Responding to Dale Tuggy on Jesus and Faith

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Did Jesus Have Faith In God?
Series: Did Jesus Have Faith In God?

I got a bit of pushback from Dule Tuggy, professor of philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, on my posts about Jesus and faith. Dr. Tuggy’s series on my posts begins here. His view is that although Jesus is never spoken of as having faith, nevertheless he demonstrated faith:

I’ll stick to this point: the gospels don’t need to say that Jesus had faith in God, because they clearly portray Jesus’s faith in God.

Before I respond to that, let’s jump ahead to the third post in his series, where he summarizes my argument (quite accurately, thanks!):

3. Jesus doesn’t have faith in God.

4. Any thoroughly good being other than God has faith in God.

5. Jesus is thoroughly good.

2. Jesus is not other than God; Jesus is God himself. (3,4,5)

This too is a valid argument.

(The numbering makes sense in context there; do not be bothered by it.) His response to that is,

1. God doesn’t have faith.

6. Jesus had faith.

7. Therefore, Jesus isn’t God (Jesus and God are not numerically identical). (1, 6)

(“Numerically identical” is technical language in philosophy for “really exactly the same person, thing, etc.”)

This helps us to know what we’re working on here. There is some controversy out there among evangelical scholars over whether Jesus had faith. I deal with that in a brief comment below. This is not that controversy, for Dr. Tuggy seems to be in fundamental disagreement over the deity of Christ.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of some scriptural facts. Jesus speaks of faith in the second or third person about 41 times in the Gospels. That is, he uses the word “faith” 41 times in the course of instructing others about faith, or discussing their faith or their lack thereof. He never speaks of his own faith.

Dr. Tuggy says that’s because he doesn’t need to speak of it; his faith is evident in what he does. But why then does Paul, who also evidences his faith clearly by what he does, speak of his own faith at least 18 times?

Again, both Jesus and Paul urge others to have faith, but only Paul urges them to imitate his faith (2 Tim. 3:11). That verse is instructive, for its characteristics are all but one displayed by Jesus and mentioned as such by the Gospel writers or by Paul. (I am listing just one example verse for each.)

Teaching: Matt. 4:23
Conduct: (this is not a virtue in itself, but a broad general term for “manner of life”—too broad to comment on in this context)
Patience: 1 Tim. 1:16
Love: Eph. 5:25
Steadfastness: Heb. 12:1-3 (same Greek word)
Faith: No references anywhere

So the NT clearly comments on, and specifically names, many of Jesus’ virtues. If Dr. Tuggy is right, and the reason Jesus’ faith is not named as such is just because it was so clearly displayed, it seems remarkable that these other virtues of Jesus were named as such. Weren’t his teachings, his love, and his endurance obvious from his behavior, too?

I return again to the point that there is something exceptional about the way the NT writers keep the idea of faith separate from the person Jesus. Jesus taught faith, love, endurance, forgiveness, kindness, and more. Why would he be clearly named as practicing all these virtues but one–the one that he emphasized more than any other but love?

Dr. Tuggy has not taken this adequately into account. Yes, Jesus acted as a man who trusted in God, but references to his having faith are very conspicuously absent. Dr. Tuggy cannot explain that simply by saying that Jesus’ actions demonstrated he was a man of faith. He needs to explain why, of all the virtues Jesus taught, this one is handled so differently by the NT writers.

I believe the best explanation is that Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, lived in a trusting relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity; that his trust was real; that this trust was, however, so radically different that the NT writers avoided naming it as “faith’; and that that difference is easily explainable in terms of faith being an attitude toward what is not seen (Heb. 11:1), whereas for Jesus, his relationship with the Father and the Spirit was one of perfect awareness, communion, and contact, in accordance with his being that second Person of the Trinity.

Finally as a postscript, regarding the controversy over whether Romans  3:22 and Romans 3:26 are referring to Jesus’ faith: I am unqualified to speak about the meaning of the Greek. The fact that it’s disputable is enough to conclude that there is no clear, unambiguous reference to Jesus’ faith anywhere in the Bible. And regardless of one’s interpretation of those verses, there remains nothing in the Gospels about Jesus’ faith, where one would expect to find a writer speaking of it, and very little anywhere else. My argument is based on the remarkable lack of any reference (at all) to Jesus’ faith in the Bible [except in one ambiguous, disputable passage in Romans]. Remove the parenthesis and add the bracketed portion, and there’s still an argument there.

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  1. MikeH

    Actually, the Romans 3 passage is not the only time the “faith of Christ” is stated. The Greek in Galatians 2:16 and 3:22 and Philippians 3:9 is “of” and not “in”. I don’t think this is the place to fully interpret those verses, but they show it’s not such an isolated, ambiguous idea. Regarding other virtues, I can’t find “Jesus was kind” in the Bible, so the absence of such a statement is not that significant. For me, the question of whether Jesus had faith has more to do with his humanity than his deity. If he did not need to live by faith, would he have been fully human? Wouldn’t being “made like his brothers in every way” (Heb 2:17) include faith? He was tempted like all humans but did not commit sin (Heb 4:15), and Paul says “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). In order to be without sin, as a human, he would have needed to have faith. And I think Tuggy’s take on Hebrews 12 is correct: Jesus is the greatest model of faith we have. Yes, nowhere is it said in the Bible “Jesus had faith” but neither is it said “Jesus did not have faith” so, at the very least, I don’t think it’s a very strong argument for his deity.

  2. Post
    Tom Gilson

    MikeH, the principal translators of Scripture used “in,” not “of” in those passages. There is either some good reason they did so, or some controversial or ambiguous reason, or no reason at all (or something in that continuum). I’m aware that there is controversy over the use of a similar construction in Rom. 3:22 and 3:26, as I said already. It seems to me that the way you’ve worded this, though, there is no controversy at all over Gal. 2:16, 3:22, and Phil. 3:9. It’s “of,” not “in,” you say. That leaves me wondering whether you think the translators indeed got it wrong, and why. All I have is your unexplained opinion. I could use more.

    I’m not saying I have no more work to do on this. I’m saying I’m interested in finding out why you think the usual translation of these verses should be rejected for another.

    Regarding Hebrews, there are various translations, none of which indicate

    ESV “the founder and perfecter of our faith”
    NKJV “the author and finisher of our faith”
    NRSV “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”
    TEV “on whom our faith depends from beginning to end”
    NJB “who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection”

    None of these lends itself easily to an interpretation that it is Jesus’ own faith that’s in focus. Founder/pioneer/author is the Greek archegos (I can’t find one of the diacritical marks on my keyboard). It’s used in the LXX in the senses of trailblazer, ruler, chieftain; never as example.

    the Expositors Bible Commentary reads it this way:

    We are to run this race “with no eyes for any one or anything except Jesus” (Moffatt, in loc.). It is he toward whom we run. There must be no divided attention. The “author and perfecter of faith” (there is no “our” in the Gr) may mean that Jesus trod the way of faith first and brought it to completion. Or it may mean that he originated his people’s faith and will bring it to its perfection. Since it is not easy to think that the author sees the faith by which Jesus lived as essentially the same as our own, perhaps it is better to see the emphasis on what he does in his followers. (Yet the thought of example will not be entirely absent, for we should bear in mind that Jesus’ kinship with men has been stressed in this epistle.) As the heroes of faith in chapter 11 are OT characters, there is the thought that Jesus led all the people of faith, even from the earliest days.

    The IVP New Bible Commentary, on the other hand, takes the view that Jesus is indeed the faith-example we are to follow.

    The greatest encouragement comes when we fix our eyes on Jesus (cf. 3:1). The NIV describes him as the author and perfecter of our faith but the word ‘our’ does not occur in the original. Faith in an absolute or general sense is meant (he is ‘the author and perfecter of faith’). Jesus is the perfect example of the faith we are to express.

    So now we have an inventory of six disputable passages instead of the two I mentioned previously. None of them are in the Gospels. None of the principal translators of the Bible take the passages to refer to Jesus’ own faith in God. There is still no clear evidence that Jesus practiced what he preached more than any other virtue save for love. This still requires some explanation.

    Jesus’ kindness is not directly mentioned in the Bible; that is true. On the other hand, one does not find Jesus telling his followers dozens of times that they must be kind or that it is the central, core, key to their spiritual life. The lack of any mention whatsoever of Jesus’ faith in the Gospels is far more remarkable than the lack of any mention of his kindness; especially since kindness is a more general virtue, whose approximate meaning could be picked up in terms like goodness (see Luke 6:32).

    The Gospels’ silence concerning any faith in Jesus is far more deafening than their not using the word “kindness” to describe him.

    As for your points about sin and righteousness and faith, you are reinforcing my point rather than undermining it: Jesus was exceptional. If Jesus was in a perfectly right relationship with the Father (and he was); and if Jesus taught others that they must have faith to be in a right relationship with the Father (as he did, frequently); then why did he never say, “Faith such as mine”? It’s because Jesus was exceptional.

    In the end, I know this is not a perfect argument for Jesus’ deity. I think it contributes significantly to a cumulative case for his deity, however.

  3. Bryan Howlett

    I believe the best explanation is that Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, lived in a trusting relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity

    The best explanation, you think? How about this – I know it’ll sound crazy – perhaps the Trinity isn’t real? Maybe it was made up by someone at some point to try to square a circle? To cover up a gaping plot hole? Hey, that’s got me thinking… maybe a lot of it was made up? Nah couldn’t be.

  4. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Calm down, Bryan, please.

    This isn’t the only or even the most prominent of reasons to believe the Trinity is real. It is part of a cumulative case for the Trinity. There is much, much more.

    There is no gaping plot hole.

  5. Bryan Howlett

    I’m calm. I’m just astonished how much time and energy can be poured into the effort to make sense of utter nonsense.

  6. Post
    Tom Gilson

    I see.

    It is not just me and other Christians, however, that you are holding in contempt. It is the God who created you, loves you, died for you, and will judge you.

  7. Bryan Howlett

    It’s not contempt. I absolutely do not hold you in contempt at all. The feeling I have is pity and sadness that anything I say will only entrench you further.

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  10. BillT

    Well I have to say Bryan, your contribution here is really without equal. On a thread where Tom has offered an argument supported by numerous examples, explained using reasoning and logic and the thoughtful examination of multiple verses and translations using intellectual rigor in support of a conclusion you offer:

    The best explanation, you think? How about this – I know it’ll sound crazy – perhaps the Trinity isn’t real? Maybe it was made up by someone at some point to try to square a circle? To cover up a gaping plot hole? Hey, that’s got me thinking… maybe a lot of it was made up? Nah couldn’t be.

    Wow, Bryan such erudition. And so much evidence and reasoning in so few words. How do you do it? But that’s not all there’s:

    I’m just astonished how much time and energy can be poured into the effort to make sense of utter nonsense.

    Well, that settles it. The entire institution laid low because you say it’s “utter nonsense”. Who could argue with such brilliance. You truly humble us Bryan.

  11. Bryan Howlett

    Thanks, BillT. The point I think you may have missed is that I am rejecting the question itself.

  12. Bryan Howlett


    If I were concerned about Pascal’s Wager, I’d also have to be concerned about every other religion’s equivalent. In any case, if I were God, I would embrace those people who didn’t believe supernatural nonsense and reject those that did.

  13. Post
    Tom Gilson

    If you were God, we wouldn’t be having a conversation like this. You’d be too busy rejecting me. You’d be rejecting everyone in the history of the world; for everyone has believed some nonsense. Most have believed something about God or gods, which you consider nonsense.

    But you aren’t God, and boy am I grateful for that. You don’t decide what is or is not nonsense, nor do you decide who is accepted or rejected, and on what grounds. You don’t decide the grounds on which you yourself are accepted.

    God will accept people who have committed any mistake whatsoever, except the mistake of rejecting the One he sent to live, die, and rise again for all of us. He doesn’t call on us to have exhaustive knowledge of all the relevant evidence. He doesn’t require us to have perfect logic. If he did, you would have no hope, as I’m sure you would agree.

    He calls on us rather to realize that he has paved the way for us to know him through Jesus Christ alone. I call on you to realize that. I urge you not to reject your God.

  14. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @12: The question wasn’t being asked of you. If it had been, I would have preceded it with considerable documentation regarding why the question matters and should be taken seriously.

    Not everything I write on this blog is intended for skeptics.

    So for your own intellectual integrity, I suggest that rather you “reject the question,” you place the question in the realm of matters for which you have insufficient context. We all have questions like that. For me, it might be the best solution to the Ukraine situation, the relation of two species’ DNA, the preferred method for determining the composition of the earth’s core…

    For you, it might be the question of whether to take this view of the NT seriously. Because you’re not as prepared for that as you seem to think you are.

  15. Bryan Howlett

    Having God reject those that believe in the supernatural was just a joke to show the silliness of Pascal’s wager. In any case, belief is not something you can control.

    I expect that you will always find a way to interpret whatever evidence comes to light to fit with what it says in the Bible. I doubt that anything I or anyone could ever say would convince you otherwise.

  16. BillT

    The point I think you may have missed is that I am rejecting the question itself.


    I’m quite sure it isn’t me who’s missing the point.

  17. Bryan Howlett

    Sorry, yes, I forgot the point is to bow and nod and tell the emperor how beautiful his clothes are.

  18. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, you misunderstand Pascal’s wager, too. Do you know why he wrote it? Do you know the context of the Wager? Do you know whom he directed that advice towaro you know why he wrote it? By your treatment of it here, I think the answer is no. (He wrote it primarily for those who were on the fence regarding whether Christianity was true: people who were possibly convinced/possibly not convinced. He didn’t write it for total skeptics. That would have been silly; and Pascal was not silly.)

    What I’m writing with you here has nothing to do with Pascal’s Wager. It’s a warning. I’m quite convinced that Jesus is very good news to those who believe in him. I’m convinced that each person’s rejection of God is very bad news without Jesus.

    Where persuasion fails, as it has consistently done in your case, sometimes I think a simple word of warning is called for. It might cause you to sit back and wonder, “what if he’s right?” In that case I wouldn’t expect you to just believe, á la your version of Pascal’s Wager. I would expect you to open your mind to the possibility and to explore it more realistically.

    I’m still hoping the warning will have that effect. Bryan, your eternity hangs in the balance.

  19. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @18: Do you still expect us to believe you do not feel contempt?

    You’re not just rejecting God. You’re lying, at least to us; maybe to yourself as well.

  20. Bryan Howlett

    That was aimed at BillT, not you. It’s not contempt anyway. It’s sarcasm. Everything Bill has said to me is steeped in sarcasm, and I like sarcasm just as much as he does. I don’t have contempt towards him. I find it amusing. Perhaps I don’t take life as seriously as you.

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  22. BillT


    If you thought you were using sarcasm then I think that sarcasm doesn’t mean what you think it does. (Maybe you and Andy from the “Bill Nye” thread can do some work on it together.)

  23. Bryan Howlett


    Re: Pascal’s Wager. Of course he did it for people on the fence. It makes no difference to the unsoundness of it.

    I can only reply that I am convinced there is no God and no afterlife and so I haven’t got the slightest shred of concern about your “warning”. All I see is you wasting enormous amounts of your one and only precious life explaining the intricacies of the stitching patterns on the emperor’s outfit. You are a clever person and I find it a shame to see that intellect being spent in that way. In all likelihood you will not change your mind on this topic. Some Christians do eventually, but it’s usually not an overnight change. I think you have to consider honestly whether you are rationalizing to align the Bible with evidence from reality.

  24. Bryan Howlett

    According to Wikipedia:

    Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt.” Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, although sarcasm is not necessarily ironic.”

    I honestly don’t have any contempt for BillT. I actually respect him quite a lot and find him fun competition for a battle of wits.

  25. BillT

    ll I see is you wasting enormous amounts of your one and only precious life explaining the intricacies of the stitching patterns on the emperor’s outfit.

    But if you’re correct Bryan, Tom’s life nor mine nor yours is precious at all. We’re just another ho-hum product of mindless evolution and no more precious or important than the ant you unknowingly squashed on your way out the door this morning. Like you did on the other thread, you’re borrowing a theistic concept to make make the point that theism doesn’t exist. That’s a no-no.

  26. BillT


    Being able to look up the definition of sarcasm doesn’t make you capable of using it properly. The point I made was that you were expressing your opinion on God’s existence without explaining it even on your own terms not that you should blindly accept the truth of His existence. Thus, claiming we expected you to do that isn’t sarcasm. See how that works.

  27. BillT

    Oh, a reductionist viewpoint. Who could have seen that coming.

    And whether you do or don’t need lessons in sarcasm is more than obvious.

  28. Bryan Howlett

    Even if I wished for more, so what? Just because we wish something were true doesn’t make it true. Or do you think it does?

    If we can’t stand the thought of our lives being meaningless does that force God to exist to imbue our lives with meaning?

  29. BillT

    Well, now, that couldn’t be more true.

    But we do a lot more than just wish. Quite a lot more.

    And the reasons we believe aren’t circular as the ones you’ve just outlined. You setting up and knocking down straw men doesn’t prove or disprove anything.

  30. Bryan Howlett

    You claimed I was using a theistic concept. I’m not.
    I’m glad we agree that our wishful thinking doesn’t force reality to comply.

  31. Bryan Howlett

    So, what was the relevance of this?

    But if you’re correct Bryan, Tom’s life nor mine nor yours is precious at all. We’re just another ho-hum product of mindless evolution and no more precious or important than the ant you unknowingly squashed on your way out the door this morning.

  32. BillT

    Yes, you were in your previous post but that concept isn’t explained by what you said above.

  33. Bryan Howlett

    If I am using a theistic concept, then the theistic concept has been hijacked from the secular world. I’m not drawing anything from theism for my worldview.

  34. BillT


    Our preciousness, from a theistic standpoint, has to do with our intrinsic value as an intentional part of God’s creation. It isn’t something we wish into existence. It’s something that is given to us and can exist only if given to us by our creator. Without it, like I said, we are no more significant, important or meaningful than that ant.

  35. Bryan Howlett

    Great, can you explain why the God in your theory is valuable?

    Also, why do you keep referring to this ant? What’s the relevance to your argument?

  36. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, if you don’t know the answer to your first question in #38, then you have no clue about anything you’re disagreeing with here. Your disagreements are as well-informed as mine would be concerning the Riemann Hypothesis.

    If you knew the meaning of God, for purposes of this discussion (whether you agree such a God exists or not), you could never ask that question.

    Would you like to know the meaning of the terms you’re disputing? Better yet, would you like to know their meaning, so you could know whether you should dispute them or not—just in case you find they make more sense once you learn what they really mean?

  37. Post
  38. Bryan Howlett

    Sure, I’m interested. Can you explain why my question can’t be asked? Try as might, I can’t think of any definition of God that would make that question invalid.

  39. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Your question is not invalid; it just displays a serious, almost desperate level of ignorance, surprising in one who seems to have such a definite opinion!

    If I were asked that question by someone who was sincerely wondering about God, I would rush to answer it. You’re not wondering about God; you’ve already decided he’s nonexistent or (at best) inconsequential.

    But you’re criticizing us for disagreeing with you when you know not what you yourself are disagreeing with. You’re absolutely convinced we’re wrong when you don’t even know what we’re ostensibly wrong about.

    If you want to know what’s valuable about God, show me you want to know. Show me you care. One way to show that would be for you to go to any good encyclopedia of philosophy (there’s more than one online) and look up “God” or “classical theism.” Show me that you’re not just pulling my string: go find an answer on your own. Study it. Interact with it. Care what you’re thinking about! And demonstrate that you care.

    Otherwise we don’t have any good reason to pursue the question with you. Not if you don’t actually care.

  40. Bryan Howlett

    My intention was not really to understand your exact conception of God, but to try to show BillT that in terms of “valuable”, at its base you are at best relying on a tautology. I asked it as a question, just in case there was some way I hadn’t thought of that you could answer without creating a circle.

  41. BillT


    In your #38 you asked “why the God in your theory is valuable?” If that’s really your question the answer is as follows. An eternal God, capable of creating the universe “ex nihilo” isn’t best described as valuble though he certaily would be. He would be best described as the one necessary being from which all else came and without which nothing would exist. Is that “valuble”. For those of us who exist it certainly is.

    As for the ant. If naturalistic evolution is true then every living thing is a result of it and nothing in that evolutionary tree is different in value than anything else. We are all just a branch of that tree differentiated from the other branches only by circumstance. Thus, every branch has equal value and we are no more valuble than an ant or a chicken or a fish. So how valuble do you think that ant “that you unknowingly squashed on you way out the door this morning” is? Well under naturalistic evolution, you are also exactly that valuble.


  42. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @43,

    There is no tautology if you know what we’re talking about. Please take the time to go find out. I’ve given you two ideas how to do that. In the meantime, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re rebutting anything we’re saying. You don’t know what we’re saying.

  43. Bryan Howlett

    My kids wouldn’t exist without me. Does that mean I’m intrinsically valuable like you say God is?

    You bring up the ant, as if the fact you find the ramifications unpalatable has some bearing on whether they’re true or not. I thought we agreed it doesn’t. Whether we happen to like some effect of reality or not is irrelevant to the truth.

  44. Bryan Howlett

    You could try to explain to me briefly why you think I’m off track. I’m sure you can appreciate that from my point of view, it appears that you don’t have an explanation that would stand up to scrutiny, so you’re trying to “win” the argument by effectively ducking out of it. That’s fine and I understand. I’d probably do the same thing if I were you.

  45. BillT

    My kids wouldn’t exist without me. Does that mean I’m intrinsically valuable like you say God is?

    They and you are only valuble if there is such a thing as value. And if you’re nothing more than another branch on that evoulutiary tree then no. You and your children and the ant and the chicken and the fish are all of the same value.

    And it’s not about the unpleasantness of reality. It’s about whether you’re really any more valuble than that ant. If you’re comfortable you’re not and that is your lot in life then you are. I think the idea that is true boarders on outright silliness. However, neither what you believe or what I believe has any impact on what is true. The truth exists outside our opinions of it.

  46. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, I’m not trying to duck out of the argument. I’m trying to avoid getting sucked into explaining something to someone who hasn’t showed he cares.

    I actually have explained why I think you’re off track: anyone who could ask why God is valuable, on theism, doesn’t know about the meanings of the terms.

    From your point of view, you say, you don’t think I have an explanation that would stand up to scrutiny. Whose scrutiny? Don’t you know this is an easy question?

    I’ve directed you to an answer to your question. Go search it out. Show me you care. If you don’t care enough to do that, then you won’t care what I write, either.

  47. Bryan Howlett

    As I said before, I’m valuable to my wife and my family and friends and to other humans and perhaps even future humans. I like eating chicken so that’s valuable to me too. I’m valuable to my cat. In the grand scheme of things I don’t believe I’m valuable per se, but who cares? I value my life and those around me. If there were a creator who valued me then I’d accept that reality but I don’t believe that is the case and it certainly doesn’t bother me that it isn’t.

    I think if I believed it were true that a creator would ultimately judge me, I would feel extremely anxious during my life (the camel and the eye of needle and all that). If you don’t feel anxious, I wonder why not?

  48. Post
    Tom Gilson

    I’m also not trying to win any argument. (Maybe I was earlier, but starting at #38 I let go of that and began taking a different tack.)

    Now I’m trying to get you fully involved in this as a discussion–which you aren’t, unless you care enough about it to look up the major terms in it for yourself.

  49. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Re: #50: I felt anxious until I discovered that God had provided a way to enter into an eternal, loving relationship with him through Jesus Christ.

    The New Testament explains this, esp. in Romans 3 through 5.

  50. Bryan Howlett

    Tom, I’ve noticed a pattern when someone asks a difficult question, you accuse them of not knowing anything and they should do their research before you waste any more time on them. They need to show you that they care before you will continue the conversation. It’s the perfect get out of answering the question tactic. You’ve used it a thousand times. I’ve seen it over and over.

    I’m not asking for long explanations, just an outline. Why is it so hard?

  51. Bryan Howlett

    So why does Matthew say that about a rich man and the eye of the needle? Is it untrue?

  52. Post
    Tom Gilson

    It’s not hard. It’s ridiculously easy. It’s so easy I’m not going to do it for you.

    Why is it so hard for you to show you care enough to get yourself involved in the discussion?

    I’ve given you my final answer. I’ll get back involved when you show that you’re really involved. This isn’t about playing with logic. This is about life. If you want to make it just about logic, then you’re on a life-destructive track, and I’m not going there with you.

    Look at it my way: if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If on the other hand I’m right, my first desire isn’t to prove I’m right. My first desire is to find out whether you care if I’m right. History proves that people that don’t care about God don’t care about God, and all the arguing in the world won’t make them care.

    So I’m not going to try to show what’s right until you show you care enough to get involved.

    See #51 again.

    (I don’t mind if you show me one of those other thousand times I’ve done this, though.)

  53. BillT

    In the grand scheme of things I don’t believe I’m valuable per se, but who cares?

    If you don’t then I certainly don’t either. But then you were the one who came here to tell us all how wrong we were. Seems you care about something.

    If you don’t feel anxious, I wonder why not?

    Because I know I am loved and cherished by the creator of the universe.

  54. Post
    Tom Gilson

    At #54. It’s not untrue. It’s hyperbolic, and it’s intended to get the people there involved in the question, to wonder what the truth is, to pursue the truth until they find it.

    Jesus did that kind of thing over and over and over again. Some people who think they need answers really need motivation to care about answers instead.

    Like you.

  55. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Cf. Matt 21:23-27 for an example of Jesus’ approach to people who really didn’t care about knowing the answer as much as engaging in the debate.

  56. Bryan Howlett

    If I believed what you believe is true then of course I would care. But I don’t believe it’s true and it’s a detour to the discussion I was having with BillT, which seemed to have ended up with a certain amount of circularity along these lines…

    Why are humans valuable?
    Because they were created by God.
    Why is God valuable?
    Because he created humans.

    You are right that I don’t care particularly about the fine details of your belief any more than I care about the fine details of an astrologer’s beliefs. If you want to believe in a God and it makes you happy then go for it. I hope it doesn’t lead your moral compass too far astray. I’m not so naive that I think I can change your mind. Only you can do that but it would take a heck of a lot of guts. It would be seriously life-changing. I feel sorry for you in that respect. You are effectively locked in.

    If you are so convinced you are right that you think you can deploy logical arguments then you need to respond to my challenges and teach me whatever pertinent facts I need to know in simple language with the definitions you use and clear logic that can be scrutinized. If you fail to do that, that’s fine too, and understandable. I would steer well away from logical scrutiny too if I were in your position.

  57. Post
    Tom Gilson

    If I am so convinced I am right to follow Jesus, then I will do my imperfect best to follow his example of answering questions from those who really want answers, and helping the rest see that their issue is with something other than the answers.

    I don’t have a blog like this, however, for the purpose of staying away from logical scrutiny. There would be easier ways than that to steer clear.

    P.S. Your description of BillT’s “circular” argument misses everything he wrote in #44. There’s some stuff in that comment that needs unpacking, but that’s no reason to accuse him of making a different argument entirely.

    If that’s your version of “logical scrutiny,” then there’s nothing there for me to steer away from anyway.

  58. Bryan Howlett

    Unpacking yes. I don’t know what you expected. He gave me a bunch of non sequiturs.

    God is not best described as valuable.
    God created the universe from nothing.
    God is certainly valuable.

  59. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, this is what you’re saying.

    1. Whether God is important to reality (or whether there are reasons to believe he is) amounts to a “fine detail” of Christian belief.
    2. You don’t agree with Christian belief.
    3. Therefore you don’t care to put forth your own effort to discover whether Christians have reasons to believe God, on Christian theism, is ultimately important to reality.

    Here’s my assessment.

    Number 1 Is blindingly, egregiously, astonishingly, and amazingly wrong about one of the single most obvious and important facts of Christians’ belief. (I could have gone on.)
    Number 2 and 3 are your reasons to be content with remaining blindingly, egregiously, astonishingly, and amazingly wrong about an obvious fact of Christians’ belief.

    “I don’t care,” Bryan, is a bad reason to be content with being wrong about what might just be the ultimate fact of all reality–including your own reality.

  60. Post
    Tom Gilson

    What I expected, Bryan @61, was that you wouldn’t characterize Bill’s argument as something other than it was.

    And I also expected you might not continue to show contempt.

    You’re doing that, you know. You’ve come in to this discussion believing we are lacking in thought and substance, and you have distorted BillT’s positions to try to prove it. You’re actually doing your level best to reduce all our position to something contemptibly inane, rather than putting forth some effort to try to understand whether there’s something here of substance.

    You don’t care about the meaning of the words you’re disputing. You said so yourself.

    You’re treating us as people to prove stupid. How about treating us instead as people to engage in human discussion: giving one another the benefit of a question and a doubt, exploring what the other person thinks, asking what they mean by what they say?

    I’m trying to treat you as a human being, not just some words on the screen to debate. I’m trying to give you the respect of provoking you into caring whether you know what you’re debating about. It hasn’t worked so far. You’re still doing the contempt thing.

    And you’re worried about our moral compass.

    I suggest you take a moment to recalibrate what you’re trying to accomplish here.

  61. Post
    Tom Gilson

    My logs show (see privacy policy notification in the footnote) that you’re probably trying to find the thousands of times I’ve done what you say in #53. I’ll be glad to hear the results of your efforts.

  62. Bryan Howlett

    I have read the Bible. That convinced me that it’s not just nonsense but dangerous nonsense. Have you read the Old Testament? I mean really? The amount of rationalization required to make moral and factual sense of that is just staggering to me.

  63. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Yes, I’ve read it. At least half a dozen times. With lots of questions, lots of concerns, lots of probing, lots of study, lots of learning.

    You’re dodging the point that was put to you.

  64. Bryan Howlett

    I have read the Bible. I don’t care about God.

    I do care about you. I’m sorry if it’s coming across as proving you stupid. It’s hard not to be like that when I think the ideas are so obviously stupid. I don’t think you’re stupid. Quite the opposite. It’s a contradiction that I’ve experienced with Muslim friends too.

    I wish you could see things without your God glasses on. I do care about definitions. I’ve asked for them.

  65. Bryan Howlett

    Yes, by the way, that was me trying to find examples of that pattern of behavior of which I accused you. I couldn’t find any! So I’m not sure how I got that impression. Please accept my humble apologies.

  66. BillT

    Why are humans valuable?
    Because they were created by God.
    Why is God valuable?
    Because he created humans.

    This is absolutely not what I said.

    That you lack the integrity to be honest about what I said is simply sad.

  67. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Apologies accepted. Thank you, Bryan.

    I hope you’ll dive in deep enough, with enough real interest and with enough integrity as well, to learn more about what you do not yet know about what you’re disputing.

  68. toddes

    Bryan @59, “I’m not so naive that I think I can change your mind. Only you can do that but it would take a heck of a lot of guts. It would be seriously life-changing. I feel sorry for you in that respect. You are effectively locked in.”

    There are none so blind as those who will not see. Also see Jeremiah 5:21.

    Bryan, you realize, of course,that your advise applies to you as well. Moving from a self-determined life to a Christ-determined life is difficult and seriously life-changing. Reading your “arguments” is seems they are mainly against something (Tom’s and BillT’ beliefs) rather than for something (your beliefs).

    Actually I’m sort of curious about this statement @5″ I’m just astonished how much time and energy can be poured into the effort to make sense of utter nonsense.”

    What foundation do you rest on to declare that anything is sensible? Logic, reason, science, mathematics? All of these are based on a universe and existence that is knowable and understandable. Naturalism cannot provide that foundation, so what do you use outside of your own self-determination?

  69. SteveK

    I’m not drawing anything from theism for my worldview.

    Maybe so, but your view of the world finds importance / value /significance in realities that have none. At least with theism – Christianity in particular – there is no pretending that you actually have value.

  70. MikeH

    Tom, I should have said those passages “can” be translated “of” instead of “in”. Sorry for that sloppiness. Several scholars translate and interpret them that way: Gerhard Kittel, Richard Hays, Douglas Campbell, N.T. Wright, Sigve Tonstad… Now, the meaning of “faith of Christ” applies more to what was happening in Christ’s sacrifice than to the way he lived his life. In fact the emphasis is more on his “faithfulness”. The more I’ve looked into this, it seems that these verses don’t speak directly to the point of your OP – that Jesus did not need to act by faith and that’s a piece of evidence for his deity. (I don’t know how he could be “faithful” without acting by faith but that’s a matter of personal interpretation I suppose.) I’m content to leave these verses out of the discussion.

    But that doesn’t change the stance that Jesus, as a human, did have faith in God. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (catchy title, no?) states, “Jesus himself lived by faith and encouraged others to follow his example.” Two pages later, addressing those faith-of/in-Christ verses says, “it is difficult to believe that Paul would have failed to clarify the meaning of the phrase if it referred to something other than faith in Christ.” Saying “Jesus himself lived by faith” is in the context of events in Jesus’ life when he showed his followers that great things happen by faith. For example, Matthew 17:14-21 – Jesus drove a demon out of a boy after some of his disciples attempted and failed; they asked why they couldn’t do it and Jesus said, “Because you have so little faith.” That indicates that he had the faith necessary to do it. The Dictionary (above) says, “It must not be forgotten that every summons and statement of Jesus contained the elements of faith, trust, knowledge, decision, obedience. His preaching cannot be understood apart from the many-sided aspects of faith and trust. The faith of Jesus was deeply involved in the act of living and was on a completely different plane from hypothetical abstractions.”

  71. sean

    Tom said: “Dr. Tuggy says that’s because he [Jesus] doesn’t need to speak of it; his faith is evident in what he does. But why then does Paul, who also evidences his faith clearly by what he does, speak of his own faith at least 18 times?”

    Whether you are speaking of Jesus or other enlightened teachers who operate on a cosmic level of consciousness… for example the Hindu guru RamaKrishna, Gautama the Buddha and other enlightened individuals of this class… the moment is all because these are men and women who can “do.” They are wholly unified, at one withe the deity. Their actions and words flow from the supernal connection that radiates from their very center. To speak about them ‘not mentioning’ faith is absurd… a redundant perception… the type of observation that might come from those who lack eyes to see, ears to hear etc. Because clearly these enlightened masters and Jesus – who was far beyond any mere master or guru – were clearly in-the-moment and with God in the most complete sense. Their existential reality was defined by their moment-to-moment relationship with the divine.

    The vast majority of humanity is asleep. People are, to quote George Gurdjieff ‘chronically malfunctioning machines’ that only reach a fraction of their potential. But this doesn’t prevent people from imagining they are integrated, imagining they have a central and defining “I”… imagining they know everything. Lying is an epidemic… with everyone believing they are experts on matters they know little or nothing about. In the realm of Maya deception and delusion is the order of the day. So a lot of argumentation and speculation comes from positions that are essentially at a distance from truth… more didactic than actual.

    To speak of Jesus not mentioning faith is a red herring. He was seeking to instill faith in those who were seeking transformation, it was part of his call. That it didn’t relate to his own condition is like saying that the non-mention of dependence-on-oxygen is odd in the case of a man with his lungs bursting with clean, pure air. Jesus was the way, the truth and the light. The Word that was with God.

    Paul naturally spoke of faith because if any man was aware of his shortcomings it was Paul the Apostle. His struggle not only involved bringing others to Christ but labouring as a man on a very great and daunting mission. The reason why Paul mentions faith in relation to his own condition and Jesus didn’t would seem glaringly obvious.

  72. Post
    Tom Gilson

    MikeH @73: That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t change the argument much. Jesus’ “faith” is inferred. He never refers to his own faith, and no one ever sets him up as an example of faith. These facts have yet to be accounted for in your analysis.

    Jesus’ inferred faith is at least equally well understood in the terms I put it in my previous post on this topic:

    2. Jesus certainly trusted the Father and the Spirit. To say he did not have “faith” is not to say he had no trust in the other Persons of the Trinity. Rather, it is to say he did not have the same kind of faith that we are called to have: the kind of faith that sees through a glass darkly, and that’s spoken of in Hebrews 11:1, where there are things hoped for and not seen. In the case of God, there is an obvious and important semantic distinction between faith and trust.

    This explanation works both to explain how Jesus operated on earth and why no one spoke of his having faith.

  73. Post
    Tom Gilson

    sean, if you’re going to rely on these other religious leaders as references, then you’re in a different conversation than the one we’re in. They were not of “this class,” if the class includes Jesus.

  74. Post
  75. BillT

    If you are so convinced you are right that you think you can deploy logical arguments then you need to respond to my challenges and teach me whatever pertinent facts I need to know in simple language with the definitions you use and clear logic that can be scrutinized. If you fail to do that, that’s fine too, and understandable. I would steer well away from logical scrutiny too if I were in your position.


    This entire website is dedicated to the logical arguments for our faith. There are hundreds of posts that “use and clear logic that can be scrutinized.” The trouble with you Bryan is where would we start. You seem to know so little about God and/or Christianity that we would have to post the entirety of Christian apologetical thought to satisfy your above inquiry. You don’t seem to know enough to ask a reasonable question we might address in this context. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry. Ask away.

    Here’s another thought. At the top of this blog are a number of links. One of them says Turning Points. Why don’t you look there. There are twenty two different posts in ten categories with their associated discussions. Find one that interests you and familiarize yourself with the basic proposition and then ask us whatever questions you may have about it. How’s that for a compromise.

  76. Bryan Howlett

    There are millions of posts written by apologetics and more coming out every day. Simply put, it’s impossible to read them all. And I have no desire to.

    From what I can make out though, there are a few major avenues of argument. The one I’ve seen mentioned a lot on this site is that “the resurrection was true and proves what Jesus said is true”. You were taking me down a different avenue, along the lines of “our value / morality proves the existence of God” (at least I think that’s what you were getting at?).

    These arguments are absolutely jam-packed with false and dubious assumptions. I could take the time to point them out, but I can be pretty certain it won’t make the blindest bit of difference to you. The very fact that (I assume) you believe the God of the Old Testament is a just and loving god who deserves to be praised is strong evidence, in my opinion, that you’ll be able to rationalize anything to retain your existing belief.

    Additional evidence of this is the fact that you kept mentioning that in my worldview we are no more valuable than ants. This is a fallacy called an appeal to consequences. Even after I pointed it out, you continued to use it as if it were an argument.

  77. BillT


    And your question is?

    You continue to make numerous unsupported assertions and allegations and you continue to demonstrate a very limited understanding of theism. I get the impression you don’t really want to find out anything about what we believe or why we believe it. That is, of course, your perogative but does leave unanswered the question of what it is you are doing here.

  78. G. Rodrigues

    @Bryan Howlet:

    I could take the time to point them out, but I can be pretty certain it won’t make the blindest bit of difference to you.

    Well, I am sure it is our loss that you will not share with us your nuggets of wisdom, but if you have nothing to say — and what you have said until now amounts to exactly nothing — why don’t you go do something else more productive and stop cluttering the combox? Just a suggestion.

  79. SteveK


    The very fact that (I assume) you believe the God of the Old Testament is a just and loving god who deserves to be praised is strong evidence, in my opinion, that you’ll be able to rationalize anything to retain your existing belief.

    You either don’t understand what the term rationalize means or you are unaware of who it is we are actually talking about – God.

  80. SteveK

    If a being actually has a specific/unique relationship to other beings, it’s not rationalizing to believe that this is a fact – even when someone comes along and claims that the relationship is not actually a fact. It’s either true or it’s false.

    I realize you don’t believe in God, but what I’m saying doesn’t require that you believe.

  81. Bryan Howlett

    If a being actually has a specific/unique relationship to other beings, it’s not rationalizing to believe that this is a fact

    The if in your statement is the point of contention – it is your belief that it is fact; I do not believe it – and rationalization is how you explain away evidence that does not exactly fit with your belief, so as to continue to believe it’s a fact.

    For example, rationalizing is the contortions you have to go to explain the existence of babies with brain tumors while maintaining a belief that God truly loves us, or why Jesus didn’t think to let us know about bacteria or anything really that wasn’t already known to the people of that time and area – e.g. not even a mention of kangaroos or America for example, or why God didn’t just click his metaphorical fingers and make things right, or how He’s omniscient but didn’t know that things would turn out the way they did so He had to send His only “son” (who was also God?!), or why the Bible contains instructions for how to keep your slaves, and when to stone people to death etc. etc. etc.

  82. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, you say, “The one I’ve seen mentioned a lot on this site is that ‘the resurrection was true and proves what Jesus said is true.'”

    I’m not very strong on the historical arguments for Jesus’ existence. I’m much more involved in philosophical approaches. So while I have done some work here relating to Jesus’ resurrection, it’s far from being the most prominent theme here

    So either you’ve been reading selectively or not at all. In the one case you’ve had a streak of unusual occurrences, in the other case you’re not telling the truth about reading much on this site.

    I’m rather curious which it is.

  83. Bryan Howlett

    I’m reading in the comments, not just your articles. Actually, in general, I only read the comments. I also read a lot about 18 months or 2 years ago then had a big gap, so these topics might not have been covered recently. But I remember some ex-detective wrote a book digging into the evidence around the resurrection and that book was put forward a number of times in comments. I think that’s also why I wasn’t able to find the evidence for my earlier claim and the articles that I checked weren’t going far enough back – i.e. to the time when I was reading a lot.

  84. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @85 and earlier:

    It’s rationalizing if it’s an ad hoc explanation that only fits in the overall worldview through twisting, contortion, and jamming. It’s not rationalizing if it fits neatly into the overall worldview.

    You’ve shown in other comments that you don’t know the meaning of the word “God” in Christian belief. If put to the test, I doubt you would know much about ancient literature’s use of hyperbole, the meaning of bonded indenture in the Old Testament, the eternal perspective on soul-building, or the justice of God with respect to injured babies. You don’t know enough about Jesus’ purposes on earth to judge whether it would have met his objectives or hindered them to discuss bacteria. (There is ample reason to believe that if he had mentioned bacteria he would have been misunderstood or laughed off for it, or else he would have laid the foundation for a new false religion and priesthood. That’s all I have to say about that for now, though.) You don’t know that God in his omniscience planned for how things would turn out from “before the foundation of the world,” and you don’t know how well that makes sense in our worldview.

    Now, the common theme there is this: You don’t know. You do not know what you’re criticizing. You’re criticizing in ignorance.

    This is not disputable. Whether Christianity is true might be disputable; but whether you know what you’re talking about when you criticize Christianity is not. You display ignorance of Christian belief in virtually every criticism you make of that belief.

    Do you have any desire to know what you’re talking about? Did you see the advice given previously to read the Ten Turning Points series? Follow that advice. Learn at least a little bit of reality about what Christians believe before you tell us we’re wrong to believe it!

    Back to the “rationalizing” charge: Your ignorance entails that you don’t know enough to assess whether our explanations fit our understanding of God and history, we’re twisting, jamming, and using ad hoc explanations.

    There is rationalizing, and there is prejudiced guessing. Then there is the kind of prejudiced guessing that (without knowledge) accuses the other person of rationalizing.

    That’s you. To your ignorance you are adding prejudiced guesswork.

    This again is not disputable. Whether Christianity is true might be disputable, but whether you know what you’re talking about when you accuse us of twisting our beliefs–that’s indisputable. You don’t.

    Final question to you for now: Do you like yourself that way, displaying yourself as one who practices prejudiced, ignorant guesswork? If I were you, I’d find that an uncomfortable position to stand in.

  85. Bryan Howlett

    I have heard various explanations. But you’re right, I don’t know which specific explanations, rationalizations or euphemisms you use. I know that Christians do not all share the same ideas and vast numbers of Christians barely give it much thought. My father in-law goes to church every week yet he admitted recently that he has never actually read the Bible himself. Even I have read the Bible!

    What I do know is that there’s a far, far, far simpler explanation for all those contradictions I raised: There is no God.

    I can argue for the simple explanation. I don’t need to know your explanations any more than I need to understand an astrologer’s reasoning as to why the Venus lunar charts alignment with your “chi” predict how your day is going to go.

  86. Post
    Tom Gilson

    The world you live in must be far, far simpler than the one we’re trying to explain.

    Bryan, if those “contradictions” were the only thing that needed explaining, then you would be right. But first of all, some of them are only contradictions in your contentedly ignorant imagination. Some of them are only contradictions by way of mindlessly anachronistic thinking with respect to texts from very long ago and very far away. Some of them are mere paradoxes: apparent contradictions with fairly simple resolutions. Some of them are indeed complex, which is only fair, given that reality is complex.

    I don’t know whether I should feel disgusted over your contentment with your own ignorance. I do know that if I were attacking any contrary viewpoint with as little knowledge as you’re displaying, I’d be disgusted with myself. I can’t believe you’re willing to put up with this in yourself.

    Some Christians know little, too. So what? You’re not talking with them here.

  87. Post
    Tom Gilson

    If this is true…

    I don’t need to know your explanations any more than I need to understand an astrologer’s reasoning as to why the Venus lunar charts alignment with your “chi” predict how your day is going to go.

    … then I suggest you quit commenting here. It’s a statement of your complete disinterest in what we’re saying, and it’s presented with contempt.

    If you’re willing to change your mind about it, please feel free to stay involved. But I’d be a fool to continue in further conversation with someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and has communicated so clearly that he doesn’t care what anyone else is talking about. Then we’d have two fools conversing (the one who engages in contemptuous, ignorant, prejudiced guesswork would be the other one). I’m not going to be the second fool.

    It’s your choice. If your stated attitude is going to continue to be your attitude, then I’d like to show you the metaphorical door and ask you to leave. If you’d like to stick around, then show some sign that you’re willing to listen to the people you’re ostensibly dialoguing with.

  88. SteveK


    The if in your statement is the point of contention.

    We know that all beings have a relationship to other beings just from their mere existence. That should not be controversial. What’s at issue is whether that factual relationship entails anything specific, like praise and worship.

    Keeping in mind that you don’t have to believe in God to have this discussion, your claim is that the human / God relationship does not entail praise and worship. In order for you to make this claim you must know something about this relationship – otherwise you are just blowing smoke.

    You didn’t get your knowledge of the relationship from the Bible because nowhere does is say what you are claiming.

    So, other than your emotional reaction to what the Bible says about the relationship, I’m wondering if you have any basis for your claim?

  89. Bryan Howlett

    What I meant is that Christians are a diverse bunch of people with highly diverse beliefs and reasons for believing – even around the core issues.

    You want me to invest a significant amount of time to understand your particular beliefs and you think it’s disgusting if I don’t.

    To understand why I might not feel like it’s a good use of my time, I can only give you an analogy of astrology or Islam or witchcraft or homeopathy (the diluting thing because “water has a memory” apparently) – whichever of those you have perhaps read about (like I have read the Bible and many comments on this site) and drawn my own conclusion that it is absolute nonsense. Mohammed didn’t fly to the moon on a winged-horse. It seems obvious. Yet, millions believe it. That’s the weirdness of religion. It stops you seeing the obvious.

  90. Post
    Tom Gilson

    If you’re not interested in knowing what you’re talking about when you talk about Christianity; if you’ve come to a predetermined conclusion that we’re spouting “absolute nonsense” when you don’t even know what we’re talking about; and if you’re not interested in listening to our explanations; then you’re acting the fool.

    As to our “particular beliefs:” the nature of God, of Christ, and of evil are not very “particular.” They’re part and parcel of all Christianity. Even if they were particular, however, they are the particular beliefs of the particular people you have been ostensibly dialoguing with. I say “ostensibly” because when one side doesn’t care what the other side says, it isn’t actually a dialogue.

    There is no logical path, by the way, from the falsehood of homeopathy and Islam or astrology to the falsehood of Christianity. That’s the fallacy of guilt by association, coupled with a question-begging in what you choose to associate together.

    One more chance. Do you want to listen to the people you’re ostensibly dialoguing with? Or do you prefer your ignorant, prejudiced, contemptuous guesswork about what we think and believe?

  91. Bryan Howlett

    Your claim is that the human / God relationship does not entail praise and worship

    No, my claim is that there is not enough evidence to warrant any belief that God exists. There is no relationship.

  92. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Funny: you don’t know the meaning of the word “God,” but you’re sure there isn’t enough evidence to warrant belief that whatever-it-is exists.

  93. Bryan Howlett

    OK, well, I didn’t mean to claim a logical path. I was trying to give you an analogy so you could perhaps understand why I’m reluctant to invest a lot of time reading a bunch of your past articles.

    I can totally see that from your point of view it’s irritating and frustrating for me to be so dismissive and so ignorant of all this body of knowledge that you have. I have read the Bible, but it seems like you expect me to read a lot more than that in order to have a seat at the table.

    I shall try to argue for the simple model rather than against your complex model. Or if you prefer I can leave.

  94. SteveK


    No, my claim is that there is not enough evidence to warrant any belief that God exists. There is no relationship.

    We can talk about the facts of a relationship even within the context of fictional realities like the world of Harry Potter,

    You made a claim about God and about who is rationalizing – whether God is a fiction or not isn’t relevant to your claim. Stop dodging.

  95. Post
    Tom Gilson

    I expect people who claim to have drawn conclusions to know what they’re talking about, and to admit it if they do not. That’s all. You can have a seat at the table with any amount of reading at all, provided you don’t draw uninformed, prejudicial conclusions about what other people are saying (which you have been doing), and provided you actually listen to what others say (which you have told us you’re not interested in).

  96. Bryan Howlett


    I’m confused as to the point you’re making. I agree that God exists in as much as He is a character in a well-known story. Is that what you’re talking about? I.e. the relationship people have with the idea of God?

  97. Post
  98. G. Rodrigues

    @Bryan Howlett:

    You want me to invest a significant amount of time to understand your particular beliefs and you think it’s disgusting if I don’t.

    Translation: “I confess I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about or what is the substance of your beliefs, or even give a damn about them, but here I am cluttering your combox loudmouthing how your beliefs are really stupid.”

  99. SteveK


    I’m confused as to the point you’re making.

    In #85, you said:

    For example, rationalizing is the contortions you have to go to explain the existence of babies with brain tumors while maintaining a belief that God truly loves us, or why Jesus didn’t think to let us know about bacteria or anything really that wasn’t already known to the people of that time and area…

    It’s clear from your example that that you think evidence is being explained away in order for me to rationalize both the existence of a loving God and the existence of babies with brain tumors, etc. etc. If God doesn’t exist then the charge of rationalizing makes no sense.

    Nobody can deny the truth of babies with brain tumors so I must be explaining away some truth about God. What?

  100. Bryan Howlett

    G. Rodrigues,

    I know it might be difficult for you to empathize with me. Imagine people are making important life decisions – and decisions that affect others – based on astrology, which (I imagine) you know is pseudoscientific nonsense. You want to put a different worldview across and criticize theirs. How much time would you want to invest in learning about astrology? Especially if there were a lot of diverse opinions on astrological techniques from different astrologers. From the point of view of building rapport – and increasing the chance of changing their minds – it might be useful, but from the point of view of learning anything practically useful it would not. So you might be able to understand my reluctance, as this is how I think of Christianity (and all religions for that matter).

  101. Bryan Howlett

    You are rationalizing when you come up with contorted explanations as to why some event fits your model, rather than adopting a simpler model.

    You don’t deny that babies can have brain tumors. That seems to contradict the idea that God is all powerful, all good and all loving. Maybe you don’t think He is, but if you do, you have to go through some contortions to explain why such a God would allow babies and their families to suffer like that. That is the kind of rationalization that I’m talking about.

  102. G. Rodrigues

    @Bryan Howlett:

    I know it might be difficult for you to empathize with me.

    Will you cut the crap with the empathy talk? All you have been doing is insulting every single one of us Christians, shamelessly and right in our faces. You do not want to learn? Fine. Just stop pretending that your opinion is any more significant than the muu a cow makes.

  103. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, when I say God is not a character in the Christians’ story, this is what I mean.

    If the Christians’s story is false, then God is a mythological character in it. If our story is true, however, he is a Being of an altogether different quality and level; so much so that even to call him “a being” is inaccurate; he is Being itself. He is therefore also not “a character” in a story, he is the creator of the story, the creator of all story, the creator of all characters and all who tell and all who enjoy or hate every story.

    To call him “a character,” then is either:
    a) to be ignorant of what Christians mean by “God,” or
    b) to assume the Christians’ story is false; which we will not let you get away with as an assumption.

  104. Billy Squibs

    Bryan @ 103

    I’d be willing to wager the fine selection of craft beers I received as a Christmas gift – including the delicious 5am Saint – that you are misunderstanding a fundamental aspect of Tom’s position. I think whoever wrote the Statement of Faith for Ratio Cristi (of which Tom is the National Field Director (whatever that means :P)) was more than a little familiar with the Westminster Confession. Additionally, I get the impression that most of the regular Christian contributors to the comments section of this blog would subscribe to the doctrine of Trinity

  105. Bryan Howlett

    @G. Rodrigues

    Everyone has an opinion and thinks that opinion is important. You can feel insulted by what I say or you can actually respond to the arguments I’m making.

  106. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @107, your understanding of rationalization is thoughtless, it’s false, and it demonstrates once again you don’t care what we write. Read what I wrote again in #90. Sheesh.

    And let me remind you:

    When you say a is rationalization because of b; and when someone explains that b does not make a rationalization because of c, d, e, f, … , it’s really pathetic on your part to respond that a is rationalization because of b.

    What that reveals on your part is inattentive mindless bullheadedness.

    Do you like yourself that way?

  107. SteveK

    @ Bryan #107
    You did say *evidence* was being rationalized away and I’m not getting any evidence from you – just philosophical musings about what the world looks like through naturalistic glasses.

    Speaking of philosophy, there is no actual contradiction, only an apparent, or analogous one. This has been discussed for centuries. You might want to read up on the topic.

  108. Post
    Tom Gilson

    “or you can respond to the arguments I’m making”—-what a great restatement of what I said just now in #112!!!

    (Thank you. Now pay attention to your own good advice.)

  109. Post
  110. Bryan Howlett


    I understand you believe He created the story and created everything. But surely He can also be described as a character in a story as a strict subset of your wider belief? As far as I know (other than in the guise of Jesus) He doesn’t appear directly, but His character (His ideas, His nature) is shown throughout the Bible.

  111. Post
  112. Post
    Tom Gilson

    My reply was an argument and an explanation. Your reply here is name-calling, or at best, another repeat of a is rationalization because of b. Mindless.

    That unanswered question is still hanging there: are you interested in listening? If not, take a hike. This blog is for thinking, not for name-calling.

  113. Post
  114. Bryan Howlett

    All right, I can’t be bothered to get into it all. Already we’ve lost so much rapport that you’ll never be convinced by anything I say and I’ll never be convinced by anything you say.

    I am so sorry if you felt I was calling you names. I didn’t feel like I was personally insulting, but I guess it’s hard not to be disparaging and condescending when you think your ideas are so much better than someone else’s. We all do it and, honestly, I’m critical of your beliefs, but I do value you as people. I can see that your worldview is part of your self-conception, and that insulting your beliefs feels personal and for that I am sorry.

    Tom, can I request that you ban me so I can’t revisit the decision? Thanks and God bless. 🙂

  115. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Insult? No. That’s not what I meant. What I meant was that in response to an actual argument, you came back with a label, a name, no argument at all. It wasn’t insulting. What it was, was thoughtless and weak.

    I’ll ban you if you want.

  116. SteveK

    OK, well, I didn’t mean to claim a logical path. I was trying to give you an analogy so you could perhaps understand why I’m reluctant to invest a lot of time reading a bunch of your past articles.

    Translation: the analogy doesn’t actually serve to strengthen my argument against Christianity. I made the analogy so you could see how messed up my understanding of Christianity actually is – and because of that – why I’m not interested in it.

  117. G. Rodrigues

    @Bryan Howlett:

    We all do it and, honestly, I’m critical of your beliefs, but I do value you as people.

    What a load of croc.

  118. SteveK

    I didn’t read everything Bryan said, but he sure was confident that a non-traditional understanding of Christianity was the most correct. If he were to repent today and believe we would gladly welcome that, but his views of God would put him on the extreme outer fringes of the faith where God is imperfect and a bit of a bumbler. That’s not a good place to be. You can’t stay there for long.

  119. Bryan Howlett

    I know it probably sounds awfully arrogant to think a God who can create a universe of 100 million galaxies, each containing up to a 100 trillion stars, might not have done it all for us.

  120. Post
    Tom Gilson

    He didn’t.

    That’s one of the earlier posts in the series we’ve been recommending you read. Apparently you didn’t take our advice.

    (I guess I didn’t succeed in banning you as you requested.)

  121. Bryan Howlett

    Your answer in that post (to a slightly different question) seemed to be a long-winded way of saying God can do anything. Creating billions of galaxies is a cinch. Yet this same God has to send Himself / His son to Earth and sacrifice Him on a cross to save us from our sins because our ancestors ate (metaphorical?) fruit from a tree. He also gave us tsunamis, hemorrhoids and ebola. Praiseworthy indeed. I can see why you think I’m nuts not to investigate deeper.

  122. Post
    Tom Gilson

    If that were what we taught, you’d be nuts to investigate it further. It isn’t.

    You don’t give a damn what we really teach.

    Yet you’re sure we’re wrong. Your distorted version of what we teach is obviously wrong, therefore our version must be wrong.

    I’ll bet you think of yourself as more rational than believers.

  123. Post
  124. Victoria

    Hiya Tom

    Ah, now we can get back to the OP 🙂

    After my challenge to Bryan over on the Bill Nye thread, I knew it would be a waste of time to continue with him – even granting that Bryan might be a physicist and understands the physics/math of the question, his response told me that he doesn’t really understand how profound Wigner’s question is, nor does he really care about the answer.

    I think one reason that this is a hard topic to nail down is that faith, as you and I both know, is such a multi-faceted concept. Perhaps if you were a bit more fine-grained about those facets and how Jesus’ life and ministry relates to each, it would better illustrate the point you are trying to make. Jesus is, after all, fully God and fully human – both natures in one Person, so perhaps we should expect that He would have in common (in His humanity) with us some aspects of faith as we have to live it, while at the same time, manifesting characteristics appropriate to His deity. Sort of an Incarnational approach.
    What do you think, Tom?

    BTW – I’m glad to read (over on the TC Facebook page) that you are getting more mobile again, out walking – good news indeed.
    Happy New Year!

  125. SteveK

    If I understand the purpose of your comment, Victoria, it is to say that we need to explain the origin of order. Someone like Bryan has a faith of sorts, and of course Christian’s have their faith.

    As for me, I like to ask myself what kind of reality can create order AND sustain it? The latter part of the question seems to always get overlooked in favor of examining the explanation from a historical perspective a-la Kalam. Order is sustained moment by moment, today, and that too requires an explanation.

  126. Victoria

    Hiya Steve! Merry Christmas( belated) and Happy New Year(early) 🙂

    Yes, the origin of order was what I had in mind there – and not just order, but the elegance and simplicity of the mathematical structure of that order.
    I also agree with your point about the continual sustaining of that order. After all, God did say that He has established both the ‘laws of Nature'(the inherent properties and dynamics of the ‘stuff of the Creation’) and that He has a covenant with His Creation as well, one that He actively upholds.

  127. SteveK

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well. I’ve always been a bit amazed that the ratio, Pi, fits into so many mathematical models that have nothing to do with circles.

  128. JAD

    What does it require to become a Christian? I think there are things: (1) an open mind, (2) an open heart and (3) a willingness believe and accept the logical (specifically ontological), moral and spiritual claims of Christianity. (More succinctly: Mind, heart, volition.)

    Unfortunately, it appears that most of the interlocutors, who comment here, like “please ban me” Bryan Howlett, are lacking in one or all these. Some like Ray Ingles have been here playing these kind of games for several years. Why? Maybe can tell us. For me interacting with Ray, Shane Fletcher, DJC etc., has become a big waste of time. Why are they here? Why do they prefer to obfuscate rather than communicate? How can they be so argumentative, writing paragraph after paragraph then page after page, without ever presenting a real argument? Again, maybe they can tell us. They know their motives. Why not be open and honest about them? I can lay all my cards face up on the table, why can’t they? What are they hiding and why?

    At times I have thought that the whole apologetics enterprise is a big waste of time. But then I come across stories like this:

    I spent several years investigating Christian apologetics and seeing how the atheists’ arguments – they just weren’t working. I couldn’t use any good arguments against Christianity myself. It made me realize that I’ve run out of arguments and objections. There is really good solid stuff here. So I just had to face up to the fact that all I was left with was the not wanting it to be true. I was still pretty stubborn. I kind of carried on a bit still sort of not really acting on it very much and still just making life decisions that were based on maybe being a bit more hedonistic or just trying to ignore it. But it really did get to the crunch point of just realizing, look, there are good arguments here. I’m running away from it. It doesn’t really seem to be working. This is just stupid. Just come back to it. So it really accumulated. As my personal life and that kind of running away was going downhill, the interest in the apologetics was coming right up.

    The real decisive moment, actually, was when William Lane Craig came along to do a speaking and debating tour last October, I got heavily involved in that. It was fantastic just meeting him and his wife and the other people involved and just seeing more of the arguments and drawing it together. There actually was a moment, I think, that really changed it. I was speaking with his wife Jan, who is a lovely lady, and she actually said to me – I explained I was sympathetic to Christianity but I’m not quite there – and she said, “Pete, if you don’t think you can give absolutely everything to Jesus, don’t become a Christian. Don’t do it.” That really shook me.[5] I thought that all Christians would just want to beg people to come and join us. “No please, come on! Come on!” And she actually said, “No, if you can’t commit to it, don’t do it.” That really gave me pause for thought really. That was when I realized this running away was silly, and the arguments don’t work.

    Read more:

    And, I could go on to name many others who have come to Christ via the apologetic route. Indeed some have become big names I Christian circles: Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, Hugh Ross, C.S. Lewis etc.

    However, I think, perhaps unconsciously, some of the Christians here have become tacit enablers– enabling the wrong type of attitudes and thinking. Perhaps it’s time we practiced some tough love, not necessarily outright banning, like Bryan Howlett sarcastically(?) suggests, but challenging them to come clean about their motives. Then not enabling those who are not willing to level with us.

  129. Dale

    Some final(?) thoughts:

    I brief, I think, Tom, that this line of argument costs more than you think. It costs not only denying that Jesus had faith, but also denying that he was a man of prayer.

    Better, I think, to reconsider the point about not explicitly mentioning his faith. Why be so sure that these writers would *explicitly* mention Jesus’s faith if they believed him to have had faith? It’s not self evident that this probability is high. It seems to me that they imply it often enough to communicate it clearly; they needn’t give any complete list of his virtues.

    God bless,

  130. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Hi, Dale, and thanks for commenting.

    This takes nothing away from Jesus being a man of prayer. He had a continuing relationship with the other Persons of the Godhead, including a trust relationship expressed in prayer. He didn’t have Hebrews 11:1 faith, the faith that relates to things not seen, but he did have relationship and he did have trust, as I see it.

    It is, certainly, an argument from silence. To me the silence is very significant. I don’t see this as an absolutely persuasive argument, though, since it is an argument from silence. If there were no other indications in Scripture of Jesus’ deity, this alone would be completely inadequate to make that case. As part of a cumulative case, however, I think it adds weight to that conclusion.

    I can see how you and others might not be surprised that Jesus’ faith is never explicitly mentioned in the Gospels. For my part, I find it quite surprising, for reasons already stated.

    Happy New Year to you!

  131. Dale

    OK, so you now deny that prayer requires faith. Consistent, to be sure. Whether it’s true is another thing. 🙂

    Then after the resurrection, when we see, as it were, face to face, we’ll still pray?

    God bless, and Happy New Year to you and yours.

  132. Post
    Tom Gilson

    I deny that communication between members of the Trinity requires Hebrews 11:1 faith.

    Your statement is altogether too “shotgun,” and actually a bit disappointing. I thought I had communicated it more clearly and carefully than that. I appreciate the opportunity now to clarify.

  133. Victoria

    What happens if you turn your argument around? Rather than using it inductively ( no mention of Jesus’ faith implies Jesus’ deity), let’s use it abductively, starting from the position that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity Incarnate – fully God and fully human. This position is already well-supported and established by the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles.

    I agree that the lack of any explicit statements of Jesus having faith is indeed significant – in the light of Jesus’ Incarnate Nature, how do we understand the significance of the way Jesus modeled a faith-based life for us?

  134. Victoria

    Can I add one more criterion to your list?
    (4) the realization that one needs what Christ offers.

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