews saw with their own eyes, evidence so incredible regarding Jesus of Nazareth, that convinced them, against every teaching they had ever heard about the Jewish messiah, that this pacifist peasant was the messiah.

    This, in my opinion, is the strongest support for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Without numerous Jews seeing for themselves, with their own eyes, a resurrected dead man who claimed to be the messiah, the Jesus story would have been laughed off as ludicrous by any and all Jews.

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    1. Millions of people throughout history have believed that Jesus was the Messiah without witnessing a supernatural appearance of the risen Christ. People are afraid of dying and the idea of living forever is very appealing. Why should we think that first century Jews found the idea any less appealing that you do?

      Assuming the existence of a historical Jesus (which I don't think is nearly as well evidenced as Ehrman does), I think that a handful of Jesus's followers could not handle the failure of his movement so they convinced themselves that Jesus's crucifixion was only a temporary setback that was really part of God's plan all along. They decided that God must be planning to raise Jesus up again which induced one or two of them to have visions of Jesus returned from the dead. From there the stories spread.

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    2. I concur with Vinnie's comment but I would also say that you talk about first century Jews as if they were a completely cohesive group. They weren't. There were many different strains of Judaism going on at the time. It's really not surprising that some Jews chose to believe and most didn't.

      As far as "seeing" Jesus. The portrayal of Paul's "seeing" Jesus in Acts is more like a vision than a person to person meeting. Acts specifically claims that the people with Paul did not see Jesus, but heard a voice.

      So, considering the description in Acts, it wouldn't be implausible that Paul's "seeing" Jesus is portrayed as a supernatural vision and not a physical meeting.

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    3. One of Dagood's criticisms of fundamentalist Christians is that they will grasp at any conceivable, far-fetched explanation to explain away an apparent discrepancy in the Bible. For instance, "who bought the Potter's Field"? Was it Judas Iscariot as one NT book states, or the Pharisees, as another NT book states? Some Christians have come up with the explanation that since it was Judas' money that the Pharisees used to purchase the field, technically speaking, Judas bought the field!

      What do I think of that explanation? BS!

      What do I believe happened? One of the NT books made an error. Either the original writer got this inconsequential detail incorrect, or a scribe making one of the first copies made a mistake.

      Christians who desperately look for any excuse to deny that an obvious error exists in the Bible are being ridiculous. But what about atheists who refuse to accept the obvious just because they do not want to accept ANY evidence that might ruin their theory that Christianity is bogus??

      As Bart Ehrman says, if you want NOT to believe something, just say that it could not have happened, so, therefore, it didn't happen.

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  28. On the issue of the likelihood of any devout, orthodox Jew, either in the first century or today, believing that there is any possibility that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah, ask the Jews themselves. Read the above Jewish website. They will tell you that it is absolutely impossible. The Jewish messiah will NOT die. There is no concept of a dead/resurrected messiah in Judaism...now or ever!

    As Bart Ehrman says in several of his books, convincing a Jew that dead Jesus was the Messiah, would be like someone telling a Christian that dead David Koresh, of the Branch Davidians, in Waco, TX, has been resurrected and is Lord God of Heaven and Earth, the Christian God.

    The idea is just absurd to ANY Jew.

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  29. Vinnie said, "Millions of people throughout history have believed that Jesus was the Messiah without witnessing a supernatural appearance of the risen Christ."

    Millions of Gentiles, yes. Millions of Jews?? No.

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  30. There is no concept of a dead/resurrected messiah in Judaism...now or ever!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chabad_messianism

    You are wrong and place too much emphasis on "what a devout Jew" would or wouldn't do. That's like saying what a christian would do....without acknowledging the many, substantive differences between christian denominations and groups.

    Even today "Jews" are not a cohesive group and are made up of many spectrums of belief and culture. You are thinking too simplistically about all of this.

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    1. Your reference is for a "messiah" from the 1950's. Do you have any sources that state that Jews in the first century AD would have accepted a peasant, pacifist, executed common criminal as the Jewish messiah?

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    2. You said "NOW or EVER."

      You see that you have to rethink the broad strokes you are using....because "now" has suddenly been eliminated. Could it be that you will have to re-evaluate "ever" in the same manner?

      Only a small number of Jews needed to believe that Jesus was the Messiah for Christianity to take off and explode. After that first generation, Christians were almost exclusively Gentiles and Christian theology began to develop and grow within a non-Jewish context.

      If you want one modern Jewish perspective on why exactly most Jews didn't take Jesus as Messiah, and still don't, you could read the book, "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus" by David Klinghoffer.

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    3. Yes, Liza, you have proven me wrong.

      The reference you give states that a group of Jews in New York believed that a dead rabbi was the messiah and a smaller number of those persons still believed he was that messiah after his death. So if your Wikipedia source is correct, which I will assume it is at least in general terms, then my "broad stroke" was wrong. However, I am going to do a little research and compare this Hasidic rabbi with Jesus and see how many "messiah qualities" each man had. I will bet that the rabbi fit the criteria...except for dying. But before I make another "broad brush", I will look it up.

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    4. Here is what I have found so far on JEWISH websites:

      "Judaism has known of movements centered around a dead rebbe. The Bratslever hassidic movement found no replacement for Rabbi Nachman after his death in the 19th century. That movement still flourishes (and its adherents are often called the toyte [dead] hassidim). Messianic fervor about a living hassidic rebbe also has a few precedents in the last three centuries. But there is absolutely no precedent for Jews to continue to consider a person the messiah after his death. Before 1993, no Jew, other than a Jew for Jesus, affirmed that a specific individual who had initiated a messianic mission and then died in an unredeemed world was actually the messiah."

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    5. Source:

      http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history/Jewish_World_Today/Denominations/Chabad-Lubavitch/Messianism.shtml

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    6. Here is another quote from the same Jewish article:

      Berger is an Orthodox rabbi who is a professor of Jewish history at Brooklyn College in New York. A few years ago he completed a term as president of the Association for Jewish Studies, one of the first Orthodox Jews ever to serve in that prestigious position. He is meticulously observant of halakhah, and is recognized around the world as a first-rate scholar. His area of specialization is the history of debates and polemics between Jews and Christians.

      For the last few years, Berger has been on a tireless, and generally lonely, campaign against the legitimization of the Jewish belief in a dead messiah. He has been trying, with very limited success, to get leading Orthodox rabbis to speak out against this belief. He did have one impressive success in 1996 at the convention of the Rabbinical Council of America, the body to which virtually all modern Orthodox or centrist Orthodox rabbis belong. By an overwhelming majority, the rabbis at that convention passed a resolution reading: "In light of disturbing developments which have arisen in the Jewish community, the Rabbinical Council of America in convention assembled declares that there is not and has never been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David [the Messiah, son of David] will begin his messianic mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it."

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    7. So it seems I was half right. There are orthodox Jews today who believe that a dead rabbi can be the messiah and that he will be resurrected. But...this is a new phenomenon in Judaism that only developed in the 1990's. So for the first almost 2,000 years of the Common Era (AD) the idea of a dead, resurrected messiah would have been unthinkable in Judaism. Since no Jew had ever heard of a dead messiah or a dead-then-resurrected messiah, why on earth would they believe that Jesus of Nazareth, who met NONE of the criteria to be the messiah, actually WAS the messiah.

      If Bar Kokhba didn't inspire his followers to believe that he would come back from the dead, and he met ALL the criteria for the Jewish messiah, why would Jews all over the Mediterranean believe that a pacifist peasant, nailed as a common criminal to a tree, was the messiah??

      So why would orthodox Jews, including an orthodox rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, who was actively persecuting Jews who were calling Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah, convinced to believe otherwise?

      Again. Possible? Yes. Probable? No way!

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    8. Something convinced these Jews that someone who had zero qualifications to be the Jewish messiah was truly the Messiah.

      I believe that something was... seeing a walking, talking, touchable, CORPSE!

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    9. "In short, ancient Jews at the turn of the era (first century AD) held a variety of expectations of what the future messiah would be like. But all these expectations had several things in common. In all of them the messiah would be a future ruler of the people of Israel, leading a real kingdom here on earth. He would be visibly and openly known to be God's special emissary, the anointed one. And he would be high and mighty, a figure of grandeur and power...

      Who would make up the idea of a crucified messiah? No Jew that we know of. And who were Jesus' followers in the years immediately after his death? Jews living in Palestine. It is no wonder that Paul found their views so offensive....a crucified criminal? That's worse than being crazy. It is an offense against God, blasphemous. Or so thought Paul.

      It is hard to imagine Jews inventing the idea of a crucified messiah, where did the idea come from? It came from historical realities.

      Source: Bart D. Ehrman
      "Did Jesus Exist", pages 163-164

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  32. I find it odd that skeptics want to believe the author of Acts over and above what Paul says himself in I Corinthians! But even if we accept the Acts account over Paul's own words, skeptics still have a problem: Skeptics seem to be gleeful to point out that Saul never says in Acts that he "saw" Jesus, so therefore, he could have simply had a vision or hallucination. But here is the problem: the author of Acts states that the men accompanying Saul heard the voice that was speaking to Saul, but they did not see anyone.

    So are skeptics saying that at the very same moment that Saul was having a visual hallucination that he "saw" Jesus, his traveling companions were having an auditory hallucination that they were hearing a voice out of thin air!

    Come on!

    Again, you skeptics are acting like fundamentalist Christians trying to desperately hold onto your belief system at all costs, no matter how ridiculous your arguments become, when faced with the simple facts.

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    1. Here is the text from Acts:

      But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one

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  33. Whew, Gary…take a breath!

    Some interesting background to soak in, here. First, let’s travel back to First Century Mediterranean Culture. People regularly experienced altered states of consciousness—moments of visionary illumination, dream states, and/or prophetic occurrences. In the Hebrew community, Pagan Community and Christian community. One should read literature of the time to get a flavor, such as the Assumption of Moses, or Book of Enoch for Jewish demonstration. Shepherd of Hermas or Revelation of John (or the Acts) for Christian experiences. Pagan stories were replete with interactions with Gods, prophecies, etc.

    This was not the 21st century. While kinda fun, we need to be careful to avoid directly analogizing court cases, Abraham Lincoln or what you and I would do today compared to their culture. We need to respect the culture for what it was. Not what we would do or say.

    Secondly, we have little information regarding Christianity’s infancy. We are left speculating and deriving the thoughts, issues, doctrines and claims from a few letters of Paul, and later gospels. All written with purposes aimed at recipients we can only stab at with a fair degree of certainly—always careful to remember our assessment must be qualified by our ignorance.

    The Corinthians questioned Paul’s authority. He refers to himself as an apostle in 1 Corinthians far more than any of his other writings. (The letter with the second most self-references to his apostleship is 2 Corinthians. E.g. 2 Cor. 12:11-12.) “Am I not an apostle?” 1 Cor. 9:1. “If to others I am not an apostle, as least I am to you…” 1 Cor. 9:2 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles…” 1 Cor. 12:28, giving preeminence to the apostle office. “For I am the least of the apostles…” 1 Cor. 15:9.

    The Corinthians did not universally consider Paul authoritative—“One of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ another ‘I follow Cephas,’ still another, ‘I follow Christ.’” 1 Cor. 1:12. Paul reasserts his authority to provide doctrinal direction regarding food, marriage, worship, etc. But what makes Paul an apostle? What were the qualifications necessary? While Christians can speculate, we are left with few writings informing us, and those are definitely one-sided. (If Paul did not meet a qualification expected by his recipients, would he list it? Of course not!)

    This is relevant, as Paul deliberately ties his apostleship to seeing Jesus. It appears reasonable to assume this was considered a qualification to the early church:

    1) “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” 1 Cor. 9:1

    2) “[A]nd last of all he appeared to me also as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…” 1 Cor. 15:8-10

    See Also:

    3) “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead….I want you to know, brothers and sisters, the good news I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:1-12

    4) “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows….for I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.” 2 Cor. 12:1-12.

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  34. O.K., now having established Paul claims to have seen Jesus (arguably more importantly for apostolic qualification than apologetic reasoning), what did this “sighting” entail? Unfortunately, Paul gives us no historical markers. When? Where? How long an appearance? How long after Jesus died? Was it when Paul was in heaven? On the Damascus Road? In his bed?

    On just the bare-bones statements of 1 Cor. 9 & 15, (taking into account the culture and Paul’s writing in Galatians 1 & 2 Cor. 12) it could be argued either a vision or a direct physical appearance. Neither position prevails.

    Luckily, we have more.

    Oddly, Christians often read 1 Cor. 15:1-11 and stop. Maybe later quote 1 Cor. 15:14 in another context and stop. I suggest reading all of 1 Cor. 15.

    Paul addressed varying doctrinal issues confronting the Corinthians. In chapter 15 we come to the problem, “What happens after we die?” To those growing up in America, with a constant cultural reference of Heaven, hell, souls, and afterlife permeating our social mediums, this may seem a strange question. To them, the problem was aligning various pagan and other theological constructs with what it was Christianity was teaching on the subject.

    Paul first assures them those who died before Christ came back will still receive a resurrection body. Christ was the “first fruits” and the rest will follow. What becomes interesting is how Paul describes this resurrection body. The Corinthians were understandably asking, “What kind of body will it be?” (vs. 35) Was it a Jewish belief of the actual body resuscitating? Or the Pagan belief of a spirit in the Underworld? This is Christianity hashing out the idea of halos, wings and floating up to meet Peter at the Gates. (bit of humor there.)

    Paul explains the physical body is not the same as a spiritual body. The physical body—the parts we see—is done. It rots, corrodes and turns to dust. But it seeds a spiritual body, not made of physical material. It is made of “heavenly” material—literally translated, “star-stuff bodies.” 1 Cor. 15:48. Something completely unlike a physical body—indeed Paul emphasizes a post-mortem physical body is an impossibility. 1 Cor. 15:50.

    Presuming Paul considered Jesus a physical person who died and was resurrected—Paul would assure us Jesus’ new appearance was anything BUT physical! While not necessarily what we would consider a vision (like a picture on a supernatural television), more like an encounter with a ghost—an apparition in apparent form we cannot touch, but can discern in some way. Whatever it was, it was nothing like the canonical gospel’s descriptions regarding Jesus’ appearances.

    Albeit, I would have to qualify this with Paul’s own qualification in 2 Cor. 12 where even he indicates his heavenly encounter may or may not be a vision or an encounter with star-stuff.

    Additionally, I think it important to note the author of Luke/Acts confidently writes on actual physical appearances to the disciples, yet when he comes to Paul, he avoids a physical encounter (even though it would be just as easy to write it in) and utilizes a visionary description. While I consider Acts’ polemic nature in recounting history, I am uncertain of any argument why the author would modify a physical encounter with Paul to a visionary one.

    It should be noted docetism arose in the late 1st, early 2nd Century, indicating Jesus’ resurrected body was in spiritual form. He wouldn’t leave footprints. (There is the argument Luke is directly addressing docetism in having Jesus eat. Discussion for another time.) While it is true we must be careful to never claim later beliefs or issues necessarily mean the same issues existed earlier, it is close enough in time to warrant caution.

    Is it remarkable a theist believing one thing so strongly they actively persecuted another theological belief comes to be convinced in the very theological belief they originally persecuted? Naw…deconversion NEVER happen unless it is true! *grin*

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    1. I'm not stating that it is an impossibility that a first century Jew would convert to Christianity unless they had seen a walking, talking corpse. I'm just saying that it would be a very difficult hurdle to get over convincing a first century Jew that the Jewish Messiah had just been killed by the enemies of Israel, has been resurrected from the dead, AND has absolutely no intention of re-establishing an earthly Jewish kingdom.

      I'm also trying to point out that you and the other skeptics on this blog seem extremely resistant to take Paul at his word when he said "have I not SEEN the Christ" either because you have disallowed the possibility that he actually did see a body, not just a ghost, or you just do not want to believe he saw a body, so you jump to the account in Acts to discredit Paul's statements in I Corinthians.

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    2. Gary,

      I have not disallowed the possibility. I have weighed the probability. Given everything I have learned and observed concerning how the world works and how the human mind works, I have to assess a hallucination or vivid dream as more likely to have been Paul's experience than an actual physical encounter with a resurrected victim of crucifixion. What possible basis could I have for concluding otherwise other than wishful thinking?

      By the way, I apply the exact same standard to other reIigions' supernatural claims. I don't believe that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from Golden Plate using magic seer stones either, even though I have no doubt that he truly claimed that it happened that way and may have actually believed that it did.

      But it's not only that I think it unlikely that Paul had a physical encounter with the risen Christ. I am honestly uncertain whether Paul is claiming that he did because, as I pointed out, perceive or detect as if by sight is a perfectly normal and reasonable definition of the word "see."

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  35. I will happily admit that Paul never insinuates that he means something other than “saw with my own two eyeballs.” Of course, he also never insinuates that he means“saw with my own two eyeballs.” That doesn't really help us though because the word “see” already includes both possibilities. Look at the first definition in Merriam-Webster. see 1 s: to perceive by the eye b : to perceive or detect as if by sight.(emphasis added) Whenever a word has multiple definitions, it is perfectly legitimate to consider context to determine which meaning was intended.

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    1. Again, I don't believe that I have presented enough "evidence" to convince a jury or a hard core skeptic of the Resurrection. But I do think that there IS evidence for the Christian claim of the Resurrection, unlike what some skeptics on this blog and others say.

      What do we know about Christianity that is accepted historical fact by most scholars:

      1. Jesus of Nazareth existed.
      2. Jesus of Nazareth performed miracles.
      3. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans in the 30's AD.
      4. Paul was an historic person living at approximately the same time as Jesus of Nazareth.
      5. Bart Ehrman, a renowned NT scholar, believes that Paul is a credible source for information on Jesus of Nazareth.
      6. Ehrman believes Paul's written testimony when Paul says that he met with Peter and James, the chief disciple and the brother of Jesus.
      7. The letter of I Corinthians is a letter written by Paul.

      So does this information prove that Paul, Peter, and James saw a walking, talking corpse? No. But it takes a real stretch of the imagination to believe that these three men would spend 15 days together and not compare "notes" on the image or body that each "saw" and believed to be the risen Jesus.

      This testimony IS evidence, and it is much more evidence than believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

      It may not be enough to convince Dagood, Liz, Vinny, Zoe, or SGL, but it is evidence, and it convinces me.

      This is the point I have been trying to make: Christianity does have evidence to support its claims of a resurrected messiah. We don't have a video tape, but neither do we have a video tape of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, but we Christians have one credible witness who supports our position. How many other events in Antiquity have the written testimony of a witness to the event?

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    2. So what if they compared notes? That doesn't tell us whether they compared notes about a walking talking corpse, a flash of light, or a dream.

      BTW, Ehrman doesn't think that Paul provides us much information about Jesus of Nazareth although he does seem to think that Paul is a truthful person. Personally, I don't see much basis to make a judgment on that.

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    3. Can I prove to you that Paul, Peter, and James discussed their "visions" of Jesus when they were together for 15 days?

      No.

      But if Vinny, Dagood, and I spent 15 days together, and we each believe that we had seen the same walking, talking corpse at some point in the recent past...do you REALLY believe for one second that we would spend those 15 days together without "comparing notes" on what we think we saw"??

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    4. So let's pretend that Paul saw a vision when he said he "saw" Christ. But Peter saw a vision? James saw a vision? All the other apostles saw a vision? The five hundred all at once saw a vision?

      Wow. That is a lot of devout Jews having visions of a dead-then-resurrected messiah! A dead messiah who does ZIP toward restoring the Throne of David and establishing a mighty Jewish nation from which he will rule the world.

      Slam dunk evidence for the Resurrection? Nope. None of you are going to buy it. But it IS evidence.

      I and over a billion other Christians do have evidence, other than blind faith, to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah and that a supernatural resurrection did occur.

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  36. Paul says he saw a resurrected Christ.
    Paul says he knows at least two other persons who "saw" the same resurrected Christ---Peter and James.

    Paul says that most of the 500 persons who he has been told saw Christ at the same time, are still alive. Did Peter and James tell him this? I would bet they did or they at least confirmed it during those 15 days together with him.

    Bottom line: a devout, orthodox Jewish rabbi believed that a man, who had NONE of the characteristics of the promised Messiah, who was killed as a common criminal, WAS the messiah...and he was willing to die for that belief.

    Enough for you, Vinny? I doubt it. But it's enough for me.

    Peace, friend!

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    1. When I was in grammar school in the 1960's, the nuns told me stories about the Virgin Mary's appearances at Fatima in 1917 and how tens of thousands of people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. Many of those witnesses were alive at the time the nuns were telling me the stories, although I don't recall whether the nuns specifically mentioned that. Is that good enough for you? It was for me then, but it's not anymore.

      As I have since learned, there was a lot of exaggeration between the time of the original events at Fatima and the time that the nuns told me those stories. Although there were thousands of people at Fatima that day, only a small fraction reported what they saw, and those reports varied widely. Some people reported seeing nothing at all.

      As the story of the appearance to the 500 isn't found in any of the gospels, I wouldn't bet on Paul having gotten it from any of Jesus's original followers. My guess would be that he picked it up while he was still an enemy of the Christians. I suspect like the nuns, Paul was simply passing on a story he heard that he believed to be true.

      Mormon children are told stories about the Eight Witnesses who were showed the Golden Plates by Joseph Smith and the Three Witnesses who were showed them by the Angel Moroni. The Mormons even have signed affidavits from those witnesses. That's not good enough for me either. I think that some taffy is being distributed.

      It is possible that every appearance described in the New Testament was a genuine corporeal encounter with the risen Jesus, but I think I have very good reason to believe that dead people overwhelmingly stay dead and very good reason to believe that supernatural stories are overwhelmingly the product of human foibles like superstition, ignorance, delusion, wishful thinking, gullibility, exaggeration and prevarication. Therefore, I have to assess it as more likely than not that naturally explicable events are at the root of the appearance stories.

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    2. You absolutely right, Vinny. Just based on one man's testimony, stating that he saw a French-speaking cow fly, even if that testimony was from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy...I wouldn't believe it. A flying, talking cow is a supernatural event that defies the laws of science. Justice Kennedy must have been drinking some good Scotch that day to have thought he saw and heard it.

      So it takes something more than just one credible man's testimony that a supernatural event occurred. It takes faith. And you either have faith or you don't. Faith is either ignorance, superstition, wishing thinking...or another supernatural event...a gift from God.

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    3. It seems more a faith in Paul to me than a faith in the truth of Christianity. If Paul had a vision (which yes he saw with his own two eyes) (and that wasn't a supernatural event) that isn't enough for me . . . and obviously I have not received the gift from God.

      Again, those who receive are blessed and for some reason the rest are cursed.

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    4. Gary,

      Maybe faith is a gift from God, but even if it isn't, there may still be reasonable grounds for religious belief. It may be that religion is actually the best available way to meet psychological and social needs that have been hard-wired into the human psyche by evolution. It may be that religion's overall contribution to health and well being is still positive. What scientists know about how the human mind works is still only a tiny fraction of what they don't know. I have little patience with atheists who insist that people would be better off without religious beliefs because I don't think that we have enough evidence to make that determination.

      However, I don't think that religious belief can ever be justified based on the historical evidence for any supernatural event. The ship has sailed on that justification and there's no way to bring it back. Moreover, I think that the intellectual gymnastics that a person must go through in order to convince themselves that their religious belief is evidence based have a marked tendency to infect their thinking on a wider range of topics where sound empirical reasoning would serve them--and society--much better.

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    5. You are right to a point, Vinny, but what "evidence" do we have for most of the events in Antiquity? Not alot.

      I don't believe that Christians can PROVE the Resurrection. I watched a debate between an evangelical Christian, Dr. Craig, and Bart Ehrman. The Christian was using mathematical calculations to "prove" the Resurrection. I thought it was ridiculous.

      But Christians have more than just wishful thinking, such as that for Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. We, at a minimum, have one, devout, Jewish rabbi who saw something, and due to whatever he saw, he was convinced to believe that a dead man who had none of the qualities of the Messiah, was the Messiah.

      Yes, Zoe, I am putting a lot of faith in Paul. But it is impossible to believe any event occurred in Antiquity without faith. Any event in Antiquity could be an elaborate myth. We each must make a choice whether or not we want to believe what little evidence we have for something that happened in the very distant past.

      And no, Zoe, some of you are not cursed. Only the Calvinists believe that God has selected some people to be cursed. The rest of us believe that ALL have the opportunity to have faith and to be saved.

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    6. I think the evidence for the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is pretty good, but beyond that, I would agree that most events in antiquity are subject to considerable uncertainty. But for me, the obvious implication of that is that I should not make any major life choices dependent on whether or not a particular such event took place.

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    7. I don't see the choice Gary. It isn't a choice if it is a "gift" given by God. It's as though what you are really holding on to is faith in the fact that you have received that gift from God. The rest of you believe that faith is a gift from God. If the Giver does not give it, we are cursed.

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    8. Zoe, if you think that the Christian belief in a Resurrection is silly, you will really laugh when you hear the Lutheran position on Predestination: We believe in Single Predestination. God selects who goes to heaven but does NOT select who goes to hell. Calvinists think we are ridiculous and contradictory. We call it a "paradox". God said that he wants all to be saved and he said that he has elected only some, so we choose to believe both.

      I won't try to debate you on this one. :)

      It has been nice conversing with you, Zoe.

      Peace.

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    9. I know you were addressing Zoe but I'd like to say something about this.

      I'm pretty familiar with this concept, though I was never a Lutheran. I was Southern Baptist. Anyway I do get that bit about you believing that God has elected some to be saved, like a remnant to himself; so he knows for certain he'll have some he's chosen. I can also wrap my mind around the concept that he hasn't selected anyone for hell. The rest of the people he didn't choose as "elected" get to make up their own minds. The elect just think they've made up their minds because they're just so enamoured with God that they can't imagine choosing anything differently.

      Now it's the rest of those who he hasn't specifically elected who tread on thin ice. They get to choose. But I also think this is what Zoe is referring to. Whether or not one believes in "election" is irrelevant, really. Either God has chosen some to be his special pets and the rest are kind of on their own or God has chosen some to be his pets and the rest are predestined for hell. Either way doesn't seem very....loving. Is faith a gift? We've(most of us) tried to accept the gift. We've hunted high and low for the gift. I guess we just aren't doing it right? Another paradox. We aren't supposed to have to do anything.

      I get your paradox. It's just not that comforting, really.

      I understand the concept, I just don't believe it or agree with it.

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    10. Well, the Lutheran concept is a little different than what you describe, and I will admit, it is a really hard concept to grasp and to believe. When I first heard it, coming from my Three-point Calvinist Baptist background, it sounded pretty ridiculous.

      Lutherans believe that NO ONE has the capability to choose to be believe, just as do the Calvinists. But unlike the Calvinists, we believe that God has not chosen anyone to go to hell; God wants all to be saved; Jesus shed his blood for all; that the sins of all have been objectively forgiven; and that all have an equal opportunity to be saved; and it is only due to a stubborn refusal to believe that some persons do go to hell. So if someone goes to hell, it isn't God's fault, they went to hell by their choice.

      However...we also believe that God has elected/appointed/chosen his Elect prior to the creation of the world, and unlike (Arminian) Baptists, we do not believe he chose people based on the fact that he knew that in the future THEY would choose him. We don't have any idea how he picked the Elect.

      Luther said that this was the most complicated and difficult Christian doctrine to understand. He advised not getting off into the weeds on it.

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    11. Ruth said, "Is faith a gift? We've(most of us) tried to accept the gift. We've hunted high and low for the gift. I guess we just aren't doing it right?"

      The Lutheran answer to this would be: Do you WANT to believe? Do you WANT the gift? To us, that is enough. Be baptized (if you aren't already), read the Bible, go to church, receive the Sacrament, pray, and leave the believing part to God. Your part is to obey. Unlike evangelicals, Lutherans do not believe it is necessary to feel that you believe or feel the presence of God. In fact, we don't believe that it is necessary to KNOW you believe to be saved. Why? Because salvation is not dependent on YOU at all. Salvation is an objective act of God---in baptism---it isn't something that you do. Show up or have some one bring you to the waters of baptism, and God does the rest. And your salvation is secure, regardless of the quantity of your faith, or even your perception that you have ANY faith, as long as you do not reject God and live a life of willful sin.

      But...I am going to be accused of proselytizing if I continue, so if you want to continue this discussion, contact me on my blog. Dagood linked it above in his article.

      Take care.

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    12. I get what you're saying. I'm just not sold.

      I could WANT to believe a million things that aren't so. If they aren't then I'm wasting my time. I don't think I lack understanding, but if the proof isn't there and there's not a reason to believe then it's kind of pointless.

      Are you saying one has to be physically baptized to be saved?

      And finally, I think that one doesn't have to attend church to be saved or believe they're saved. Based on what you're saying, that you don't have to believe to believe, then there's probably gonna a whole lotta atheists in heaven. :)

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  37. Gary,

    Of course there is evidence for the Christian claim of the Resurrection. But…so what? There is equally evidence for a geocentric solar system (we do see the sun move across the sky after all), there is evidence 9/11 was a governmental set-up... there is even evidence the Holocaust did not happen.

    Problems arise when we deliberately limit our scope to solely reviewing evidence supporting our desired position. When we look at all the planetary movements, a sol centric solar system answers all the evidences more than a geocentric solar system; looking at all the evidences demonstrate 9/11 was the work of foreign terrorists and the holocaust did happen.

    You seem adamant we should legitimize or sanction your own position because you have some evidence in support of your claim. But I have pointed out other evidences (see the extended comments above) and you have ignored them. I have pointed out suggested reading material and you deliberately refused to even review them!

    Why should we find your position credible when we know far more evidences, our position answers far more evidences than your own postulation, and you won’t even look (let alone address) any countering evidences? In fact, your study with Ehrman has evidently demonstrated you recognize exactly what those other evidences will lead to, and you decided to go no further.

    To (again) gild this willful embrace of ignorance under the guise of “faith” is demonstrated for a façade. You may call it “faith”; we call it “fear.”

    The God you have created in your mind is afraid. Afraid of possible opposing evidence, afraid of countering position, afraid to even look for fear your belief will not sustain.

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    1. Well, first I must correct you, Dagood: I'm not trying to convince any of you, I am trying to convince myself.

      I don't think that any of you will believe the validity of the Christian Faith based on ONE man's written testimony that a supernatural event, that defies all the laws of science, really occurred. Bottom line: you either believe Paul's testimony or you don't.

      And most or all of you won't.

      Why do I believe him? Ask the juror who is the only hold out why he or she disagrees with the other eleven. Is he wrong? He saw the same evidence, How did he arrive at a completely different conclusion?

      So why don't I want to read more anti-Christian literature? As I said, its because there is still a part of me that is a fundamentalist: "Either every detail in the Bible is historical fact or it is all bullshit."

      I only abandoned that way of thinking within the last two months! I am still in the process of deconverting from fundamentalism. Give me some time to recover, and then I may be willing to read your material, which will confirm why I am correct to NOT be a fundamentalist; not that I shouldn't be a Christian.

      Can your books "prove" that Jesus was not resurrected in a supernatural event? No.
      Can your books prove that God did not give his Sacred Word to the authors of the Bible? No.
      You can't prove any of my current beliefs because my current beliefs are based on supernatural events and the testimony of one credible man living two thousand years ago.

      So Dagood, you may have some damning evidence against Christian fundamentalism, but you have nothing that proves the supernatural has not occurred nor that it does not occur today.

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  38. Gary,

    You have acknowledged that the evidence you have is not really conclusive evidence. You even stated that you would no long try to convince anyone of the resurrection based on evidence because you acknowledge that it is a supernatural event that cannot be proven by evidence.

    You've also acknowledged that you willfully are refusing to read opposing positions and evidence for fear of where it may lead.

    I'm wondering why you are still trying to provide evidence where you know the only evidence is weak, at best. It's enough for you. I get that. It's hard to let go of your faith. I wouldn't even suggest you do that if it's going to cost you more emotionally and relationally than you're prepared to deal with.

    Some of us couldn't continue to pretend that the evidence wasn't there that led us out of our faith. That's all.

    Who are you trying to convince here? Us or yourself? I really don't mean that to sound harsh, though it may. I'm just trying to understand what you want to accomplish.

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    1. (see my comment above to Dagood)

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    2. I see, Gary. Well, much luck to you. I can remember being on this journey, myself. It was fraught with wringing hands, fear, and worry. Addressing the fear: fear of the unknown, fear that Christianity might not be true, fear that it was and that I didn't or couldn't know which flavor was true. I get that.

      It is a painful experience; finding out most of, if not everything, that you once believed isn't as rock-solid as you had thought. So yes, it takes time to recover; time to go through the stages of...well...grief.

      On the other side, though, I can tell you it does get better. One day you might even breathe a big sigh of relief. You might not believe that now, but it will come.

      Even if you never fully de-convert - because I don't think that's what any of us are after either - it's nice to know you've been open-minded enough to rethink your fundamentalist position. Most of us don't really care what individuals believe so long as they're not trying to foist it onto the rest of us. Your honesty about just WANTING to believe is really rather refreshing. I can remember when I wanted to believe, too.

      I'm sure that DagoodS and Bruce and the many others here will be glad to help you in the process if you want it.

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    3. A great comment Ruth.

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    4. Thank you for your comment, Ruth.

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  39. Dear Readers of Dagood's blog, DagoodS, Bruce Gerenscer, and his blog readers:

    I want to thank each one of you for taking the time to participate in this discussion. What has it accomplished? Answer: you have helped me to deconvert from Christian fundamentalism. You have helped me to see that the apparent discrepancies in the Bible ARE discrepancies and some of them are outright errors and a few are fabrications. The fundamentalist position on the inerrancy of the printed Bible is untenable. You have helped me to see that.

    I now believe that only God's Word is inerrant. I believe that the Bible contains God's Word, but I do not believe that every word in my printed Bible is necessarily a word that came straight out of God's mouth. Many conservative Christians, even in my own denomination, will now consider me a liberal for taking this position. But I accept that. I still believe that every story mentioned in the Bible occurred, I just don't believe that all the details must be 100% accurate to believe it.

    My conversation with you has also made me a more compassionate, kinder, less judgmental person. Thank you. I wish you all health, peace, and happiness!

    Your friend,
    Gary

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    1. If this is farewell, I'd recommend as you continue on your journey to look closer at who Paul was. I think you put more weight on who he is or who he says he is or who you think he is than is called for. I loved what DagoodS shared with you above about the times Paul lived in. There's so much more going on in antiquity than what you see on the pages of a Bible. There's so much more to read than Ehrman. Keep in mind that given the passage of time and given knew discoveries and research scholars if they live long enough change their minds.

      I wish you well.

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  40. No, Gary, let me clarify. You give the impression you are trying to convince us your position has legitimacy—NOT that you are trying to convince us of your position. (And perhaps you are trying to simply convince yourself.) As if to say, “Well, Christianity may not be able to prove its claims to anyone else, but at least it has the right to sit at the table when comparing historical possibilities.” Yet once you claim it requires faith…not evidence…faith provided by another agent and unattainable by any of our own efforts, this removes even the thought that Christian allegations have any historical legitimacy at all.

    This makes history determinate upon whether God chooses to give a person ooey-gooey warm fuzzies about the arguments.

    Gary: “Can your books ‘prove’" that Jesus was not resurrected in a supernatural event? No….”

    *shrug* Depends what your standard of proof is. Can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt? Probably not. Can they prove it is more likely than not? Definitely. You demonstrate your own belief (by your avoidance of the evidence) the information preponderates Jesus was not resurrected.

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    1. As I have said all along, my friend, there is NOT enough evidence of the Resurrection to convince a modern jury. But there is enough so that the belief in the Resurrection cannot be compared to the belief that there is a Santa Claus who lives at the North Pole and flies through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

      That is all I'm trying to prove, for myself, and maybe for any other Christian reading this blog (and they are because they are sending me emails saying that they are.)

      Let me state for all to read: the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth CANNOT be proven. It has to be believed by faith in a supernatural God and by faith in one credible man's testimony.

      I will leave you in peace, my friend. I appreciate what I have learned from you. I wish you the best.

      I will not comment on this post again. I do not want to be accused of proselytizing.

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  41. Have any of us accused you of proselytizing? I'm unaware of if so. I'm not surprised however if you've used this for the benefit of the Christian lurkers who have emailed you.


    You said: "Let me state for all to read: the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth CANNOT be proven. It has to be believed by faith in a supernatural God and by faith in one credible man's testimony."

    I thought you said that the "faith in a supernatural God" is given by that God. Then it can be believed, right?

    How can we choose if God already has?

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    1. From Dagood's last comment I got the impression that he thought I was proselytizing and Ruth seemed to suggest it also, but maybe I misunderstood both. I am happy to continue if some of you, and especially, Dagood, wants to continue the discussion.

      By the way, I received the emails I mentioned last evening, so this "whole" discussion has not been a put on for other Christians, it has been all about ME.

      If you don't believe it, check out my own blog. I very nearly abandoned Christianity after my fundamentalist beliefs were shattered by Bart Ehrman, Bruce Gerencser, and DagoodS.

      So I will continue the discussion until Dagood wants it to end.

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    2. Since belief/faith is given by God, by the power of his Word, in Holy Baptism, an objective, not subjective act...a Christian does not need to worry about the strength of his faith or even the existence of faith because God promises to give it in HIS act of Baptism. To Lutherans, the sinner/convert does not actively participate in his conversion. He shows up and is present for God to do the saving. That's it.

      All a Christian needs to do is OBEY: Be baptized. Go to mass. Receive the Sacrament. Love your neighbor as yourself. Follow the Ten Commandments.

      Baptists and evangelicals will look at this Lutheran belief and say, "Aha! You Lutherans believe that you are saved by Good Works!" We respond, "No, we believe we are UN-SAVED by a lack of works. We are saved by God's act.

      The baptized Christian who attempts to follow God's commands need never worry about "not making it in". It is the Christian who ignores or rejects the commands of God who should worry.

      Ruth asked a question above. I will answer it here: Does a person have to be baptized to be saved?

      No. There is only one Christian Church that believes that without baptism you cannot get into heaven: The Church of Christ.

      The RCC, the EOC, Anglicans, and Lutherans believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation in that one cannot refuse to be baptized, but an adult who hears the Gospel and converts, but before he can make it to the river to be baptized, he is stepped on and killed by an elephant, WILL get into heaven. He was saved at the moment of conversion.

      So what do Lutherans believe happens to individual nonbelievers when they die? We don't know. We leave that up to God. It is our job to share the Good News, not determine who is and who is not going to heaven.

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    3. Where does the good news come from Gary? I think the bad news you don't worry about comes from the Bible too.

      I find all your explanations about "salvation" extremely confusing. God gives the gift of faith. He knows before hand. I don't see in your theology how then it's up to us to obey when technically we don't have a choice. God chooses.

      Clearly I wasn't chosen.

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    4. I agree with you that Lutheran theology is confusing...but the Bible is confusing. So to deal with a confusing, seemingly contradictory Bible, Lutherans teach that we should believe what God says, even if what God says makes no sense and seems contradictory. Our belief system is much more supernaturally based than is that of the Calvinists. Calvinists want God and the Christian Faith to at least make sense. Lutherans do not have this requirement. We are ok with God not making sense.

      This is a very foreign concept to our Calvinist dominated culture here in the United States.

      So, choosing God and choosing to be saved is an impossibility in Lutheran theology because we believe that sinners are spiritually dead. Dead man are not capable of "making a decision for Christ". Dead men don't do anything (spiritually). However, once God "quickens" the sinner's spiritually dead soul by hearing or reading the Word, that person becomes spiritually alive and thereafter capable of choosing to follow and obey God or choosing to reject God and willfully sin.

      So to an (Arminian) Baptist or evangelical the sinner has a free will to choose God and salvation, but once saved, cannot choose to be unsaved.

      In Lutheran theology, the sinner has no ability to choose God or choose to be saved, but once God has chosen him or her, he or she immediately has the free will to reject the gift of faith, and lose their salvation. Sinners can't request or "accept" the gift, but believers can reject it.

      You said, "Clearly I wasn't chosen."

      How do you know that? Would you LIKE to believe? That is the issue.

      If you would like to believe---call up any Christian church in your town and tell the priest/pastor that you want to be baptized. I would suggest you seek out a non-evangelical church because some of them will demand that you state that you definitely believe before they will baptize you. Most other Christian churches will baptize you just because you WANT to believe.

      Just wanting to believe is enough to be baptized. After being baptized, go to church, partake of the Sacrament/Lord's Supper, love your neighbor, and follow the Ten Commandments. Lutherans believe that if you allow yourself to be baptized in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, even though you aren't sure that you believe or that you ever will believe, it doesn't matter, God WILL save you. After that, obey him, and the belief and faith will come, slow and faint at times, but it will come.

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    5. The "Good News" is that eternal salvation is available to all. "Seek and you will find".

      So even someone who lives in a non-Christian country with no access to the Bible or to Christians, can find God if he seeks.

      Martin Luther once said that it is possible that after death, God gives everyone another chance to believe, but he added that we can't teach and preach that since it isn't clearly stated in the Bible; but, God wants all to be saved, and as God, he can do whatever he wants to give everyone a chance for salvation.

      So, a Lutheran would not say that just because someone died without Christian baptism that they are in hell. We believe that God can always provide a way to salvation.

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    6. Doesn't work for me Gary. You can repeat, rinse and repeat again and again.

      I was baptized as an infant without consent. I was baptized as an adult with my consent.

      Once saved always saved.

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    7. Well, in the belief system of orthodox Christianity, you were saved in your first Baptism. You don't need anymore "rinsing".

      So according to orthodox Christianity your baptism is still efficacious. You don't need to be rebaptized if you want to truly find God. You just need to obey Him: repent of your sins daily; read the Bible; attend mass/church; partake of the Holy Sacrament/Lord's Supper frequently.

      You don't have to "rededicate your life", you don't have to give up all your posessions....just obey and repent.

      But for that to work you have to choose to obey him. Making yourself believe, first, is not necessary, but obedience is.

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  42. Gary,

    There is a common saying, “If a fish could make a god—it would look like a fish.” Part of the argument against theism is how theist’s claims about God reflect a God similar to their culture, society and knowledge. A warlike society worships a warlike god. Our current embrace of scientific knowledge results in a “fine-tuning” type God. And so on.

    You hold onto your belief because you desire it. It is no coincidence you claim your God rewards desire for belief. Can you see how your description of salvation aligns with your own desires? What you want to do is…no coincidence…exactly how your God saves.

    Hence my constant harping on methodology. Without a consistent method to make determinations about what a God is/is not or does/does not, our own personal biases creep in and we create a God in our own image.

    What method do you propose we use to determine precisely how a God would provide salvation? Or does it all boil down to guesswork?

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    1. Here is MY methodology:

      1. When I look at the complexity of the Universe, and as a physician, the complexity of the human body, to me, there has to be a Creator.

      2. So how do we know who this Creator is? Has the Creator given us any indication of who he/she/it is?

      3. Of all the worlds religions, and of all the gods of those religions, is there any one of those gods who has done something to demonstrate that he is the Creator?

      4. Christians say that their god came to earth as a human, died, came back from the dead, was seen by over 500 people for 40 days, and then ascended in front of their eyes into heaven. But can they prove it?

      5. We have written evidence from one credible witness who says that he saw this resurrected god, and that he knew of at least two other persons who say that they saw the same resurrected god, and these two persons would also claim to have seen his miracles, including raising the dead and walking on water.

      6. I know that is not enough for you or your readers, but that is enough for me.

      I believe Lutheran doctrine not because it is compatible with my world view, but because by my methodology above I believe that the Christian God, is God, and I believe that the Bible (although not free of any error in the details) is his Word, and in his Word, I believe that Lutheranism teaches and practices the Christian Faith the closest to what the Bible teaches and to what the earliest Christians believed and practiced, as recorded in their writings.

      However, I believe that one can be just as good a Christian in any other Christian Church who teaches that Jesus is the way of salvation and baptizes in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

      So if you asked me what methodology one should use to "find" God, do what I did. I believe that if you truly desire to find God (not truly desire to prove he doesn't exist), that you will find him, and he will be the Christian God.

      Can I prove it, no.

      "Seek and you will find"
      "Lord help thou my unbelief."

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    2. I think it boils down to being Lutheran.

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    3. Would you explain what you mean by that?

      When I left evangelicalism, I checked out other Churches, and I was an indifferent, quasi-agnostic for many years. I

      f I were creating my own religion according to my own values, this would be it:

      Everyone who treats others with respect and kindness...gets in to heaven!

      Unfortunately, Christianity and orthodox Lutheranism don't follow that rule. So I am definitely not picking a religion that fits my worldview. I also am pretty liberal on many political issues. I support civil marriage equality and civil gender equality. Orthodox Christianity opposes gay marriage and excludes women from the priesthood. If I were God and making the rules, I would allow both.

      So I didn't pick orthodox Christianity or orthodox Lutheranism because it agrees with my world view. I picked it because I think it is God's view.

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  43. Gary,

    Repeating what you believe is not a methodology. Methodology is how we determine something, not what we determine. For instance:

    Gary: “1. When I look at the complexity of the Universe, and as a physician, the complexity of the human body, to me, there has to be a Creator.”

    Complexity is a scale determination. What is the universe more (or less) complex than? What is the human body more (or less) complex than? Careful here: if complexity=creator, then non-complexity=non-creator. By even engaging in the method, you will either have ALL things complex (in which case we can make no demarcation between complex vs. non-complex) OR you will have to determine some things are not complex by which they were not created.

    Either choice demonstrates this as a failed methodology.

    Gary: “2. So how do we know who this Creator is? Has the Creator given us any indication of who he/she/it is?”

    Since we haven’t proven there is a creator, this is crossing a bridge we haven’t come to. But even assuming a creator, HOW do we determine what a Creator is using to indicate? Is a rock an indicator? A bird? Four lines? A laugh, a yawn? A book, a word, a prophet?

    Gary: “3. Of all the worlds religions, and of all the gods of those religions, is there any one of those gods who has done something to demonstrate that he is the Creator?”

    Er…yes. Create. By definition a Creator demonstrates Creation by Creating. But notice at this point we really aren’t moving anywhere. We have yet to develop a methodology to even determine what is created vs. what is not.

    The rest of your points are just, “I believe…” While somewhat interesting (albeit repetitious at this point), none of it provides a method.

    Gary, “I believe that if you truly desire to find God … that you will find him…”

    Ah. Nice. Do you know why the Great Pumpkin never appeared in Linus’ pumpkin patch? Because it wasn’t sincere enough. And how do we know the pumpkin patch was not sincere enough? Because the Great Pumpkin didn’t appear.

    I love the little qualifier “truly.” Why can’t I find God? Because I don’t TRULY desire to find God. And how do we know I don’t TRULY desire to find God? Because I haven’t found him yet?

    It provides the Christian a convenient “out” to explain away…well…everything, I guess.

    Again, what method do you propose we use to determine precisely how a God would provide salvation? Or is it just “TRULY desire to find whatever it is you want to believe”?

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  44. "Complexity is a scale determination. What is the universe more (or less) complex than? What is the human body more (or less) complex than? Careful here: if complexity=creator, then non-complexity=non-creator. By even engaging in the method, you will either have ALL things complex (in which case we can make no demarcation between complex vs. non-complex) OR you will have to determine some things are not complex by which they were not created.

    Either choice demonstrates this as a failed methodology."

    Wow! WAY too "complex" for me, my friend!

    Dagood: like it or not, you are still a Calvinist. Calvinists insist on understanding everything there is about the universe, including God, based on reason and logic. If it doesn't make sense, it can't be true. Why? "Because God is not the author of confusion."

    I'd be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time that a Calvinist has told me that.

    I believe that the atheists on the website you came across smashed the foundation of your Calvinist Christian belief system: "Oh my God! The BIBLE isn't perfect! My carefully constructed belief system based on proving without any doubt that every word in the Bible came out of God's mouth has been demolished. My reason and intellect therefore tell me that since the Bible is fallible, then God is fallible, and if God is fallible, then he doesn't exist, because HE says that he is IN-fallible.

    Historic, catholic/orthodox Christianity is based on an infallible SUPERNATURAL savior and Creator. Christianity is NOT based on an fallible book written by fallible human beings. And the only way to believe in an infallible supernatural savior and creator is to accept it based on faith in the little evidence that we do have, not by scientific methodology.

    Can you explain to me why animals and humans are born with instincts? Why will a very young kitten hiss when frightened when it has never heard its mother do that? Who taught it that?

    I believe that there is something in every human being that tells us there is a Creator. It is an untaught instinct. Man has been following this instinct in every culture, in every age, in every part of the world. I don't believe that this instinct can be picked apart by a "methodology". It just exists.

    I think you've read too many books, Dagood. You now won't believe anything unless it can be reproduced right in front of your eyes! I wish I could, but I can't present the walking, talking corpse of Jesus of Nazareth to convince you!

    There is a small amount of evidence (eyewitness testimony) and our instinct that a Creator exists. That is all I can give you, Dagood. To believe...you are going to have to close your eyes and jump in. That is why it is called "Faith".

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  45. Here is a question, Dagood: Can you prove that the Western, scientific method of approaching reality is the correct method? Can you prove that the Eastern method of viewing reality is wrong?

    For instance: The Chinese believe that their medical treatment using acupuncture works based on this principle: The body contains "energy flows". Disease and pain are created by blockages in those energy flows. Acupuncture breaks up those blockages and restores the body's natural energy flows, restoring the body to health.

    Can you prove the Chinese wrong? Can you prove that the body does not have energy flows?

    You are approaching a first century, middle-eastern religion with a 21st century, Western mindset and methodology of looking at reality. This is the same Western mindset that in the sixteenth century questioned how pouring water on a baby could "save" him. Reason and intellect tell us that the person being baptized must make an informed, mature decision that he WANTS to be saved, before he can be saved.

    And the same goes for the Holy Sacrament. Western reason and logic tell us that the flesh and blood of a man who died 2,000 years ago cannot magically reappear in the form of bread and wine.

    You can't believe in the Christian God because He defies your Western/European, Enlightenment worldview using "methodology".

    The question is not whether I am using the correct methodology but whether YOUR Western world view is superior to my Eastern worldview in the realm of spirituality.

    It would be like a Western doctor going to China and telling the Chinese that their form of medical care, which they have used for 5,000 years, is wrong.

    Says who?

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  46. Gary,

    As anyone would, I certainly appreciate the free internet psycho-analysis….but I can’t help noticing after all those words and two (2) comments, you didn’t answer my question.

    What method do you propose we use to determine precisely how a God would provide salvation? Or do you not have a method, and you are pulling your theological claims out of thin air?

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    1. The method I propose to prove who God is and how he provides salvation is NOT to use a method. Just believe it, or at least, want to believe it...and then be baptized, if you haven't been already.

      I can't give you the necessary "evidence" or a "method" that would satisfy your evidence-based world view for why you should believe, I'm just asking you to do so.

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    2. You nor any other ex-Christian atheist will EVER be convinced of the truth of Christianity until you are willing to step out of the box of your Western European/Enlightenment worldview.

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    3. Do you still believe in hell, Gary?

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    4. Yes.

      I don't like it. I wish it wasn't true. If I could do away with it I would.

      I believe that hell is a bad place where people who have stubbornly resisted God will spend eternity. Is there fire? I don't know? Is the "torment" physical or only spiritual or emotional? I don't know.

      Would I ever say, "John Doe went to hell because he wasn't a baptized Christian"? No. Lutherans don't make judgments on who is a Christian and who specifically is going to hell. For full disclosure, we do pass judgment on what constitutes a "Christian Church": a Church who holds to the teachings of the Three Great Creeds. Therefore although we would say that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not a Christian Church, even most orthodox Lutherans would never say, "John Doe over there is a Mormon and therefore is not a Christian and will go to hell when he dies."

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    5. So it is your view that those of us who have carefully studied the evidence and who weren't convince there was a reason to want to believe in the supernatural are going to hell?

      It is your view that we are resisting God? Because we don't want to believe?

      I think that's what Zoe was alluding to earlier. Is that desire, the want, to believe not the gift of said supernatural deity?

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    6. Very good question.

      I believe that it is impossible for a non-believer to choose to believe. But I believe that it IS possible for a nonbeliever to harden his heart against God, the existence of whom is "etched" into every human's heart (one of our many innate instincts).

      So, I would say: Don't RESIST believing. By faith alone, I believe that if one stops resisting, the supernatural power of the Word of God, will gift you faith and belief.

      Can I prove that with "evidence"? No. It is a matter of faith in the Supernatural.

      Delete
    7. Do I believe that you, Ruth, Zoe, Dagood, Vinny, and others ex-Christians on this site are going to hell if they don't "repent and believe".

      I don't know. I would never pass such a judgment. As Luther says, maybe God gives everyone another chance after they die.

      What I will say is that I believe that Jesus Christ is God and that he is the only way to eternal life. I would also say, IF ASKED, that God's Word says that there is a place of torment for those who resist God.

      I would then ask: What does it cost you to believe? You get baptized, you go to mass, you partake of the Sacrament, you are kind to ALL your neighbors (yes, that is the TRUE Christian teaching), and you follow the Ten Commandments.

      For all that you get in return eternal happiness in heaven.

      What do you have to lose?

      Delete
    8. Won't God know I'm just going through the motions? Are you familiar with Pascal's wager? That's what you're suggesting here.

      What do I have to lose? That depends on what you mean by being obedient. You think that what you've proffered above is all there is to being obedient?

      There is a cost to being obedient. Didn't Jesus say to count it up? I don't think it's just as cut and dried as giving a mental ascent to a belief as what you're offering up here.

      Am I suggesting the price is too high? Only if it isn't true, then I've wasted my one life here following the tenets of a false faith. You're very own favorite eye witness said that if there is no resurrection then faith is in vain and it's a waste.

      Delete
    9. Gary,

      In the Parable of the Talents, two of the servants use what their master has given them to the best of their abilities. The other one hides it in the ground unused out of fear of his master. If there is a God--and I remain agnostic on the question--he gave me the capacity to reason about the world in which he has placed me. If God did not wish me to use the gift it to the best of my ability, than he is an arbitrary and capricious God who is unworthy of worship. I've tried believing in Jesus as honestly as I knew how and I'm trying now to be as honest as I can in my unbelief.

      Delete
    10. re: "...God, the existence of whom is "etched" into every human's heart (one of our many innate instincts). [....] ...if one stops resisting, the supernatural power of the Word of God, will gift you faith and belief."

      so, if a person in a remote himalayan village in nepal, who doesn't even know how to write their own name, has no tv, probably no radio, and it's 2 days hike to the nearest road where cars and trucks drive, and they have to work hard every day to even survive, but if they stop resisting god, then they'll naturally come up with a belief in jesus, and salvation via faith not works?

      Delete
    11. Yes.

      By faith alone, without any method to prove it, I believe that God will give every human being the opportunity to believe, whether in this life or the next. I, by faith, do not believe that there will be anyone in the afterlife who will be able to say, "If I had only known the truth, I would have believed."

      If God loves humans so much that he would send his only Son to earth to be humiliated, and killed on the cross, I believe that he will do whatever it takes to create a path to faith/belief for everyone of those human beings that he so much loves.

      Delete
    12. "If God did not wish me to use the gift it to the best of my ability, than he is an arbitrary and capricious God who is unworthy of worship. I've tried believing in Jesus as honestly as I knew how and I'm trying now to be as honest as I can in my unbelief."

      For some reason known only to Him, the God of the universe wants you to believe in him by faith, not by evidence, Vinny.

      I'm not asking any of you to go through the motions of playing Christian for the rest of your lives. What I am saying is this: Many of you seem to have come out of some form of Evangelicalism, which is a form of Christianity that puts a lot of importance on "feeling the presence of God". Is it possible that when you were confronted with "evidence" that shook your faith, you stopped having the "feelings of the presence of God" and therefore decided that he didn't exist?

      That is the problem with basing your faith on subject feelings instead of an objective act of God. No one can tell you that you weren't baptized (assuming of course that you were). The efficacy of your baptism is not dependent on whether or not you believe it was efficacious. Your baptism is efficacious because the Ruler of the Universe says that it is. So instead of worrying about faking Christianity, just be obedient and repent of willful disobedience. You can't fake being Christian...when you already ARE a Christian!

      In the eyes of orthodox Christianity there is no way to be UN-BAPTIZED. Whether you like it our not, all of you that have been baptized in any Christian Church ARE Christians. You ARE a child of the one, true God. Just repent and obey Him and you will receive eternal life!

      So you spend the rest of your one shot at living following the Ten Commandments and loving your neighbor as yourself. Is that really a lost life?

      "Blessed are those who believe and have not seen me."

      Delete
  47. Gary said: "I would then ask: What does it cost you to believe? You get baptized, you go to mass, you partake of the Sacrament, you are kind to ALL your neighbors (yes, that is the TRUE Christian teaching), and you follow the Ten Commandments.

    For all that you get in return eternal happiness in heaven.

    What do you have to lose?"

    Gary,

    There is one glaring problem with what you are suggesting here. Do you realize that there are many people who would tell you that you need to follow their list (which differs from yours) in order to have eternal happiness? There are many differing lists both within Christianity and without and they all use the same methods that you are suggesting to forward their belief - faith mixed with a little bit of anecdotal evidence along with some difficult problems which they too feel they can resolve to their satisfaction.

    I hang out in wordpress land and there is a guy named Parsurrey who essentially has the same methodology as you, but he would tell you that you need to have faith in Allah and that you will have an eternity of sadness if you don't.

    This cannot be a healthy way to live life. Perhaps one of all of the different beliefs are correct and maybe only some small subset of humans (and since you chose your belief on faith then chances are you are not in that group) will get eternal happiness and the rest of us will get eternal sadness. Do you ever wonder that maybe you picked the wrong one? Of course you don't - you'd go insane worrying about such things your entire life. If there is a God who really is truly all loving and who cares about the humans that he created then I just can't see how what you are suggesting could be true - especially when there really doesn't seem to be any adequate evidence for it.

    - Howie

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    1. Of course I worry. That is why my belief system is called "Faith", not "Fact". All Christians doubt. All Christians at one time or another real question the existence of God. We Christians cling to the promises of an invisible God, who died on the cross 2,000 years ago, who promises to gift us eternal life, without any concrete evidence. That is why Christians doubt. It is normal to doubt.

      When an evangelical doubts he looks inward, into his heart, and asks himself if he still believes; if he still has faith. When an orthodox Lutheran doubts, he looks outward, to his baptism, for assurance. We still do not have concrete evidence that our God exists...but having our assurance based on a visible, objective act, is far more reassuring than checking your "faith meter" every five minutes.

      Once again, the overwhelming majority of Lutherans would not tell someone that they are going to hell because they don't believe that Jesus is God and they have not been baptized. Yes, I am aware that evangelicals will, but most of us Lutherans would not.

      Delete
  48. Gary,

    But it is not an objective act of God, because an objective act would be equally available to all observers. You've already conceded that I;m not going to be able to recognize this act unless God gives me the gift of faith, which he has declined to do.

    I try to love my neighbor as myself because I think that makes the best use of the life that I have been given, not because I'm counting on a reward or fearing a punishment. God gave me the capacity to reason. How could it please him if I believe things that make no sense to me?

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    Replies
    1. God is willing to give the gift of faith to all. If you were raised Catholic, then you were baptized, so you ALREADY have the gift of faith and the gift of eternal life.

      Do you want to have faith? If so, that means you HAVE it, even if it is very weak. So feed that weak faith with the Word and Sacrament.

      If you absolutely do not want faith, then there is a problem.

      Delete
  49. re: "...following the Ten Commandments and loving your neighbor as yourself. Is that really a lost life?"

    the problem with the 10 commandments is the one "have not other gods before me", not the "love your neighbor as yourself".

    i've looked thru most of your blog gary, reading the titles. i've read 20-30 posts, plus your posts about your interaction with dagoods and bruce. and what i see is a whole lot of "no other gods" analysis.

    i can't seem to link directly to the comment, but on one of bruce's posts, i pointed this out on my comment at February 25, 2014 at 1:05 am, at the link: http://brucegerencser.net/2014/02/bruce-sensitive-public-writer/

    in particular, i compared you to the recipients of “2014 Unsung Heroes of Compassion”. (you can read brief summaries of each of the honoree’s work here: http://newunsungheroes.org/2014-event/2014-honorees/ )

    each of those people very clearly demonstrates "love thy neighbor". however, they are all different religions.

    perhaps you've truly changed since that time. if you remember from dagoods' conversion story, the time the fellow softball players asked him "are you a christian?" so i'd ask you to read my comment from back then, and tell me, do you emphasize "love your neighbor?" or do you emphasis "no other god before me?"

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    1. Well, my friend, it would depend on who I'm talking to.

      I have no intention of going up to a Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist, either online, or in person, and telling them that they must forsake their God and worship mine or they will go to hell.

      If they come up to ME and ask about my faith I WILL tell them that I believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of eternal salvation.

      To a fellow Christian, I would not hesitate to share my belief that Jesus is the only way.

      I intend to share my faith with non-Christians by my actions: kindness, love, compassion, and generosity and only by my words....when asked.

      Delete
  50. Gary,

    I kind of feel like this is a becoming a bit overwhelming with everyone getting on to you about the weaknesses of your position/s. For that I am sorry.

    What you need to understand is that those of us, or many of us, who have lost our faith didn't do so simply because of one bad experience, or one shattered illusion, or one dismantled presupposition about God or the Bible. Many of us lost faith because of a long culmination of events and realizations. One singular moment might have been the nail in the coffin for our beliefs, but that usually comes after a long period of examination and thought.

    You think you have found safe haven in Lutheranism or what you term as "orthodox" Christianity....but it is no better than fundamentalism, evangelicalism, or any other "ism".

    All of your faith in Lutheranism comes handed down to you by human reasoning....human reasoning based on a particular set of starting points. You say that you feel so freed in Lutheranism because you don't have to believe that the Bible is infallible and without error....but just that it contains the "Word of God".

    Yet how do you know what is error or not? How do find the "Word of God" in the sometimes agenda driven, altered, fallible works of fallible human authors?

    Well...you rely on other fallible humans to tell you what the "Word of God" is. You rely on Luther and Church Fathers and religious opinions that have been refined over hundreds and thousands of years by various people and groups for various reasons...all of them just as fallible and error-prone as any other human or biblical author.

    So in this sea of human opinions about God how do you determine what is true? You use your own reasoning and feelings because that is all that you can do. You read and investigate and assent to the things that seem to make sense to you, or ring true in your own heart and mind. Unless you are claiming that you have heard directly and personally from God, you are no different than us and no different from any other person with dearly held religious beliefs.


    And this whole West vs. East thing is ridiculous. The Lutheran and Catholic churches are firmly planted in Western thought and civilization...so unless you are going Eastern Orthodox or becoming Buddhist...this assault on Enlightenment thinking is preposterous.

    It would be like a Western doctor going to China and telling the Chinese that their form of medical care, which they have used for 5,000 years, is wrong.

    Says who?


    Says many, many studies that show that acupuncture and many other ancient treatments are no better than placebo. You say you are a physician. I truly hope you don't prescribe Chinese herbs to treat cancer, or Acupuncture to cure strep throat.

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    1. Liza, I suggest you read up on your medical journals. Acupuncture has been clinically proven by Western medicine to be beneficial for many medical conditions. The same goes for many herbs.

      The Catholic form of Christianity has existed since the Apostles. Lutherans consider themselves to be part of this Catholic tradition, along with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and the Anglo-Catholics. Many Lutherans consider themselves Catholic, just not Roman Catholic.

      The Christians of the Catholic Christian Faith share these beliefs:

      --a supernatural, triune Creator
      --the Creator gifts salvation in the Sacrament of Baptism.
      --Catholic Christians eat the Body and Blood of our Savior in the Sacrament.
      --We hold the Three Great Creeds of the Church as the statement of Faith of the Church Catholic.

      We believe that these beliefs have existed since the Apostles, who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, affirming his claim that is God, and passed them down to their disciples, who passed them down to their disciples, etc. We have written testimony of the Apostles and of the disciples of the apostles to verify that the beliefs of the Church Catholic are the beliefs of the earliest Christians.

      Many Protestants are under the false impression that when Martin Luther broke with Rome, he broke over the issue of the means by which one is saved. They believe that Luther believed that salvation occurs by a person expressing belief in God by faith. This is incorrect.

      Martin Luther was in full agreement with the Church Catholic that God gifts salvation in the sacrament of Baptism, whether to a helpless infant or to an adult convert. How one is saved was not in dispute.

      The dispute was over how one stays saved, not over how one is initiated into God's family. Rome taught that Christians must do good deeds to "finish the work of the cross". Luther said, no. Christ's death on the cross completed all satisfaction for our sins. The Christian life is one of obedience out of love for God, not out of fear of Purgatory. True faith will produce good works automatically.

      So Lutheranism is a part of historic Catholicism, which is a middle eastern religion, believes in the supernatural, that reason is not the highest authority, that physical objects transmit supernatural powers, etc. NONE of these concepts are acceptable in Western, Enlightenment thinking.

      Yes, the Enlightenment did have some affect on the Western Church, but the core Catholic beliefs are as Eastern as you can get.

      Delete
    2. I just don't think an apology is in order. Gary willingly came. We willingly engaged. :-)

      As for acupuncture it is becoming an adjunct tool for wellness in Western medicine and not in obscure clinics hidden away behind gas stations. :-)

      Now whether you think it legitimate or not is another issue. But a growing number of MD's are using it or recommending it as part of health care for patients.

      Delete
  51. I believe that the time has come to say "good bye", my friends. I wish you all the best.

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  52. Good luck in your endeavors as well, Gary.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Re: Acupuncture

    http://sci-ence.org/the-ghosts-of-woo-part-two/

    ReplyDelete
  54. DagoodS, I found your blog through Ruth at Out from under the Umbrella. I have been following Gary here, at Ruth's and on his own blog. His Post on his own site today was interesting but the comments from his supporters were typical. His responses to them was concerning as he was not portraying everything that had gone on the past few days accurately. He was telling them what they wanted to hear rather than what actually happened.

    Regardless, I enjoyed and will continue to follow your posts. I don't think we've heard the last of Gary though he said "Goodbye" .

    Thank you for allowing me to comment here.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Dear DagoodS, I am late to the conversation (as usual), and I do not have the time to read all 170 comments this article is generating or the 100+ comments at Ruth’s blog – and I have no clue how much else there is over at Gary’s own blog. But this bit from Gary caught my attention,

    “The issue is this: I WANT to believe. So the more I read authors who tell me why I shouldn't, the more of that innocent (foolish?) childish faith I grew up with will fade away. I'm afraid of becoming you, Dagood. I don't want to wake up one morning and look in the bathroom mirror, as you did, and realize that I no longer believe; not because I want to stop believing, as you did not want to stop believing, but because the ‘evidence’ has convinced me otherwise.”

    Wow that sounds familiar. So familiar … now where have I heard that before? ;-)

    Seriously though DagoodS, your persistent writing has educated God knows how many people with information that their churches will never supply them with. Once we have that valuable knowledge, it is up to us whether we want to embrace shocking reality or hold on to a comforting and familiar fairy tale. At the time I wrote that old article at edublogs, (that seems like it was written by a different person from myself!) I was reading lots of stuff, including stuff from you, and I was still clinging on to what I could of my old Christian beliefs. I was desperately afraid to let them go, because I did not know what was on the other side. But honesty compelled me. I could not live with a double truth. The road was bumpy for a bit. I lost some friends – but new ones eventually came in their place. Rosemary (my wife) and I have weathered the storm of apostasy together, and we have come out the other side more fulfilled content and mature then we were as Christians. Embrace shocking reality? I would not have it any other way – thanks again DagoodS.

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    1. @HeIsSailing, enjoyed your story you linked to.

      @dagoods,
      the story above also linked to your post "can't win", which included the bit about trying to capture a leprechaun with your daughter, way back in 2007.

      so, care to update the story? you've had 7 more years to catch a leprechaun, have you ever caught one? how close have you come? any younger kids taking up the quest? :)

      Delete
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