Tom Gilson

John Loftus’s God-Answer to Animal Suffering: A World Without Nature, Science, Human Freedom, or Moral Significance

John Loftus and Book the Christian Delusion

Book Review

The Problem of Animal Suffering

In a chapter of his own in his edited book The Christian Delusion, John Loftus says there is no possible justification for God to have allowed all the enormous suffering that animals in our world have experienced. It’s a question on which I have done no study at all, so I found his survey of eight Christian answers quite informative — albeit with some cracks in his logic I don’t have space for here — until answer seven. There’s no crack there; it’s a chasm instead, and it does his credibility some serious damage.

Loftus writes (pages 259-260),

[Michael J.] Murray suggests that it is intrinsically good for God to create a universe verse that begins from a state of chaos and leads up to order rather than instantaneously created by fiat, and that such a manner of creating is an outweighing good of the sufferings it produces. …

He suggests it is good that human beings exist in a regular, law-like environment where human soul making is possible and where they have freedom to exercise it.

I think Murray’s answer has definite possibilities. Loftus can imagine more than possibilities. Let’s see how much he really can imagine.

Strange Imaginings

I will quote at length from pages 262 and following:

I see nothing in the world that could not be bettered by God through perpetual miracles. As David Hume wrote, the ordering of the world by natural laws “seems nowise necessary to a very perfect Being.”78 I call this the Perpetual Miracle Objection.…

God could have made fruit trees, tomatoes, carrots, grape vines, blueberry bushes, corn stalks, bananas, wheat, barley, and corn to grow as plentiful as weeds do today in areas where they are needed, or he could have changed our diets. And if for some reason this isn’t enough, then God could’ve created us such that the process of photosynthesis would feed us off of the sun itself. Barring that, I see no reason why any creature has to eat at all, since God could perform a perpetual miracle that would provide us all with miraculously created nutrients inside our bodies throughout our lives. If he did this, no creature would ever starve to death. …

Human beings would still have to work for a living, since we’d want a good home with the comforts of life. Cities would still need to be built and maintained. With more time on our hands we could meditate, pray, and focus on raising our families. We could do more traveling, and be better educated. We could pursue our hobbies or engage in sporting activities. And if God had done this we wouldn’t know any differently.

But if there were no meat eaters of any kind, then what would happen to dead carcasses. … They decompose into nothing because of the help of scavenger birds, like vultures, and parasites, like maggots, (although God could have designed all bodies to dissolve naturally by innate chemical reactions once dead).…

Furthermore, if God did these kinds of perpetual miracles, then scientists would not be able to explain as many things naturally, which in turn would be a good thing for believers. The God of the Gaps defense would be given a boost. I’ve already explained in some detail why a world that couldn’t be explained by natural science would help me to believe, anyway. And such a world would not significantly affect morally significant human freedom.

There’s so much wrong with this.

Writing Off All Science

First, there cannot be any such thing as a perpetual miracle. A miracle is by definition an exception. If everything’s an exception then nothing is.

Granted, Loftus could parry that objection easily enough: “Fine, we don’t have to call them miracles. Just call them God’s continual actions in his world.” But that’s no help. Remember he said, “scientists would not be able to explain as many things naturally” I wonder what leads him to think scientists would be able to explain anything at all naturally. There’s nothing natural in a world of perpetual miracle, at least, nothing natural in any sense of the word we could imagine. There would be no natural regularities to discover, and thus no science.

Did you catch that? Loftus thinks that if he were God he would have made a world with no science, ever. Really? Is that what he pictures when he dreams of a better world than this one?

Misunderstanding Belief and Freedom

He’s completely mixed up on religious belief, too, when he says believers would get “a boost” from all the new gaps in natural law. We’d really need God to explain all those gaps, wouldn’t we? Well, no. Apart from the fact that there would be no natural law, and thus no gaps, there would also be no message for us to believe.

Here’s why. Any message in order to be a message to us needs to be distinct enough to be noticed for what it is in the midst of the noise around it. There has to be a strong enough signal-to-noise ratio. A world of perpetual miracle would be a world of nothing but noise, a place where nothing was extraordinary, so no signal could even be recognized as being a signal. We wouldn’t know a god from a golf ball. (And who would play golf — even with all that additional “time on our hands” — not knowing where the ball might dodge off to so it wouldn’t bean any badgers?) We might not even know a golf ball from one of those “miraculously created nutrients inside our bodies.” We wouldn’t reliably know anything at all.

But (Loftus might retort) God could teach us directly and without mediate causes, just planting knowledge in our brains; but then it could no longer be possible that “such a world would not significantly affect morally significant human freedom.” If God taught us that way we would have no basis on which to decide either to accept or decline his message; we would have no freedom to choose our response to him. If God wanted to create a world of free agents making morally significant decisions, Loftus’s way wouldn’t be the way.

Eliminating Human Moral Significance

Finally, Loftus seems to be imagining a world where actions have no consequences. Suppose I hit a golf ball that’s headed straight for a badger. More to the point, suppose I take direct aim with my 3-iron and try to smash the critter. In Loftus’s world of perpetual miracles and no animal suffering, either I’d miss every time, or the 3-iron would turn soft as a licorice stick, or the beast would slip on a helmet before the club reached its head. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t harm the thing. My intentions might matter, but my actions never could; and in that case it’s impossible to imagine anyone ever developing an intention to harm.

So here’s the question: how could God use perpetual miracles to prevent animal suffering in a world where humans golf and build cities and travel — and make morally significant choices along the way?

(And if you weren’t sure of my point on the impossibility of science, when you read it the first time, think about it again now: how does he do all this while still allowing enough cause-and-effect regularity to permit science to happen?)

Credibility Lost

Loftus thinks the world would be a better place if no human decision could make no moral difference ever. At least not where animals are concerned. And he thinks Christianity would be more believable in a world like this. This isn’t just weak, it’s horrifically unsound.

Maybe none of this was as clear to him as it should have been, and I should give him grace for that. I would — except for this: in a book that pretends to speak authoritatively about how the Christian “delusion” supposed fails, the author really ought not be so delusional about religion, human freedom, and science and logic.

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167 thoughts on “John Loftus’s God-Answer to Animal Suffering: A World Without Nature, Science, Human Freedom, or Moral Significance

  1. The Christian Delusion: “An self called atheists write a book about a god that he don’t believe, about a concept that he think is not real, about a religion that he think is a lie and a delusion to belive, using the doctrine of the say religion to make comparisons about him and the god and the concept of the say religion.”

    “He write about the say god as if he have better morality, hability, knowledge, an imagination and other things that the say god for “the creation of everything that exist, would exist and has existed”, thinking in whishfull sense that he can create a better everything that the say god because now that he have a standard/comparation/point of view (the creation of the say god, he is a part of the creation) there is “no chance” that he will not made a bad job in “create everything that exist, would exist and has existed”. ”

    I think he only prove that he cannot deserve to hold such responsability and the honor to compare himself to the say god because he don’t have the merits (by comparation he has not done anything).

    But of course he think that he deserve the rights, what a idiot, no stupit activist (or any person) deserve rights if they don’t call the duties that go with such rights in this case responsability for every outcome of the creative process of everything from the most fundamental part to the most complex.

    Point for this deist:
    This guy atheist is only crying that he don’t believe (for anti-theist change this word to: need) in free will, chaos, luck, chance, randomess, posibilities, or any non-fully controled process (laboratory process?) to make everything that could be “conceivable” in his mind and outside his mind.

    POINT FOR CHRISTIANS, say this deist:

    “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” – From the Ten Commandments

    He is breaking a commandament and placing shame in the honor (persona) and work (the Creation) of God.

    Note: Honor and Conviction is not a feature of moral relativists.

  2. Loftus’ argument here is indeed terrible, but it can be improved in the following ways:

    1. Don’t talk about ‘perpetual miracles’ or even ‘God’s continual actions’. Rather, merely suggest an alternative biology & evolutionary history in which the experience of pain is much more targeted and less prone to “errors” that don’t do anything to promote survival. This would sidestep the signal-to-noise objection, the human action objection, and the soul-making objection. Basically, propose a version of Rowe’s fawn.

    2. Don’t be a hypocrite. Loftus laments the existence of meat eaters, but after searching his site, I’m pretty sure he isn’t himself a vegan. (Maybe that applies to you too, Tom, with your badger on the golf course objection).

  3. In other words, his argument could be improved by throwing the whole thing out and replacing it with a different one. I’m certainly open to that possibility!

  4. No really. He need the point of view that he have now as part of the creation of god. He don’t have the hability to make fundaments (how the totality of the creation work) that he don’t know.

    What happen if he can’t use his current knowledge, he need comparesions, to make everything, so the result will be the same or total inaction (he will not make anyting).

    * He put animal suffering and comprare their suffering to the human suffering, how he think this is a good idea? how he know what animals think about suffering?

    What makes me curious is: Why he need to compare himself to a god that he doesn’t believe exist? Why he need to include suffering (of others, not his suffering) in a god existence argument if he don’t believe?

    Outside preach anti-theism he has nothing new to say.
    John Loftus:”I don’t see perfection in the universe, so God is wrong or doesn’t exist, but i alredy make the conclusion before think the question.”

    He only do comparesions, i am sure that he never will make a answer outside “god doesn’t exist” so everything will be the same with no solutions.

  5. So Loftus spits out some variation of the “Argument from Evil” but doesn’t think its consequences out very thoroughly.. is Loftus even familiar with the Christian apologetic he’s bashing in his book? Or is the entire point of his written efforts a predetermined conclusion saying “waste of time, why even bother?” Loftus had best hope Ed Feser is too busy to notice him, or it’ll get ugly for him, very quickly.

  6. Tom Gilson

    I can’t say that a Loftus scheme makes a lot of sense, but I’m not sure the Christian scheme does either. This is especially true when considering what you say under, “Eliminating Human Moral Significance.” You fault Loftus for imagining a world where actions have no consequences. I imagine that means, especially, that humans are not held accountable for their choices and actions. But in the Biblical scheme, humans are held accountable for their actions. But yet God is the one who imputes and credits all humans with Adam’s sin and sinful nature (Romans 5). And now with such a sinful nature given by God, humans cannot help but to sin. Why are humans held accountable for the sin they can’t help but to commit? Consider Paul’s helpless state, being held in bondage to sin (Romans 7). Historically, very few people have been given the opportunity that Paul had, of responding to Christ’s deliverance from sin. Under a Biblical scheme, using your example of the golfer and the critter, a person’s natural inclination (because of our sinful nature given by God) would be to deliberately take aim at the critter. And then God would hold the person accountable for his action, as though God was not the primary motivation for the sinful action. So, yes, a problem with Loftus’ scheme, but also with a Biblical scheme when it comes to moral actions.

  7. Where exactly is the injustice, Roger?

    Humans chose originally to sin. Humans still choose to sin. God has the right as a just and holy creator to mete out the appropriate consequence. Where does he do other than that? Do you deserve eternal life in God’s perfect presence? Does anyone?

    You seem to think that because we could not choose not to sin, therefore we should not be held accountable for the choices we do make. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

  8. Tom Gilson,

    Happy New Year!! In a Biblical scheme, God has the right to do whatever he wants, just or not, and the individual has no right to question God (Romans 9:20), because if God says what he does is just, then it is. He makes the rules. So if he made some (most) humans for failure by giving them a sinful nature (which they never asked for), that’s his prerogative. But by the standard of justice that most humans understand (and that we called to), the Bible’s God is not just. Blaming me for Adam’s sin wouldn’t stand up in a democracy’s court of law. It was Adam who sinned, not me. The sins that I commit God has coerced me into, by giving me a sinful nature, making me helpless against sin, just as Paul considered himself helpless. I may not deserve eternal life but nor do I deserve eternal damnation. God created people as humans, not as gods. When a teacher grades his/her students, some get A’s, others B’s, others C’s and even others D’s, all passing grades. God says, anything short of perfection is failure and deserving of eternal damnation. And yet it was God who credited all humans with Adam’s sin, even before birth, counting them as failures before entering into life. That is where the injustice lies, Tom.

  9. Hi, Roger,

    There are some problems with your description of the situation. First, God (as Christians understand him) is the one perfectly integrated being, so that what he wants and what is just are not separable. Therefore what he wants is justice, and what is just is what he wants. (Probably “wills” is a better term there than “wants,” since “want” connotes a lack of some sort.)

    So it is not God’s saying “this is just” that makes it just. It is God’s perfectly unified character, by which injustice is impossible for him to will or to practice, that what he says and does is necessarily just.

    This is not special pleading. This is definitional of God, so that either it is true, or else there just is no Christian God at all.

    Still we come to the issue of wondering how some things God does could in fact be just. You say there is a problem with God giving humans a sinful nature we didn’t ask for. That’s not actually what happened. God gave humans moral freedom, the ability to make meaningfully right choices, which entails of course the simultaneous ability to make meaningfully wrong choices. The first humans rejected the right way that was open to them, and chose a wrong way instead.

    (This, too, is not special pleading, by the way, nor is it a “just-so” story concocted ad hoc to answer questions like yours. It’s at the core of the Bible’s understanding of man’s relationship with God. I think it’s actually a better explanation for the human condition than any other that’s been proposed.)

    Now for a choice to be meaningful it must have meaningful consequences; God could not allow a wrong choice to have exactly the same outcome as a right choice would have had. The choice they made was to turn away from God, from his life, his love, his perfect beauty and goodness; therefore God let them be separated from him and all those attributes. The separation they experienced was not complete or absolute, but enough to produce the world we live in, and ultimately to lead to a final separation from God through death. There’s nothing out of proportion there. God let them choose, and they chose to separate themselves from him; and he let them have the result of their choice.

    I don’t see any injustice there, do you?

    Their offspring inherited the problem. They grew up in a world that was no longer innocent, no longer displaying perfect harmony with God. We say they inherited a sinful nature, which is just to say they were their parents’ offspring living in the same world their parents lived in. It’s hard to call that unjust! Maybe you think the kids should have born without a sinful nature. Then they wouldn’t have truly been their parents’ offspring, and my goodness, what a strange world it would be where some people grew up perfectly innocent and others grew up like the self-oriented sinful humans we know ourselves to be. I doubt anyone could live as an innocent even to the age of 7 or 8 years old without being killed by a jealous sinful person.

    (One of my questions in heaven will be to Jesus’ half-brothers and half-sisters he grew up with: “Did you ever say to him, ‘You think you’re so perfect!’? And if you did, how did Jesus answer?” The whole idea of the perfect growing up with the imperfect is very hard to imagine.)

    But still you might wonder, Is it just for God to slam them with these harsh consequences with no way out? My answer is yes, it actually is just. Justice has to do with meting out a consequence that corresponds appropriately to the action. It isn’t lacking there. Where it’s lacking is in mercy and grace and love; but there’s more to the story, because God began immediately to put his plan in motion to save us from the death we deserve for our actions. The first hint of it, all Christians agree, was in God’s first response to humans’ first sin, in Gen. 3:15. The fulfillment of it came when Jesus died on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins in our place so we would not be required to pay it for ourselves, then rising from the dead to conquer death for us all.

    You are helpless against sin, but God is not. Paul’s complaint about his human helplessness in Romans 7 was followed immediately by his praise in Romans 8 for God’s divine power which overcomes sin.

    Do you care about your sin and your helplessness? That’s a good sign. Turn to God. Trust in Jesus Christ’s payment for your sins, and he will overcome them for you.

    So there is justice in it, through and through. There is mercy and grace from the beginning to the end. Your concerns about sin are well justified, but your worry about God’s justice and mercy has a good, satisfying answer. In fact as I’ve already said, I think it’s a better answer to the human condition than any other.

  10. Tom:

    Their offspring inherited the problem. They grew up in a world that was no longer innocent, no longer displaying perfect harmony with God. We say they inherited a sinful nature, which is just to say they were their parents’ offspring living in the same world their parents lived in.

    Maybe you think the kids should have born without a sinful nature. Then they wouldn’t have truly been their parents’ offspring, and my goodness, what a strange world it would be where some people grew up perfectly innocent and others grew up like the self-oriented sinful humans we know ourselves to be.

    In the first quote you seem to be saying that sin is located in the world, and is something external that affects us. But in the second quote you seem to be saying that sin is something internal to us.

    I’m a bit confused here. Is sin inherited in the sense that DNA is inherited, or in the sense that a house is inherited?

  11. Tom Gilson,

    Thanks for your response, Tom. It’s not easy to respond to your challenge, because there are various ways of interpreting Scripture within Christian circles and depending on one’s interpretation, what you say may or may not be true. For instance, whether you take an Arminian approach or a Calvinistic approach toward Scripture, it will make a world of difference as to what you suggest. I’m guessing, from you last response, that you are basically Arminian. That being the case, I think you are overlooking some Scriptures concerning free will and the extent of Christ’s atonement. That’s why it is difficult to argue with a Christian such as yourself. There always seems to be a way of escape, by coming up with an interpretation that suits your position.

    I’ll get to your comment in a minute. First, let me make a suggestion concerning “free will” versus “God’s sovereign choice.” There seem to be plenty of Scripture supporting both sides. As I see it, free choice or the Arminian position comes from looking at salvation from the human perspective or from human experience. As humans, it feels very much as though all our choices are made freely through our own human volition. And so much of Scripture looks at salvation through such a perspective. You could say this is the earthly perspective. If reality is a matter of a dual reality, one reality is earth bound and the other heaven bound or spiritual. You could therefore look at salvation also from the heavenly perspective, from the perspective of God’s point of view. That’s where the Scriptures concerning God’s sovereign will comes in. Two different perspectives concerning the one same salvation.

    You speak of human moral freedom, the ability to make meaningfully right choices or meaningfully wrong choices. The choice is ours. That’s looking from a more human perspective. But then Paul talks about the bondage of his will to his sinful nature. Although he knows the right, he can’t help but to make the wrong choice. Jesus comes to his rescue, but Paul wouldn’t say that Jesus’ rescue came through his own volition, but rather through Christ’s intervention and doing. Paul never takes credit for any part in his own salvation, even his faith is a gift of God. This is looking at salvation from the divine perspective.

    So when you say, God gave humans moral freedom, that is not what Paul describes in Romans 7, but rather he describes an entrapment or bondage to his sinful nature. And on his own he always does the wrong.

    Tom, you speak of this sinful nature, this sinful inclination, as though it is simply an inheritance everyone received from Adam and Eve. Where does the Bible say this is an inheritance from Adam? Are you saying that God had nothing to do with this? Whether inherited or not, I don’t know how you can divorce God from it. It is God who credits Adam and Eve’s sin to our accounts, as well as imputing Adam’s sinful nature to all people. So when Paul says God hardens whomever he desires, this is God who does this. By sovereign action God imputes sinfulness to human kind. Carried out to the Bible’s conclusion, he predestines not only the saved but the lost, as well. You don’t see any problem with God hardening hearts? Maybe you need to look at Romans 9 again. This is looking at salvation and damnation from the divine perspective. Not a very pretty perspective on salvation. But it is Biblical.

    As far as the justice of God, you seem to think that Jesus paying for sin is a just resolution. If I murdered your wife, would it be just for another person to step in and pay for the wrong against you or your wife? Is it just to let the murderer go free even if he was sorry for his crime. Is that the way justice works in our courts? It might be desirable for the murderer but it isn’t just. Would the courts be satisfied to let Hitler go free, provided someone else should take his place? That’s just one problem with the Christian solution for sin. Another problem is God’s expectation of perfection to merit salvation/ or if not achieving perfection then eternal damnation. No one is perfect or can achieve perfection other than God. But God didn’t create us as gods, but as humans. God is willing to damn people eternally for not doing what is impossible for them to do. I don’t see justice through and through, as you suggest.

  12. That’s why it is difficult to argue with a Christian such as yourself. There always seems to be a way of escape, by coming up with an interpretation that suits your position.

    Really??!!

    I have not come up with a way of escape to suit my position. I specifically told you twice that this is not special pleading, and it’s not ad hoc. Because it isn’t. It’s basic Christian theology, and it’s pretty widely agreed to in all realms of historic Christian theology.

    Not only that, but it’s a reasoned answer to your question. You wanted one, didn’t you? Or did you just want to be able to argue your position, regardless of the possibility that your position has a reasoned answer?

    You misunderstand the Arminian position completely. What I wrote has nothing to do with Arminianism vs. Calvinism (or Molinism, for that matter). Those doctrines come into play when exploring the question of freedom of the will in response to God’s grace offered for salvation. They have nothing to do with the free will issue I was dealing with, on which point they all agree.

    (I am not an Arminian by any stretch of the term. That’s one sign that you’ve misapplied what you think you know about it.)

    So please check your theological labels at the door. You’re using them incorrectly, and it’s only mucking up the waters here. I mean that quite seriously. I thought I’d answered your question about Paul, but you’re asking it again in a context that’s confused by this matter of Arminianism, and honestly I can’t tell what your real question is there.

    And consider this, too, please. This is important, so don’t let it get lost in any of the above.

    You think God (as understood by Christians) can rightly be accused of injustice. My responsibility in this discussion, representing the Christian position, is not to show you that every Christian answer is supportable or that every Christian answer is consistent with all the rest. My desire and my responsibility is to show you that your question has a reasonable answer.

    Suppose then that I give you a reasoned and reasonable answer, but you are aware that some Christians disagree with it. Where does that leave you with respect to your charge that God cannot reasonably be considered just? It leaves you with a reasoned answer showing that God can reasonably be considered just.

    If you find that hard to argue with, it might be because it’s reasoned and it’s reasonable.

    As far as the justice of God, you seem to think that Jesus paying for sin is a just resolution. If I murdered your wife, would it be just for another person to step in and pay for the wrong against you or your wife?

    Pay? Whom would that pay?

    I fear you are jumping too quickly to the obvious, without thinking through why it’s obvious. Yes, it’s obviously wrong to think of someone else stepping in and paying that way, but why?

    Here are some preliminary thoughts. No one (not even you) could pay me for the wrong; the payment isn’t due me. To whom is it due? Could that person (or group) offer to allow someone else to pay that debt? Only if that person or group could be accurately and completely identified, and only if the proper payment could be measured and assessed. There are other requirements as well, I’m sure, but that’s enough to show that practically speaking we have a barrier, as humans, that prevents even thinking about this payment idea.

    Those limitations do not apply to God, however, so already your analogy has no force; it’s not nearly analogous enough for the case. The sins we commit against him are committed against him. The payment he requires is not hard for him to measure, in his omniscience. The payment he made in Christ was infinite anyway, so measurement becomes arithmetically irrelevant.

    He forgives us because he chooses to forgive us, if we’ll accept the death of Christ as a sacrifice given on our behalf.

    Where does the Bible say this is an inheritance from Adam? Are you saying that God had nothing to do with this? Whether inherited or not, I don’t know how you can divorce God from it. It is God who credits Adam and Eve’s sin to our accounts, as well as imputing Adam’s sinful nature to all people.

    I think you’ve read Romans. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” But obviously I’m not saying God had nothing to do with the inheritance of sin. There is nothing that God is not involved with. What I’m saying instead is that it’s not that hard to make sense of God’s decisions and his justice in light of his desire to create creatures with significant moral freedom. Please re-read what I wrote with that in mind.

  13. And though the parallel isn’t perfect, sin is inherited more in the sense that DNA is inherited than in the sense that a house is inherited. That’s what I was trying to get at when I spoke of the children being “their parents’ offspring” there.

  14. You suggest that I’m mixing up the issues by bringing in the Calvinism/Arminian debate, that such doctrine has only to do with a person’s response to the offer of salvation. Where you make the mistake is that God (in a Calvinist perspective) not only determines the ends but also the means to the end. And I think that is what we are talking about (the means). It has to do with predestination which encompasses our actions as well as election unto salvation. It has to do with moral behavior, whether one is free or not. Obviously Paul was not free, but was in moral bondage to his sinful nature, as was the Egyptian Pharaoh. And for both, such bondage served God’s purpose of being a means leading to either salvation or damnation. This neither makes the God of the Bible loving or just.

    As far as Jesus paying for sins, why is such a payment even necessary? I look up “forgiveness” and I don’t see where retribution is necessary to forgiveness. I read forgiveness is, to grant pardon or remission; absolve; or to grant pardon; or to cancel an indebtedness or liability of; or to cease to blame or hold resentment against… Such forgiveness demonstrates the love of God, without necessarily short changing his justice.

  15. Retribution isn’t necessary to a lot of things. It’s necessary to justice, however. I think that answers that.

    Calvinism does not hold (nor do any of the predestination passages in Romans) that humans were originally predestined to sin. The choice the original humans made was a free choice, not forced upon them or in any other way determined by God. That’s the freedom of will I was talking about, primarily.

    Are we clear on that much, at least?

  16. Not clear yet, Tom. Especially, in a supralapsarian persperctive (maybe even an infralapsarian) view, God first determined to glorify himself in both the salvation of some and in the damnation of others. But, again, God not only determined the ends but also the means. That means he determined the bondage of the will as the means and provided the temptation by Satan as a further means to bind human wills.

    You may be failing to see the dualism of the Bible’s perspective, one reality pertaining to God and the supernatural (his reality) and the other reality pertaining to human experience (human reality). As to our reality we all make free choices and feel as though our choices have consequences (and they do). But in God’s reality, it’s God’s show and nothing happens apart from his purpose and decree. Even the choices we make are predetermined (such as with the Pharaoh). So we make choices, but those choices are predetermined by God. You’re trying to mix these two realities, or somehow reconcile them into a single reality. It doesn’t work. So yes, Calvinism does teach that humans were originally predestined to sin (in the mind of God). So I don’t think we are clear as to our understanding of the Bible. A clear teaching of Scripture presents God’s plan, a plan that is his alone. Nor can his plans and decrees be changed by human will or human choice. That’s the divine reality according to the Bible.

    Such a Biblical perspective puts God in a bad light (as to our human thinking), but it’s his world and who are you to talk back to God? Like I said at the beginning, I may not completely agree with Loftus, but I don’t think the Bible does any better. In fact, I think, as to morality, other religions do a better job.

  17. Tom, as I see it, you are trying to make sense of the Bible’s message. The Bible doesn’t make sense as to human logic or to human morality. But if we can twist or tweak things a little, we can make it fit our own thinking. That’s why most Reformed or Presbyterian theologians of the past did not like a supralapsarian view of predestination. Although it made sense biblically, it put God in a bad light. So they denied such a view and manipulated the Scriptures to teach otherwise. That’s what church denominations do all the time. Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. etc. theologians try to formulate a Biblical theology that is consistent throughout with their overall perception or understanding of God. You’re doing the same.

  18. I’m on an airplane waiting for the doors to close, so I won’t have time now to answer your previous comment. Except I do not know of anyone one from either-lapsarian who would deny human free moral agency in the sense I’ve described it here.

    Not much of an answer but enough that you really ought to consider why your view of it differs from virtually all others’.

  19. Tom, you say, “I do not know of anyone one from either-lapsarian who would deny human free moral agency in the sense I’ve described it here.” How about Martin Luther in “On the Bondage of the Will?” How about John Calvin? Luther believed that people do not choose between good and evil because they are naturally dominated by evil or their sinful nature. The only way a person does good or gain salvation is through the intervention of God, either though common grace causation or the special intervention of God through his Spirit. Sanctification, in Christian belief, when seen as growing in holiness, is seen as involving the continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which the Spirit renews the spirit of a Christian (overcoming such bondage), enabling him/her to perform good works. So, in much of Christian belief, apart from the Holy Spirit it is impossible to do truly good works (works that please God). That is because the human will is naturally bound by sin. Again, Paul’s dilemma… until Christ stepped in. That is Christian belief. So I think your comment in your original article, “If God taught us that way we would have no basis on which to decide either to accept or decline his message; we would have no freedom to choose our response to him.” That’s the point of Christianity, a person doesn’t have the freedom to choose his/her response to the general offer of salvation. Because a person’s will is bound, he cannot choose, until the Holy Spirit enables and empowers him to respond, which the Spirit does only on a limited basis (limited atonement). And as both Luther and Calvin (and their followers) saw it, this bondage was not only in regard to the gospel call but to all of life and living. So again both Loftus and Christianity have a perverted perspective on human freedom.

  20. Roger, I’ve explained this repeatedly. My reference to free will was in context of the original innocent humans’ free moral agency.

    You keep telling me I’m wrong about a point I wasn’t talking about.

    Could you acknowledge that, please?

  21. I read the article you wrote and I read, “But (Loftus might retort) God could teach us directly and without mediate causes, just planting knowledge in our brains; but then it could no longer be possible that “such a world would not significantly affect morally significant human freedom.” If God taught us that way we would have no basis on which to decide either to accept or decline his message; we would have no freedom to choose our response to him. If God wanted to create a world of free agents making morally significant decisions, Lofttus’ way wouldn’t be the way.” Certainly, you are not talking about free will in the context of the original innocent human’s free moral agency here in your response to Loftus. My several responses that included reference to the apostle Paul (Rom 7) or to the Egyptian Pharaoh (Rom 9) wasn’t a reference to the original free moral agency of Adam and Eve either, but rather to the free will of people today, which you also are suggesting in your response to Loftus.

    I’ve tried to make a point about the two realities in the dualism of Christianity – God’s reality and human reality. Another way to come at this is our understanding of causation. In the Bible, God is always considered the primary causation (mover) and human choices and actions are the secondary causation. Human causation is always subject to God’s primary causation. Apart from God’s causation, Paul would have responded to the gospel of Christ. Of course that primary causation is spelled out in the conversion experience of Paul. Paul’s actions and choices are subject to God’s primary causation. The Pharaoh’s choices and actions are also shown to be subject to God’s primary causation.

    Push this back, if you will, to Adam and Eve and their original choice to disobey God. Sure Adam chose to disobey God. Call it free will if you want. But Adam’s free will didn’t supersede God’s will or plan for his creation or for Adam. According to a consistent reading of the Bible, God’s plan always comes off as planned, which in the case of Adam and Eve, included the free choice to sin. If you contend that Adam and Eve’s choice superseded God’s will or decree, then there is room for failure on God’s part. If God is not sovereign in all things (including the free choices of people), then it stands to reason that Satan has the real potential of defeating God in the end, even as he did in the garden of Eden. God’s purpose and plan had to include the fall of Adam, or the God of the Bible is not sovereign and God’s plans are subject to the free will choices of humans. In the supralapsarian view this is more than simply the permissive will of God, but his decretive will. As such, not only the ends of eternal salvation and eternal damnation are predestined by God but also the means to getting to those ends.

  22. Roger this now makes multiple topics (and threads it seems) where you’ve not actually refuted Christianity but have merely made various sketches of differences within theological tensions. None of which remove the All Sufficient as the Living Water, despite your fascination with various aqueducts.

    I’m curious if you’ve ever actually constructed an argument against Christianity?

    If so would you mind sharing as we’ve never seen one from you so it might be helpful in assisting us in our understanding as to what your point might actually be.

    So far you don’t seem to have one.

  23. scbrown,

    I’ve made my point quite clear. It has taken up the majority of my responses and has been clearly stated at the end of response #21, “So again, both Loftus and Christianity have a perverted perspective on human freedom.” Maybe you should reread the responses I’ve made to Tom Gilson. Is this going to be a tag team approach? I’d really like to hear from Tom.

  24. Roger,

    I’m glad your are discussing some but not all of the views on an X which interests you with Tom etc.

    You disagree with views on X. You list some but not all views on X. You discuss why you disagree with the cherry picked views you listed.

    Great.

    However, I didn’t ask you about X.

    I asked you if you have ever actually argued against Christianity.

    Have you?

    If you feel that discussing various foci along various theological tensions is a proof that all the content within theology is either false or fallacious well then we’re back to your foist that disagreements about QM present a logical proof that all the content in QM is either false or fallacious.

    You have so far merely made various sketches of differences within theological tensions. None of which remove the All Sufficient as the Living Water, despite your fascination with various aqueducts.

    I’m curious if you’ve ever actually constructed an argument against the Living Water, as in against Christianity.

    If so would you mind sharing as we’ve never seen one from you so it might be helpful in assisting us in our understanding as to what your point might actually be.

    So far you don’t seem to have one.

  25. Roger,

    Just FYI, regardless of Man’s choice in Eden God’s plan comes to pass. You seem to presume that God’s decreed plan is a slave to God’s decreed irreducible volition of the Imago Dei. You’ve got the priorities all backwards and reversed.

    Your premises really are all a big mess, which is fine as you’re in step with your whole QM “thing”.

    Whatever. But I pointed this out only because you seem interested in such an X. You’re welcome.

    Though, if you’ve time in your discussion with Tom about X, please let me know if you’ve ever actually argued against the Living Water, as in Christianity proper.

  26. Previously, Roger, you said I was disagreeing with Luther and Calvin on free will. Now you’re making up your own interpretation of Adam and Eve’s free will choice and telling me that I disagree with you on it. I bring that to your attention now just to make sure you recognize this crucial shift in the argument. The discussion has moved where it belongs: no longer my view against those of other Christian theologians, but my view against yours.

    I think we can move forward from that basis if you’ll acknowledge it, and if you’ll allow me to take it slow this week.

  27. Blaming me for Adam’s sin wouldn’t stand up in a democracy’s court of law. It was Adam who sinned, not me.

    Roger,

    Perhaps I can step in here with my understanding on this issue. When the topic of the “unfairness” of our inheritance of Adam’s sin I ask this: “Would you have done better?” If God had chosen you instead of Adam what would the result have been. I know that if he’d chosen me I would have taken every apple from that tree, put them in a pie, cut down the tree and used the wood to bake the pie, and then ate the whole thing myself without sharing it even with Eve.

    How about you?

  28. BillT

    Within the Biblical scheme, of course you wouldn’t have done better than Adam. That’s because you have inherited or been credited with, not only with Adam’s sin but his sinful nature. So as Paul speaks of his own miserable condition in Romans 7, of being enslaved to sin, you sound like you put yourself in the same boat with him. Is it fair that you have been credited by God with such a sinful nature that now you cannot help but to sin? Is it fair that you will be judged for sin that you couldn’t have helped but to commit?

  29. No Roger. I meant exactly what I said. What if you’d have been chosen rather than Adam. No inherited anything. Do you think you’d have done better than Adam. I know I wouldn’t have.

    The reality is that we all have our own “trees” in our own lives and we’ve all failed those tests. Do you really chalk that up to that “inheritance.” I think I know myself well enough to know that isn’t what would make me fail.

  30. BillT

    But Bill, you are speaking as a Christian (I presume), and according to a Christian view, you cannot help but to have this inheritance (this sinful nature). Your whole life experience is that of being a failed person. If you know yourself well enough to know that it isn’t your sinful nature that made you such a sinner, then what do you attribute your sin to?

  31. Roger,

    Well if it wasn’t Adam’s (non-inherited) sinful nature that made him such a sinner, what do you attribute his sin to?

    (And have you ever heard of a hypothetical question.)

  32. Here’s the thing BillT. I’m not arguing as a Christian. Maybe you didn’t understand that. I was pointing out what I saw as a downfall of Christianity. Christians point out that we all are born into this life with a sinful nature. As I understand Romans 5, all people are credited by God, not only with Adam’s original sin but also his sinful nature. All people are naturally inclined toward sin, thanks to God. When you and I were born, we weren’t asked if we wanted a sinful nature. It simply was there, given by God along with Adam’s sin. We come out of the womb pronounced guilty by God (according to the Bible). Is it fair, or just, for God to hold me accountable for something (sin) that he is responsible for (making me sin)? After all, he gave me this nature.

    So now you place me in a hypothetical situation. First, you tell me, what you would do if in Adam’s shoes, gobble up all the apples you could eat. I suggested you answered that way because you can’t imagine yourself without a sinful nature, you know yourself as you are. Now you want to put me into Adam’s shoes, and as though I didn’t have a sinful nature. What would I do under such circumstances. How could I possibly know? Apparently God didn’t give Adam an impossible task (Don’t eat the apple). So given I was a perfectly created human being, not affected by any sin, I could imagine myself doing better than Adam.

    But it doesn’t make sense to try to put me in a position that I don’t believe in. I don’t believe it is just to judge people as failures when they had no choice but to fail. Hence, I don’t believe what the Bible teaches. The creation and fall story of Genesis is no more than a primitive attempt to explain the unexplainable, just like the other Mesopotamian stories of creation and fall.

    As I understand the Christian gospel, it starts with the sinfulness of all people. “All have sinned and fall short…” If anyone was to get into heaven based on works, it would require perfection. Now right there, that’s an absurd requirement. Even the Bible makes clear that perfection is impossible except for God. So why in the world would God expect anyone to be as good as him? It is simply impossible. It might be different if we were created as gods. But we’re not, we are created as humans. Such a requirement seems patently unfair (unjust), God requiring what is impossible. It would be no different than God requiring that people perform miracles. Impossible and unfair.

    So BillT, you may consider yourself as a total failure (in and of yourself) in God’s eyes, but I don’t, either of yourself or me.

  33. As far as Jesus paying for sins, why is such a payment even necessary?

    Good question, Roger. The reason someone has to pay for sins is because of what sin produces. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of someone wronging you. How does it feel. Feels terrible, right? Just what is that terrible feeling. Debt. When someone wrongs you it’s like they stole something from you and it creates a debt. Someone owes you something for that wrong. Someone has to pay that.

    It’s like when someone comes into your home and breaks a lamp (intentionally or not). Either they pay, or you pay or you go without the lamp. Somehow, though that debt gets paid. Now, when it comes to sin and the debt that it creates, there is no one to pay it. There is no one to pay it and there is no currency to pay it with, It’s like going without the lamp.

    Now, they may ask forgiveness and you may offer it or maybe neither happens. Whichever, the debt remains. That debt is real. In God’s currency those are real debts and they really need to be paid and there is no currency to pay them. Deep down we all know this. The debts we or others create are real and there is nothing we can do about them. But those debts will be paid by the only thing that can pay them.

    You may not like that Roger. I’m not sure I do. But it’s the reality of the world we live in. We all know it because we’ve all felt it. We all want the debts we’ve created and the debts created against us paid. We want to be free from that. And we can be. And it’s offered to us just for the asking.

  34. BillT

    I guess you have no followup on the hypothetical question you posed or the answer I gave you? So moving on to something new. Fine. You pick up a quote from 23 comments ago, response #15. I asked, why Jesus payment for sin was necessary. Two things.

    One, I suggested to Tom that forgiveness of wrong doing doesn’t require a payment for debt. According to the dictionary, forgiveness means: to grant pardon or remission; absolve; or to grant pardon; or to cancel an indebtedness or liability of; or to cease to blame or hold resentment against… With forgiveness debts are canceled, crimes are absolved, pardon is granted. If I believe God is a forgiving God, he forgives wrong doing without requiring any kind of payment. So Jesus death is not necessary to forgiveness. As I see it, God forgives without requiring retribution. The debt is canceled, absolved.

    Second, in the examples you used, breaking someone’s lamp, or stealing from someone, those crimes are against a specific person. If I steal a thousand dollars from a person, my debt is to that person I stole from. If a kill a person, my debt is to the person I killed and his family. If I bear false witness against someone, my debt is against the person I lied to or about. You, Bill, are suggesting that a debt has been incurred that must be paid. There is a thousand dollar debt that I owe to the person I stole from. How is Jesus death or payment going to satisfy the person I stole from? He wants his money back. Jesus payment doesn’t satisfy him. If I tell the family of the person I killed that Jesus has paid my sin of killing, how is that going to satisfy the family who lost a loved one. It doesn’t. So I don’t really see the necessity of Jesus paying for sins. It seems contrived to me.

  35. Roger,

    You answered the question I asked. What more is there to say than “So given I was a perfectly created human being, not affected by any sin, I could imagine myself doing better than Adam.” Pretty much closes the book on that topic.

    And your objections to my explanation of the indebtedness we incur when we sin don’t really address what I said. Perhaps this will further illustrate my position:

    Psalm 51:4

    4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
    so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.

    This is the reality Roger. It is against God and God only that we sin. Like I said (and you didn’t address) the debts here are never really resolved. One can pay back the stolen $1000 but you can’t erase the violation of the person stolen from. You know that because you live with those same debts. Those you created and were created against you. We all do.

  36. BillT

    Thanks Bill, for your response. I know you mean well. I think I have your concerns covered, though. I said in my last comment, “If I believe God is a forgiving God (which you may or may not believe in) he covers wrong doing without requiring any kind of payment.” Maybe you missed that. The dictionaries I consulted said that forgiveness cancels indebtedness and liability, ceases to blame or hold resentment. That would be the kind of God I believe in. It sounds like the God you believe in (Ps 51:4) is a pretty resentful god. I’d be careful, if I was you. It’s not too late to switch.

  37. Roger be careful not to limit reality to our conceptual framework of our own courtroom in our own culture. When “Reality Himself” within Trinity in fact pours Himself out for/into the beloved (again in Trinity), and vice versa, then all such modes and trajectories become in many senses unavoidable or irreducible constitutions of our “reality itself”. Why ours and not all? Well there is a decree of the Imago Dei which itself in many ways defines the very nature or shape of (our) reality.

    Regardless of Man’s volitional motion there in Eden such is the very nature and shape of his reality as “Eternal Life” awaits Man in Eden or outside of Eden. But of course Eden is not Itself Heaven nor Eternal Life. Even in obedience in Eden Man must still (freely) traverse love’s acquiescence of the Self, the swallowing of that Living Water. Such self-giving in all directions is rooted in Trinity.

    Bill T. is precise and his syntax is from within our perspective of haven fallen. But the syntax in the unfallen Adam repeats in more ways than we account for.

    Widen your perspective of “Actuality”.

    The complete metaphysic compels reason into the inimitable semantics of necessity, into the syntax of gospel, into a timeless diffusiveness of the Ontic-Self in totum.

    Now, granted, you claim it’s all too much for you, so David Bentley Hart is quoted as a primer for you so that *if* you’re actually interested in doing more than “fragenblitzen” then you can explore further the fundamental nature of love’s timeless reciprocity or self-giving there in Trinity:

    Quote:

    “[The] very action of kenosis is not a new act for God, because God’s eternal being is, in some sense, kenosis – the self-outpouring of the Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit. Thus Christ’s incarnation, far from dissembling his eternal nature, exhibits not only his particular proprium as the Son and the splendor of the Father’s likeness, but thereby also the nature of the whole trinitarian taxis. On the cross we see this joyous self-donation sub contrario, certainly, but not in alieno. For God to pour himself out, then, as the man Jesus, is not a venture outside the trinitarian life of indestructible love, but in fact quite the reverse: it is the act by which creation is seized up into the sheer invincible pertinacity of that love, which reaches down to gather us into its triune motion.” (D. B. Hart)

    And again:

    “This is true in two related and consequent senses: on the one hand, love is not originally a reaction but is the ontological possibility of every ontic action, the one transcendent act, the primordial generosity that is convertible with being itself, the blissful and desiring apatheia that requires no pathos to evoke it, no evil to make it good; and this is so because, on the other hand, God’s infinitely accomplished life of love is that trinitarian movement of his being that is infinitely determinate – as determinacy toward the other – and so an indestructible actus purus endlessly more dynamic than any mere motion of change could ever be. In him there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning because he is wholly free, wholly God as Father, Son, and Spirit, wholly alive, and wholly love. Even the cross of Christ does not determine the nature of divine love, but rather manifests it, because there is a more original outpouring of God that – without needing to submit itself to the order of sacrifice that builds crosses – always already surpasses every abyss of godforsakenness and pain that sin can impose between the world and God: an outpouring that is in its proper nature indefectible happiness.” (D.B. Hart)

  38. “If I believe God is a forgiving God (which you may or may not believe in) he covers wrong doing without requiring any kind of payment.”

    Roger,

    You’re right. He doesn’t require any payment, from us. But debts are debts and must be paid. And it is, of course, God himself that pays them through the second person of the Trinity. So, you see, there is nothing resentful in my God. In fact, just the opposite. A God who is willing to come, stripped of all his glory, to suffer and die for us. This is true forgiveness, grace and mercy. All offered to us for nothing more than the asking.

  39. BillT

    You say, “debts are debts and must be paid.” But forgiveness says, your debt has been canceled and no longer has to be paid. This is the forgiveness that you are called to by the New Testament. Forgive your brother his wrong doing. No longer hold your brother accountable. His debt is absolved. There is no debt. That is what God (at least, the God I believe in) does. He cancels any debts I might owe, because he is a loving and forgiving God. He doesn’t require payment of any kind. But obviously we believe in different Gods. Yours requires a payment, if not from me then from someone else. Sounds like a vengeful God to me. The score has to be evened.

  40. Roger, you have an idea of how a god could forgive. We have described the way the Christian God forgives. The two ways do not agree. Does it follow from that, that the Christian God does not exist, or does not forgive?

  41. scbrown

    I’ll try to respond to you. As I’ve said elsewhere (and you responded) I’m a bit of an agnostic. As there are many brands of Christianity, so also with agnostics. I believe God reveals himself in creation (probably through evolution). The world and universe is his self revelation. Religions, including Christianity, are simply human attempts to explain the God who reveals himself in creation. Again, they are human attempts. There is little consistency in what the thousands of religions try to explain about God. Although the creation doesn’t tell us everything about God (nor does any religion), it tells us what God wants us to know. I think few people believing in a God would not say the created world doesn’t tell us much about God. I think it tells us plenty. The apostle Paul certainly thought the creation revealed God’s power and divinity. In fact, he thought all people could see that in the created world (apart from Christianity). David, of the Old Testament, when considering the creation, saw the revelation of God and was awestruck on many counts. And I’m awestruck as well. When I consider the creation, I can’t help but to think that God is an awesome and good God. There is so much goodness that is seen in the creation. Can I tell you a theology of God? Just as there is much that you cannot tell me about God, there is much that I don’t know. I don’t have to. What he has told me in creation is enough. It’s his revelation and I’m quite satisfied.

    Now about Christianity’s concept of the Trinity. Again, as with other religions, it is just a human attempt to explain the God that is evident in creation. Of course the Bible doesn’t explicitly state such an idea. It is inferred from many different verses of the Bible. And because of that there have been many, many theories about such Trinity within the Christian community. Questions or doubts have arisen, especially in the early church, as to the nature of the Son, or Jesus Christ, as well as to the nature of the Holy Spirit and how all three fit together as a cohesive whole. Are they three persons or three divine beings? Are the three persons merely so many modes of divine action (the Sabellian controversy). Many considered the Trinity as consisting of God the Father, the man Jesus Christ, and the divine influence of God or the Holy Spirit. This is a form of Trinity but it would virtually destroy what you may understand to be the Trinity. How much time and how many councils did it take to nail down the idea of Trinity? And yet, even today, there are many groups calling themselves (true) Christians who use the Bible to define the Trinity differently than most Christians today. All these attempts to explain a relationship between the creator God, the person Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are merely human attempts to fit together a jig saw puzzle of Christianity’s own making. The history of strong disagreement over the nature of the Trinity demonstrates its questionable character. And yet Christians today see the Trinity as foundational to Christianity. Looks like the foundation is pretty weak to me.

    It seems strange that of all the religions of the world, only one would perceive of God as being Triiune. Different religions characterize God or the gods in different ways. Even the Jewish religion, which Christianity piggy backed on, didn’t believe in a Triune God but a single unified God, entirely different from the idea of Trinity. Again, the Trinity is a contrived idea. I’ll stick with the God who reveals himself in the created world.

  42. Tom Gilson

    Thing is Tom, it makes sense that what the Bible’s God calls upon humans to do (forgive) would correlate with what he does? Don’t we read in the Bible, forgive others as God has forgiven you? Shouldn’t there be a similarity? It follows that there is an inconsistency in the Bible, that the human authors didn’t reason consistently from human forgiveness to divine forgiveness. But that happens with human writings. I do it too. We’re all fallible.

  43. The basis for our forgiving others is “as God has forgiven us.” That is, we forgive on the basis of our common humanness, our common proneness to commit hurts, errors, pain, damage, and so on. If we have been forgiven it makes sense just on that basis to pass that forgiveness on to others.

    Absolutely none of what I wrote applies to God. Our reasons for forgiving others have no parallel in God. He is perfect. He cannot be expected to forgive because he has been forgiven. So no, it does not make sense that what God calls upon humans to do in this case would be a good guide for understanding what God should do.

    Meanwhile, do you believe that justice is good? Or is only mercy good?

  44. Roger,

    Tom brings up the key point in this when he said “do you believe that justice is good?” In your paradigm, sins just disappear. Where is the justice in that? Stalin murdered 50 million. Mao, probably 100 million. Are they just forgiven? Ted Bundy raped, tortured and murdered dozens women. Is he just forgiven? The forgiveness that God offers through Christ is tied to the justice God demands for the world’s injustices. How does your paradigm account for any of that.

  45. Tom Gilson and BillT

    I apologize Tom, but I’m having a difficult time understanding what your point is. You seem to be saying our forgiveness of others has nothing to do with God’s forgiveness of us. Isn’t God’s forgiveness the model for our forgiving others? Are you saying there is no correlation between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others? In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18) the king’s original forgiveness of the servants debt was merely a cancellation of his debt. No debt had to be paid. If I read the last verse of chapt. 18 this is a picture of God’s forgiveness and there is a definite correlation of God’s forgiveness and ours.

    As to justice, when the king originally forgave the servant’s debt, the debt was cancelled. Did that mean the king was not a just king? Are you saying that unless a payment of some kind is made there is no justice? I think you are saying that there is no correlation between forgiveness and justice. I’m thinking a forgiving God can be considered just without requiring a payment of debt, just like the king in the parable who was willing to forgive the servant’s debt without a required payment but was still just. But that could just be another case of the human authors of the Bible not thinking consistently through the correlation of God forgiving people and our forgiving people.

    You think the Bible’s God is just. I realize that. Let me come back to election. Here’s a parable. You can tell me where it doesn’t ring true. A father took his five sons out in his boat for a fishing trip. All five boys got bored, became mischievous, and started to rock the boat. And low and behold the boat tipped over. None of the boys could swim and started to go under. The father being an excellent swimmer could have easily uprighted the boat and saved all five boys. But he decided to save only two and leave the other three to drown. Is such a father just in saving only two when he could have easily saved all five? That’s the God of the Bible exercising his elective purposes. If that’s the Bible God’s justice, then give me mercy. I’ll take a God who will cancel my debt.

  46. Roger,

    Tom said,

    “He cannot be expected to forgive because he has been forgiven…”

    My question is why and how did your understanding of the term GOD not realize that?

    Have you ever actually read anything about very basic Christianity?

    You said you used to be a Christian?

    I don’t see how that’s possible given your remarkable unawareness of even a very basic idea as that.

    Which brings us back to my earlier question which you evaded:

    Have you ever actually argued against Christianity?

    Do you think you’re actually arguing against Christianity in this thread?

    BTW, your are not as far as what you’ve done so far. Why? Because so far all of your premises are as Non-Christian as your definition of GOD as being in need (of forgiveness or any X).

  47. Roger,

    Do you understand that what you said about Tom’s post is exactly the opposite of what he said. He said that “we forgive because he first forgave us” forms the basis of our motivation for forgiveness. However, like I said, our acts of forgiving others is not the same as God’s forgiveness of the real debts that our sins create.

    Further, you failed to address at all the point I made about justice and the need for that to be part of any paradigm for forgiveness. You just ignored the issue of how to deal with the Stalins and Maos and Bundys of this world. Where is justice in your conception of forgiveness.

    And your “parable” has nothing to do with the Christian concept of forgiveness nor does it describe our understanding of the subject. God offers us a way to forgiveness and the free will to chose it. Just as our sin is our responsibility so is the choice to accept his offer of salvation. Predestination doesn’t mitigate our personal responsibilty for either of these.

  48. Roger,

    Tom stated,

    He is perfect. He cannot be expected to forgiven because he has been forgiven…

    How is it possible that your working premises with respect to the Christian term *GOD* were not informed of that?

    That brings us back to what I asked you earlier: Have you ever actually argued against Christianity?

    So far in this thread I’ve not seen that you have. Why? Because you are arguing against premises that are so utterly Non-Christian such as that which Tom had to point out to you.

    If you’ve ever actually argued against Christianity perhaps you can show us an example so as to help us know exactly what your point really is.

    Secondly:

    I disagree with your working premise that Calculus is false and/or fallacious because it “piggybacks” atop addition and subtraction.

    Thirdly:

    Given your rejection of love’s irreducible nature within timeless self-giving (irreducibly Trinitarian processions), your move to worship the only irreducible X’s your limited tools will permit, namely gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces or “fields”, is understandable.

    “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions — gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

    Your move to reject the irreducibility and convertibility of the transcendentals (….and thereby love’s timeless self-giving vis-à-vis Trinitarian processions….) and instead worship nature’s four irreducible forces or fields is unfortunate but understandable *given* the sorts of Non-Christian premises you are working off of.

    The Non-Theist and Physicist Sean Carroll shares in your move, and he (rightly) follows it out to the painfully “illusory” ends of all syntax as “useful, but not true” is the driving current over in that corner. In short, cosmic absurdity forces an ultimately deflationary truth-value upon all claims upon reality. Given that the only other option to absurdity is God, his move is, like your move, understandable *given* the sorts of Non-Christian and anti-scientific premises both he and you are working off of. Why anti-scientific? Because he (and perhaps you) makes the irrational move of speaking “as-if” cosmology / physics are convertible with ontology.

    Given the bizarre and obviously Non-Christian sorts of premises you’ve chosen to embrace it is apparent that logic and love seem distasteful to you, while something else tastes better to you for where love is concerned you choose a bobble named Reductio Ad Absurdum and – in order to gain her – you trade away logic’s relentless lucidity amid love’s timeless reciprocity as such relates to those uncanny Trinitarian processions within *GOD* or “Being Itself“.

  49. Roger,

    One, I suggested to Tom that forgiveness of wrong doing doesn’t require a payment for debt…

    Be careful not to limit reality to our conceptual framework of our own courtroom in our own culture.

    You’re arguing that the contingent and the mutable (Man) can in fact find wholeness outside of the necessary and contingent. Which is absurd.

    You are arguing that the contingent and the mutable (Man) can in fact find wholeness outside of — pick any number of ways of saying it:

    [A] outside of being filled with the Necessary and Immutable

    [B] outside of freely swallowing reality’s Living Water

    [C] outside of undergoing yet another birth

    [D] outside of the ontological epicenter which those sorts of statements converge within such that the immutable love of the Necessary Being finally fills us full with our true felicity, our final good, wherein no man shall need to be taught of love by another man ever again – as it will be Trinity (….or Immutable Love Himself….) Who fills us. Wherever we shall look, that is to say, wherever we shall motion, whether beneath our feet, or above our heads, or into our own chests, we will find that beautiful Freedom called Permanence.

    If you’re going to argue that Man can find wholeness outside of “that”, then your premises are not informed with respect to the sort of problem you think you are addressing there in the irreducible need which constitutes any contingent being.

    Such is true irrespective of the Adamic’s volitional choices inside or outside of Eden.

    Such is true whether or not that unavoidable out-pouring of the Ontic-Self in totum pours through an aqueduct termed Pardon or Payment for neither can occur without the other and in fact each *is* the other given the nature of the problem on the table.

    God’s freely chosen move to do either one changes nothing and it is your misunderstandings about the fundamental nature of the necessary, of the contingent, of need, and of love which fuel your many misguided premises.

    Have you ever argued against Christianity? As in against that Living Water? As in against *Christ*?

    Perhaps you have elsewhere, but you’ve not done so in this thread.

  50. Roger,

    You need to inform yourself on the irreducible nature of love, and, on why per Scripture’s definitions Eternal Life awaits the contingent and mutable being termed “Man” both inside and outside of Eden, and, on why per Scripture’s definitions Eternal Life never can come through Sinai (Law/Moses).

  51. Roger,

    Earlier I stated,

    Such is true irrespective of the Adamic’s volitional choices inside or outside of Eden. Such is true whether or not that unavoidable out-pouring of the Ontic-Self in totum pours through an aqueduct termed Pardon or Payment for neither can occur without the other and in fact each *is* the other given the nature of the problem on the table.

    What is needed is that you stay within the Christian paradigm if you mean to converse with Christianity.

    [1] Explain to us the nature of the problem (….using specifically Christian definitions…. perhaps think about the nature of “love” and “the necessary” and “the contingent” and “irreducible need” and “mutable” and “immutable” and so on…..).

    and then

    [2] Explain to us how it is logically possible that the following gets it wrong:

    Payment *IS* pardon even as pardon *IS* payment even as payment *IS* God’s self-outpouring even as God’s self-outpouring *IS* Trinitarian processions of self-giving even as Trinitarian processions of self-giving *IS* God’s loving even as God’s loving *IS* Need’s (….Man’s… any contingent being’s….) true felicity even as Need’s true felicity *IS* Need’s final good.

    Adding context:

    [3] To springboard of D.B. Hart’s earlier (…Christian…) premises and ontological narratives:

    Given the irreducible nature of love, and given the irreducible nature of the necessary, and given the irreducible nature of the contingent, and given the unavoidable nature of irreducible need which constitutes any contingent being – given all that – explain how it is logically possible for “Man” to find wholeness outside of the immutable love of the Necessary Being – outside of *GOD* – that is to say outside of that entire Trinitarian taxis of indestructible self-giving constituting all vectors within Trinity/Christ given the fact that all such vectors sum to the only possible Divine Motion by which creation in fact *IS* seized up into the sheer invincible pertinacity of that self-giving – which reaches down to gather us into its triune motion.

    You need to inform yourself on the irreducible nature of love, and, on why per Scripture’s definitions Eternal Life awaits the contingent and mutable being termed “Man” both inside and outside of Eden, and, on why per Scripture’s definitions Eternal Life never can come through Sinai (Law/Moses).

  52. BillT

    So much to answer and so little time. As to the Stalins, Maos, and Bundys. I’ve already said, I’m not arguing as a Christian. To me, much of Christianity doesn’t make sense. In the Christian scheme, God can forgive anybody, even the worst of sinners, like your above mentioned characters. I wouldn’t doubt that in the end God may even forgive Satan and give him a changed heart. After all, the Bible teaches unconditional election, meaning that God doesn’t look for any conditions or qualities within the individuals he chooses for salvation and forgiveness. He may pass by some of the finest specimens, while choosing some of the worst. Of course, the Biblical setup is that one sin makes you a failure in God’s sight. And he gives us that sin before we’re born, Adam’s sin. Doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it? Maybe human morality isn’t even the big deal the Bible makes of it.

    As to the cute parable that I suggested about the father and his five drowning sons, it has everything to do with forgiveness. Just as the father could choose to save as many or as few of his sons as he wanted, so God can choose to forgive as many or few people as he wants. That’s the doctrine of election, plainly taught in the Bible, whether you like it or not. The perspective that the story characterizes is the infralapsarian viewpoint. But the Bible also makes the supralapsarian point quite clear, although most don’t like it, that the father from the very beginning intended to drown some of the children as well as save some, even before going out boating. That was his plan. I agree Bill, I don’t like the teaching of election either. It paints God in a very poor light, a God that has little attraction to me. You can deny the Bible’s teaching about God’s sovereignty and right to choose who he wishes (many Christians do), but then you have to deny a lot of Scripture to get there. Then you might as well deny most of Scripture, because it doesn’t make sense, and join me.

  53. Roger,

    It seems your practice is to cherry-pick some foci along some theological tension (….say the nature of the will or this or that vector encased within redemption…) and then refute it “as-if” you’re refuting the metaphysical wellspring of “Christianity” namely reality’s Living Water.

    It’s peculiar but you’ve persisted despite our probing as to why.

    Any particular reason?

    I ask because it *seems* to me you’re trying to refute Christianity.

    But you’re not. That’s the nature of ontological tensions. You’ve got to address the Tree. But oddly a few branches here and there seems to be your style.

    Which is fine. The only reply that comes to mind though is: shrug

    Hence the inquiry……

  54. Roger,

    One more inquiry….

    Is there a reason you *only* include your cherry-picked locations along any particular ontological arc? Why not interface with the whole ontological arc instead?

  55. Spectrums are interesting. Add ontology to that and it’s an even bigger party.

    Take the “will”. The spectrum of possibility includes zero at one end of the arc (…as in materialism etc…) and either deism or pantheism at the other end of the arc. The ends of course lie in such steep inclines that it’s quite difficult to get any proverbial photons or light to actually penetrate. Everything just bounces off as it were and as a result the retina on the other side of the arc remains untouched. In the largest portion of arc, there in the bow, we find the broadest swath of converging rays and vectors of various trajectories. Which is as expected. Light first penetrates. Then traverses.

    Then the retina lights up…..

    To see at all is in itself quite a claim. One’s ontological arc — all of it — spans the claim.

    How fortunate the Christian here compared to so many. The collocation of rays, vectors, and trajectories are dense and bristling and such assures us we’re nearing the epicenter itself.

  56. scbrown

    You suggest that like Calculus is not false because it piggybacks on addition and subtraction, neither is Christianity false because it piggybacks on Judaism. Good point. I guess that makes the Mormon religion true when it piggybacks on Christianity.

    Your analogy falls flat because Calculus does not reinterpreted addition and subtraction, as Christianity does Judaism. Ask any informed Jew. Christians reinterpret the Old Testament by claiming a progressive revelation by which the New Testament supposedly adds clarity to the Old. Or that the Old Testament portrays in shadow form what became substance in the New. But in reality Christians have completely reinterpreted the Old Testament. Not only do Jews disagree with the Christian do-over of their religion, but they are offended by Christians calling themselves the true Jews and true decedents of Abraham.

    If my analogy is false, then so is the Christian offense of Mormons claiming to be the true Christians. Mormons believe their book of Mormon interprets and gives clarity to the teaching of both the Old and New Testaments. And Mormons, like Christians, claim the truth of their religion as evidenced by a phenomenal growth since it’s inception. And of course, the Book of Mormon, is inspired by God, just as the Bible claims to be. Just as Christians do not like a Johnny-come-lately religion reinterpreting their religion, neither do the Jews. Another reason to cast doubt on the Christian religion.

    At another point you argue that eternal life can never come through Sinai (law). You may be right there. Even Jesus seemed to criticize the legal system of the Jews (including the ten commandments). As I understand Jesus’ teaching, the legal system never went far enough. The ten commandments merely say I will treat my neighbor justly, but goes no further. I will not take what is his, whether his wife, his reputation, his life. But the commandments go no further. That’s why Jesus emphasized the law of love, love for God and neighbor, rather than the commandments, because love goes beyond justice. When asked for your coat, love will give the shirt of your back as well. When seeing an injured man alongside the road, justice didn’t require a passerby to help, but love always goes beyond and helps, even though the Samaritan had no legal obligation to help. The foundation that Jesus commended was a house built on good works (which are not necessary to justice). Such is the foundation for a house that lasts into eternity. When Jesus explained who would enter into the kingdom and who would not, it was in terms of works. Those who did good works (acts of mercy) for the least of these did them as unto the king and would enter into the kingdom, but those who didn’t would reap eternal damnation. Salvation based on works of love. Salvation, as Jesus taught, is based upon a love that goes beyond justice, and is evidenced by good works. Salvation by works.

    So you may be right as to Sinai or the law. Thomas Jefferson called himself a Christian deist, a Christian because he believed Jesus taught the most admirable moral code, and a deist because he didn’t believe in the supernatural or supernatural revelation. He formulated his own Bible by keeping only Jesus’ moral teachings and removing the rest of the Bible, basically a “red letter” Bible (a 46 page Bible). And if Jesus taught anything, it was that a life based on good works is what will win God’s favor. “Do unto your neighbor as you would have him do unto you.” He didn’t even require perfection as a the parable of talents indicates. Sounds pretty impressive to me. That’s what most people know deep down to be what God would want of them. But then the Bible goes and messes with a good thing.

    You ask if I have ever argued against Christianity? But then later say, “it seems to me that you are trying to refute Christianity.” I guess you answered your own question.

  57. Roger,

    I guess that makes the Mormon religion true when it piggybacks on Christianity

    Why would argue against claims never made? Do you know the difference between a premise and a claim? What does the OT say about Sinai? Is it God’s Ideal for Mankind? Forever?

    Show us your arguments to the contrary. Unpack it for us.

    It’s these repetitive errors that make it seem as if you’re trying.

    You’re just not ever actually doing.

    It’s no use zeroing in on one X as each time any of us try you hedge and then simply fire off several more topics (…no actual doing…).

    But see if you can do it just this once. The OT and the future covenant in which God will write on hearts. And Sinai.

    Unpack it for us.

  58. You suggest that like Calculus is not false because it piggybacks on addition and subtraction, neither is Christianity false because it piggybacks on Judaism. Good point. I guess that makes the Mormon religion true when it piggybacks on Christianity.

    No. Good grief. It makes it logically possible that Mormonism is not false merely on account of its piggybacking on Christianity. It doesn’t make Mormonism true.

    Had that not occurred to you??? It’s blindingly obvious, you know.

    Be careful about trying to use logic to make other people’s views look stupid. When it fails, it often fails spectacularly. In fact, it’s not such a great idea to use any means carelessly to try to make others’ views look stupid.

  59. Roger,

    Your response regarding the possible forgiveness of Stalin and Mao and the meaning of unconditional election are so far from a accurate representation of Christian theology that it boarders on the absurd. So, we’re suppose to take your arguments seriously when you completely misrepresent Christian thought. Why not just say Christianity doesn’t make sense cause you don’t believe Buddha really existed. That would make just as much sense. Given this, I guess it’s not really fair to criticize your “parable”. It’s as far of off as the rest of your musings. There nothing like criticizing people for things they don’t believe, right Roger?

  60. scbrown

    You ask, “What does the OT say about Sinai? Is it God’s ideal for mankind? Forever?” Apparently it depends on which group of Christians you ask. Apparently it isn’t for you. But ask a dispensational and it is. And Israel’s former economy and glory will be restored. That is if there ever was a glory to restore. So I don’t really know where you fit in.

    I do think OT Israel thought Sinai was forever. They thought the promises of the OT were eternal. Even the disciples of Jesus thought so. They were looking for a restoration of the kingdom, not in a new sense, but the old. They kept asking Jesus when he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel.

    But you seem to think, from your vantage point, that Sinai was a temporary dispensation. Maybe you actually are a dispensational. But if Sinai was temporary, perhaps you are mistaken like the Jews, in thinking Christianity is forever. Maybe your mistake is the same as theirs. Maybe I’m on to the new and better way. I pretty sure the Mormons feel that, as well. And they have the new and fuller revelation of God to confirm that your Christianity needs some tweaking.

  61. Tom Gilson

    You say, “It makes it logically possible that Mormonism is not false merely on account of its piggyback on Christianity. It doesn’t make it true.” By the same token, it makes it logically possible that Christianity is not false merely on account of its piggyback on Judaism. But it doesn’t make it true either. Had that not occurred to you? It’s blindly obvious, you know. Isn’t that your argument? I hope I’m not saying that carelessly, as you suggest.

  62. BillT

    You seem to think it wouldn’t be fair to criticize my parable because it’s as far off as the rest of my musings. But the parable is not far off as to what the Bible teaches in regard to election for many other Christians. I haven’t heard too many criticisms from your cohorts on my parable. I think that may be because they don’t necessarily agree with your Arminian perspective on this point. Some of your cohorts, and perhaps you, may think this is a peripheral issue, but historically that was not at all the case. It was a central issue (as the Canons of Dort make clear), and because of that, those on opposing sides of this issue questioned the Christianity of those on the other side of this issue. I’ve tried to tell you, Bill, on more than one occasion that I don’t believe such a teaching, but it definitely is the teaching of the Bible. As important as this issue is, and seeing as the Bible teaches it, it makes me question the Bible and its Christianity. And that’s just one issue, as I’ve tried to make clear.

  63. Roger,

    I asked you to defend a claim.

    All you did was suggest what you think some might believe.

    And then you jumped to Mormons.

    Hence the truth of my previous claim:

    It’s no use zeroing in on one X as each time any of us try you hedge and then simply fire off several more topics (…no actual doing…).

    But see if you can do it just this once. The OT and the future covenant in which God will write on hearts. And Sinai. Unpack it for us.

    A few hedges, no actual argument, and something about Mormons unrelated to Sinai and the OT prophecy of a future covenant yet to come.

    Have you ever actually made an argument against Christianity?

    You’ve not done so in this thread.

  64. Roger,

    [1] You’ve chosen to worship the God who reveals himself.

    [2] You claim that God in fact is gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces or “fields”.

    [3] Then you attribute to those four fields the act of “revealing himself“.

    What do you mean by [3]?

    BTW my context is the following:

    “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions — gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

  65. Roger, your piggyback analogy fails on so many points… for example:

    If my analogy is false, then so is the Christian offense of Mormons claiming to be the true Christians. Mormons believe their book of Mormon interprets and gives clarity to the teaching of both the Old and New Testaments. And Mormons, like Christians, claim the truth of their religion as evidenced by a phenomenal growth since it’s inception.

    If Christians’ reasons for believing were as weak as that, then our reinterpretation of previous scriptures would be as obviously false as Mormonism’s is. There’s no analogy there at all.

  66. scbrown

    Once again, you ask in #63, what does the OT say about Sinai or the law? Is it God’s ideal for mankind? Forever? I explained in detail how the OT Jews, yes, thought it was the ideal and forever. Even Jesus’ followers thought it was the ideal and forever and were waiting for a restoration of their former economy and kingdom. And you could add that present day Jews (orthodox) are still waiting for the eternal ideal to be restored, as are those who claim to be dispensational Christians.

    Did you respond with any theological or Biblical argument? No. You asked a question but will not interact on Biblical grounds. “You say show us your argument. Unpack it for us.” I do, and what do I get in return? Comments like, “You claim that God in fact is gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces or “fields.” scbrown, what is that supposed to mean? Please, please, reread your own last paragraph of that comment beginning with, “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces….” You introduce this paragraph with “By the way, my context is the following.” What’s that whole paragraph supposed to mean? It’s nothing but gibberish and has nothing to do with any Biblical argument. I can’t find anything remotely close to what your saying in the Bible.

    And this is the normal pattern of your arguments. They are completely unrelated to the Bible’s theology or teachings. You’re trying to apply your philosophical terminology to the Bible when it just doesn’t equate or make sense. So pardon me, when I don’t interact with you on your terms.

  67. Roger,

    I explained in detail how the OT Jews, yes, thought it was the ideal and forever…

    You didn’t give any details other than, “…some believe X and some believe Y and some believe….”

    That’s not an argument nor is it detailed.

    It’s merely a repeat of your driving premise this whole thread, “The fact of disagreement about QM is a logical proof that all the content of QM is either false or fallacious…“.

    Also, your detail left out the OT’s claim of a future covenant which will replace the former covenant.

    Care to try again?

    As for nature, which you claim is God, and which you claim is God revealed, if you don’t know what nature’s elementary particles are, how do you know if it is God or not?

    Do you always “not know” what your own terms actually reference?

  68. Roger,

    I believe God reveals himself in creation (probably through evolution). The world and universe is his self revelation…

    You say that, but then you just demonstrated (…in your last comment…) that you don’t seem to understand what your own terms actually reference (….nature…. elementary particles etc..). Perhaps particle physics would be a good place to start for you. It must be a peculiar feeling to be able to manipulate and rearrange God’s parts. Especially when you don’t seem to know that it’s God, even though it’s nature, and nature is God, and you (we) manipulate and rearrange it (the revealed God) and its parts.

  69. Roger, I haven’t been fully involved because of travel and meetings. That’s why I haven’t (as you pointed out) criticized your parable along with BillT.

    Here’s the first problem with it: the father in this parable not stand in a relation to the boys that’s too different from the relation God the Father stands in relation to his creation. The father did not create them, he is not their King or sovereign, he is not a sinless one against whom they have committed capital sin. Therefore the parable gives us no basis for drawing conclusions about what’s right for God.

    And I think that might summarize your problem. You don’t realize that being human means we have a God who created us, who is our sovereign Lord, against whom (for whatever reason, whether you like it or not) we have committed capital sin.

    God has provided a way of rescue from that sin. It’s on his terms. Because he is God.

    Do you want eternal life? It’s yours, God’s way, for free. He paid the price himself.

    Do you want it on your terms? Then ask yourself, is it more important to make it happen, or to make it happen your way?

  70. Tom Gilson

    Tom, I don’t mean this as an insult in any way. I know you are sincere and completely committed to what you believe and teach. I imagine you have degrees in Biblical studies, theology, philosophy, etc. etc., probably PhD degrees. I really don’t know. I imagine you are considered an expert in your field.

    Here’s what I see as a big problem. The Bible authors were common folk – fishermen, tax collectors, carpenters, tent makers, clothing makers, sellers in the marketplace, all sorts of tradesmen. They weren’t highly educated, just common folk. And here they are recording in their everyday common folk language what they have seen and heard, or at least what they think they have seen and heard. They are writing and recording their thoughts with what might be a fifth or sixth grade level of education today. Some of the gospel writers are plagiarizing what they have read in a previous or earlier gospel account, sometimes word for word. Just common folk.

    And now, here you come with your PhD degrees to explain what these common folk really meant in their writings. You are the one who can expertly discern the heart of God within these common folk like no one else. They might see in their everyday experience a correlation between God’s forgiveness and our forgiveness of others. Their words say there is a correlation. What do you expect a fifth grader to understand? But you come along with your religious expertise and explain what they really meant, as though they were writing and interacting at a post doctorate level. They’re not. For the most part, they are writing at a child’s level. And you are here to inform us what these children writers really meant. You are putting words into their mouths and thoughts into their heads that were never there. And in reality you are not arguing the Bible’s thoughts but your own. I believe you think the Bible needs help explaining itself which, of course, takes a degreed person.

    You see, Tom, you are not the only one with a high level of understanding “children’s speak.” There are not only thousands, but probably tens of thousands who have these post graduate degrees in Biblical studies who are claiming to be experts in understanding the common trade person’s account of religious experience thousands of years ago. The problem is that few of them agree with each other. That’s why the necessity for the thousands of highly educated people to understand a single book that was written at a sixth grade level. Maybe, just maybe, a sixth grader can better understand another sixth grader than someone with a doctoral degree.

    As I see it,Tom, you are claiming to be the expert here on this website, and the opinions of others who comment simply don’t measure up to your understanding of the common person’s writings written two thousand years ago (the Bible).

    You can throw the Scripture’s divine inspiration at me, but that’s the same as every other religion. And every other religion, also has their PhD’s discerning the true meaning of life through their inspired Scriptures. The Mormons also have their huge number of PhD’s who would say that their religion is anything but “obviously false.” That sure gives me a lot of confidence in all these manmade religions.

  71. Tom,

    Roger had made the following claim:

    “I believe God reveals himself in creation (probably through evolution). The world and universe is his self revelation…”

    He *also* claimed that all of man’s claims upon God are false / factually misguided.

    Since all other claims are false or factually misguided we are left “nothing but” the opaque and nature “itself”.

    Full stop.

    So, we’ve got “nothing but” nature to work with. Elementary particles have become God. And we rearrange elementary particles (etc.).

  72. Roger,

    The “tent maker” to whom you refer — Paul — was extremely well educated. So were many of the authors: Luke, the author of Hebrews, and many of the OT prophets. The “uneducated” biblical writer was the exception, not the rule.

    This is not a fifth-grade document we’re dealing with. If you think Paul was writing, “at a child’s level,” try diagramming the single sentence that constitutes much of the first chapter of Ephesians (verses 3-14 are one sentence in the Greek). Try outlining the flow of his argument in Romans. It can be done; it’s not opaque and it’s not incoherent. It’s just advanced.

    I am indeed an expert in my field. I am not an expert in many things, but when I speak I do tend to know what I’m talking about; otherwise I don’t speak. I have a pretty good idea what the Bible’s fully adult authors said about many fully adult topics.

    And my goodness, Roger, you’re not treating it as fifth-grade language yourself! You wouldn’t argue against a fifth-grade exposition. But you’re arguing against what the Bible says.

    I thought we had already explained to you that the Mormon analogy didn’t work. Why do you keep acting as if it did?

  73. Typo in my last comment:

    This:

    Since all other claims are false or factually misguided we are left “nothing but” the opaque and nature “itself”.

    Should have been:

    Since all other claims are false or factually misguided we are left with “nothing but” the opaque and nature “itself”.

  74. For purposes of this discussion it would actually be more accurate for me to say I am knowledgeable in my field. There are true experts who know a whole lot more than I do about the things we’re talking about here. And (yikes!) by a typo in my last comment I wrote “I am an expert in many things, but…” I left out “not” during an edit the first time around. It’s fixed there now.

  75. Roger,

    It’s an odd premise that — when I relay data about X forward to others — the data is now false because I relayed it. You alluded to the term of plagiarism. Can you explain how that premise necessarily follows?

    What if I have 3 accounts in front of me and I merge them? Does that [1] make the initial three false or [2] make the merged item false?

    What if Bubba-Joe wrote his “Soda” and I change it to my “Pop” and still another changed it to (…as is common in some states..) “Coke”? Does that make one or both or all three accounts false?

    The following are all accurate (it’s on video), so we have reliable background data:

    — John’s tire blew and he pulled over…

    — John’s round blew, he spilled his Coke, and he flew over….

    — John’s baldy blew, he grabbed the knob, spilled his Soda, prayed for his friend, remembered his dinner appointment, trotted over to the side of the road, and opened a Pop….

    You don’t have the video.

    Etymology shows radical differences in Soda, Coke, Pop, Wheel, Knob, Baldy, Pull, Flew, and Trotted.

    Which is correct? Which is false?

    Are they all correct?

    What if I wrote that by putting together the various letters in front of me (no video)?

    What we are left with in ancient manuscripts then is nothing more than the generic principles of historicity. Please explain where and why your fallacious premise disagrees with the Chicago Statement on inerrancy (because it does).

  76. Roger,

    It’s really hard to believe that you would try and peddle “the Bible was written by a bunch of fifth graders” argument. If that was true what are you doing here arguing against it? Wouldn’t you be be better served doing something productive like cleaning your fingernails. And that not to mention that the Bible is unquestionably the most written about, analyzed, influential and important book ever written. And so much so that there is really nothing to compare it to. Your own actions, and the actions of the rest of the world, speak against your argument.

  77. Tom Gilson

    The point is, it takes highly educated people, tens of thousands of them, to figure out what Bible authors are trying to convey when they write in the normal vernacular of their day. And yet these so called experts of today come to little agreement with each other in their understanding of the Bible. Again, as I said numerous times, this does not inspire confidence in the Christian faith.

    As to the parable. Of course no comparison is perfect. You can find fault with anything if you want. That’s what you seem to do well, thinking that by so doing the analogy falls apart. It doesn’t The point is, the comparison is there. The God of the Bible has the right and prerogative to choose whoever he wishes and so he does. He doesn’t treat all people fairly, and in our courts fairness is at the heart of justice. Like the father in the parable, he intentionally passes by some in favor of others, others who are no more deserving than those he passes by. He has the ability to save all, but doesn’t. And remember, God’s choices or decisions supersede human choices. Even as BillT is offended by such a God, so am I. I think we can do better.

  78. BillT

    Of course, Bill, the debate didn’t start at the same place it has ended up. We’ve covered territory not addressed by Tom’s criticism of Loftus. And the debate has even disintegrated to your suggestion that I might be better served by cleaning my fingernails rather than engage in debate with you. Is this a comment that fits the discussion policies for this website?

    Yes, Bill, the Bible is probably the most written about book in history. And isn’t it amazing that there is so little agreement amongst those who write. Just check out your local Christian bookstore, or any bookstore under the heading of the Christian religion. That inspires confidence, doesn’t it?

    As to being the most important book ever written, maybe we better check first with the Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Hindus, etc. etc. You get the picture. I think you may mean, important to you.

  79. As to being the most important book ever written, maybe we better check first with the Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Hindus, etc. etc. You get the picture. I think you may mean, important to you.

    No Roger, the most important book ever written, bar none. Nothing from any other religion or author(s) comes even close. And if you don’t agree, name it. All your “Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Hindus, etc. etc” is just smoke otherwise.

    And your complaint about me wondering why you’re so interested in something you obviously feel is so beneath you is certainly puzzeling. I mean it’s obvious you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about a book you believe was written by the equivalent of a bunch of fifth graders. Why shouldn’t I (or anyone) wonder whether clean fingernails shouldn’t be more important to you than it.

    And don’t you see that your complaint about all the books written about the Bible is a testament to it not something critical of it. The “so little agreement amongst those who write” is much more your imagination about what’s in all those books that the reality of their content. It obvious you’ve read very few to hold the opinion you do about them.

    Even as BillT is offended by such a God, so am I.

    And I never said anything like this.

  80. Roger,

    It took a lot of smart folks a long time to tease out the many nuances in Egyptian hieroglyphics .

    Far-removed conceptual frameworks and linguistic habits demand it. That’s reality.

    Your premise that such a reality is a “problem” can only be based on non-reality.

  81. Roger,

    So far you’ve simply claimed that internal disagreements exist within Christianity on a handful of topics, none of which find reality’s Living Water as anything but Christ.

    You offer it as a logical proof that Christianity is false. That’s your premise.

    Do you actually believe that premise?

  82. scbrown

    Plagiarism has nothing to do with false reporting. All three accounts, the original and the copies may be true of false. That’s not the point. The point is, the two plagiarists (in your story) didn’t do the original work themselves, and that could be for a variety of reasons. For instance, Luke, apparently had never met Jesus. He (if he was indeed the author) recorded the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts as a historical record. Like Tom Gilson, he was an expert in one area (as a physican), but not in other areas such as a being a historian (maybe a hobby). So Luke borrowed from other sources for his historical record and even plagiarized word for word at times. He copied his historical record, not as a first hand witness, but gathering information second hand, maybe even third or fourth hand. Accuracy often gets lost in second hand reports, as evidenced by some of the differences in Luke’s report and the reports of other gospel writers. Copying others doesn’t guarantee accuracy, nor does it show originality. That’s the explanation of the premise you asked for.

    The Chicago statement on inerrancy is a narrow Christian statement. It only applies to a segment of Christian thinking that holds to the idea of inerrancy. Many, many Christians opt for the word infallible rather than inerrancy, and that makes a world of difference. Some Christian groups don’t hold to either. The Chicago statement is “in box” thinking (in the small box of Christianity) and only takes up a corner of that box. Sorry scbrown.

  83. BillT

    “No Roger, the most important book ever written, bar none…” Bill, that’s your opinion. Opinion: “a belief or judgement that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainly.” It’s subjectivism, like belief in prayer or the powerful working of the Holy Spirit who is said to lead the church in all truth. But whose truth are we talking about? Yours? How many truths are there on the same subject?

  84. Roger,

    Calling Luke a plagiarist is laughable. Do you not know what historians do? They gather factual information from various sources and create an historical record with them. Luke had access to eyewitnesses and, most likely, eyewitness historical records. Using them he created his account of Christ’s life. Luke was a first rate historian and the book he created is first rate history.

  85. No Roger. That the Bible is the most important book ever written is fact. And again, if that’s not true then all you have to do is name the book that, in world history, is more important. Since I asked for this before and you haven’t, I gather you can’t.

  86. Roger, it’s well known among historians that Like was (in Dr William Albright’s words) a “historian of the first rank,” a conclusion reached on account of the dozens of minute, checkable details he got right in Acts.

    Furthermore, the Gospels are the only accounts in all history and in all literary history to portray a character of great power who used his power only for the good of others. This is an expression of ethical genius that is objectively observable and unique in all literary history. No one else has ever conceived a character as self-sacrificially other-oriented as Jesus. This is no fifth grade project; it is marked with at least one form of ethical genius greater than you’ll find in any other literature. (More: http://bit.ly/NoLegend)

  87. Concerning our disagreement over your parable: I’ve explained how it is non-analogous in relevant ways. Your answer was little more than a repeat of what I had already addressed. You haven’t engaged with the substance of my response. You haven’t considered the difference between God and man and why the difference matters.

    Read that last sentence again, please. It’s telling. You haven’t considered the difference between God and man, and why that difference matters.

    If God exists, then as long as you continue to treat him as one of us you have no chance of seeing him for who he is. If God exists you are making it certain you will never discover truth in the most ultimate and most personal degree. But you can change. You can decide to approach the possibility of a God who is greater than you have ever conceived. It’s not to late to try that, Roger.

  88. BillT and scbrown

    Bill says, “The so little agreement amongst those who write” is much more your imaginagtion…”
    scbrown says, “…internal disagreements exist within Christianity on a handful of topics, none of which…”

    Let’s see now, there are the Baptists (how many different Baptists?), Lutherans, Catholics, Mormons, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Christadelphians, Reformed, Methodists, Jehovah Witnesses, Anglican, Adventists, Orthodox, etc. etc., all claiming to be Christian. The numbers and names can run into the thousands. Gordon Conwell Seminary claimed that in 2012, there existed approximately 43,000 different Christian denominations. These are all denominations that have split apart from other denominations because of differences in Biblical interpretation and application. That’s not my imagination Bill. And the Holy Spirit will lead in all truth? Could have fooled me. This is a real confidence builder.

  89. Still on the “different denominations proves something” track, Roger? A nice list of Christian denominations but nothing of substance. I thought you were going to name the book that was more important than the Bible. You certainly intimated it existed, why can’t you say what it is.

    I though you might explain how Luke doesn’t meet the criteria as an historian or at least something of substance regarding your claim he was a “plagiarist”. I mean, could you give us just a hint about what he “plagiarized”. How about actually addressing Tom’s critique that you fail, in your “parable”, to differentiate between God and man. That isn’t outside your ken, is it, Roger?

  90. Roger,

    You offer some internal differences within a whole as a logical proof that the whole is false.

    That’s your premise.

    Do you actually believe that premise?

    __________

    BTW: That’s not why/how the Christian takes issue with another metaphysical view of reality like, say, Atheism or Pantheism or Islam or whatever.

    It’s a much broader and more nuanced series of brushstrokes — very different than that singular, monotone, un-nuanced, and uninformed brushstroke which you’re currently splashing about.

  91. You offer some internal differences within a whole as a logical proof that the whole is false.

    Roger,

    You know there are internal differences in almost every field in the world. The sciences, medicine, literary interpretation, history, philosophy, the arts and many more. Using your logic I could say:

    “There are scientific theorists in many fields that have split apart from other scientific theorists in those fields because of differences in scientific interpretation and application. That’s not my imagination Roger. And science will lead us to truth? Could have fooled me. This is a real confidence builder.”

    Make any sense to you Roger? Me neither.

  92. Tom Gilson

    Things is Tom, they (all these denominations calling themselves Christian) nearly all claim the Bible as their authority. And yet so different. 43,000!! And if they were all nearly the same (which they’re not), I guess it wouldn’t matter which denomination or group you picked to affiliate with. Is that your point?

  93. Roger, for purposes of entering into life with Jesus Christ, it probably doesn’t matter which denomination or group you pick to affiliate with. What matters is whether you put your trust or your faith in Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and to bring you into a living relationship with God. You can find that message in a whole lot of different churches. Yes, there are some churches that deny the full truth of the Bible, and yes, I would agree that those churches are off-track. For those that affirm the teachings of the Bible, the main thing is almost always the main thing. The differences that exist between them are probably important in many ways, but more than anything else what matters is whether you have a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

  94. And the burden of proof is on you, Roger, to show that the differences between these denominations are significantly more important than mere cultural matters. The beliefs of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination aren’t really very different from those of historic Methodism in England. It’s a separate denomination for cultural reasons. Some of those cultural reasons have to do with racism in the broader culture, but don’t let that obscure the fact that there is no essential difference in doctrine or beliefs.

    This is but one example, and perhaps the most obvious, of the kinds of cultural differences that have divided Christians. Those divisions do not reflect unity, but they also do not reflect disagreement in basic, core doctrine.

    Baptists disagree with Presbyterians on the manner of baptism. That is not a core doctrine.

    Pentecostalists disagree with traditional Baptists on the current expression of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is not a core doctrine.

    The Eastern wing of Christianity disagrees with Western Christianity on whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or from the Father period. That is not a core doctrine.

    Roman Catholicism differs from Protestantism on matters having to do with Mary, the Eucharist, Church tradition, and some other matters. these things approach what I would consider core doctrine, but I am in fellowship with many Catholics who believe the central thing: forgiveness in Christ through his work on the Cross, appropriated into our lives through simple humble faith. Even where there are significant differences in beliefs, there can yet be agreement on the core matters.

    All of these denominations agree on the simple summation of faith contained in the Apostles’ Creed.

    Yes, there are 43,000 denominations, or at least I’m willing to believe that there are. That fact does not change the central and core doctrines of Christianity, which you need to take seriously in this discussion. If you fail or refuse to recognize that fact, you are arguing a straw man. Worse than that, you are failing to take seriously your own need for a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

  95. It’s very peculiar that the Catholic Church is commonly listed as being 200++ denominations as each country gets a separate “mark”. I’m not Catholic but it’s pretty silly to count the C. Church as 200++ “…fractured contradictions -cause-da-bible!!”, and so on.

    It’s very peculiar that some assert that non-core internal differences within a whole is in fact a logical proof that the whole is false.

    It’s even more odd that some actually believe “in” that premise.

    It seems there’s no telling what some folks will talk themselves “into”.

    Few do the hard work of unpacking the actual content within differing theological tensions and how and if it even matters at all when it comes to the epicenter that is reality’s living water.

    Instead, folks just look up state and national registries, add up the lists, and call it a day.

    Wow!

    Try to pass that off as factual content in any other field and one will find oneself unemployed.

  96. The content of David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001 finds the following comment on review:

    Note: Denomination is defined as an organization within a single country. This means that if the Roman Catholic church is in 234 countries, it would have a at least 234 denominations. Conversely, To say the Roman Catholic church has 239 denominations in 234 countries, is a conclusion that seriously misreads the data. On the other hand, the fact that there are 8848 denominations in the Protestant column, does not mean there are 8848 Protestant denominations as Catholics suggest. If you divide 8848 by the 237 countries, you come up with a figure of only actual 37 denominations in 237 countries.

    Okay. So there’s 37 “Protestant” X’s on planet Earth. Apparently there are 239/234 (….or 1.0213….) Catholic X’s on planet Earth.

    Not sure how that “1.0213 C. denominations” actually works – or even more curious is what it is telling us about the 37. But then counting up state or national registries and then stat-ing that data with population X’s will not unexpectedly give us such sums.

    What we still do not see is the map for where and how anything in that whole show changes anything at all with respect to the Epicenter in question – namely the fundamental nature of reality’s Living Water vis-à-vis Christ.

  97. Tom Gilson in response to #102

    Tom, you may try to set up a tall fence to keep out of Christianity’s yard those who you don’t think belong, but they keep on infringing don’t they? You may call the fence the apostle’s creed, but some, who think they belong, find a way to get around or under the fence by identifying Jesus or the Holy Spirit a little differently (maybe a lot differently) than you. So you come up with the Nicene Creed, a more secure fence, but they still keep finding ways to say we’re Christians too, and climb right over the fence and into the yard. So those original Christians come up with another fence called the Athanasian Creed. This will surely keep them out. And of course, these are only manmade fences. But as we know, even today, they are coming from all sides, claiming to be the true Christians, who believe the Bible is authoritative, believe in God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (at least in some fashion), and they too have PhD’s to argue why they are more authentic than many of the other so called Christians. But even when they legitimately (as to your understanding) do fit in the confines of however many fences you want to construct, you will find some groups within the enclosure trying to kick others out. Like John Calvin calling Catholics and Arminians heretics, saying they don’t belong within our camp called Christianity. Or Martin Luther accusing the head of the Roman Catholic church the antichrist and the whole lot should be thrown out. This could go on and on, as to who is really in and who isn’t. For the last couple of years Richard Mouw, of Fuller Theological Seminary (a good Christian seminary) has been arguing unfairness by the Christian church toward the Mormon church. It looks like they actually do belong within the Christian’s fenced in yard. Who does really belong? After all, there is really no such definitive statement in the Bible, like the Apostle’s Creed, or Nicene Creed, or Athanasian Creed to conclusively define the relationship between Jesus, Jehovah God (the Father), or the Holy Spirit, or who each of them actually are. This is all a matter of interpretation. Again, I think you have a dilemma. I’m losing confidence by the minute. You see, these differences are by no means small or insignificant.

  98. Roger,

    There is such a thing as historic creedal Christianity. Despite differences in its ranks, it is still sufficiently defined to be able to know what it is and what it isn’t. It is what I am defending and discussing here.

    There is such a thing as other-than-historic-creedal-Christianity, and that is not what I am defending and discussing here.

    Now, I knew that last fact even before you pointed it out to us. It isn’t keeping me awake nights. I’ve given it considerable thought and study, and I am confident that it is a fact that can be integrated coherently into the Christian worldview. God didn’t reveal himself in the form of a systematic theology, yet systematizers since the NT era have still, for good reasons, tried to put it all into a package. They haven’t always agreed (which is not surprising, given the Christian worldview) and they haven’t always been of perfect character (which is even less surprising).

    And I don’t believe you’re “losing confidence by the minute.” That’s just a word game on your part. I’m not playing games. I care about these truths, and I care whether you yourself have eternal life through them.

    So let’s try this. Let’s focus in on the one key point that unites all of historic creedal Christianity, regardless of our differences. If you could know that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for you, to rescue you from death — permanent alienation from God — due to your own sin, would that be of interest to you?

  99. Roger,

    You offer some internal differences within a whole as a logical proof that the whole is false. That’s your premise.

    Do you actually believe that premise?

    That’s not why/how the Christian takes issue with another metaphysical view of reality like, say, Atheism or Pantheism or Islam or whatever. Ours is (or should be) a much broader and more nuanced series of brushstrokes — very different than your approach.

    So, the question remains: despite the fact that nothing you’ve touched on has redefined the Epicenter in question — namely the fundamental nature of reality’s Living Water there in and by *Christ* — do you believe in your premise?

  100. Tom Gilson and scbrown

    Well, in spite of the fact that there are significant differences between denominations and groups calling themselves Christian, you would like to get to the bottom line of Christianity, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Of course, as I pointed out in my last response, there are considerable differences on this subject amongst those calling themselves Christian. And that has been true since Christianity’s beginning. Here’s my take.

    As I see it, Jesus is a historic person whose life and character has become entirely embellished into something that no longer describes his reality. I imagine he was a good person with some good ideas, probably quite an admirable person. That would be a reason many were attracted to him during his lifetime. But with his passing, as often happens, stories, embellished stories and memories, began to circulate about him. This happened over a long period of time. If Jesus was crucified approximately around 30 a.d., Mark’s gospel (the first) wasn’t written until approximately 70 a.d., forty years after the death of Jesus. And Luke’s gospel wasn’t written until approximately 15 years later than Mark’s. John’s was approximately sixty years after Jesus’ death. That’s a lot of time to remember details or for word of mouth stories to get embellished. Many question whether it was actually Mark who was the author, or sole author, of his gospel. More room for embellishment.

    I know you doubt the embellishment of the gospel accounts or any of the Bible. But embellishment happens very easily. Over a period of twenty to forty years details get changed and stretched very easily. Here’s an example. In our conversation on this website we have batted around different ideas. On several occasions, I have made claims or statements and scbrown has exaggerated my claim into something I didn’t say or suggest. I even called him on his error. For instance the claim by Gordon Conwell Seminary that there exists some 43,000 different Christian denominations got reduced by scbrown’s reasoning to 37 Protestant denominations. We know with certainty that there are more than that many Baptist denominations alone. That’s how embellishment happens. Come up with a neat formula and we can easily change the numbers. The embellishments or exaggerations may even be well intended. You may accuse me of embellishing or exaggerating facts. Again that would be another example of how easily ideas get twisted and embellished. This happened between us in a matter of weeks. Two disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus enter into conversation with someone who convinces them that Jesus has risen. They don’t recognize him along their whole journey until this person asks a blessing on the food at the inn they were staying at and finally think they recognize him as Jesus. These two run back to the upper room and retell their strange experience and soon two witnesses become 50. With all the passing time from the actual event till it gets actually recorded (40 years or so) embellishment would be expected.

    That Jesus is God come down to earth in human form, that an army of praising angels were witnessed by some shepherds watching their flocks at the time of Jesus’ birth, that Jesus performed miracles at will, that he lived a sinless life, that he fed 5,000 on one occasion and 4,000 on another from a small child’s lunch basket, that he was seen ascending again into heaven from where he had originally come from in bodily form, and much more is as believable as the miraculous accounts of countless other religions. Exaggeration and embellishment. That’s what we say of other religions. That’s the skeptics view of Jesus, as well,

    I know the Bible’s account is real to you, but it’s a subjective reality, not an actual reality, much like children believing in Santa Claus. They really, really believe he is real. He may have been at one time (300 a.d.), but not in the way children imagine him today. St. Nicholas’s character today is nothing but embellishment. As much as you may feel badly for me, I feel the same for you.

  101. Tom,

    Roger never answers the questions he’s asked. We all know this by now. And his embellishment theory obviously doesn’t comport with the reality of what we know about the gospels, their origins, authors and their reliability as it pertains to the facts they record. Roger believes he can just make stuff up, without any understanding of the facts, and, well, if he believes it that should be good enough for everybody, right?

  102. Roger,

    Did you notice that in all that lengthy comment, you were asking/addressing a different question than the one I asked?

    Interestingly the question I asked did have to do with your content.

  103. Tom Gilson

    Tom, you ask, if I could know that Jesus, lived, died and rose from death for me, would I be interested? Of course, I’d have to believe, wouldn’t I? I mean, really believe, not just with my head, but with the totality of my being. I’d have to commit myself wholly to Jesus Christ, for this to be the kind of faith the Bible calls Christians to, wouldn’t it? There’s no such thing as halfway Christianity is there? Of course there is always forgiveness for our less than stellar attempts at commitment. But of course that can’t be part of one’s reasoning as one embarks on this faith journey can it? Otherwise it wouldn’t be a total commitment. What I’m getting at, is how does one know if he/she has real faith? What kind of assurance does one have of really being chosen by God, that they really are a Christian, by the Bible’s definition.

    James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Another way of saying this is, by their fruits you will know them. As I understand the Christian life, Christians are to separate themselves unto the Lord by a life of love for others and refraining from the sin of the world. A Christian’s life of commitment to and trust in Christ results in a life that is radically different from those who aren’t Christian.

    As I see it, I can’t say I know anyone that really fits that description anymore than many people who don’t claim to be Christians. On the whole, or for the most part, Christians don’t seem anymore committed to a stellar moral life than anyone else. Christians in our society are just as caught up in materialism as anyone else. Look in the garages of those on your block including those claiming to be Christian. BMWs, Cadillacs, Mercedes are not exclusive to non Christians. These garages are all filled with the same boats and toys as each other, with owners paying high interest loans to pay off their debt. Christians live in the same big and lavishly decorated homes as their neighbors. They do little more, if any more, for the needy in third world countries. They have as many (maybe more) marriage divorces to their credit as those outside the church. Christians, including pastors, apparently have the same addictions to pornography as anyone else. What is it that separates Christians from the world? Is going to church the thing that distinguishes Christians from others? I’m looking for something that could possibly assure a person that he/she is indeed a Christian and chosen by God for salvation. I know Christian sanctification is not only a matter of being separated unto the Lord, but also a matter of growing in holiness through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. I can’t say I really see that. I don’t see Christian lives any more committed to a love for neighbor than I see in those not claiming Christianity. In fact, I see a lot of love and care being demonstrated by those who aren’t Christians. There are good secular organizations committed to doing good. Where’s the difference that would give the assurance that one is indeed a Christian? Maybe intellectual assent is enough. But if I were to guess, most Christians are living a delusional life. They know one thing but don’t live it. That’s not assurance, but rather false assurance. How can anyone know or have assurance of salvation? Tom, what is your assurance of salvation? So what good is knowing that Jesus is who you say he is?

  104. They do little more, if any more, for the needy in third world countries. They have as many (maybe more) marriage divorces to their credit as those outside the church.

    More made up stuff from Roger. The truth is that regular Christian church attenders both give much more of their income away and have significantly lower divorce rates than do those who don’t attend church. But facts are so inconvenient, aren’t they, Roger

  105. Roger,

    Your claims about denominations are not correct in that you’re claiming they say something about Christ which they do not.

    That’s dishonest.

    The Epicenter that is the fundamental nature of reality’s living water (Christ) is viewed fairly uniformly among Trinitarians. That’s about 2. 5 ish-billion. There are 15 million Mormons. There’s about 1 million “others”. That’s 16 million. Let’s round up to 25 million.

    About 99% define the fundamental nature of Christ along similar lines. Since the aqueducts can’t change the water it’s not obvious what you’re driving at. I mean in addition to the problem of your peculiar premise that differences in a whole are proofs of the falsehood of the entire whole.

    Christ agrees with you that Christians sin.

    I’m sorry that comes as news for you.

    Christ agrees with you that the Church is fragmented.

    I’m sorry that comes as news for you.

    Christ seems fairly accurate and uniform on even more fronts.

  106. Roger,

    What if the divorce rate among Christians was 100%?

    How are people’s behavior and claims relevant to the veracity of the X they claim to believe in?

    Non-Theists are constantly uninformed about their own X’s. They may even behave very well or very poorly.

    But the veracity of the metaphysical landscape that is “Non-Theism” isn’t contingent on their personal or collective Acts/Informed/Uninformed X’s.

    It seems you’ve a premise that claims the opposite.

    Do you actually believe that premise?

  107. Roger,

    Based on this latest premise of yours (…if 100% divorce rate as discussed…) you are actually defining the Necessary by the Contingent (….rather than defining the Contingent by the Necessary…).

    The technical term for that would be something akin to “absurdity”.

  108. I believe with not the totality of my being, Roger, but only with as much of myself as I know how to offer. It isn’t much. I remain imperfect. That’s how it is for all of us. But my position with Christ isn’t based on how well I live or even how perfectly I believe, but on whether I have humbly offered myself to Christ, for Him to take leadership of my life, forgive my sins, and give me his life. I could never love or trust him well enough to deserve his life. I never have and I never will. He doesn’t require me to spdeserve his grace but only to accept it. It’s his goodness, not mine, that carries me and other Christians forward from there.

    And he does carry us forward. As BillT has already said, your position here is marked with several false facts. Christians give more, volunteer more, and stay married much more consistently than non-believers. See David Brooks and George Barna on this–though Barna has often been misquoted, so be careful of your sources. (See also http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/february/marriage-divorce-and-body-of-christ-what-do-stats-say-and-c.html?paging=off)

    It’s not our works that bring us to Christ, though. It is he who brings us to good works. It starts with inviting him to have his way, his very good way, with us, trusting in him, and allowing him to lead in love.

    How can you believe? I don’t know. I do know how I could: through investigating the facts open-minded lay when before I had thought the whole story was false, and also through observing the goodness of Jesus Christ expressed in others’ lives. And finally by being willing to trust my life to the one who created and designed me. How you will walk a path to pears Jesus Christ I do not know, but I pray that you will.

  109. BillT

    Made up stuff, Bill? Church attenders give much more of their income away? I’ve been part of enough churches to know that Christians, on the whole don’t come close to giving the ten percent of their income that was a base requirement for giving in the Old Testament. And what Christians give to their churches on a regular basis goes mostly into the operational costs of the church, such as paying the utilities bills, pastors’ salaries, youth director, the organist or pianist, youth program, senior’s program, summer children’s camp program, building projects, new church facility fund, etc. etc. Your giving is for your own benefit. That’s like paying for your country club dues and calling it charitable giving. Very little of church giving ever makes it to helping the poor in third world countries or elsewhere. If you have or do belong to a Christian church, you know this isn’t made up. You’d be better to give to the Red Cross.

    As to the divorce rate being the same amongst professing Christians as those who aren’t, check with the James Dobson organization. Not made up.

    As far as Christians being just as materialistic as the world, compare some of your fellow church member’s garages full of stuff with the garages of secular America. Or the size and quality of their houses. You won’t see much difference. Not made up, Bill.

  110. Roger, I gave you an actual source to check on that divorce rate statistic.

    Church members don’t give close to 10 percent, but what does that have to do with what we’ve been talking about? They still give considerably more than non-members.

    what Christians give to their churches on a regular basis goes mostly into the operational costs of the church, such as paying the utilities bills, pastors’ salaries, youth director, the organist or pianist, youth program, senior’s program, summer children’s camp program, building projects, new church facility fund, etc. etc. Your giving is for your own benefit. That’s like paying for your country club dues and calling it charitable giving. Very little of church giving ever makes it to helping the poor in third world countries or elsewhere. If you have or do belong to a Christian church, you know this isn’t made up. You’d be better to give to the Red Cross.

    Show me your sources on this. Show me how the comparisons. I’ve got friends from my own church doing humanitarian outreach in Nicaragua right now. Do you have friends doing anything like that today? Show me how many non-churchgoers travel to Haiti or to North Africa or any other part of the world to give their time; then compare that to churchgoers. Show me the proportion of non-churchgoing income that goes to humanitarian aid, and then show me the same for churchgoing income.

    I think you’re blowing smoke. I think you’re pulling numbers out of your hat.

    I don’t think you’ve read any actual research on it.

    I can’t find my copy of Brooks, but here’s what the Boston Globe reported:

    Though there is a strong link between religious belief and philanthropy, it wasn’t just churches the conservatives gave to. “They gave more to . . . health charities, education organizations, international aid groups, and human welfare agencies,” Brooks noted. They even gave more “to traditionally liberal causes, such as the environment and the arts.”

    None of this was what Brooks had anticipated when he began his research. “I expected to find that political liberals . . . would turn out to be the most privately charitable people,” he says. “So when my early findings led to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error . . . In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

    Since I don’t have the book I can’t disaggregate “conservatives” from “churchgoers” in the data, but I do know they are strongly correlated, especially among Whites.

    You think you know what you’re talking about, Roger. It’s time you re-examined your self-awareness.

  111. Another knowledgeable gloss on Brooks:

    Overall, he asserts that religious people tend to donate more money, and to donate more of their time to community organizations, than do non-religious people. (Again, I have not read the book and have not seen his original findings. However, it appears that, even after accounting for the fact that most personal charity goes to religious institutions, religious people still tend to give more to secular organizations than do non-religious people.)

    From the executive director of Wilder Research.

  112. Tom Gilson

    Good for you Tom, you found some facts that supported your point of view. USA Today submitted an article on marriage in America with this quote from Adelle Banks, of the Religious News Service, “Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like the adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among the religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.” Obviously, Tom, I should have said that the divorce rate is “almost” the same amongst professing Christians as those not professing Christianity. There really isn’t much of difference. And the popular assumption, as pointed out in a couple articles, is that church goers divorce at the same rate as those who don’t go. But not true. The comparison is 42% to 50%. But wait a minute. It’s only the Christian group that consider most divorces as sin, and yet they still divorce almost as much as non Christians. Shouldn’t the church rate be much closer to zero? Interesting.

    The same goes for giving to charitable causes. Based on the Chronicle of Philanthropy an article in Patheos asks if religious people give more than non religious. It answers, “Yes and no. 65% of religious people donate to charity. The non religious figure is 56%. But according to the study, the entire 9% difference is attributed to religious giving to congregations and religious organizations. So yes, religion causes people to give more – to religion itself.” Wouldn’t you expect the Christian giving to be much higher seeing as a majority of churches require giving or strongly encourage it as a religious mandate? There is no such mandate for non Christians and yet their giving isn’t far off from the Christian percentage. Interesting, but doesn’t say much for the Christian’s generosity.

    As far as your having friends who go to foreign countries to do charitable work, I have a close doctor friend who is part of a secular medical group that goes annually to depressed countries to volunteer their time and labor for a month. He’s done it for years now, as well as this entire medical group. I have another friend, although not a doctor, who donates at least a month a year to the Red Cross, donating his time and labor around the world. You see, not just Christians.

    As far as Christians being caught up in the materialism of the world, I suggest comparing the value of the cars in the average church parking lot to the parking lot of a shopping mall. That’s the facts BillT.

    The point I’m making is that Christians are really no different than non Christians, even though the Bible calls them to a much higher standard. There are good Christians who rise above the others, but there are just as many (maybe more) non Christians who rise to the same higher standard. So if it is by their fruits that you will know them (Christians), you’ve got me fooled. If Christianity doesn’t produce the results it’s supposed to perhaps the premise is wrong too.

    As far as quoting sources and making snide comments (That enough facts for you, Roger? Or, I think you’re blowing smoke, or pulling numbers out of your hat), anyone can quote sources. I question whether your numbers are reliable. You will probably say the same about mine. But my personal observation is the same. Although Christians might like to think so, they are really no better than anyone else. They should be, but they aren’t. I will admit that I know some very good Christians, just like I know some very good non Christians. But Christianity isn’t producing better people.

  113. Roger,

    What if the divorce rate is 100% among Non-Theists and 0% among Theists?

    What if the divorce rate is 100% among Theists and 0% among Non-Theists?

    The veracity of the metaphysical landscape that is “X” isn’t contingent on “their” personal or collective Acts/Informed/Uninformed X’s.

    It seems you’ve a premise that claims the opposite.

    With respect to the veracity of their respective truth-claims upon reality’s or being’s fundamental nature, that premise of yours seems indefensible.

    Agree?

    The fact that Christ agrees with you regarding the fact that Christians sin adds uniformity to the Christian claims.

    The fact that Christ agrees with you regarding the fact of the Church’s fragmentation adds uniformity to the Christian claims.

    Agree?

  114. Roger,

    My initial understanding was that you were addressing Scripture’s truth claims.

    However, one of your premises seems to suppose that there is no difference between nominal X’s and fruitful X’s.

    Why in the world would you work off of that premise when Scripture claims the opposite? I mean assuming you are addressing Scripture’s truth claims.

    Were all the Christians in the NT all uniform and spotless? All nominal only? All fruitful only?

    Have you ever actually read the New Testament?

    Your working premises are fairly uniform indicators that you really don’t understand the New Testament at all.

    And uniformity matters.

  115. A bit of a recap on Roger’s premises is worth posting as these are not uncommon straw-man assertions which (uninformed) Non-Theist’s often make:

    Roger:

    Your claims about denominations are not correct in that you’re claiming they say something about Christ which they do not.

    That’s dishonest.

    Why are you being intellectually dishonest? Or are you simply uninformed about what you claim to be addressing?

    The Epicenter that is the fundamental nature of reality’s living water (Christ) is viewed fairly uniformly among Trinitarians. That’s about 2. 5-ish billion. There are 16 million Mormons. There’s about 2 million “others”. That’s 18 million. Let’s round up to 25 million.

    About 99% define the fundamental nature of Christ along similar lines.

    Scratch that. Let’s make it 97% just for fun. Heck, let’s make it 95% for even *more* fun. It’s all about premises, veracity, and uniformity.

    Since the nature of the aqueducts can’t change the nature of the Water it’s not obvious what you’re driving at. I mean in addition to the problem of your peculiar premise that differences in a whole are proofs of the falsehood of the entire whole.

    But *that* (95% or 99%) is *still* not a claim upon the Epicenter in question, upon the fundamental nature of reality’s Living Water, upon Christ. It is (rather) nothing but a claim upon a Church which Christ and the NT reveal to be non-uniform and non-spotless.

    Christ agrees with you that Christians sin. I’m sorry that comes as news for you. Christ agrees with you that the Church is fragmented. I’m sorry that comes as news for you. Christ seems fairly accurate and uniform on even more fronts. On your terms that uniformity counts as strong evidence in favor of Christianity.

    What if the divorce rate is 100% among Non-Theists and 0% among Theists? What if the divorce rate is 100% among Theists and 0% among Non-Theists?

    The veracity of the metaphysical landscape that is “X” isn’t contingent on “their” personal or collective Acts/Informed/Uninformed X’s.
    It seems you’ve a premise that claims the opposite, however, with respect to the veracity of X-Claimer’s respective truth-claims upon reality’s or being’s fundamental nature, that premise of yours seems indefensible.

    Agree?

    The fact that Christ agrees with you regarding the fact that Christians sin adds uniformity to the Christian claims. The fact that Christ agrees with you regarding the fact of the Church’s fragmentation adds uniformity to the Christian claims.

    Agree?

    My initial understanding was that you were addressing Scripture’s truth claims.

    However, one of your premises seems to suppose that there is no difference between Nominal X’s and Fruitful X’s.

    Why in the world would you work off of that premise when Scripture claims the opposite? I mean assuming you are addressing Scripture’s truth claims.

    Were all the Christians in the NT all uniform and spotless? All nominal only? All fruitful only?

    Have you ever actually read the New Testament?

    Your working premises are fairly uniform indicators that you really don’t understand the New Testament at all. And uniformity matters.

  116. scbrown

    I have been saying all along that Christianity is wrong at both ends, in it’s basic premises, as well as in the application of its premises to life. To me, Christianity is proved false going in either direction.

  117. “Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like the adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among the religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.”

    Good for you. You found a statistic, too. But you have to understand what’s being measured. When practicing Christians are separated out from nominal Christians that statistic changes. From that same USAToday article:

    When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.

    Further:

    University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, concluded that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce than are those with no faith affiliation. He used the National Survey of Families and Households to make his analysis.

    And,

    The study showed that the percentage of adults who have been married and divorced varies from segment to segment. For instance, the groups with the most prolific experience of marriage ending in divorce are downscale adults (39%), Baby Boomers (38%), those aligned with a non-Christian faith (38%), African-Americans (36%), and people who consider themselves to be liberal on social and political matters (37%).

    Among the population segments with the lowest likelihood of having been divorced subsequent to marriage are Catholics (28%), evangelicals (26%), upscale adults (22%), Asians (20%) and those who deem themselves to be conservative on social and political matters (28%).

    I worked HR for an evangelical mission agency for about ten years. I dealt with every divorce among a group of more than one thousand staff members. There were four that I can remember. This is indicative of the divorce rate among the very highly committed.

    Your perspective on the facts is highly skewed against reality.

    Do you think reality should inform your opinion or not? That’s a direct question.

  118. Concerning this:

    Yes and no. 65% of religious people donate to charity. The non religious figure is 56%. But according to the study, the entire 9% difference is attributed to religious giving to congregations and religious organizations. So yes, religion causes people to give more – to religion itself.

    Go to the source, not to the misnamed and considerably biased “Friendly Atheist.” (I have interacted with him in the past, and I’ve read lots of what he’s written; I am not wrong in the way I’m characterizing him.) Biased reporters typically give biased reports; or at least it happens often enough that responsible people make it known that they’re drawing from a source that’s likely to be biased, so readers can assess whether that bias is operative or not. Your own bias is glaring here: you failed to reveal who you were quoting.

    Let’s go to the real source and make some observations.

    First point: The article he was quoting tells us that the statistic in question had to do with whether someone has given to charity. It does not measure how much they gave. That’s the first thing you have to at least wonder about, since it shows something lacking, at least, in the information one wants in determining how generous different groups are.

    Second point: There is a source behind that source (free registration required) that adds this information:

    American donors—especially those with strong religious connections— generally are more likely to support religiously identified organizations that serve all kinds of people and causes than those that benefit only those who share their religious affiliation….

    41% of American donors (and 47% of those who identify as born again Christian) say would be more likely to support a religiously identified organization
    if they know it serves people and causes both within and beyond the given religious identification, while 18% would be less likely to do so.

    In other words, religious donors are not unlikely to donate to groups other than themselves.

    Third point: There is yet another report in that same series. The term “religious organizations” extends far beyond giving to “religion itself.”

    Nearly three quarters of Americans’ charitable giving—73%—goes to organizations with religious ties. These organizations fall into two types: congregations and religiously identified organizations (RIOs). Congregations and ministries pursuing specifically religious purposes receive 41% of contributions from American households, more than for any other single purpose. RIOs, along with organizations that are not religiously identified (NRIOs), pursue a wide variety of charitable purposes, from basic needs, health care, and education to civic and social advocacy. RIOs and NRIOs receive similar proportions of Americans’ charitable funds: 32% goes to RIOs, while 27% goes to NRIOs….

    More Americans give to support basic needs or combined-purpose organizations 3 (RIOs and NRIOs combined) than any other charitable purpose. Overall, 41% give to support basic needs, and the same proportion give to combined-purpose organizations. Following giving in support of basic needs and combined-purpose organizations, Americans give to health care and educational organizations at the highest rates (RIOs and NRIOs combined).

    Third point, from that same report: 58% of those who consider religion “very important” give to NRIOs, compared to 48% of those who consider religion “not very, or not at all important.” That’s a 21% difference — rather significant.

    Fourth point, from that same report: 55% of those who consider religion “very important” give to RIOs, compared to 32% of those who consider religion “not very, or not at all important.” That’s a 72% difference — very significant. RIOs, again, are typically involved in humanitarian aid. I could name a dozen such organizations off the top of my head: Back2Back, Orphan Helpers, Samaritan’s Purse, Global Aid Network, World Vision, and more.

    Fifth point, from that same report: religiously non-affiliated persons are less likely than affiliated persons to say their giving is motivated by the following:
    • feeling that those who have more should help those with less
    • a belief that my charitable giving will help make the world a better place
    • the feeling that I am fortunate and want to give back to society
    • a desire to meet critical needs in the community and support worthwhile causes
    • a desire to support an organization that benefitted me or someone close to me
    • a spontaneous reaction to help people in an immediate disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane
    • a desire to set an example for children, future generations, my community, or my social network
    • the desire to leave a lasting legacy

    Final point: cherry-picking data from a research report is intellectually reprehensible. Hemant Mehta, the so-called “Friendly Atheist,” is biased and it shows.

  119. As far as your having friends who go to foreign countries to do charitable work, I have a close doctor friend who is part of a secular medical group that goes annually to depressed countries to volunteer their time and labor for a month. He’s done it for years now, as well as this entire medical group. I have another friend, although not a doctor, who donates at least a month a year to the Red Cross, donating his time and labor around the world. You see, not just Christians.

    This is not surprising. What you may not know, however, is that the practice of doing charitable work and providing humanitarian aid to persons outside one’s own kinship group or nationality was unknown until Christians began to do it, and it is still very, very rare in cultures where Christianity has not been highly influential. Doctors Without Borders is an organization that learned from Christian mission work.

    As for the Red Cross, here’s a quote from a letter written by its founder, some time before he founded it:

    Dear Friends and Brothers,

    A group of Christian young men has met together in Geneva to do reverence and worship to the Lord Jesus Whom they wish to serve and praise. They have heard that among you, too, there are brothers in Christ, young like themselves, who love their Redeemer and gather together that under His guidance, and through the reading of the Holy Scriptures, they may instruct themselves further. Being deeply edified thereby, they wish to unite with you in Christian friendship. Therefore, we hasten, dear brothers in Christ, although we do not have the happiness of knowing you personally, to assure you of our deep fraternal affection. We beg you to exchange correspondence with us in order to keep intact this Christian affection among the children of the same Father, that some of us may be profited to the greater glory of the Lord. We approach you, too, as a witness to the world that all the disciples of Jesus, who acknowledge and love Him before God as their sole refuge and sole righteousness, are no other than one great spiritual family whose members love one another sincerely, even though they be strangers, in the sign of the Dearly Beloved Who is their Guide, their Friend, their God and their Lord .

    It is no longer a specifically Christian organization, as we all know, but do not forget where it came from.

    Christianity does not in any way claim to be the only source of charitable giving in the world, but it has led the way historically, and it continues to do so.

    Will you integrate that fact into your view of reality? Or will you continue to deny these facts that frustrate your preconceptions?

  120. You want us to compare cars in church parking lots to cars at shopping malls. I did the best web search I could think of and could come up with no reliable data on it. Should we draw conclusions from unreliable impressions instead?

    For the record, my wife and I have two cars with a total of 385,000 miles on them and a combined age of 32 years.

    It’s anecdotal, it’s not at the least bit generalizable, but in the end it’s just as informative as your call to compare cars at churches and shopping malls.

  121. Have you got the picture yet?

    There are better ways to gather, assess, and present information, and there are worse ways. Cherry-picking from unnamed biased sources is one of the worst. Failing to quote sources is one of the worst. Calling upon unreliable impressions is another one of the worst.

    Would you please do yourself and the rest of us a favor and do your homework before you form your opinions?

  122. If you’re trying to show empirical reasons to believe that Christianity is wrong “in the application of its premises to life,” you’re not succeeding. That, too, is something that you ought to consider integrating into an updated and corrected view of reality in your mind.

    Remember, though: we’re not claiming Christians are perfect. I’m still not loving enough, not generous enough, not giving enough to be anything at all like Jesus’ example. We’re claiming that Christ makes us better than we would be without him, and that empirical observations support our claim.

  123. At the risk of flooding you with data, from a Yale University Press book on The Non-Profit Sector:

    Religious affiliation and attendance at religious services have historically been positively correlated with charitable giving. In 2000 the average contribution of households where the respondent belonged to a religious organization was more than twice that of households where the respondent reported no religious affiliation, and the average amount of income donated was also more than double.… The same pattern holds for frequency of attendance: those who go to church at least once a month give almost twice as many dollars, and almost 3 times as much as a percentage of income, as those who attend services less frequently.

    Not only do religiously affiliated households give more to religion, as one would expect, they also give more to secular causes. The 52% of households to give to both religious and secular causes give more to secular organizations than do the 28% of households that give to secular organizations only.

    There is more there, including some responsible commenting on “consumption giving” and on the importance of matters like frequency of attendance. (Neither of which obviates the conclusion quoted above.) You can check the source yourself. I do like to provide sources, and Yale University is not known for being biased in favor of religion.

    Roger, you can either change your perception of reality on these matters or else continue to live in a false dream. The choice is yours.

  124. Please note what I’ve been asking you to do in these last several comments, by the way. I haven’t been asking you to believe in Christianity. I’ve only been asking you to re-assess the way in which you gather and assess the information that seems to inform your worldview. (See my 9:35 am comment.)

    If you would at least do this much I would consider it to have been well worth my effort, and of course highly beneficial to you.

    (As to believing in Christianity, of course that’s another decision I’m praying you will make, but for now I’m concentrating on the less ambitious goal of encouraging you to practice the kind of intellectual responsibility I’m sure you would agree is good for all of us to practice.)

  125. Roger,

    How does the fact that you are agreeing with Christ and the NT (…and Tom’s data affirming their predictions of the very peaks/nadirs we observe….) count as evidence against Christ and the NT?

    Can we add *that* premise to your other bizarre premises?

    It seems we have to AGAIN ask if your method there is intellectual dishonesty or is it that you’re uninformed on Christ and the NT.?

    Is it only the predicted peaks which you’re willing to look at? Only the nadirs?

    If so then you’re not examining reality on Scripture’s terms.

    Ever hear of Christianity or Christ or the NT?

  126. Roger,

    Yes Christianity gets it right at both ends.

    Those Peaks/Nadirs are all predicted hence the uniformity of Scripture and observational reality.

    So to make that more clear:

    Is it only the predicted peaks which you’re willing to look at?

    Is it only the predicted nadirs which you’re willing to look at?

    Christ and the NT get it right from both directions.

    If you’re only willing to look at one direction then you’re not examining reality on Scripture’s terms.

    Ever hear of Christianity or Christ or the NT?

    There is very uniform evidence that you have not. It’s either that or you’re intellectually dishonest.

  127. Roger,

    Tom said,

    I’ve only been asking you to re-assess the way in which you gather and assess the information that seems to inform your worldview.

    The fact that Christ and the NT get it right from both directions is a simple example of where your method isn’t looking at all the data.

    Would you like to discuss your error there?

    If so tell us why you disagree with both observational reality and Scripture regarding those peaks and nadirs and we can start from there.

    I’ve offered to clarify such things with you elsewhere in this thread but you’ve only declined.

    Again here?

    Uniformity.

  128. So you see, Roger. When I asked you is that was enough facts for you I wasn’t being snide. The evidence that refutes your position on Christians, divorce and charity is more than substantial. Since it seems you weren’t convinced before can I ask if you have enough facts now? And if not, what more could you want.

    And as to your belief that “Christianity is wrong at both ends” you haven’t done much on the front end either. Your position on the multiple denominations was addressed but all you did was repeat you assertions without dealing with those replies. You claimed the Bible wasn’t the most important book in human history but couldn’t name the one that was. You called Luke a plagiarist but didn’t respond to the explanations of his credentials as an historian or questions about what he “plagiarized”. And you failed to address Tom’s critique of your “parable.”

    We have addressed your positions thoroughly and carefully. It’s hard to see how you’ve done the same.

  129. Tom Gilson and scbrown

    I think it is the Westminister Shorter Catechism that teaches man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy (love) him for ever. I like that statement. I imagine you do too. It’s not so far off from Jesus’ summary of the law to love God and neighbor. And of course, according to Jesus, we demonstrate our love for God by loving our neighbor. According to that catechism, the highest end for people is to glorify God.

    The Bible is the historical record of God’s chosen people being failures at accomplishing their chief end. Of course it began in the Garden of Eden shortly after the original creation. God draws attention to the crown of his creation, the human race and enters into covenant relationship with Adam and Eve. The only requirement of this relationship is to obey his command, to not eat of the forbidden fruit. This is how man originally would glorify God and demonstrate his love for him. But the record shows that Adam failed in obeying and glorifying him. At the tower of Babel and at the time of Noah, God again witnessed the failure of early humanity to bring him glory, so much so, God was sorry he had made the human race. But again, disappointed with humanity, he decided to narrow his focus on a single group of people, the descendants of Abraham. He would deliver this people from their bondage to the Egyptians. Surely, under such deliverance, this chosen group would glorify and serve him in obedience. But no, all they did was grumble and complain from the time they were delivered out from Egypt. Going a step further, once again, God in his love and goodness, would promise this chosen people a land of their own, a land flowing with milk and honey. Surely, now they would recognize God’s goodness and love and glorify him. He would give them national, ceremonial, and moral laws that would set them apart from all the other nations. In keeping these laws Israel would be a light to the world and to the surrounding nations. Did it work. Heck no. Once again, Israel grumbled and complained, failing to keep the laws God established for them. As of yet, God’s chosen and covenant people are doing miserably at fulfilling the chief end for man, to glorify God and to love him forever. Their actions demonstrate their failure miserably, even if they claim their love with their words. When Israel, no longer wanted God as their king, wanting to be like the surrounding nations, God gave them a king, first Saul, then David, then Solomon and a bunch more. But under such leadership Israel, once again, or continually, fails to glorify God by their actions. So first God disbands and exiles the northern tribes of Israel by giving them over to their enemies. And then he does the same to the southern tribes. All God wanted was for his chosen people to glorify him, but failure after failure. Finally God, in effect, said I’m done with this people. But he makes a last try by sending the prophet and redeemer Jesus, God’s chosen son. Surely they will listen to him. He will even revamp the Old Testament national and legalistic religion. Jesus would institute a new religion by doing away with the legalisms of the Old and establish a new principle of love that went beyond the old law of justice. Do unto others as you would have him do unto you. That was the principle. But God’s chosen people, not only disliked his message but the messenger as well, so they killed him. Again, failure to glorify the God who had chosen them. So God now broadens his scope, to include Gentiles, people from other nations. God would choose Paul as a messenger of a new way of salvation, salvation by grace alone, a salvation the world would rejoice in. Paul would establish churches that would fall under the umbrella of God’s new Triune and great love. How could these churches not help to love and glorify such a wonderful God. Now in this new economy, this new people were guaranteed forgiveness in Jesus and given the Holy Spirit by which they were empowered to live God glorifying lives. But as we read Paul’s letters, as well as those from other leaders in the church, we see these letters are more of the nature of admonishment than praise. These New Testament people are doing little more than the Israel of the Old Testament in glorifying God by their actions. We hear rebuke after rebuke throughout the New Testament. When we finally get to the end of the Bible, it ends like it began, with failure. Christ’s letter to the seven churches in Asia is anything but a glowing report. Only two churches are commended, the others are chastised for their failure to glorify God. They neither glorify or demonstrate their love for God by their actions.

    According to the Bible’s record, there have been few times when God’s people have glorified him as their chief end. Either the God of the Bible failed to create a people who were capable of such praise or his people simply didn’t see his value. The point here, is that the ends fail to support the basic premise about the Bible’s God. Like in the Wizard of Oz, when the curtain is pulled down, all that is left is a small figure with lots of bells and whistles. But you are telling me it is different today? Christians stand head and shoulders above the people of the world in their praise of God? God’s chosen people, Christians, stand out from the world as a beacon of light? Tom, I think you are fantasizing. Christians don’t stand out as being any different from anyone else.

    I never claimed to be an expert in religion, like you. I state my opinion from observation like most people. I have been part of numerous evangelical Christian churches, small and large, from which I make judgements, first hand. My opinions come from first hand experience. I live in a large U.S. city in a very large condominium complex (almost 1,000 units under a single roof) made up of individuals, couples, and families. I know and converse with a variety of people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds on a daily basis. I honestly cannot see a difference in the people I meet whether from church or from my secular society. I meet good people and bad from both. I can only make judgements from the people I meet and know. You quote to me a string of statistics from your biased sources and I could do the same from my biased sources. I did notice your clever trick – You hand picked what Christians you wanted to include (conservative evangelicals) in your comparison of Christians to non Christians. To be fair we should hand pick what non Christians get included in the comparisons. You’re just playing games by stacking the deck. I’m not willing to go to the effort that you have to prove a point – that Christians are better people. So says you. To my mind, if the church was the people whose chief end was to glorify God and love him forever, it would be obvious. From my perspective Christians are more concerned with being like the world than they are in glorifying God. My take on the Bible is that glorifying God has never been the case for his people, nor is it today. So how is such a church (universal) going to win converts except through deceit (using biased and stacked comparisons)? How does the attitude of your cohorts confirm an evangelical love for God and neighbor?

    I said earlier that I liked the idea of glorifying God and enjoying (loving) him forever. I just don’t feel a need for the Christian religious trappings. As I’ve said on several occasions, I believe in a creator God. The created world and order, to me, is God’s only personal revelation. From that, I believe him to be a good God. I believe God would want me to respect his creation (including humanity) as an expression of love to him. If God is counting sins (I doubt it) then he is also a forgiving God. He wouldn’t judge human creatures as though they were gods and require perfection. I truly do feel bad for you. I think you have been sold a bill of goods that you will never collect on. It’s not too late to jump ship and move on to something better.

  130. Roger,

    He wouldn’t judge human creatures as though they were gods and require perfection.

    Then you agree with Christianity when it comes to the means and ends of All Sufficiency.

    But then you also agree with Christ and the NT that Christianity gets it right at both ends in those peaks and nadirs.

    Your claims and complaints agree, that is. You yourself don’t even realize the content of Christianity so of course you’re unaware of the map you claim to be describing.

    Again.

    Moving on:

    The created world and order, to me, is God’s only personal revelation.

    What is your evidence that its created and what is your evidence that God is good and what is your evidence that God does not require All Sufficiency (Perfection) from Man?

    You agree with the Christian again but what to you reference as evidence?

  131. Roger,

    On that last sentence, make it:

    You agree with the Christian again but what do you reference as evidence?

    (…..the reason I ask is because your evidence, whatever it is, is apparently driving you into Christianity’s metaphysic, which is quite satisfying for us as Christians, so it’s something we’d like to know more about…..)

  132. scbrown

    You may not have noticed that when I said “the created world and order, to me, is God’s only personal revelation,” I used the words “to me.” I wasn’t claiming any certainty. It may or may not be as I think, and that would be fine. I’m more certain that it is not as you think.

    I only agree that Christ and the NT are inconsistent with each other in what they teach and that in the end the Bible’s whole system of the Christian religion is wrong.

  133. I picked conservative evangelicals because that is the group that most believes in following the Bible. That was neither ad hoc nor a convenience selection. It was a selection based on the question, “What effect can we observe in people who follow the Bible?”

    We can see an effect. You continue to dispute it, based on your experience. Up until now you’ve been trying to support your experience with social research, which you have found you cannot do; the research doesn’t agree with you. So you’re moving back in the direction of personal experience.

    I’m beginning to wonder what else might be true of your experience with Christians. I’ve seen both good and bad. My kids’ former youth pastor is in federal prison for misbehaving with minors. The revelation of his crimes hurt my own kids pretty bad, but they’ve also seen real Christianity and they know the difference. Some kids in that youth group, however, have turned away. I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought, “If this is Christianity I don’t want anything to do with it.”

    It isn’t Christianity, and it isn’t anywhere close to the norm for Bible-believing persons. The norm, as all the research shows, is appreciably more giving, caring, and relationally connecting than for other persons.

    Yet some people’s experience leads them understandably to other conclusions. I grieve over those situations. I don’t deny that they exist.

  134. Roger,

    It may or may not be as I think, and that would be fine. I’m more certain that it is not as you think.

    Certainty and Knowledge is a fascinating discussion, but that isn’t relevant to the observation that your line of evidence is in fact leading you into Christianity’s metaphysic.

    I only agree that Christ and the NT are inconsistent with each other…

    Yes, as I stated because you don’t know the map you are describing (the Christian map) you are (even though you don’t see it) in fact agreeing with Christ and the NT that Christianity gets it right at both ends in those *same* peaks and nadirs which you opine about. Read the NT and Christ and observe Nominal vs. Fruit vs. Public vs. Private…. and on and on and on… Peaks/Nadirs.

    Recall that I asked you to engage here in order to clarify why you’re so misguided on that point about those two ends.

    Have you declined? Do you care about Christianity’s terms and definitions?

    Your claims and complaints agree, that is. You yourself don’t even realize the content of Christianity so of course you’re unaware of the map you claim to be describing…again.

    But that is why I wanted to know what evidence do you have for your following (Christian) claims:

    [1] God created the cosmos etc.
    [2] God is good
    [3] God does not require All Sufficiency (perfection) from Man

    (…..the reason I ask is because your evidence, whatever it is, is apparently driving you into Christianity’s metaphysic, which is quite satisfying for us as Christians, so it’s something we’d like to know more about…..)

  135. Roger,

    We can add to that list of three the affairs of those peaks/nadirs, to make it the following list of Christian premises which your complaints are in fact affirming:

    [1] God created the cosmos etc.

    [2] God is good.

    [3] God does not require All Sufficiency (perfection) from Man.

    [4] Nominal folks vs. Fruit-bearing folks in the Christian population.

    [5] Christians in fact sin. Read Corinthians for a rough draft.

    [6] The Body of Christ is not Spot-Free and is in fact fragmented. Read Acts for a rough draft and observe Peter’s racism which Christ pushes against, Paul and other Apostle’s relational and doctrinal frictions, and so on.

    [7] Evidence based reasoning allows Faith-ing to be evidence based when reaching beyond the point of certainty as discussed by both Christ and the NT and as we discussed in these threads when we were talking about Einstein, evidence, thought-experiments, the GTR, reasoning beyond immediate physical evidence based on all available evidence, which is faith-ing, and how Einstein was *rational* in doing so and in fact got it right.

    On all of these your complaints have actually converged with the Christian metaphysic. You don’t see it though because you don’t know much at all about Christianity.

    Since the first three premises are sort of new to this thread:

    What *evidence* do have for those three?

  136. Tom Gilson

    Thanks Tom for this opportunity to dialogue on this website. It helps to fine tune my thinking, as I’m sure it does yours. In fact I would say a dialogue such as this can be an eye opener.

    Let me revisit this discussion of the Christian living on a higher plane than the non Christian. You sited some examples and support. At the forefront has been the issues of divorce, charitable giving, and a materialistic lifestyle. Is there any evidence that Christians live on a higher plane and by such give glory to the God of the Bible?

    The problem here is the standard that we set. You are suggesting (I did too, but mistakenly) that the non Christian conform to the standard of Christianity. But the non Christian doesn’t live by the same standard. The New Testament clearly condemns most marital divorces and forbids it. That’s the Christian standard, not the non Christian standard. Why should the non Christian be obligated to live by your rules. So it stands to reason that the divorce rate would be much higher among non Christians because they have no such rule. And seeing that the Christian does have such rules he/she should stand head and heels above those not claiming the Christian standard. And yet they don’t.

    This is like the Mormon believer claiming to be much better than other Christians at abstaining from coffee and other caffeinated drinks. But as a Christian you say, we have no such rule to abstain from caffeine. Of course the Mormon is going to do better. That’s their rule, not ours. The same principle can be applied to the generous giving to charitable causes by Mormons compared to other Christians. Mormons average 11 to 13% (they require a tithe) compared to the Christian 3%. Or perhaps the Amish community claims to be much better than other Christians at demonstrating their separation from the world by wearing plain clothing (no bright colors). And again, you say, as a Christian, we have no such rule. That’s your ruling, so naturally and understandably, the Amish will do much better than other Christians at wearing plain cloths. You are doing the same when comparing non Christians to Christians as to lifestyle issues. You are trying to compare non Christians with Christians (not just any Christian but highly committed ones) in regard to living up to the standard of Christian rules.

    As I see it, the Christian is to live up to a standard of separation from the ways of the world. You would expect Christians to live by their own rules, if not perfect, at least to a noticeable measure. But, of course, they don’t. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Or Colossians 3:1,2, “ If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.” There are many other such verses. The Christian should be demonstrating with his/her life that they have completely different interests from the world, and that their lives stand in stark contrast to the lives of non Christians.

    And again, I point out that it is almost impossible to see a difference between Christians and non Christians. What almost all the New Testament authors call for, as to the Christian’s lifestyle, goes unheeded by most professing Christians today. You can try to narrow the playing field (or as you say, cherry pick), but earlier you said you were talking about historic creedal Christianity and those who fall within those ranks. Now you are changing the participants. Are there really so few real Christians amongst the many who claim the historic Christian faith? If the historic creedal Christian faith is something appropriated into the Christian’s life by faith, then I would expect to see a really negligible difference between this person’s new life and his old. But where I live, I don’t see it. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may PROVE what is the good, well pleasing, and perfect will of God. The premises of the Christian reality (Christ in you) should be PROVED by the Christian’s life. But it isn’t. Paul doesn’t go into a metaphysical argument to prove Christianity. He says, the Christian’s life itself is the proof. What I see today is the lack of proof. As I see it, Christianity can be proved false from two directions. I’m sorry, buying into the materialism of the world does not prove the Christian religion.

  137. I would like to say Roger, your summary of the Judeo-Christian faith is very well done. I’m quite sure I couldn’t do as well. Kudos.

    And you conclusion is true, people are disappointing. People don’t live up to God’s expectations of them, don’t honor him as they should, live lives apart from him. Yup, all true. True of even those who profess faith in him. True of me. Yet, in spite of your understanding that this is true, you feel God should just overlook all that. (“He wouldn’t judge human creatures as though they were gods and require perfection.”) Ok, I’m good with that. Can we see where that leads us. Certainly I’d agree he could overlook your imperfections. I hope you’d agree that I could get a pass on mine. Maybe Tom as well and scbrown. We’re all good with that I’m sure.

    However, it gets a bit more difficult as we really look as what your “human creatures” have done and how far they fall from the required perfection and the judgement you think so unreasonable. Adam Lanza? 27 dead but he was a sad case. I’d maybe give him a pass. You? Do you think God shouldn’t judge Omar Mateen? 49 in that nightclub. Little harder to see a way to not judge that. Joseph Stalin? 40 million. He definitely doesn’t get a pass from me. You? Chairman Mao? 60 million. So, where does God draw the line. Just how far from the “required perfection” you think so unreasonable does one have to stray before God says. That’s it! Too far! You’re being judged. Or are they all forgiven under your understanding.

  138. Roger,

    First:

    Recall that I asked you to engage here in order to clarify why you’re so misguided on that point about those two ends.

    Second:

    What standard are modern Christians not surpassing?

    [1] The one where kids are dumped in garbage heaps outside of Rome?

    [2] Those of Peter’s racism in Acts overcome by Christ?

    [3] Those of 1860’s racism overcome by Christ?

    [4] Or Christ’s which confronts/confronted all of it?

    Which metric? You’ve no realistic understanding of where you are. Nor of how you arrived there. Nor of historical trajectories.

    And yet you go on about metrics.

    The aqueducts are not the Living Water.

    Modernity’s Christian is in plane with what Scripture describes in all of its glorious redemptions and in all of its glorious failures. You’ve obviously not read the NT but given the fact that you’re unaware of historical trajectories and the conceptual mindsets in play atop the world stage closer to your own slice of history, it’s not to be expected that you’d have all the relevant metrics from the first century in hand.

  139. The problem here is the standard that we set. You are suggesting (I did too, but mistakenly) that the non Christian conform to the standard of Christianity.

    No, actually, I was answering your charge that Christians’ divorce rates and giving are no better than non-Christians’. Now you’re explaining the real difference that exists by telling us non-Christians don’t need to worry about divorce. I remind you that you were worried about it yourself just hours ago, and using it as evidence that Christianity is bogus.

    But you’ve changed. Now you’re using the facts as evidence that Christianity cares, whereas non-Christians don’t need to. This has all the appearance of trying to squirm out of a conclusion that’s been forced upon you by the facts. You were wrong to suppose that Christianity’s track record proved it’s false. Accept it, and integrate it into your view of reality.

    Along with it, integrate this: Christianity cares about divorce. So do kids. So do couples who go into marriage intending it to last. This is not obligating others to live by our rules, it’s good practice for healthy loving relationships.

    This is like the Mormon believer claiming to be much better than other Christians at abstaining from coffee and other caffeinated drinks.

    Sure: if abstaining from caffeine had anything important to do with healthy loving relationships. (It doesn’t.)

    You would expect Christians to live by their own rules, if not perfect, at least to a noticeable measure. But, of course, they don’t.

    They do. I’ve documented that thoroughly and repeatedly. Although I guess maybe it depends on what you mean by “noticeable:”

    And seeing that the Christian does have such rules he/she should stand head and heels above those not claiming the Christian standard. And yet they don’t.

    Yes they do. I told you about the sample of 800 highly committed Christians I once worked with. I could have extended that to several thousand, actually, if I’d included others in that organization that weren’t under my direct responsibility. The divorce rate was much less than 1 percent of couples every year.

    Where couples are highly committed to Christ, they stand head and heels above the non-Christian average.

    What almost all the New Testament authors call for, as to the Christian’s lifestyle, goes unheeded by most professing Christians today.

    Not all who profess to be Christians take it seriously. We agree with you on that.

    Paul doesn’t go into a metaphysical argument to prove Christianity. He says, the Christian’s life itself is the proof.

    Where? Certainly not in Romans 12:1-2. That passage isn’t about apologetics, it’s about discovering with certainty in one’s own life what God’s good, acceptable and perfect will is. (The Greek word is dokimazo, to discern, to approve, to test, to prove. ESV translates it “approve;” NLT “know;” NASB “prove” with the marginal alternate “or approve;” HCSB “discern;” NKJV “prove.” The scholarly authoritative Expositor’s Bible Commentary reads, “But he must ‘test and approve,’ refusing the norms of conduct employed by the sinful world and reaffirming for himself the spiritual norms befitting the redeemed.”)

    If you’d wanted to source that viewpoint you could have used John 13:35 or John 17:21-23; but these are not about proving Christianity is true, they are about showing who are Jesus’ true disciples. Which is relevant to the point: not all who claim to be his disciples truly are, and the difference is discernible in behavior. So you can’t lump every professing Christian into one group and say, “You’re not different enough from the rest of the world.” Jesus knew that would be the outcome. (See also Matt. 25:31-36; Matt. 7:21) You’re proving him right.

    What I see today is the lack of proof. As I see it, Christianity can be proved false from two directions. I’m sorry, buying into the materialism of the world does not prove the Christian religion.

    You’re looking for proof in the wrong place. Look for the evidences of the truth of the Scripture. Look for the evidences in the lives of truly committed believers (as I’ve already said).

  140. Bill T

    Thanks Bill, for your response. As far as Omar Marteen, Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, that’s a tough one. They wouldn’t get a pass from me, either. But I’m not God, and I doubt that he is going to ask me for advice. I guess I’ll leave that to God. He’s a lot smarter than me.

  141. Roger,

    Reworded for clarity:

    What standard or metric are modern Christians not surpassing?

    [1] The metrics where kids are dumped in garbage heaps outside of Rome which was overcome by Christ’s metrics?

    [2] Those of 1st century Peter’s racism in the book of Acts overcome by Christ?

    [3] Those of 19th century Christian’s racism overcome by Christ?

    [4] Christ’s which confronted and still confronts all of it?

    Which metric?

    You’ve no realistic understanding of where Man has actually *been*. Nor of where modernity *is*. Nor of how it arrived there. Nor of historical trajectories.

    And yet you go on about metrics.

    The aqueducts are not the Living Water.

    Modernity’s Christian is in plane with what Scripture describes in all of its glorious redemptions and in all of its glorious failures. You’ve obviously not read the NT but given the fact that you’re unaware of historical trajectories and the conceptual mindsets in play atop the world stage closer to your own slice of history, it’s not to be expected that you’d have all the relevant metrics from the first century in hand.

  142. scbrown

    You say, look for the evidences in the lives of truly committed believers. You realize you are really narrowing the playing field. No longer is it just those who profess the Trinitarian Christian faith but from within that group, the truly committed believers. Who are those? Does that include you, scbrown? Are you one of the truly committed believers? If I spotted you in your daily living over a week or two in your private life, as well as your public life, would I be impressed by the transformation of your life and your separation from the ways of the world? Or would you blend in with the world like most professing Christians? Would you stand out from the non Christians that surround you or the less than truly committed believers at your church? I would hope that on your day of judgement you wouldn’t be caught saying, “Didn’t I prophesy in your name, Lord…” “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Shouldn’t that be discernable to others, doing the will of God? Isn’t that what Christian witness or testimony is? And is the range of professing Christians, but not truly committed believers, huge? If it is the truly committed believers who are the ones living transformed lives evident by their living, then that seems to leave a lot of church members sitting outside the confines of God’s love.

    It seems that there must be an awful lot of professing Christians who are fooling themselves. This really doesn’t sound like a religion that I’m interested in. Thanks anyway.

  143. You say, look for the evidences in the lives of truly committed believers. You realize you are really narrowing the playing field. No longer is it just those who profess the Trinitarian Christian faith but from within that group, the truly committed believers. Who are those?

    Roger, is this a rhetorical question?

    On a 0 to 10 scale, 0 being least, what is the probability that any one of us could answer that in a way that would satisfy you?

    I believe there is an answer that would satisfy a sociologist’s narrow standards of description. Would you like it? If I wrote it would you accept it?

    Or are you just using questions to make a point, that you don’t think there is any such answer? Or perhaps as a way to deliver a parting shot, “I’m not interested. Thanks anyway”?

    Because if that’s where you stand, you might as well call it your parting shot — I mean, if your purpose for the question wasn’t to hear an answer but to state your belief that there isn’t any. Why stay in the conversation if you don’t think we have anything to say to you?

    (But I’m still interested in your answer to the question I wondered about in the third paragraph of #144.)

  144. Roger,

    I think your last comment was addressed to Tom. It was along the lines of the content there, and any content from you on metrics was noticeably absent.

  145. Tom Gilson,

    I didn’t think of this as an evangelistic blog, but as an exchange of ideas. From the other articles and comments, I didn’t think your aim was that of winning converts. I was convinced of my position when I began commenting and nothing has really changed. As I suggested in my last comment to you, I appreciate the opportunity to blog because it does help to fine tune my thinking, as I imagine it would do the same for you. You suggest that if I don’t think you have anything to say to me I might as well call it quits. Isn’t it possible that I have a valid perspective that you would be good to listen to or learn from? You suggested a question in #144 (third paragraph) that you would like a response to. Are you sure it was in #144, because I don’t see a question at all in that response? Check again, please. We have family visiting over the weekend, so I won’t be able to respond till next week. Have a great weekend.

  146. I guess I’ll leave that to God.He’s a lot smarter than me.

    Roger,

    But the god you believe in doesn’t have a way to deal with the Stalins and Maos does he? He “doesn’t count sins” and “He wouldn’t judge human creatures …” You seem to have a god that contradicts your own sense of morality. You ask us to abandon our beliefs because you can’t see the truth in them. But our beliefs have a way not only to deal with Stalin and Mao but provide justice for their victims. If your worldview can’t explain your own reality, maybe it’s time to consider changing your worldview.

  147. BillT

    The Bible says of your God, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says Yaweh.” Is 55:8 Do you know everything about your God? Of course not. That I don’t know things about God, neither makes him unjust or unloving or that he doesn’t have a way to deal with wrong doing? Without knowing a lot of things, I can still love him.

  148. Roger,

    Read the Bible. Read about the real world. And real people. And the real Christ.

    Peter’s racism in the book of Acts is found in a genuine Christian. Christ overcomes this in him. Step by step. Recall that Acts is *after* three years in the Gospels. Peter is at once ugly and transformed.

    Your metrics are not Christian metrics.

    Which means you’re conversing with your own inventions and not with Christianity.

    That’s not an issue of course as we all have our gaps, but what is problematic is that you don’t seem at all interested in Christianity’s metrics given that your entire thesis thus far is composed entirely of your own non-Christian metrics.

    You’ve successfully refuted something. But it isn’t Christianity.

  149. Roger, the question I had in #144 was just this: “I’m beginning to wonder what else might be true of your experience with Christians.” Please look back at the context for more. Thanks.

    In #158 you say “I can still love him.” Who? What? Of course it’s possible to love God while still not knowing a lot about him, but do you have any knowledge at all of this god you say you can love? If so, where did that knowledge come from?

  150. You say,

    I didn’t think of this as an evangelistic blog, but as an exchange of ideas. From the other articles and comments, I didn’t think your aim was that of winning converts.

    I’d be thrilled if you would convert, Roger. This blog exists for the purpose of exchanging ideas and for learning, and for rational, reasoned persuasion as well. I think you could probably figure that out from the activities here, too.

    You suggest that if I don’t think you have anything to say to me I might as well call it quits. Isn’t it possible that I have a valid perspective that you would be good to listen to or learn from?

    What do you mean by “valid”? That’s an extremely important question, so please do me the favor of giving a well thought-through answer. Thanks.

  151. Tom Gilson

    It looks like you want me to answer two questions for you. 1. What (or what else) might be true of my experience with Christians? And 2. What do I mean by a valid perspective on religion or theological matters or whether Christianity is valid? We’ve talked about a lot things in relationship to Loftus’ article and beyond. A third question you ask in #160 is who, or what God can love or honor?

    Let’s start with number 1. You suggest that I look at the context (of #144?) to get an idea of what you are talking about. Let me explore two things from your comment.

    You suggest that you picked “conservative evangelicals” because that is the group that most believes in following the Bible. This is the group that you suggest makes the most observable indication of living differently from non Christians. That leaves me to wonder about Roman Catholics, or Pentecostals, or Lutherans. You see where this is going? Are you saying conservative evangelicals are better Christians or just better at living the Christian life? I take it for you, falling within the creedal historic Christian faith isn’t enough, or is it? Do we have good, better and best Christians? Or is this part of your experience, and from your experience you have learned how to judge other Christians? But how would a Roman Catholic answer to the question of living an authentic Christian life?

    I think I’m reading that your personal experience tells you some things about authentic Christian living. For instance, your first hand experience of the youth pastor who is now in federal prison. That was part of your first hand experience. And from experience you knew that although he claimed the Christian faith, his life showed that it wasn’t Christianity and was not anywhere close to the norm for Bible believing persons. But I thought that was exactly the norm. Christians are forgiven sinners. Who does your Jesus appeal to, the well healed, well behaved people of society? Are the well healed the ones who need Jesus the most? Is there room for those who backslide? It seems that every Christian reads the Bible a little (or a lot) differently from other Christians. And I’m picking up that your experience helps you to determine who is authentic.

    And now you are asking about my experience with Christians. How you, Tom, judge groups of Christians and Christian individuals is part of my experience. Everyone claiming to be a Christian seems to know what it means to be an authentic Christian. I have very often seen Christians looking over the fence at other Christians and saying things such as, “If they were really a true Christian, then…” You can fill in the blanks, such as …they would be a conservative evangelical, or …they wouldn’t belong to that church, or …they wouldn’t have horrendous crimes to their credit and be in prison.

    Tom, if you’re asking for personal experiences that I’ve had with Christians in the past, I’m not telling specific experiences. But I have had plenty. I’ve seen the hypocrisy and judgmentalism aplenty. I’ve seen town or city ministerial groups exclude other churches (such as Mormon churches) from their fellowship because they aren’t really Christians. Or I’ve seen other churches (usually the most conservative) refuse to join ministerial groups because they didn’t want to be associated with liberals or with “in name only” Christian churches. I see Christian churches and denominations refuse close fellowship to individuals who claim a love for Christ, but whose lifestyle is different from theirs. I see churches leave a denomination because the denomination has decided to allow women to serve as ministers, elders or deacons. I see churches refuse membership to people (Christians) who belong to a masonic lodge. I see such a disparity among what Christians believe and practice. Historically, there have been many religious wars with Christians in the middle, often as the instigators. The Puritans (conservative Christians) instigated the witch hunts of their era. Slavery in the U.S. had Christians at the forefront defending slavery and even leading to one of the bloodiest wars in our history (in large part, thanks to Christians). Apartheid in South Africa was instigated by members of the Dutch Reformed Churches there. The history of the Christian church is anything but glorious. For me, this casts suspicion on the Christian religion.

    So when I see or hear these narrow and exclusive perspectives voiced whether by individuals, churches, or denominations, or regional groupings of Christians it makes me suspicious of Christianity.

    Question 2 You ask about my valid perspective. I’m not sure what you are talking about. For the most part, I’ve been arguing the invalidity of the Christian perspective on a number of topics, which when taken together points to the invalidity of the Christian religion. What exactly are you asking for?

    My conviction is that all religions are manmade attempts to explain what is not understood in creation or in life and offer hope in this life and what lies beyond. I would imagine you might also claim that all other religions are false (and there are thousands). I differ from you only in that I include one more religion than you, that of Christianity. Although I haven’t read such a statement from you, I would imagine that you claim Christianity is the only true religion. As I see it, all religions fall short. So we agree on a lot. Judaism is a false religion, Hinduism is false religion, Islamic religion is false, Pantheism is false, Buddhism is false, Sikhism is false, etc. etc. And to my list, I add that Christianity is false.

    The Old Testament (especially Genesis) has a lot in common with the primitive Mesopotamian religions. Multiple gods, good gods and bad living in a pseudo reality beyond our reality but yet having an effect on human reality. Genesis records the encounter of the creator God with the demigod, Satan. In Job we read of Satan’s encounter and wager with God in heaven (this pseudo reality). The two (Satan and God), apparently, have been in battle throughout history. In the New Testament, God is thought to be a three person being, one of whom steps down from heaven in human form as a baby, living a perfect sinless human life while performing miracles. As he offended the Jews by his goodness and criticism of their religion, they killed him. But death could not hold him so he rose from the grave and ascended into heaven from which he will one day return to earth in power and authority and destroy Satan and all wickedness and to establish his eternal kingdom. If other religions seem implausible because of their far fetched accounts, Christianity fits right in with the best of them. This, like the accounts of other religions, is really unbelievable, and is cause to lump it with all the other manmade religions. Christianity has no more credibility than the Muslim or Hindu religion.

    So (third question) I’m comfortable with the idea of a creator God. Even the apostle Paul spoke of the creator revealing his might and power through the created order. Most Christians recognize the creation as a general revelation of God. Job (pre Moses) of the Old Testament seemed to have worshiped the God revealed in creation, and when such God revealed himself to Job, he did so by drawing attention to his creative power. So it shouldn’t seem unnatural or unwarranted to revere the God of creation. What does seem unnatural is to worship the God of the previous paragraph, the Christian God.

    Throughout this dialogue with you and some of the other responders, I’ve tried to show the implausibility of the Christian religion on several issues as they came to the forefront. My comments seemed valid to me, even as your comments seemed valid to you. I guess this is where we agree to disagree. I have enjoyed our dialogue and wish you well.

  152. Roger, I must have miscommunicated a question. I’ll try again.

    When you say “valid perspective,” what is the meaning of that term? What in general makes a perspective valid? What makes a perspective invalid? How does one decide whether a perspective in view is a valid one or not? How does “valid perspective” compare or contrast in meaning to “true perspective”?

    You say, “Isn’t it possible that I have a valid perspective that you would be good to listen to or learn from?” If I don’t know what you mean (in general) by “valid perspective,” then I don’t know the answer to that question. I suppose it’s possible just in the sense that I don’t know enough to declare it impossible, but that’s probably not the kind of possibility you had in mind when you asked that.

    You might think it’s obvious what a “valid perspective” is. You might be surprised that I don’t know. Be assured I know some opinions on it. I just haven’t heard one that can stand coherently in the face of even the simple kinds of questions I’m asking already here in this comment. Maybe you’ve got a better answer. Until I hear it, then I have no way of knowing whether you might have a “valid perspective” or not.

  153. Roger,

    You claim that Man and Cosmos are created by “God”.

    You claim God is good.

    You claim God does not require all-sufficiency from Man.

    In short, you have a religion.

    What is the evidence by which you reason you’ve made true statements there in your religion?

  154. scbrown

    I thought I was going to be done. But I will answer your question, probably not to your satisfaction. Because I believe certain things (I wouldn’t call them claims) that doesn’t turn them into a religion. I don’t even know if my assumptions are absolutely true. As Paul says that God’s general revelation (creation) reveals things about God to everyone, I believe (or assume) that creation gives evidence of a higher being or intelligence and that he/she is likely good. In the fact that I’ve never witnessed anyone (or anything) having moral perfection, I assume this is the norm.

    You are the one claiming a religion full of tenets that to my understanding lacks evidence of being true.

  155. Roger,

    “…I wouldn’t call them claims…”

    On that premise then it is equally likely that you’re incorrect and the Christian is correct. Why? Because if you’ve no evidence, you’ve no movement.

    You’ve developed quite a collection of premises in this thread.

  156. Observation on the following:

    In the fact that I’ve never witnessed anyone (or anything) having moral perfection, I assume this is the norm.

    This statement is, ultimately, impossible. The reason is that in order to make a statement about where X lands on the “Moral Spectrum” as such relates to one of that spectrum’s two termini — namely Moral Perfection — one must have the ontic terminus that is Moral Perfection — else there is no non-illusory, or actual, or pure, or irreducible, metric.

    Planet Earth does have one metaphysic of love’s timeless reciprocity, of love’s irreducible self-giving. One such terminus is all that is possible of course.

    At http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2017/01/18/god-is-necessary-not-necessary-for-morality/ the topic is “God Is Necessary & Not Necessary For Morality?!

    [1] Morality precedes Sinai. Because God. [2] Morality outdistances Sinai. Because God.

    On those two we find that Scripture and reality in fact converge. The means/ends of Moral Excellence begin and end in the irreducible substratum of indestructible reciprocity which constitutes the Trinitarian processions of the Christian’s metaphysic.

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