Deep Facebook Conversation

UP FRONT: this post will be too long for most of my readers, but I want to preserve it here, and provide a better place for the discussion. Our guest, I hope, will be a sharp guy named Josh. You are welcome to engage in comments, but be respectful for those reading/commenting who may not believe the same as most of my usual readers here do.

This all began on Facebook when an anonymous person who calls himself ‘Jehovah Jireh’ asked in his status to rate from 1 to 10 whether you believed God existed. I’m not certain whether this person is a Christian, I’m inclined to think not on some things s/he has said, though I often find his posts humorous, such as “If atheism is a religion, than baldness is a hair color.” Not sure how serious he intends his Facebook (and Twitter) personality to be, but this week I got into a rather long conversation with a few, mostly a guy named Josh – and I’ve really enjoyed it. I love when people can engage in ideas without getting nasty. And let me add, usually it is Christians who get obnoxious when they can’t take the heat. I hope to keep talking with Josh – not for the purpose of converting him (though I’d like that for his sake) but for the purpose of sharpening my own thinking and keeping my intellectual feet to the fire. As I’ll mention below, you’ll never argue anyone into Christianity – but through discussing ideas (even pointedly) we all gain, even if we don’t convince.

I don’t post this because I thinking I’m “winning” the conversation, nor to enlist others to join me and gang up on Josh – believe me, Josh can hold his own; and perhaps others of his persuasion will jump in here too (they are welcome!) – but mostly because on Facebook we had to keep limiting our comments to short answers due to the limits of commenting on a status from days ago! My latest answer is frankly too long for Facebook, so I’m gonna post a link to this blog post instead!

So here is where the conversation stands now. I have left out some trivial parts just for length, and combined some comments since the space limits are removed, but have left the comments intact that were of substance. (I also deleted the smilies Josh ends many of his good-spirited posts with only because my blog converted them to images and messed up the formatting! It’s been a good spirited conversation.)

Read if you can handle it, and then it will then continue (I hope) under comments:


Origian Status I commented on: Jehovah Jireh: Final rewording: 10 = certainly no god, 1 = God certainly exists, 5 = 50/50. What’s your number? I predict we see more 1s than 10s.

My first comment: Karl: the fact that we can sit here considering it is proof enough that he does and that he created us free!

Three responses I got:

Jehovah Jireh: Karl: Huh? I’m not sure I follow your logic.

Josh: Nice logic there, Karl. ;)  (I took this as meaning bad logic!)

James: If there really is a god who’s in charge then he needs to fired for malfeasance. (Yes, I had to look that word up!)

AND SO THE CONVERSATION BEGAN:

KARL: Space here to short to explain fully, stems from Descartes (among others later) – uniqueness of man questioning existence is mark of a creator’s influence as no other creature contemplates his existence, but rather merely exists. But for the crown of creation to ask the Great Questions (How did i get here, What is my purpose, etc.) is evidence of a God who gave us the ability to ask such questions. Without a God, a Philosophical “First Thought Cause” (different than creations ‘first cause’) we would merely exist without asking such questions. So the logic is that to the extent we can ask about the certainty of God, to the same extent we make him more certain. Not proven, but much more likely. Trying to condense a field of writing – I hope you can follow! Your dog doesn’t ask you where he came from or if you exist, he just eats the food you give him. But we don’t just eat the food God gives us, we ask him how there can be food in the first place, and the asking necessitates an answer!

To “James”, it is not God who has failed us, but we who have failed to use correctly the freedom He has given. Malfeasance is a smart charge – but it would be the same as charging a traffic court judge as responsible for the traffic violation of the defendant before him. God is not to blame for our misdeeds. His options are either to not create creatures with free will, which would eliminate us completely or remove our ability to love (love, by definition much be genuinely optional) or He must allow the consequence of free will to exist, but in the end provide justice, which he will. (Heb. 9:27) The wisest response to the problem of evil is not to blame God, but to get right with God before we stand before him in judgment for our own lives. But know I share your deep frustration over the problems in this world and pray you will discover and experience the Goodness of God in the midst of it toward those who seek Him out. The weight of the ills of this world must be laid at our feet, not His

JOSH: Karl. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and take into account the limited space you have to respond, chalking it up to that. However, as it stands, I’m afraid you’re simply begging the question. You answer the question by assuming the answer you prefer. There is no evidence to support the answer, and I’m afraid extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Also, your premises are muddled. We are the only organism that we are certain can contemplate such questions, but this is not necessarily the case. Research in non-human primates and some other species indicate a rather bewildering tendency to reason. Even if we conceded this point, you would be drawing a rather weighty conclusion from a sample size of one. I’m sorry, but you’ll need to come to the table with a little more to offer than that if you wish to sell so irrational a conclusion.

KARL: Josh, thanks for the respectful answer – I appreciate the tone, too often people get obnoxious discussing such things (and I include Christians in that!) As for irrational, the reality is that it takes as much faith to deny God as it does to accept his existence. I will grant you that my conclusion is my preferred one, I can not deny that! However, that alone does not invalidate it. It could be argued (outside facebook space limitations) that there is as much overwhelming evidence FOR God as against. Faith is necessary whichever you choose, but I do prefer God for this reason: (evidence aside since we can argue that indefinitely) If I am wrong, I lose nothing. I’ll just return to dust. But if you are wrong, there is an eternal price to pay. So I prefer to be on the side that puts me right with God for eternity than on the side that makes the biggest gamble possible in life. If you are right, whew, but if not… I’d think hard on that. Again, thanks for a great conversation. Respectfully

JOSH: Karl, I’m glad to engage in respectful discourse. It is in that spirit that I respond as follows and hope you take my criticism well. If there is as much overwhelming evidence FOR a god or gods as against, please produce it. As a person who is unconvinced by the positive assertion (“There IS a god.”), my burden is much less. The null hypothesis (“There is no evidence to conclude a god.”) is what I must conclude without enough evidence of the alternative to justify it. You, as the theist, are making the positive assertion, so it is you who must provide the evidence. I’m in a rather enviable seat as I’m taking the position of “there’s no evidence, so the proposition is unsupported.” It’s true that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” However, absence of evidence is STILL absence of evidence, and that’s a poor foundation upon which to base a belief so impactful on your life and society as the belief in a god, much less the belief in a specific god.

KARL: Josh, also, the claim that there is NO God can be considering equally extraordinary requiring extraordinary evidence – the complexity of our world (of ourselves) is viewed as overwhelming evidence of a designer. In the end, you are right. Presupposition taints both of us. The struggle is not to find which is right based on evidence (both feel they have overwhelming evidence) but instead, which has better answers to the problems we face. Christianity does have answers to the problems of this world (whether or not they are liked or accepted.) The other extreme can rely only on chance and accept mystery, (a big bang with no one to start it). In the end, both contain unexplained mystery. Only one offers hope and the other emptiness and despair. And personal experience is the other element that can’t be scientifically tabulated and yet caries great evidential weight, but only to that individual. (Jodie Foster in Contact illustrated this well) My experience can’t be your evidence. outtaroom

JAMES: Ah, Pascal’s Wager. Nothing like a little fear of hellfire to make you believe in all sorts of nonsense. (Sorry Karl, I couldn’t resist.)

KARL: No problem James – I can take a good spirited jab. ;o) one man’s nonsense is another man’s truth. One way or another, we’ll each find out eventually. or if we are lucky, vanish without any consequence for how we lived life. (Not a lot of motivation there for me.) Have a great day free of concern for whether of not eternity matters… for me, its worth considering. For me that is not intended as fear of hellfire, but rather as a sober way to accept that life has meaning beyond what pair of socks I chose this morning or whether any of my decisions matter far beyond my life. See ya in heaven!

JAMES: Yay! Does that mean I can get into heaven now without buying into the whole faith thing?

KARL: It’s not my place to decide if or whether you’ll go to heaven. I’ll let you and God work that out. For my comment “see ya in heaven” I was just being an optimist! ;o)

JOSH: Regarding your use of Pascal’s Wager, I respectfully suggest you abandon it. Most apologists who’ve thought about it outside the context of their preferred religion do. Here’s why:

Pascal’s Wager only works if we assume a false dichotomy of either (A) Your specific God, or (B) no god. The benefit you describe vanishes quite quickly when we begin to consider the thousands of other gods of other denominations and religions, many of which are mutually exclusive of one another, and therefore must be considered as separate cases. In the simplest example, let’s say the options are (A) the Southern Baptist God, (B) Thor, or (C) no god. How are we to distinguish between the demands of the two gods? Which one’s condemnation is the real condemnation? It becomes harder when we start splitting hairs about different god-concepts from different denominations within the same religion.

But there are two other, shorter reasons Pascal’s Wager should be avoided. The second reason not to buy into or use Pascal’s Wager is that it assumes there is no downside to living a life believing in a god that isn’t there. I believe I can make a pretty good case that there are plenty of downsides and present the beliefs of the terrorists who hijacked the planes and flew them into buildings on 9/11 as an example of one particularly vivid example of how a misplaced god-belief can result in a negative for the believer (and society), even if there’s no god.

The third reason Pascal’s Wager should be avoided is that it is bad theology. As typically constructed, it is used to defend the standard Christian god, and relies on fear of a vengeful, petty god who punishes people for eternity for their temporal faults, made possible ultimately by his “gift” of free will and subsequent ultimate punishment of us for using that gift in a way he doesn’t like. It doesn’t sit well with the idea of an infinitely merciful, good, or just deity. The claim that there is NO god is no more or less extraordinary than the claim that there is NO angry unicorn on the dark side of the moon. It’s true we proceed by determining that we will assume a thing does not exist unless presented with evidence that it does, but why would you turn the tables on this logic for the god-hypothesis, when you no-doubt use it in almost every other facet of your life?

As for complexity and different presuppositions this forum is too limited for a full drubbing of those old chestnuts. Suffice it to say, those who hope to use complexity to defend their theology don’t understand complexity very well, and the presuppositions argument is simply a fancy way of appealing to the God of the Gaps. I’ll warn you again, my theistic friend, that this is dangerous theology. The gaps are always getting smaller, and if your god can only live in the gaps, you’ll find him getting smaller with time, too. I hope you and all the other commenters have a good day!

KARL: :o) And now I don’t feel bad for using two comments to respond, since you’ve used three. ;o) I hope “Jehovah Jireh” doesn’t mind that we hijacked his status for a deep debate. I wonder if he will jump in? Or perhaps it really IS God on Facebook, and you’ve gotten Him stumped, Josh. ;o) Space is short, but let me say you’d probably be surprised at how much I agree with you. Too often we end up arguing against perceptions rather than actual position of our ‘opponent’ and I use that lightly. Pascal’s Wager (I grant that label) is not based so much on fear (though I too hate how many Christians use fear to draw people to a loving God) but rather on the humble and sobering reality that while arguing Cubs vs. Socks or Democrat vs. Republican can only effect this life, the answers to choose or accept regarding God WILL have eternal consequences, even if that consequence is nothing.

Its easy to lump Christians in with terrorists. (I’m sure you know we don’t like that) but rather than disprove the premise that one religion can’t be right, from our perspective it only proves that believing the wrong thing can be dangerous. Believing the wrong thing can be WORSE than believing nothing. (I’ll agree, I’d rather have an atheist neighbor than an extreme religious one of any sect, Christian or not!) But in the end, “not believing” IS believing. And Christians (please exclude weird, obnoxious and scary ones!) hold that the answers to the Great Questions must HAVE answers. No answer, IS an answer! So the great burden of life is not to ignore or dismiss the questions, but to have the peace of mind that you have answered them as best and as accurately as possible, since what you believe DOES matter for eternity. (even if only as dust)

In the end, I do not judge you (I apologize for how judgemental many Christians are) It is not my place to answer those questions for you – but it is my imperitive to be honest about what i believe and at least respectfully present it. If I truly believed what I do, and did NOT attempt to share it, it would contradict what I claim to believe – that people have a need for God and that there will be judgement for what we do with him in this life. But in the end, I respect you enough to let you make up your own mind.

Understanding, that I too could ultimately be wrong. But as I stated before, me being wrong will not have any negative effect on me. (I won’t even ever know I was wrong!) And I believe I will have lived a better for it. And I do not assume you have a terrible life without God, just one that could have been even better with Him. (and if you are wrong, you will find out.)

Perhaps you’ll enoy a humorous attempt to address this in a poem I wrote years ago called, “There are no absolutes you say, (but are you absolutely sure?)

JOSH: Karl, nice poem. It’s interesting you bring up the silly beliefs of some people in a lack of absolutes. Post-modern deconstructionists definitely went too far with their crapola. I, for one, have little time for folks who insist there are no absolutes. The question was, at best, one of passing interest for me as a young undergraduate, but it quickly became clear that there are plenty of absolutes in the world, at least insofar as fact, logic, and reason go. From a pragmatic stance, if not a metaphysical one, some questions do have right and wrong answers. I find it funny, therefore, that you evoked the argument of different presuppositions earlier in this thread, for that is a direct outgrowth of postmodern thinking. In creationist circles, its use has been traced to Bruce Chapman, founder of the Discovery Institute, and it’s funny because he is a product of Harvard, one of the prototypical hotbeds of postmodernist thought. Apparently some of the silliness rubbed off.

Also, regarding questions … questions do not necessarily have to have answers. Some questions are not answerable. Example, “what flavor is the number three?” Unless you’re a synesthete, the question is flawed, and has no answer, because flavor is not a characteristics that abstract numbers can have. Perhaps some of the “Great Questions” (who decided they were great, btw?) you speak of are similarly flawed. In many cases, though, they have perfectly fine answers, I’m sure. Some of those answers are known, others not so much. The point is, reason and knowledge should be used to guide our pathway to better and more accurate answers where answers are possible. Those who insist that bronze-age nomads had all the answers millennia ago may find that some questions are not quite as simple as all that. Here’s a question for you, Karl: What evidence would it take to divest you of your faith in an afterlife? I can tell you what evidence I would accept to sway me to your way of thinking.

Finally, Jehovah Jireh jumped back in:

Jihovah Jireh: What kind of god would hide himself and then torture people for not believing in him? People who believe in and worship that sort of god may find that they have failed the test of life. It would make more sense for me to reward skepticism and reason and punish belief in a cruel deity. Do you mind if I call this scenario “Meyer’s Wager”?

KARL: Regarding “Great Questions” and whether “bronze-age nomads had all the answers. ;o)  First of all, I’ll grant not all questions have to have answers, however, if there are NO answers to “How did we get here?” “WHY am I here?” and “Do I have a purpose?” then there is little reason left to pursue good, for “good” would only be subjective, and doing “wrong” would only be wrong if you were caught. (had to face a consequence) Mr. Madoff would be a genius, not a criminal, and the only thing ‘wrong’ with defrauding thousands of people of billions of dollars would be getting caught, for he was making the most of his life, since there is no ultimate consequence, only human consequence for getting caught.

Secondly, to assume “bronze-age nomads” could not arrive at truth assumes, a) technology is required to answer these questions, which it isn’t – as technology arguably can support either a godless world OR a god-created world, and b) that God is unable or unwilling to communicate with people before electronic devices. The premise of Christianity is that indeed He did. I find it less likely that any religion that is less than a few hundred years old could have any claim at truth, though many have certainly made that claim. Either God began communicating early on, or he didn’t. I don’t think he’d wait until now to start. Granted, there are other ‘old’ religions and it is why they merit examination, but Christianity is uniquely different than the others on several fronts. Primarily, man’s inability to save himself and God intervening as a Savior.

Good question: What would it take to divest me of my faith in an afterlife. I had to ponder that. In short, a better answer to the Great Questions than the Bible offers, with even more supporting evidence. But for me, a belief in the afterlife is not based on having seen ghosts or any other supernatural experience or paranormal ‘evidence’ – but rather as a result of several steps leading up to it.

  1. That God exists (for reasons we’ve been discussing)
  2. That therefore God would communicate and has
  3. That the historical evidence for the Bible is stronger than any other ancient literature, religious or otherwise.
  4. – the tricky one – personal experience with the message of the Bible as it has impacted me and changed me
  5. the Bible teaches that God created us as eternal beings, and this life as a testing ground for how we use our God-given freedom.

To respond to Jehovah Jireh (since he doesn’t give his true identity) – what type of god would hide himself and then torture people for not believing? Interesting, he states that if we believe that, we have failed the “test of life” – but with no God, who then is giving the test. With no god, there is no test. But back to the valid question – the question assumes He has hidden himself. The biblical account is that he has not – and scientific and historical evidence strongly support (note I’m careful to say support, not prove) the Bible’s account of God repeatedly communicating. The issue throughout history has not been his willingness to communicate, but OUR willingness to listen and accept his message. Bottom line: we want to be in charge of our own life, not subject to a Creator – so most people dismiss the message, or look for ways to dismiss if not disprove it.

Let me add, finally, that my purpose or goal is NOT to prove God exists, or (if I’m granted that), to prove Christianity’s version of God is true. By design, God did not make that possible. (Though we can come pretty close when we are open to it) I submit that all that we can do, is present that belief in God, and in the message of the Bible, is reasonable and rational, and that there are satisfying answers to the questions/objections. Christianity is not irrational or unreasonable. And it provides not only logical answers, but (IMPORTANTLY) a basis for the very logic and reason we desire to use to answer the Great Questions. Without God – there is no answer for logic itself, or reason. Why do we insist on ‘intelligent’ answers – or logical arguments – all this deep thinking is possible because our creator designed us this way. Even when I get my intellectual butt kicked by an atheist or agnostic, the very fact that they can craft and employ such good arguments again points me to their Creator.

In the end, I personally do not believe logic or reason keep people from knowing God. Just as they do not keep me believing in Him. I think God’s claim on how we live our life makes it hard to accept Him. I feel that tension every time I want to do something that I know He does not approve of. (we call that sin) In those moments, I do not want there to be a God. There are times I deny my faith and act as though there isn’t – but then I am brought back to the realization that this wondrous world could not possibly exist without a Creator, and once I accept that, I then accept that I will be held accountable for my life – that may make me guilty, but it also makes God good and just and right. To not hold me and other accountable for all the wrong and evil we see, would make him the God ‘Jihovah Jireh’ described. The reality is, no one is “getting away” with anything (including me).

Bottom Line: I can not convince you that God is real, much less that Christianity is. But I can offer that I believe if you take a close look at Christianity, you can find a reasonable and rational faith that millions of people for centuries have found. (the ones that never make the news) Please ignore the whacked out weird ones who share our name – if you throw out Christianity because of the wackos or the judgmental jerks, you are throwing out the baby with the bath water. We can’t stand those people either and it drives us nuts that they don’t reflect the kindness and love and civility that the Book we share encourages.

There are many men who have set out to disprove Christianity who ended up converted when they got past the people who hurt the message and were willing to take an open and honest look at the evidence. Josh McDowell is one (http://www.josh.org) as is Lee Strobal. I’ve read the critiques of Lee’s books, and they are very intriquing. Reminders that ‘proof’ is not possible – but reasonableness is – and in the end, it is only in giving God a chance that one discovers that Christianity offers the best answers.

Non-belief at this point, leaves MORE unanswered questions than does believing the message of the Bible. Because I have studied both sides, I have seen far more evidence FOR God and the Bible than I have seen to support it is false. I have seen how it reasonably could be false (such as the Q theory for the Gospels) but if I must choose between reasonably false and reasonably true, than I’d rather chose the option that provides more answers that make more sense – and at the same time acknowledges my ability to even make such choices (which is was referenced in my first short comment in this thread that started it all!) and all that is before I even include my own personal experiences with God – answers to prayer, and seeing how much better life is when I follow God and how messed up it gets when I go my own way.

In the end, I do not think this is an issue of “proof” for or against God or for or against Christianity, but looking at whether either position is reasonable and rational, and if both are, which then provides more answers to more questions. “No God” answers some questions (mostly why is there evil in the world) but leaves many more UNanswered, since there IS a reasonable answer to why there is evil in the world when we claim there is a good, loving and all-powerful God. To throw God out to answer one tough question leaves many more unanswerable and ultimately reduces the value of human life to nothing. That is ultimately what is difficult to swallow. If you throw out God, you throw your intrinsic value out as well.

O.K., I’ve dumped a lot – bracing myself for rebuttal.  ;o)


and that is where is sits now. Not sure if Josh will engage here – I hope he does. He’s got me thinking, and I like that! If you’d read this far, what are your thoughts?

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15 Comments:

  1. Wow, that is a great debate and I hope that he answers you. It really made me think about how I would have answered and if I would be as prepared as you were with your answers. I will be praying for Josh that the answers he is seeking will become clear and praying for you that you will have the right words for him as he asks his questions. Thanks for sharing.

    Melissa’s last blog post..My own Triathlon-run,swim, and bike

  2. Karl,
    I really appreciate what Josh is saying and your responses to him. I do hope he will continue to respond as I’d like to understand his perspective more. As for “jehovah” I’m sensing someone really hurt this person and tried to cram Jesus at him instead of just sharing the love and Truth.
    I’m currently taking a class on contemporary evangelism and this discussion is great.

  3. Great convo. When I was a little younger I would have many of these long conversations. I’ve found that people as respectful and intelligent as Josh are few and far between. Conversations such as this one always get me thinking about my own road to Christianity.

    It was always difficult for me to accept that there was a God because of my mother’s terminal illness. Any time someone would bring up the thought of a god I’d get frustrated and wonder how someone could let these things happen to “good people.”

    Obviously there’s a whole lot that happened in between my thoughts then, and my thoughts now. The short version is that I chose to believe God existed… and that He really did want the best for me (and for my mother). Had there been some sort of “100% indeniable proof” that God existed I would have never learned to trust Him and seek after Him. I would have been left hating Him for not swooping into my life and my mother’s life and saving her from the terrible pain she endures everyday (speaking of my mother btw… please pray for her, she is in the hospital right now).

    Only through faith and a sought after understanding of God and His love could I come to peace with Him. It wouldn’t happen any other way.

  4. Karl,

    I appreciate your attitude and your openness to discussion. I’m a nonbeliever and I take issue with several the things you have said above. I used to be a pastor and I made some of these same points in sermons, but now I think I was only seeing part of the picture.

    You said that in the absence of answers to some of life’s biggest questions that people have no basis for morality. I disagree. I don’t see purpose as something that must be granted to humanity by a supernatural power. We all can and do choose what we will live for. It’s significant that cultures all over the world, regardless of religion, settle on several of the same moral guidelines. We should also note that cultures with less religion are not necessarily less moral. In fact, Norway and Sweden have both a low percentage of church attendance and two of the world’s lowest crime rates. This is an indication that your hypothesis about the connection between religion and morality is way off.

    Many of the behaviors that we think of as moral are also present in other animals. Cooperation, abstention from killing members of the same species (murder), lifelong monogamy and caring for young can be found in ants, geese, other primates, etc. No one is suggesting that these animals get their “morality” from God, because we recognize the survival value of these behaviors. Isn’t it possible that this plays a role in human behavior is well?

    So, the moral argument, which I used to find very convincing, has lost its force for me. I don’t see our shared morality as evidence for anything supernatural and I certainly don’t appreciate or agree with the idea that nonreligious people are immoral. Cooperation, peace, family. These are common ideas in humans and animals because they work, not because some deity came down out of the sky and read a list of rules.

    Danny’s last blog post..What is faith?

  5. Karl you are truly a practical theologian!

  6. Danny, I would sgguest that most of the things you say could just as well be evidence there is a supernatural God who created the wrold and his desing is stamped on His creation. I do suggest that all of creation reflects God, in its original from that is. To think that a basic moral code would exist in isolated cultures around the world by either concidence or natrual selection takes a very large step of faith for me.

    That said, many ideas of morality in our world have only evolved in cultures dominated by Christian thought: equality of the sexes and races, protection of the weak and infirmed, freedom of expression and worship and thought, protection of chidlren from abuse, equal access to education, and even the concept of exploring the accepted morays of culture. Think of people like Newton, Pascal, Galileo, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Guttenburg, King Jr., Columbus, the founders of Cambridge, Harvard and Princeton, Nightingale, etc.. they were all motivated by ideas birthed in them by the Christian faith. Certainly we could see that these cultures have produced plenty of bad ideas and the further we drift away the more bad ideas we produce. Yes some great concepts of morality have come from outside the Chrstian faith to (although I would venture to say that even Ghandi was deeply effected by Christian principles). But these higher forms of morality, outside the basics that most cultures agree on, have largely come from the wellspring of the Christian faith.

    In terms of Norway and Sweden they do have a long history of a Christian culture which I believe is still having an impact there. The pre-Christian society that dominated there was pretty violent. For some reason too extrem norther countries (ie Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland) have lower depression rates and lower crime rates – on average. This could be an environmental factor which we have not explored and do not understand.

  7. Can there be proof that God exists?

    Maybe we should ask Pharaoh after the plagues,
    Or Moses as he was crossing the Red Sea,
    Or the people of Jerico when the trumpets blew,
    Or Daniel when he was in the Lions den,
    Or Noah when he was asked to build an ark,
    Or the Disciples when they saw Jesus risen from the dead.

    The only reason not to believe these accounts is that “God doesn’t exist and miracles don’t happen.” But those are assumptions, not proofs. Take out all references to God and miracles from the Bible, and the Bible would be accepted as one of the greatest and most verified historical records of the ancient world.

    The problem with knowing anything is that everything is based on assumptions, which are not provable. For example, your senses can be deceived. So how can you prove that what you see and hear is real? You can’t. But we all live like it is true. (We don’t try to walk through walls, right?)

    I find it ironic that people want to believe that there is no God, yet they still live like there is one. If there is no God, then there is no purpose to life, because after all, in 10 billion years all of this will end, there will be nothing left. What does it matter if we live or die? It doesn’t! Yet we want to live and have purpose. If there were no God, then living like there was no purpose to anything (after all, we are just a “random accident”) would best match up with reality, and would be the best way to live.

    In the end, even if you can’t prove that there is a God (Which I think you can,) believing in the God of the Bible ends up best matching up with reality. There being a God better explains the world we live in, and when we live according to the Word of God, reality makes more sense. If this makes you angry, remember, if there is no God, it doesn’t matter what I believe in anyway! :) (After all, I do believe that God gives everyone a choice, and that it is not my place to try to force anyone to believe in Him. But he does ask me to be a witness)

  8. BJ,
    Pharaoh, Noah, Moses, Daniel and the disciples, those are all just stories. They’re not proof of your god any more than the stories in the Vedas are proof of the Hindu gods. What is your reason for not believing those stories? Is it just that “Hinduism’s gods don’t exist”?

    You said, “Take out all references to God and miracles from the Bible, and the Bible would be accepted as one of the greatest and most verified historical records of the ancient world.” I seriously doubt this. The Bible is a product of an ancient culture and reflects their view of the world. There are probably some stories based in history (though I think the Exodus and everything before it is 100% myth), but there are plenty of mistakes, too.

    What does it mean to “live like there is [a God]”? I don’t live like there is a god. I live as if there are no gods and I have to find my own meaning, morals and direction in life. That means living at peace with people, cooperating and loving those around me. No god required for any of that. There’s plenty of purpose in life without god. I’ve found life to be more meaningful without a deity intruding in my thoughts and affairs. If this 70 years is all I have, then I’m going to live life to its fullest. Even if there’s no purpose given to the universe from the outside, my life is still full of meaning.

    If you think you can prove that your god exists, I’d love to hear it. You’ll need better proof than stories in old books. Several religions have those and you and I both feel confident in writing them off as invented.

    Danny’s last blog post..What is faith?

  9. Ironically, I have to agree with Danny on this one, at least in that we can’t use stories WITHIN the Bible to “prove” the Bible. The struggle with conversations is that they are never won by argument. BJ can’t be convinced the Bible isn’t true because of his experience with the God of the Bible, and Danny can’t be convinced God IS real because of his life experiences.

    As stated above, all we can “prove” is that faith in God and in the reliability of the Bible is REASONABLE – there are reasonable answers to every objection about the BIble, and there are extremely reasonable answers to the science of the Bible.

    One of the things that is frustrating is that Christians are placed in the position of being the only one on defense. We are demanded to “prove” what we believe regardless of overwhelming (even if insufficient) evidence. Over and over, as science* develops, the Biblical view of history and science is found to be more reliable, not less.

    For some reason, atheism (or agnosticism or simple theism) get a pass when it comes to the need to “prove” what they BELIEVE – when it requires EQUAL FAITH. Even based on the secular second law of thermodynamics, evolution is false at its core, but this HUGE exception (that things somehow got better, not worse, over time) is not given any explanation, but is merely “accepted” as true.

    Why? The answer is simple and yet deeply personal. Atheism removes any personal responsibility to a Creator. Without God, you can live anyway you want, even if, like Danny, you choose to live in a good and moral way. (I’m skipping dealing with how you can determine what is good and moral if we all are just goo with no creator we are responsible to)

    Atheism requires EQUAL FAITH but is not required to prove or defend itself. It is considered the “default truth” not needing proof and only world views that varry from that accepted (by faith) default world view must defend and prove itself.

    I would argue that to not believe in God requires MORE FAITH than to believe in God. Something from nothing simply requires more faith than everything from God.

    In the end, I can’t convince anyone that God is real or that the Bible is true. What I can do is invite someone to give God a chance and offer that from my experience, if one does, I believe they will find that God and the Bible make the most sense of life, answer the Great Questions with the most satisfaction, and if one is willing to be open minded, the scientific pursuit will be be more satisfying as well when one is willing to look with open eyes. The facts just over and over again add more assurance (if not proof) that the amazing God who created this world is indeed real, and can be personally involved in your life.

    All that stands in the way for most is the ability or willingness to surrender to their Creator IF He is indeed discovered to be true. But let me assure you – whatever you think you’ll lose (control, or things you know in your heart are sin) will be greatly outweighed by all the good you will experience and enjoy.

    The world will finally makes sense and the the enjoyment of it be indescribably richer.

    That’s my 2 cents. (at least!)

  10. The burden of proof is on whoever is making a claim. You claim that your god exists, so if you want that claim to be taken seriously, you have to offer some proof. I’m not making a claim. Atheism is simply the rejection of theistic claims due to lack of evidence. You do the same thing in your rejection of Hinduism. You don’t have proof that their gods don’t exist, but you conclude that they don’t because there’s no proof. In the same way, I’m not claiming that no god can or does exist, I’m just saying that I have yet to see any evidence that any gods exist. My position requires no faith at all. That’s why the burden of proof is on the theist, as it should be.

    I’m not sure you’re understanding the 2nd law of thermodynamics correctly. This article might be helpful: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-misconceptions.html#thermo

    Briefly, the 2nd law says that in a closed system, disorder increases. If the universe is a closed system (and I think it is), then its disorder will increase over time. The earth and its lifeforms are not a closed system. We’re getting loads of energy from the sun, so the increase in organization of life doesn’t violate the 2nd law. The sun’s energy and order decreases and the earth’s increases (for a while), but solar system and the universe are on balance becoming more disordered over time as the 2nd law suggests.

    I’ve had religious experiences, but I think they’re fully explainable. Every religion has its experience, including religions that we’d both agree are false. You don’t take those experiences as evidence that those religions are true and in the same way, I’m not convinced by your experiences (or mine).

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you have evidence, I’ll be happy to hear it. But after your attempt at marshaling the 2nd law of thermodynamics for your case, I’m not expecting anything too impressive.

    Cheers and enjoy the celebration of your resuscitating god-man/goddess of dawn.

    Danny’s last blog post..What is faith?

  11. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I agree! The belief that our universe suddenly appeared from nothing is as equally extraordinary as one created by God. Atheist claims are equally faith-dependent and the need for proof equal. “The burden of proof is on whoever is making a claim.” I agree again. You may not be claiming “God isn’t real” (no need to prove a negative claim, just as “unicorns aren’t real”) but you are claiming that the universe just “IS” without reasonable origin. It is simply convenient to excuse a non-God world view from proof for its incredible claims. Closing or opening systems is simply defining the evidence according to where they fit in a belief system. I’m not bothering with arguments for creation/God as my point is that one will never “argue someone into faith.” For those willing to investigate objectively, as I have said, there ARE reasonable answers/argument, in fact, I found them to be much MORE reasonable than accepting that the incredibly mind-blowing complexity of our world is a result of mindless chance. That requires a level of faith that exceeds even my own faith in the God who ordered it all. After looking at all the evidence on both sides in high school, college and ever since, I see only mounting evidence of the biblical world view AND its harmony with how life works in relationships and day to day life. But then, those are perspectives that can’t be “proven.”

    I wish so badly I could prove it to you – but that would negate the value of, and reward of, faith. I also wish I could erase the many ways those claiming to be following Christ have inflicted harm on the world and damaged the experiential evidence by being dogmatic, destructive, scientifically sloppy or at times, simply wacky. :)

    I appreciate you willingness to dialogue. You appear to be resolved in your position, so I am not trying to convince you of anything other than that Christianity is reasonable and worthy of the faith that will then fill in many of the blanks in surprising ways, if allowed. I also am sorry if you have had negative experiences with the people or the institutions of Christianity – I am ashamed of the ways many have been pushed away by harmful or hurtful experiences that make no amount of evidence approachable because of what they have experienced at a personal level.

    But Christianity shouldn’t be judged by the people claiming to follow it, but on its own merits. Lame illustration, but I don’t judge McDonald’s food by the employees who serve it to me, but by its own taste. I may like the employee and hate the food, or (at a better restaurant) hate the employee but love the food. Christians can be an irritating lot as they are all over the spectrum of maturity and understanding (and mental capacity!), but the Truth of the Bible has not only stood the test of time, but gotten stronger as our understanding of this world increases.

    At the core of most people’s rejection of Christianity is not Christianity, but usually some kind of experience with Christianity or “Christians” that was negative unless it is just a desire to live independently without responsibility to a Creator.

    I’m writing today from a hospital bed recovering from a near heart attack and have seen God’s provision in so many of the details. (go to home page for details, at least at this writing) Facing one’s mortality does a lot to get one thinking about life after death and contemplating the meaning of life. I can’t convince you, (or anyone) I have to accept that, but I can’t (and must as long as I have breath) try to encourage others to take a closer look and suggest you may like what you find if you can get around whatever is holding you back.

    I wish you the best possible life you can have without God, but I wish you could experience the fullness of life with Him, both now and forever. Thanks again for the conversation.

  12. I’m not making any claims about how the universe began. I’m content to say “I don’t know.” I don’t think that “God did it” is a satisfying or useful explanation. Once again, I don’t think my position requires any faith at all.

    I’ve written about leaving Christianity here: http://personman.com/religious-autobiography-2004-2007

    It had more to do with looking at the evidence objectively than with being disappointed by Christians. I taught apologetics in a church, so I was and am familiar with the arguments for god’s existence. When I stepped back and took a look at them again along with the non-theist responses, I saw that I could no longer buy into it.

    This is the way these conversations usually go. Christians claim to have impressive evidence for their god, but when it’s examined and questioned, they fall back on faith. There’s a discussion about what faith is on my site now: http://personman.com/what-is-faith I don’t see it as a good thing. Let’s have confidence about things for which there’s evidence and be humble enough to say “I don’t know” about the rest. I see no need for faith, which is just certainty without evidence.

    I’m sorry to hear about your health problems and happy that you’re on the mend. I hope you give some credit to scientific medicine, too. If you could only choose between 911/hospital/doctors or god/church/prayer, which would you do?

    I’ve done the religious experience and don’t expect to ever go back. I’m much happier today than I ever was as a believer. If I were presented with evidence, I would seriously evaluate it. But I’m not going to take anything on faith.

  13. thanks for the conversation. i hope you’ve gotten that I’ve not made any claims of ‘proving God exists’ – i contend there is not ‘proof’, just overwhelming evidence that is reasonable. as for “If you could only choose between 911/hospital/doctors or god/church/prayer, which would you do?” It’s a mute point, there is no need to chose between the two. Historically Christians have been the pioneers of both science and medicine – it is a biblical world view that freed men to study the world without the “superstition” of most religions that discouraged or banned such study/exploration.

    I’ll leave you to your non-faith, thanks for being gracious toward mine. I’ll pray for you – if they are idle words offered only to the air, no harm done! I did read your testimony in the past and I do think you got a very slightly and odd experience as much of what you experienced and objected to, I would too. There are many more churches that are more reasonable and avoid some of those unusual extremes you mention there.

    Have a great day, I’m content to agree to disagree, and have enjoyed talking, even disagreeing, in a civil and polite conversation. More of that is needed in today’s world, and Christians can be the worst at it, I have to admit!

    Later!

  14. Ok, first a defense of my using stories from the Bible. If the Bible is true, then Moses and the rest of the Israelites would have had no doubt that God existed. He proved himself to them. It is simply to say that God can be “proved.” (epically for Christians.)

    As far as there being plenty of mistakes, I have yet to find any. As far as the Bible being an old book, if all old books were to be mistrusted, then most of human history would have to be considered a myth.

    As far as basing my beliefs solely on an old book, God fixed a hard drive for me one time. I tried everything, it wouldn’t work. I laid hands on it and prayed, and God fixed it.

    Also I am a computer programmer. When I look at all the complexity of life around me, and someone asks me to believe in Evolution (The default cause of life for an atheist), it’s like asking me to believe that I can write computer programs through random chance. Even the simplest of code would take more time than we have to write. Besides, Scientists have never created life from non-life, even when they try and can create ideal conditions. You would have be believe it happens on accident?

    Also, I believe that the Bible describes humanity better than any other option. Almost all other religions and atheism say that man is basically good. The Bible says that man was born with a sin nature, and is basically evil. Apart from God, the Bible concludes that man will be sinful and evil. When I look at man as a whole, apart from God, I see evil people. I’ve seen kids fighting with each other from the time they are able to. Selfishness seems to be the general rule that humanity lives by, just as the Bible says it is.

    But Jesus died on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to be ruled by sin anymore. Then he rose again on the third day to show that God would raise us up to be with him. All we have to do is repent of our sin, and ask him to forgive us. No other religion has a cure for sin like that. Evolutions basic premise (Survival of the fittest) is inherently selfish. Selfishness and sin accounts for almost all of the suffering in the world. Only Christianity offers a cure that works.

    I know that you are probably looking through history and saying, “Christianity has caused it’s fair share of suffering!” and my heart grieves to think what Others have done in the name of Christ. But the Christ commanded us to love our enemies and to do good to them that do evil to us. Any one hurting others, killing others, or committing atrocities in the name of Christ is not operating on Christ’s behalf, and is most likely not a Christian.

    Christ has worked in my life since I was a kid. He came into my life when I was just 5 years old. He helped me to be forgiving to those who hurt me, he helped me to learn to tell the truth. He comforted me through times of great despair, and has given me wisdom. He has answered my prayers when I needed it, and has not answered them when I prayed in ways that looking back would have caused more harm than good. God has worked in my life. But just like some old book, you can dismiss my testimony as someone else making up stories. But I can’t. I have to live with it. And to deny God would be to deny what I have seen and experienced. I can’t. You can, but Jesus doesn’t want you to. He wants to come into your life and set you free from your sin and guilt. He loves you, but will never force you to follow him. Can he do it? He has done it for me, and when I’ve turned my back on him, even lately, he has been there to pick me up, mend my wounds and help me to keep on walking.

    God bless brother!
    B.J.

    B.J.’s last blog post..The Making of a Puppet Show Part 1

  15. Great post BJ. I hope you know, I wasn’t disagreeing with you before, just agreeing with Danny that Bible stories don’t work as evidence to those who disregard the Bible as true – that argument is empty or considered circular reasoning if you discard the Bible as reliable. I believe the Bible IS reliable, both in its impact in my life as well as scholarly evidence when studied with an open mind, and not with a predisposed desire to discredit it which is what you see in most anti-Bible literature and articles. (especially in popular magazine articles which are completely misleading if not dishonest most of the time) Glad you have discovered and experienced God in your life so dramatically, I wish others would be more open to experiencing the same thing.

    Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

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