Open Letter to a World of Believers

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 26, 2009 in Bible,Christian Theology,General Atheism,Letters

Dear believers,

prayer-smallI grew up a devout Christian. I prayed daily. I studied the Bible. I sang the praises of Jesus. I sacrificed my own plans to serve God, and tried my best to follow his commands. I loved God and felt his presence in my life. God answered some of my prayers. He healed a few people I knew – in ways medical science could not explain. He lifted me out of a late-teenage depression and gave me compassion for those starving around the world. I made trips to China and England to help build schools and share the good news of Jesus.

There were some things about my Christian faith that confused me, but I trusted that I would understand when I got to heaven – or perhaps I would never understand, because God is so far beyond human reason.

I didn’t understand why he would allow the Bible to say so many contradictory, awful, or silly things. Did my loving God really command that rape victims must marry their rapists? What kind of “cultural context” could make that a loving thing to command? Did he really demand that we not wear clothes made of two different kinds of cloths? All the pastors I knew chose which verses still ‘counted’ and which ones didn’t, but the only criteria they ever used for doing so was what God told them. The weird thing was that God told each pastor a different thing than the next. But why put the bad or silly verses in there in the first place? And why would God allow so much confusion? If he was all-powerful, surely he could communicate to his pastors more clearly.

pope-scaryAnd what about hell? How could a loving God send people to eternal torture just because they had never heard of him? What about all those billions of people in China and India? What about young children? Did they really deserve to go to hell? Maybe people who had never heard of Jesus got a “free pass” to heaven, but then we should have stopped evangelizing right then and there. After all, most people who heard about Jesus didn’t convert right away, so our painstaking evangelism could have been sending millions of people to hell who otherwise would have gone to heaven.

What was the point of prayer? Jesus says clearly many times that prayer has power to change things, but much of the time it did nothing. It seemed totally random which prayers God wanted to answer, and which ones he didn’t. Why did he answer the prayers of my congregation for a new church building or deliverance from depression, but not answer the desperate prayers of millions of faithful believers pointlessly starving to death around the world?

When I came to realize that the evidence for evolution was just too strong to deny, this brought up all new problems. Why would God allow mankind to evolve for millions of years of soulless, brutal existence only to imbue them with a soul at a certain time, and then show up a few thousand years later to change the whole plan with Jesus? And if all the Bible stories about creation were myths, why did he allow so many believers to take them literally? And why, when Jesus came, did he simply repeat some moral aphorisms that had already been given by people before him (the golden rule, “obey God,” etc.) instead of revealing something simple that could have saved billions of lives, like the germ theory of disease or the importance of sanitation?

Truth be told, there were thousands of things like this that didn’t make any sense. But I didn’t think about them much. They were all part of the awesome “mystery” of God. What mattered was that I had experienced God myself, and I wanted to love everybody like Jesus did. Besides, didn’t everybody believe in God? I didn’t know any atheists, and I thought they were maybe 0.5% of the population on earth. Radicals. Everybody knew they were wrong.

If anything, maybe Buddhists or Muslims were right. But that couldn’t be; I had experienced Jesus so I knew he was real. I had experienced him for over a decade, and so had almost everyone I knew. It simply wasn’t possible that all this was a mass delusion. No way. Not possible.

jesus-vishnuI don’t recall thinking: “Wait a minute. There are people just like me who have experienced Krishna or Allah or Shiva personally, and are certain of their experiences. Everyone they know believes as they do. And yet I think they are suffering a mass delusion. Why should I think I’m not the one who is deluded? After all, I haven’t actually studied the evidence or arguments about religion – I’m just trusting the one I was born into because it feels right, and because everyone around me confirms it.”

But such serious doubts would come later, when I started to study the evidence for the Historical Jesus, and the arguments for theism in general. The more I studied, when reading both Christians and atheists, the more I found the case for Christianity to be dishearteningly weak.

I started to get scared. My best friend in the whole world, the focus of my entire life, was fading into the mists of myth and superstition. My foundation for living was crumbling beneath my feet, and I had nothing to replace it with.

I did everything I could to spare my faith. I read the very smartest Christian philosophers. I read them way more than the atheists. But all their arguments relied on double standards and twisted logic. What the atheists said made clear, simple sense. I begged God every night to show himself to me, but he didn’t.

On the way to a movie, I told my dad (a pastor) that I couldn’t find any good reasons to believe in God anymore. We sat in the cinema but I don’t think either of us could watch the movie. On the way home my dad just sobbed. “I’m praying for you, son,” he said. “I love you so much!” I sobbed, too.

I had been told that without God, there is no meaning in life, no morality, no purpose. So I thought my life was over. It had all been a sham. Even now that I knew it was a fairy tale, I wanted to take a pill that would make me believe it again. At least I would have a reason to live, a reason to help others. And I would have hope that my life wouldn’t be snuffed out by death. A world without God might be true, but it was unbearable.

seeking_godI kept looking for God. Maybe he was out there somewhere, but nobody had correctly identified him. Surely, he wasn’t anything like Yahweh or Allah or Shiva. But maybe he was more complex, more surprising, and more noble than those gods. For several weeks I prayed, “God, I don’t know if you exist or if you can hear me or if you care. But I just want you to know that I really want to know the real you, if you want to be known. I’m ready to know you as you really are, whoever you are.”

But the more studying I did, the more I realized there was no reason to believe in any gods. And so I decided to look up what others had said about how to live without God.

I should have realized this earlier, but of course there are millions of people throughout history who have lived happy, fulfilled, meaningful, moral lives without God. In fact, many of the most important scientists and philosophers of the last century were atheists, as are the two greatest philanthropists of all time (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). After that, it didn’t take me long to figure out how to be happy, fulfilled, purposeful, and moral without God.

In fact, I quickly felt even more fulfilled than I ever had as a Christian, even though I’d had some pretty high highs as a believer. Now I could embrace reality for whatever it was, and I didn’t have to juggle a thousand conflicting beliefs that didn’t add up. I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I tell you all this, believer, because I want you to know that I get it. I haven’t had your exact experiences, and I never believed exactly as you do, but I get it. I know what’s it like to be a believer. I know what it’s like to experience God and love him with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is real. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be flawed. They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.

An atheist on the internet pointed out that I literally believed I had a magical invisible friend who could grant me wishes.

Of course, I preferred to describe my belief in other terms, but I had to admit that was literally what I believed.

I thought, “Woah. Woah, there. Maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about this.”

I didn’t lose my faith right then and there. In fact, I didn’t even feel threatened at that point. But I looked at the arguments differently. I read the atheist arguments as if there might be something to them, and I read the Christian arguments as if there might be a problem somewhere.

I hadn’t even realized that I wasn’t evaluating the arguments fairly. In fact, I thought I had been! But I hadn’t, and I realized it now. When I looked at the arguments with the real understanding that they could both be flawed, I found the atheist arguments much more persuasive, and I lost my faith.

kabbahI say all this, believer, to point out that when you’re deluded you don’t know that you’re deluded. It doesn’t feel like you’re deluded, it doesn’t look like you’re deluded, and even the arguments seem to back you up! I’ve been on both sides of a delusion, and I can tell you that being deluded doesn’t feel at all like you’re deluded.

So what I ask of you is this: Try to rattle your own faith. Shake it up. Cause as much doubt as you can. Read what the best of the opposition has to say, and take it seriously. Describe your own faith in the most contentious terms possible (e.g., “an invisible friend who grants me wishes”) and recognize that this is, though not how you would put it, still literally true about what you believe.

Why? Because if you’re caught in a delusion, this might be the only way to wrestle free of it! What a better life awaits if you can step outside the delusion and engage the real you in the real world!

And if it’s not a delusion, if you really do have good reasons for the worldview you hold, then all these challenges will only clarify your worldview and reveal the good reasons there are for believing it. After all, it’s not like rattling your faith about gravity and reading those who say gravity isn’t real is going to ultimately cause you to lose your faith in gravity. The only thing that will happen is that you’ll understand gravity better and exactly what evidence supports it.

If you agree with me that to either (1) deliver yourself from a delusion or (2) clarify and reinforce your understanding of ultimate truth is a win-win situation, then I have some suggestions. If you’d like to shake up your faith and test your own mind for delusions, I recommend you read just a bit of the opposition.

As you might expect, the best of the opposition are not the most popular. You do not need to read Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris.

godlessThe easiest place to start is perhaps Guy Harrison’s 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God. Two other great books are Dan Barker’s Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists and John Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity. A good book that explains how even really smart people can come to believe in magic and undead guys who walk through walls and fly off into the sky and all that is Bruce Hood’s SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable.

These books are definitely worth the money, but some great content is also online. See the ‘atheism’ section of Greta Christina’s ‘best posts’ page. See Austin Cline’s atheism site. Read the articles on the Secular Web. Listen to atheist podcast Reasonable Doubts.

Good luck.

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck June 26, 2009 at 6:59 pm

If you doubt the fact of evolution, try “The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution” by Sean Carroll. If you just want to know if evolution and Christianity are compatible, try “Can a Darwinian be a Christian?” by Michael Ruse. For an in depth look at the problem of evil, try “Suffering Belief” by A. M. Weisberger. For a good general book, try “Atheism Explained” by David Ramsay Steele. Finally, if you are already an atheist intellectually, but still unable to make the break, try “Leaving the Fold” by Marlene Winell. These were the books I read when I decided to take a serious look at the “other side”. I highly recommend them all.

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jim June 26, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Just found your blog; seems like a real gem. I’m looking forward to the excavation.

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Alden June 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I really appreciate you sharing this.  I, of course, disagree with your conclusions, but agree that it’s good to challenge your beliefs.  However, when evaluating Christianity or any other belief, you have to have good information.  As always, garbage in, garbage out.   Unfortunately, there is a lot of Christian “garbage” just as there is a lot of atheistic garbage.
I think it’s also important to subject modernism to the same analysis, which very few people do.  Loftus has said that modernism is the Achilles’ heel of Christianity, which may be somewhat true; however, that doesn’t mean that modernism is necessarily correct. However, it’s difficult for us to analyze it as everything we read or hear is pretty much steeped in it – even much of Christianity (which is some of the problems with evangelicalism).
Thanks again for this. I wish you well on your journey.
 
 

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Luchaguate June 26, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Could someone give a direct reference that shows Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atheists? I was searching online, but I could not find a reliable source that showed that Bill Gates was an atheist (and not agnostic).
I really want a good source because very often Christians tell me that they see all this good being done in the world in Jesus’ name, but that they don’t see the ‘giving atheist’.

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Taranu June 27, 2009 at 1:18 am

Wow, I just loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing and for providing the books and sites for atheist literature.
I am also glad you touched a bit on the Theory of Evolution. There is something bugging me about it or should I say about an argument W. L. Craig keeps making in his debates whenever his opponents bring up Evolution. This link shows what I’m talking about. This is the book at issue.
One of it’s reviewers says: “Despite being an erstwhile scientist I had to take many of the equations on trust but managed to work through a good few and I found that my skepticism began to grow when the authors made simplifying equivalencies or unjustified assumptions which led to questionable values sometimes pulled from a hat e.g. sensationally raising the approximate number n of crucial steps in the evolution of modern man from 10 to 110,000 – come on, no way!”
What are your (and everyone else’s)  thoughts on this and do you now of any sources that address what Barrow and Tipler say about Evolution?
 

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Gordon June 27, 2009 at 1:42 am

 

Luchaguate: Could someone give a direct reference that shows Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atheists? I was searching online, but I could not find a reliable source that showed that Bill Gates was an atheist (and not agnostic). I really want a good source because very often Christians tell me that they see all this good being done in the world in Jesus’ name, but that they don’t see the ‘giving atheist’.

http://www.celebatheists.com/?title=Bill_Gates
 
 

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TinaFCD June 27, 2009 at 5:10 am

Wow, just….wow.
I would love for my sister to read this, but I think in her mind, it would scare the crap out of her. You know….doubting her god etc.

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 6:52 am

 

Luchaguate: but I could not find a reliable source that showed that Bill Gates was an atheist (and not agnostic).

First you would have to convince me that the distinction was substantial and relevant. Call him atheist, or call him agnostic, but he does not accept the Christian God, nor any other currently on offer.
Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? by Bertrand Russell

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

Taranu: What are your (and everyone else’s) thoughts on this and do you now of any sources that address what Barrow and Tipler say about Evolution?

I am a bioloigist who has followed the Creationism issue for the last few years. I will look into this for you.
I have not yet read the book you link, but before I get started, I will point out a few things:  1. Creationists use a lot of bad probability arguments. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this was another. 2. Suppose some of those purported 110,000 steps had gone a different way, and humans were not here. Possibly some other lineage might have achieved the level of intelligence and communication that we are using to hold this discussion. Perhaps not. So what? Why assume this conclusion was inevitable? Isn’t that like the person who won the lottery and presumes that his or her choice of deity willed it to be so? 3) Barrow and Tipler are not biologists. If their argument concerns biological evolution rather than cosmological fine-tuning, I would be suspicious up-front.
More after I’ve located and read the material.

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 7:04 am

I had been told that without God, there is no meaning in life, no morality, no purpose.

While I was raised in a religious household, I am thankful that it was not the sort of religion that ties up every aspect of life in god-belief. When I did finally discard my belief at college age, I adopted a “no sudden moves” policy regarding morality. Obviously, things like blasphemy no longer mattered, but I did not entirely abandon my existing moral code at once.

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 7:26 am

Taranu: There is something bugging me about it or should I say about an argument W. L. Craig keeps making in his debates whenever his opponents bring up Evolution. This link shows what I’m talking about.

I watched the Craig video. What a load of crap. He didn’t explain his argument at all, just threw out some big numbers.
First of all, big numbers don’t impress me. Consider a standard deck of 52 cards. Assume they are shuffled to a point of perfect randomness. Now lay down one card face up, then another, etc. until the whole deck has been laid out. What are the odds of that particular sequence of 52 cards being laid out in that order? Its 1/52 x 1/51 x 1/50 … 1/2 x 1/1, which if you have any math training you may recognize as 1/(52!). This calculates to ~ 1 out of 8 x10^67.
Wow, that’s amazing! Such long odds. Now shuffle the cards, and lay down 52 again. It’s a different sequence, but it also has odds of ~ 1 in 8×10^67. Isn’t that incredible?
No, it isn’t. Any random sequence of 52 cards from a 52 card deck would have given the same odds.
Now consider the human genome, which seems to be what Craig is talking about (I can’t be entirely certain from a one minute video clip). contains about 3 billion base pairs, but it’s not like they are dealt out randomly. You got them from your parents, with perhaps a few recombinations and mutations. They got them from their parents, etc. I.e. your genome, which differs by a few percent from mine, got here by following a certain path, not by being randomly dealt out. So the entirety of the search space has not been covered.
We know a lot about events that can effect that path; recombinations and mutations have already been mentioned. Gene duplication is another. An entire copy of a gene can be copied, then one can continue to fill the original role while the other is free to drift. Cell signaling pathways, for example, contain an awful lof of phosphatases and kinases, and quite a few of those show evidence of common descent which can be attributed to gene duplication. In fact, entire genomes can be duplicated! We have evidence in the genomes of currently living organisms that just exactly this has happened in the history of life.
All along the path that is the history of life, the randomness (mutations, duplications, etc.) has been subject to natural selection, which cuts down some on the randomness. The really bad mutations tend not to survive.
Got to do some work now, more later when I have tracked down the book in your second link.
 

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Taranu June 27, 2009 at 7:29 am

Reginald Selkirk: I am a bioloigist who has followed the Creationism issue for the last few years. I will look into this for you.

Thank you very much Reginald, I appreciate that.

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Chuck June 27, 2009 at 10:24 am

Luchaguate: Could someone give a direct reference that shows Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are atheists? I was searching online, but I could not find a reliable source that showed that Bill Gates was an atheist (and not agnostic). I really want a good source because very often Christians tell me that they see all this good being done in the world in Jesus’ name, but that they don’t see the ‘giving atheist’.

Most people who call themselves agnostic are really atheists, they don’t like the word. Besides being 100 percent sure gods don’t exist (which isn’t true, but never mind that), if you are an atheist then you must also be an evil, immoral, nihilist, and a communist. I don’t know of a word that is more misunderstood. By contrast, as a term, agnostic is fairly benign.

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Lorkas June 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

Chuck: Besides being 100 percent sure gods don’t exist (which isn’t true, but never mind that), if you are an atheist then you must also be an evil, immoral, nihilist, and a communist.

I am not a nihilist!
 
But seriously, this is why I usually use the term naturalist. The people who would react in this way to the term “atheist” usually have to go look up the term naturalist, so I get off the hook :-)

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eheffa June 27, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Luke for such a clear & humble explanation for your position as an ex-believer.    I am tempted to send this link to many of my family members who are still dismissive of the idea that a “real” christian would walk away from the faith.
This process of searching for truth & finding the path leading away from the convictions that you and your family hold dear is truly painful for everyone.    It requires an element of courage and honesty to accept unwanted conclusions based on evidence you can’t dismiss.  This is kind of just like good science; it leads to a certain liberation of the mind  where one is free to pursue truth without  feeling obliged to cling  to all those fragile presuppositions and dogmata of the faith.   (Ironically, the Gospel story Jesus can be the inspiration for de-conversion from Christianity,  as he is quoted as endorsing the “Truth” as something that will set you free.)
Congratulations on coming to this realization so early in life.  I too was raised in a similar environment, but in my case it  took 50 years to realize and admit that it was all a delusion.   I too have come to know that quiet liberation and freedom  in finally being allowed to pursue truth for its own sake & on the basis of evidence & not dogma.  It’s OK to not have all the answers  (what a relief) but the chase  is all the more stimulating when you don’t know where it will lead.
As an atheist or agnostic, one is free to be wrong & amend the conclusions when new data contradicts the old understandings.  In contrast, – when you’re a Christian;   Yahweh demands that you get it right or there will be hell to pay.
Paradoxically, the “good news for modern man”  is fact a form of cognitive bondage.  Discarding this mental straight-jacket opens the door to a whole new world.
Thanks again for your thoughtful  & thought provoking posts.
-evan
 

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Taranu June 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Reginald, Craig also mentions that there isn’t enough time for evolution to have taken place. So even if the deck of cards analogy works you must still account for the duration of time.

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Taranu: Reginald, Craig also mentions that there isn’t enough time for evolution to have taken place. So even if the deck of cards analogy works you must still account for the duration of time.

His estimate of the time assumes that all those immense number of possibilities he numbers be tried randomly and consecutively. This is dealt with by pointing out that the state reached was not reached in that fashion, but happened as a path-dependent sequence.
Consider the cards once again. Once you flip up the first card, it is decided, and collapses the probablility by 1/52. You do not have to, and do not get to, go through all possibilities for the first card. If you did, it would have taken 52 times as long.
Once you flip up the second card, it collapses the probability by 1/51. You do not have to, and do not get to, go through all 51 possibilities. If you did, it would take 51 times as log.
And so on.
It would take you an immense amount of time to deal out all ~ 8 x 10^67 possible sequences of 52 cards, but that is not at all what you are doing. You are dealing out one sequence, which will probably take less than a minute. Each step has a certain probability, but once it is done, it collapses the possibilities for what can follow.
Another example: coins. You have a fair coin. Presume you are going to flip it three times. What are the odds that you will flip three heads in a row? 1 out of 8.
You flip it the first time. It is a heads. Now what are the odds that you will flip three heads in a row? The first event is done, and its probability is collapsed. The odds are now 1 in 4.
You flip it the second time. It is a heads. Now what are the odds that you will flip three heads in a row? 1 out of 2. The probability is no longer 1 out of 8, it is no longer 1 out of 4; those events are in the past.
 

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Lorkas: But seriously, this is why I usually use the term naturalist.

Right, then all you have to deal with is people asking why you like to wander around with no clothes on.
 

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Reginald Selkirk June 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm

A third probability example: Consider the lottery. Suppose your odds of winning are 1 in 30 million. Does that mean that 30 million winning tickets will be drawn, one after the other? That would take a long time. NO. That is not how it works. One winning ticket will be drawn, it will take only a moment to draw it. The odds that it is your ticket which is drawn is 1 in 30 million. The odds that it is not your ticket is 29,999,999 out of 30 million. The odds that your ticket was drawn are very small, but finite. The odds that someone’s ticket was drawn is about 1 out of 1.

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Luchaguate June 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm

@Reginald Selkirk & Gordon
Thanks for the great links.

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UNRR June 28, 2009 at 3:49 am

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 6/28/2009, at The Unreligious Right

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Reginald Selkirk June 28, 2009 at 7:27 am

Taranu: This is the book at issue.

Crikey! Barrow & Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, (1986) -  736 pages!
I don’t know if I can wade through all of that. Is there a shorter document somewhere focusing on the 10 allegedly improbable events of biological evolution to which Craig refers? What I’ve offered so far is general stuff about typical bad probability arguments. I would like to deal with the evolutionary biological angle, but don’t want to wade through the entire thing.
BTW, That book looks to be at least not outlandish. Tipler’s more recent works (The Physics of Immortality, 1997, The Physics of Christianity, 2008) are batshit insane.
 

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Taranu June 28, 2009 at 9:14 am

Reginald, I don’t think you have to go through all the 736 pages. From as far as I was able to find out about their book, it seems that  Borrow and Tipler talk about many things like: stellar evolution, chemistry, dimensionality, the expansion of the Universe etc. Evolution is just another topic and should be restricted to one or few chapters.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a shorter document about the 10 allegedly improbable events, but I will keep looking.

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Scooter June 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Luke,

You know what’s sad?  This is how a fundie like Ray Comfort would reply to your thoughtful, heartfelt post:  “How long did you fake it?”

In his (and many other) mind, you were a “false convert”.

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lukeprog June 28, 2009 at 10:11 pm

eheffa,

That must have been very hard to learn you were deluded for 50 years! What was that like?

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lukeprog June 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Scooter,

Yeah, I get the “false convert” charge a lot. But everyone who knew me then know I was a “real Christian” for 20 years in every possible way.

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bitbutter June 29, 2009 at 3:25 am

Excellent post, bookmarked.

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Reginald Selkirk June 29, 2009 at 7:55 am

lukeprog: But everyone who knew me then know I was a “real Christian” for 20 years in every possible way.

Except that you couldn’t cast out devils, handle poisonous snakes and drink poison without harm, heal the sick by laying on hands (Mark 16:18) or move mountains by the power of faith alone (Matt 21:21).

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Taranu June 29, 2009 at 9:24 am

Reginald, today I kept looking for a shorter document about the 10  improbable events of evolution Craig talks about for as long as I had free time on my hands (which wasn’t really as much as one might think :(   ) but I was unable to find one. Perhaps Luke can help (if he’s willing to). Maybe he knows a website or something. I wouldn’t want to drop this because it’s been a while since I heard an argument against evolution and W. L. Craig is not really the ignorant type when it comes to arguments.

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Chuck June 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Is the argument against evolution or abiogenesis? Evolution is pretty well established.

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lukeprog June 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Reginald Selkirk: Except that you couldn’t cast out devils, handle poisonous snakes and drink poison without harm, heal the sick by laying on hands (Mark 16:18) or move mountains by the power of faith alone (Matt 21:21).

Oh, but I tried! I really tried.

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Jeff H June 29, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Chuck: Is the argument against evolution or abiogenesis? Evolution is pretty well established.

Yeah, in the debate that I went to involving Craig, the topic of evolution came up, and he said that he believed in evolution. I’m assuming some sort of theistic evolution. So I wouldn’t think that he would disagree with the theory as a whole…

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Chuck June 29, 2009 at 5:52 pm

The trouble with “theistic evolution” is that theists have never been able to explain where the “theistic” part comes in.

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Taranu June 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Chuck: Is the argument against evolution or abiogenesis? Evolution is pretty well established.

Craig says evolution is so improbable that it couldn’t have happened unless it was a miracle and thus evidence for the existence of God. The improbabilities he mentions are taken from a book called The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.

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James Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 3:44 am

Luke, I’m a Christian (specifically Calvinistic and Continuationist/Charismartic). Apologetically, I’m a Van Tillian (Revelationist) Presuppositionalist. I believe in Biblical Inerrancy, though, like W.L. Craig, I don’t think that the truth of Christianity hinges on Biblical inerrancy. But I’ll defend inerrancy in this response. I’m an amateur Calvinist apologist. Some of the better Calvinist apologists can be found at http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com. For example Steve Hays and Paul Manata. Though, not all the bloggers there are Calvinists.

This part 1 of series. Please forgive making the paragraphs too long, grammatical errors etc. I didn’t have the time to correct everything. I’m typing these things up as fast as I can.

Luke said…
“I didn’t understand why he would allow the Bible to say so many contradictory, awful, or silly things.”

Name the top 10 – 20 contradictions/discrepancies/errors (what I call “CDE”s) and I’ll be willing to address them. I’ve found that most of the alleged CDEs are easily resolved by looking in standard commentaries. Many of which are in public domain and have been around for centuries. Why atheists in general seem to be ignorant of the standard answers is, in my opinion sandalous.

Luke said…
“Did my loving God really command that rape victims must marry their rapists? What kind of “cultural context” could make that a loving thing to command?”

Rape was punishable by death as the preceding verses show.

ESV Study Bible note on Deut. 22:29 “Fifty shekels appears to be the bride-price (see Ex. 22:16). The law seeks to protect the woman who is less likely to be married because she has been violated.”

John Gill Commentary on these verses:
Ver. 28 . If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed , etc.] That is, meets with one in a field, which is not espoused to a man; and the man is supposed to be an unmarried man, as appears by what follows: and lay hold on her, and lie with her , she yielding to it, and so is not expressive of a rape, as ( Deuteronomy 22:25) where a different word from this is there used; which signifies taking strong hold of her, and ravishing her by force; yet this, though owing to his first violent seizure of her, and so different from what was obtained by enticing words, professions of love, and promises of marriage, and the like, as in ( Exodus 22:16,17) but not without her consent: and they be found ; in the field together, and in the fact; or however there are witnesses of it, or they themselves have confessed, it, and perhaps betrayed by her pregnancy.

Ver. 29 . Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver , &.] For the abuse of his daughter; and besides this was obliged to give her her dowry also, as Philo says, which is commonly said to be fifty more: and she shall be his wife ; if her father and she agreed to it; and in such a case the man was not at his liberty to refuse, be she what she would, agreeable or not, handsome or ugly; he must, as the Jews express it, drink out of his pot, or marry her, if she is lame, or blind, or full of ulcers f380 : because he hath humbled her he may not put her away all his days : to all the other parts of his punishment, paying a fine of fifty shekels to the damsel’s father, a dowry of the same sum to her, obligation to marry her whether he likes her or not, this is added, that he is not allowed to divorce her as long as he lives; which was permitted to other men, and this was wisely ordered to preserve chastity.

Luke said…
“Did he really demand that we not wear clothes made of two different kinds of cloths?”

Not “we”, but believers in the true God under the Old Covenant. New Covenant believers are not obligated to observe the ceremonial laws, unlike the moral laws which are still binding.

John Gill says, “the design of this, as of the other, seems to be in general to caution against unnatural lusts and impure mixtures, and all communion of good and bad men, and particularly [and prophetically as in a shadow, cf. Col. 2:16-17 and all of Galatians] against joining the righteousness of Christ with the works of men, in the business of justification: Christ’s righteousness is often compared to a garment, and sometimes to line linen, clean and white; and men’s righteousness to filthy rags, ( Revelation 19:8 Isaiah 64:6); which are by no means to be put together in the said affair; such who believe in Christ are justified by the obedience of one and not of more, and by faith in that obedience and righteousness, without the works of the law, ( Romans 5:19) ( Romans 3:28 4:6); to join them together is needless, disagreeable, and dangerous.”

ESV Study Bible note on Lev. 19:19 “Two different kinds of domesticated animals are not to be crossbred, and two types of cloth are not to be woven together. Ceremonial holiness requires that things stay in their proper sphere, just as Israel must observe its separation from the nations (20:22–26).”

Luke said…
“All the pastors I knew chose which verses still ‘counted’ and which ones didn’t, but the only criteria they ever used for doing so was what God told them.”

It’s not like these issue hasn’t been dealt with in numerous books. Not all Christian scholars agree on exactly how to but the practical conclusions lead to similar results. Namely, New Covenant Christians aren’t required to observe ceremonial laws.

For different but eye opening views on the subject, I recommend the following introductory books:
Five Views on Law and Gospel
Seventh-Day Adventism Refuted by D.M. Canright (online on various websites)
The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern (Jewish Believer in Jesus)
By This Standard by Greg L. Bahnsen (Covenant Theologian)
The articles by New Covenant Theologians at In Depth Studies (www.ids.org)

Luke said…
“But why put the bad or silly verses in there in the first place?”

It remains to be seen if there are any “bad” verses in there. So that’s begging the question. “Silliness” is a subjective term. Also, the book of Galatians and Colossians is clear that many OT laws were shadows and types that were fulfilled in Christ. Also that they had spiritual lessons both at the time they were given and (especially) for New Covenant believers.

Luke said…
“And why would God allow so much confusion? If he was all-powerful, surely he could communicate to his pastors more clearly.

Part of the problem too is that people are sinners as well as having a sinful nature that has detrimental noetic consequences. As sinners we have biases in interpretation of any text, whether it be the Bible or a logic textbook. Christians are in the process of sanctification. Only at glorification will Christians have all their doctrines straightend out. That’s when God will exert all His omnipotence to bring perfect holiness to believers in thought/knowledge, beliefs, affections/emotions and action.

Also, if Calvinism is true, then confusion, heresies and divisions have a providential purpose in Redemptive History.

1 Cor. 11:19
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (NIV)
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (KJV)
19For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. (NASB)

Yes, God could communicate more clearly in the Bible. But that assumes that the Bible was meant to be an open book in every sense. When in actuality, it was written so that 1. it’s a closed book to proud sinners and, 2. takes the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit for someone to even begin to understand and welcome/accept the spiritual meaning of the Bible.

1Cor. 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

J.I. Packer wrote, “One of the many divine qualities of the Bible is that it does not yield its secrets to the irreverent and the censorious.”

Luke said…
“And what about hell? How could a loving God send people to eternal torture just because they had never heard of him?”

People aren’t (won’t be) sent to hell because they had never heard of Jesus, but because of their sins of commission and omission. Whether they were 1. exposed to BOTH Special Revelation as found in the Bible and the Gospel, and General Revelation which all people are exposed to; or 2. were exposed only to General Revelation.

Luke said…
“What about all those billions of people in China and India?”
They are sinners too, like we are. There are no innocent folks in the deepest and darkest parts of Africa, China or India.

As a Calvinist (who leans toward Supralapsarianism), I do believe that God has predestined those who will be saved and those who will not be saved. But God has ordained both the ends and the means. That is, not only what WILL happen, but HOW they will happen. That’s why it’s sinners who have actually committed sins who will go to hell, not non-sinners. That’s also why evangelism is important, because God has ordained that those who are saved, are saved because they had the Gospel preached to them.

Christian of all sorts (including Calvinist) have different views on this issue. In fact, many Calvinists believe that infants who die in infancy can or will go to heaven even though they are guilt due to original sin. Jesus about young children, “Of such are the Kingdom of Heaven.” While most conservative Evangelicals like myself reject post-mortem evangelism, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility that God might save (or at least present the Gospel to) some people who die in unbelief (whether due to ignorance or outright rejection).

Luke said…
“Maybe people who had never heard of Jesus got a “free pass” to heaven, but then we should have stopped evangelizing right then and there.”

That assumes that God’s ONLY purpose is the salvation of the lost. That’s one of the purposes, but not the only. Among other purposes, there must also be difficulties that believers must endure or overcome for their greater rewards and God’s greater glory.

Luke said…
“After all, most people who heard about Jesus didn’t convert right away, so our painstaking evangelism could have been sending millions of people to hell who otherwise would have gone to heaven.”

No, I don’t believe that salvation is due to luck, chance, contingency, fortune etc. Not even to libertarian free will (the choices of which seems difficult to distinguish from fortuitous and chance-like events).

Luke said…
“What was the point of prayer? Jesus says clearly many times that prayer has power to change things, but much of the time it did nothing.”

The purpose of prayer goes beyond mere “results” (important as they are). There are many purposes to prayer. For example, God’s greater glory, and our greater good, and so that we can have fellowship with God, and God can have fellowship with us. Btw, as a continuationist, I believe that God does do the miraculous.

Luke said…
“It seemed totally random which prayers God wanted to answer, and which ones he didn’t.”

That’s because God is not only gracious, but also sovereign. As King, and in His omniscience and omnisapience, He ordains and permits everything that happens, even if some things are not sanctioned, approved or pleasing to Him. To be sure, as a Calvinist, I believe God sovereignly wills willingly, not unwillingly. But that doesn’t mean that everything He ordains is equally pleasing/approved/commended by Him.

Luke said…
“…but not answer the desperate prayers of millions of faithful believers pointlessly starving to death around the world?

Jesus Himself said that “…in this world you will have tribulation.” Paul said, “we must through many tribulations, enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Saying that it was “pointless” assumes you see with God’s omniscience and eternal perspective. You don’t have that eagle eye view to know whether it was pointless or not. The same goes for all PoE arguments against the existence of God based on gratuitious evil. Unless you are omniscient, you cannot know what is, or isn’t gratuitious.

Luke said…
“When I came to realize that the evidence for evolution was just too strong to deny, this brought up all new problems. Why would God allow mankind to evolve for millions of years of soulless, brutal existence only to imbue them with a soul at a certain time, and then show up a few thousand years later to change the whole plan with Jesus?”

What exactly is the objection supposed to be here? That’s like asking, why doesn’t Mary just go to Walmart and buy a Banana-Nut cake? Why go through all the hassle of collecting all the ingredients, combining them in the right proportions, and applying heat for a certain amount of time? Since anyone can go to Walmart and buy a Banana-Nut Cake, and since it’s much easier, Mary (likely) doesn’t exist. Having to bake one’s own cakes is an evidence of a lack of omnipotence. But those are non-sequiturs. Some people get something out of the actual experience of cooking/baking. Food can psychologically taste better when the cooking is viewed (cf. Benihana). There are plenty of bakers who bake never tasting their own food because they like to show off to their newphews/nieces (by analogy angels) and because those kids like to watch the process. Also, in all likelihood, the saints in heaven will be able to see (what amounts to) videos of God’s past providence. God as the Divine Sovereign and Artist not allowed to create in this way?? Why not? Fill in the gaps (no pun intended) in the argument like other atheists have attempted. Leaving it at that, you’re appeal to the, “God Is Not Like Me” Argument for the non-existence of God/gods. Namely, If *I* were God, I would do X. X isn’t done, therefore God doesn’t exist. But all that proves is that you’re not God. It doesn’t answer whether a God does or doesn’t exist. I’m open to the possibility of theistic evolution, though I think the case for atheistic macro-evolution is weak. I’m an Old Earth (Biblical, as opposed to Qur’anic etc.) Creationist like Hugh Ross. I recommend the materials at his ministry.

Luke said…
“And if all the Bible stories about creation were myths, why did he allow so many believers to take them literally? “

Well, something can be both literal an non-literal at the same time. One can literally say that the sun rose at 6:38 AM. Yet, at the same time, the sun didn’t “RISE” at that time. The Bible speaks phenomenologically and in a way that’s adapted to our perceptions. Nor does the Bible speak exhaustively. See Hugh Ross’ interpretation of the Genesis accounts. He takes them literally and shows how they fit with the scientific evidence. Not only in the particular steps revealed (what’s included and excluded), but also in the order in which the steps are carried out.

Luke said…
“And why, when Jesus came, did he simply repeat some moral aphorisms that had already been given by people before him (the golden rule, “obey God,” etc.)…”

Yes, Jesus did repeat some moral intuitions that other people and cultures already expressed. That’s because, all humans have been exposed to General Revelation (even if ignorant of Special Revelation) and also have the “work of the Law written on their hearts.” That’s why there are some commonalities between Jesus’ teaching and others (Confucius, Hillel et al.). But it’s also true that many of Jesus’ teachings were very novel (especially in the Jewish context in which they were originally given). For example, Jesus was implicitly claiming to be God by requiring the kind of allegiance that only God rightfully demands. He (and especially later through His appointed Apostles) taught a unique view of Salvation. Very few other religions (are there any others?) teach that God is absolutely holy and will punish sin, AND that salvation is by God’s pure grace received by faith alone.

Luke said…
“…instead of revealing something simple that could have saved billions of lives, like the germ theory of disease or the importance of sanitation?

Jesus was concerned about the physical aspect of men as well as their spiritual. That’s why He went about healing those who were sick. However, He believed that their spiritual state was of greater importance because it resulted in eternal consequences. For those who are saved, they will eventually receive incorruptible resurrection bodies. Germ theory, given enough time, would have eventually developed in all cultures because of the God given intelligence that people naturally have. Yet, on the other hand, you just objected to Jesus tell in us things that other cultures could have (or would have been able to) teach us. Also, many of the OT ceremonial laws, while not given primarily for their sanitary benefits, nevertheless had practical impact on the health of OT believers. I recommend reading None of These Diseases by S. I. McMillen. Some of the commandments were quantum advances in hygenic practices that wouldn’t be discovered millenial later.

Luke said…
“Besides, didn’t everybody believe in God? I didn’t know any atheists, and I thought they were maybe 0.5% of the population on earth. Radicals. Everybody knew they were wrong.

That’s part of the problem of the type of Christianity you were exposed to. Unfortunately, many continuationist groups (whether Pentacostals, Charismatics, etc.) have a strong anti-intellectualistic approach to Christianity. Unlike Reformation folks. Unfortunately, many Reformational folks are cessationists and function (for all practical purposes) as deists. But I praise God that there are a growing number of Calvinists who are Continuationists. For example, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, J. Rodman Williams, Sam Storms, Matt Slick, Vincent Cheung, Johanes Lilik Susanto et al.

Luke said…
“If anything, maybe Buddhists or Muslims were right. But that couldn’t be; I had experienced Jesus so I knew he was real. I had experienced him for over a decade, and so had almost everyone I knew. It simply wasn’t possible that all this was a mass delusion. No way. Not possible.”

While signs and wonders and experiences are meant to attest to the truth of Christianity, they cannot prove that Christianity is true, in and of themselves. Since experiences (even genuinely supernatural ones) are a dime-a-dozen. If Christianity is true, then demons can still perform lying signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9). What makes Christianity unique is that it has various evidences. For example, objective (external) scientific and empirical evidences, subjective existential (internal) evidences, rational evidences, supernatural evidences. Christianity can be argued for using inductive, deductive, abductive, or reductive arguments as well as by supernatural demonstration.natural and supernatural.

Luke said…
“I don’t recall thinking: “Wait a minute. There are people just like me who have experienced Krishna or Allah or Shiva personally, and are certain of their experiences. Everyone they know believes as they do. And yet I think they are suffering a mass delusion. “

As important and real experiences and feelings can be, they are (as I said) a dime-a-dozen. These alternative worldviews often lack the other evidences mentioned above for their beliefs. They often lack empirical evidences; have internal inconsistencies (illogical), and cannot provide for the preconditions of human experience and intelligibility (if not outright undermining them).

Luke said…
“On the way to a movie, I told my dad (a pastor) that I couldn’t find any good reasons to believe in God anymore. “

Being Vantillian more or less, I believe that all creation testifies to the existence of the Christian God. Everything we encounter whispers God’s existence so that none of us are without excuse. Though, I believe that that “voice” is not with the propositional and deductive certainty that atheists often demand. I don’t believe God, in this Age, presents us with rationally coercive evidence.

While Blaise Pascal was a Roman Catholic who rejected the “heretical” high predestinarianism of the Jansenites whom he was exposed to, he nevertheless himself had a high view of election. As a Calvinist, I can agree with some of the things he has said in his Pensées. For example:

563 The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it.

577 There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make them inexcusable.—Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sébond.

574 All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world, even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities which they do not understand.

562 It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion.

576 God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good of the elect.

Part of the quirks of human nature (often exacerbated by our sinfulness) is that we tend to believe what we want to believe deep in our hearts, and look for and find reasons to believe it. That’s not to say that people don’t genuinely have crises of faith and doubt. Most everyone has them (whether religious or not, Christian, Atheist, Muslim, or Jew). I’ve had them. From my Christian perspective, I think people given up too quickly when it comes to the examination of the evidence. While, I agree with Clarkian presuppositionalists that inductive investigation can never necessarily lead to truth, as a Vantillian, I think inductive investigation can be useful. As important as feelings are, unfortunately people are often RULED by their feelings and emotions. They feel something is true, and so continue to believe it as true. Then later, they feel that something is untrue and so start believing it’s untrue. All because feeling rule.

On the other hand, other people sometimes go in the other extreme, of demanding rational arguments that they require God to jump through their rational and empirical hoops such that if God doesn’t perform the tricks they want Him to, conclude that God cannot or probably doesn’t exist. If the Christian God exists, then, in one sense, investigation, is unnecessary (though neverthless encouraged) because He’s closer to us than we are to ourselves. If we literally had to go to the farthest star (or at least the solar debris formerly known as Pluto) to look for God because he’s hiding, then whatever God that is found wouldn’t be the Christian God (specifically as conceived by Calvinists). He’s a (an honest, humble) prayer away. Sometimes the prayers of doubt are the best prayers of all. Doubts can (and often do) have a benefitial effect on Christians. Bringing them to greater confidence of the truth of Christianity because of both the external evidences and the experience of God’s faithfulness. My recommendation is for you to keep praying. Pray that if there is a God that He/She/It would make His existence real to you (again?). Also, to realise the limits of your own rational powers. A consistent atheist (or better, agnostic) would conclude that there’s a possibility (even probability) there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in anyone’s philosophy. Maybe ultimate reality is inaccessible to to the human mind. That’s more likely than that all of ultimately reality is fully accessible to the finite human mind. The Christian believes that while ultimate reality (God) cannot be exhaustively comprehended, He can be genuinely/truly apprehended, known, loved, and related to as Creator, King, Redeemer, Father, Boss, co-operative partner, and friend (among other things).

Luke said…
“Even now that I knew it was a fairy tale, I wanted to take a pill that would make me believe it again. At least I would have a reason to live, a reason to help others. And I would have hope that my life wouldn’t be snuffed out by death. A world without God might be true, but it was unbearable.”

“But the more studying I did, the more I realized there was no reason to believe in any gods. And so I decided to look up what others had said about how to live without God.”

I’d like to know how you “knew [Christianity] was a fairy tale”? As you’re an expert on W.L. Craig, he often points out “Absence of evidence, is not evidence of absence.” Arguments from silence won’t do. There’s a difference between saying, there is NO (good?) evidence that Christianity is true (which I deny), and saying, there IS (good?) evidence that Christianity is false. What’s the evidence that Christianity is false and merely a fairy tale? While it’s true that some people believe that a god/God exists because they want to believe a God exists, that has nothing to do with the objective fact of whether a God really exists or not. Discovering the origins of a belief (or at least one origin) as being psychological and concluding that the belief is false is another non-sequitur. Maybe the thing that a person wants to believe as being true, also happens to actually be true. While I believe that many atheists want a God not to exist and are morally culpable for that before God, from the point view of argumentation, it’s irrelevant.

Luke said…
“I kept looking for God. Maybe he was out there somewhere, but nobody had correctly identified him. Surely, he wasn’t anything like Yahweh or Allah or Shiva.”

I recommend you keep looking. If the Christian God exists, then He’s faithful to His promises to be found by those who seek Him with all their heart and in honest (even skeptical) humility. There are increasing reports from all segments of Christianity (even cessationist branches) that Muslims are having supernatural dreams and/or visions of Jesus or angels indicating to them (often verbally) to believe in Jesus. Often pointing or leading them toward missionaries who can more fully relate to them the story of Jesus as based on the Bible. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s just increasing. I recommend the book Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson on this topic. I’d be interested in knowing how you can say, “Surely, he wasn’t anything like Yahweh or Allah or Shiva.”

Luke said…
For several weeks I prayed, “God, I don’t know if you exist or if you can hear me or if you care. But I just want you to know that I really want to know the real you, if you want to be known. I’m ready to know you as you really are, whoever you are.”

Several weeks isn’t very long. In the history of conversions, there have been people who have prayed for years till God revealed Himself to them fully.

Habermas retells a story found in Richardson’s book:

“For instance, Don Richardson has recorded numerous accounts where missionaries have encountered peoples who seemed to be specially prepared for the gospel by what they claimed was a revelation from God. In one case, a Gedeo man of Ethiopia prayed that God would reveal Himself to his people. He began having visions that “two white-skinned strangers” would come and build shelters like his people had never seen before within sight of a sycamore tree near one of their villages. He was informed that these two men would bring a message from God. Several “soothsayers” in the tribe added other details. The missionaries appeared eight years later, coming to the exact town the visionaries had predicted, stopping under the same sycamore tree! Thousands of the Gedeo people turned to God as a result.(17)” http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/why_believe/whybelieve.htm

End of part 1.

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William June 30, 2009 at 5:13 am

Wow!  I think James M. might need his own blog :)

@ Luke  -  As you know, I am a Christian.  This might be a shock to some, but I actually enjoy your blog.  Oh sure, you can be aggressive sometimes or use a bit of hyperbole to strengthen a point, but which of us doesn’t.  That’s the way humans communicate; especially when they are passionate about something.  (Just look at my rant with Lorkas last week.)  But I do enjoy your blog for the simple fact that it does challenge my thinking.
I believe that I have a strong faith and I am not afraid to test it.  The one thing that I don’t have is a lot of time.  So I ask is that you, please point me towards the very best book.  I will try to work this into my schedule over the next six months or so and get back to you on it.
In the meantime, I would like to take a peak at your library.  Tell me please, what books have had the greatest impact upon your thinking both as a believer and as a non-believer?  What’s on your Top Ten list? Which books inspired your faith and which ones challenged it?
Cheers,
 

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lukeprog June 30, 2009 at 7:07 am

James,

Thank you for your response – so many quick thoughts and links to other resources; very useful. I look forward to part 2. For now, I don’t have time to respond, but perhaps I will write some front-page posts in response to your points instead.

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lukeprog June 30, 2009 at 7:09 am

William,

I appreciate your offer to take up the challenge! In recommending a single book, it would be helpful to know what kind of Christian you are, and how much education you have in science, philosophy, and theology.

I should probably write a post on which books have impacted me the most. Stay tuned.

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Reginald Selkirk June 30, 2009 at 7:46 am

 

James Mayuga: Name the top 10 – 20 contradictions/discrepancies/errors (what I call “CDE”s) and I’ll be willing to address them. I’ve found that most of the alleged CDEs are easily resolved by looking in standard commentaries. Many of which are in public domain and have been around for centuries. Why atheists in general seem to be ignorant of the standard answers is, in my opinion scandalous.

Why theists in general seem to find works of scriptural apologism convincing is, in my opinion, scandalous.
Take a very simple contradiction, the two differing genealogies of Joseph in Matt 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-24. I’ve heard, for example, that one genealogy is supposed to be for Joseph, and the other for Mary. But this is clearly false. Both state clearly that they are for Joseph. That anyone would find that excuse to be passable indicates that their critical facilities are not engaged; that they don’t want to dig into the truth, but instead want someone to tell them that everything is alright.
The Bible has so many contradictions that someone could write a book about it. Oh look, someone did: Self-Contradictions of the Bible by William Henry Burr.
Besides, the Bible was assembled by a committee, so there was already an effort to exclude works that contradicted accepted doctrine; i.e. the gospels of Judas, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, etc. And still, the remaining canon (which differs from church to church, e.g. Roman Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Eastern Orthodox) contains contradictions.
 

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William June 30, 2009 at 8:11 am

Luke,
It would appear that you are trying not to overshoot my intellect, which is not hard to do, so I appreciate your effort.  Anyway.  I am reformed in my theology.  My formal education includes graduate work in engineering.  And I guess you would classify me as the average dinner-table philosopher.  All of the people that I typically hang around with (my wife and kids) are much smarter than I am in all of these subjects, which makes me feel about as smart as a box of rocks at times.  But I do meet the occasional “man on the street” that I can impress with my understanding of why his car won’t start, whether it be electrical problems, God’s providence, or his own existential projections.  So, let’s just say that I have an average knowledge in science, philosophy and theology.
 
But I am very interested in what’s on your book shelf.
 

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James Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 9:42 am

Luke, I’m typing these things up because I can relate to your experience. And I wonder if any serious Christian apologist has addressed your objections before. While there are other better Christian apologists out there (as I said, visit http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com), I can’t help but address this current blog of yours because your being especially personal. Btw, I’ve been monitoring your blog for a few months now.

I won’t fix the obvious typos in part 1. I’m sure you can get my meaning.

Things I forgot to mention in part 1:

1. By Biblical contradictions, I’m referring to the kinds one can find at http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com. I mention that website, not because I think it’s the best source for finding genuinely difficult passages in the Bible. But because many skeptics *think* it (and similar websites/books) is (are).

2. When I typed:

“Christian of all sorts (including Calvinist) have different views on this issue. In fact, many Calvinists believe that infants who die in infancy can or will go to heaven even though they are guilt due to original sin…” It was in response to this, your comment, “What about young children? Did they really deserve to go to hell?” I forgot to paste that. So, my comment looked like I was still talking about the previous issue.

. When the said the following, I’m sure you know that I was referring to the Genetic Fallacy.
“While it’s true that some people believe that a god/God exists because they want to believe a God exists, that has nothing to do with the objective fact of whether a God really exists or not. Discovering the origins of a belief (or at least one origin) as being psychological and concluding that the belief is false is another non-sequitur.”

3. When you bake a cake and follow the recipe, it’s important to i) have the right ingredients, ii) not have the wrong ingredients, iii) perform the operations in the right order. So for example, you need some kind of leavening agent (like yeast, or baking powder). Otherwise the cake won’t rise. You cannot have paper clips and gasoline in there, or it won’t be edible or tasty. Finally, you can’t put the frosting/icing at the wrong time. Unless you add the icing at the end, it just won’t come out right. The same goes for the order in which creation happened and mentioned in the Bible had to be just right. As Hugh Ross points out in his books.

CONTINUATION:

Part 2.

While I do recommend continuing investigation and research, it should also be recognized that no finite creature can have universal inductive experience. No creature can exhaustively search out all the evidence for or against belief in God (or anything else in the world). Whether one is 6 or 60 million years old. In one sense, we ought to be making informed decisions, and in another sense, no one can “fully” (in the sense of exhaustively) be informed. Though, we can and are informed enough by General Revelation so that we’re all without excuse. That’s the beauty of the consistently Christian (ie. Calvinist) position. While we are commanded and expected to search for God, if anyone does actually find God, it’s ultimately because God “found” (read “revealed Himself”) to them. Conversion is not, as Charles Finney taught, the result of the due use of means proper use of d

It’s not a matter of merely having the right kind, and adequate amount of evidences to convince someone of the truth of Christianity. It takes the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Much of traditional apologetics makes use of bad argumentation. With all due respect, Craig included. Fortunately, God can save people by the use of bad argumentation as well good argumentation. Because of these things (General Revelation, limited evidence, argumentation (even poorly/badly stated), the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, people can be saved. And, if Plantinga is right about belief in God being a properly basic belief due to our being made in the Imago Dei (and I believe he is right), then he’s right in thinking that that can account for why a child of five can rightfully believe in God without having to be able to articulate the reasons she does. Even if she hasn’t encounted all the arguments pro and con.

Luke said…
“And so I decided to look up what others had said about how to live without God.”

And until one can show how there can be universally binding morality if there were no God, then what others have to say about living as atheists is their mere fallible, and finite opinion.

Luke said…
“I should have realized this earlier, but of course there are millions of people throughout history who have lived happy, fulfilled, meaningful, moral lives without God.”

Yes, and many of them were addicts, sadists, murderers, thieves etc. They were able to achieve (delusional) “happiness/bliss” as well as fulfill their junkie, sadistic, murderous, and thieving designs and so were able to attain temporary non-absolute self-assigned non-universal subjective “meaning”. Hey, if one can reductionistically refer to people’s relationship with God as an invisible friend who grants their wishes, I think it’s only fair that I can refer to atheistic life in the way that I do. In fact, I would say it’s not only accurate, but not reductionistic. Unlike the former description.

Luke said…
“In fact, many of the most important scientists and philosophers of the last century were atheists, as are the two greatest philanthropists of all time (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). “

While not exactly commiting it, this statement rings of the Fallacy of Obsolescence. I could just as well illogically argue the opposite. That theism is true because older generations of scientists held to various theistic views, and what’s older is better (insert an irrational X criteria for why).

Luke said…
“In fact, I quickly felt even more fulfilled than I ever had as a Christian, even though I’d had some pretty high highs as a believer.”

Again, the problem of inductive experience. For all you know, Christianity might be true, and you die in unbelief, and had you remained a Christian, you would have a higher high than you ever had before for all eternity had you made it to paradise. But, instead, you end up having the lowest low you ever had (and that for all eternity). I have many reservations regarding Pascal’s Wager. Nevertheless, nothing gets around the fact that if Christianity is true, then for the non-Christian, earth is the closest thing to heaven he will ever experience. While for the Christian, earth is the closest thing to hell he will ever experience. Here’s a link to a chat log I have where I play the atheist advocate and show how Pascal’s Wager has a negative apologetical value
http://n.1asphost.com/bestrong/Does%20Pascal's%20Wager%20Have%20a%20Negative%20Apologetical%20Value.html
I’m Be`Strong/FakeAtheist

Luke said…
“…I didn’t have to juggle a thousand conflicting beliefs that didn’t add up. I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I think atheism is one of the most self-conflicting and self-inflicting worldviews. Presuppositionalists have pointed this out numerous times. One the one hand, many (not all) atheists consider themselves ‘freethinkers”. On the other hand, many (not all) of them hold to metaphysical views that would preclude freedom or thinking/deliberation. Often, they will hold to mechanistic materialism/naturalism, yet live and speak as if their choices aren’t deterministic. Don’t get me wrong. As a Calvinist, I’m a theistic determinist. Most Calvinists are compatibilists when it comes to the human will and reject libertarian free will. But a naturalistic atheist cannot is hard pressed to escape the reductionism of “eliminative materialism” whereby there are no personal agents, just impersonal agencies. All choices, thoughts, and beliefs are the products of fixed natural laws. In which case, if such a kind of atheism were true, then it would give us one of the greatest reasons to believe that our beliefs are false. Including the belief that atheism is true. Having said that, I don’t deny that there’s a distinction between hard/strong atheism and soft/weak atheism. Even that there are religious types of atheism (certain types of Buddhists), as well as non-materialistic versions (e.g. platonic atheism). Granting that the Big Bang theory is true, atheists often want us to believe that something came from nothing, life came from non-life, intelligence came from non-intelligence, morality came from non-morality, and meaning came from non-meaning.

I like what C.S. Lewis said, “Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too— for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense.

Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

So much more could be said about the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical problems and inconsistencies of atheism, but I have to move on.

Luke said…
“I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I would have to ask what your criteria for evidence is. How much evidence is necessary? How is evidence even acquired in your atheistic worldview? Empirically? Rationally? Mystically? Intuitionally? Or a combination (of some) of them? Why accept those criteria since each has their problem for finite creatures (especially atheists). Let me mention just one problem in each. Why assume that there is any connection or relationship between subjective knower and the external object (supposedly) being known? As I’m not a Chuengian Scripturalist, but as Vincent Cheung points out, there’s a logical leap between “I preceive/think/believe I’m seeing a red car in the parking lot” and “There is a red car in the parking lot”. When it comes to rationalism, unless you have access to truly indubitable premises, then you cannot come to deductively valid AND sound conclusions. Pure rationalism would require an internalist and infallibilist constraint on knowledge. And so you reduced to inductive inferences. But they cannot lead to certainty at all. As even Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper have pointed out.

Luke said…
“I tell you all this, believer, because I want you to know that I get it. I haven’t had your exact experiences, and I never believed exactly as you do, but I get it. I know what’s it like to be a believer. I know what it’s like to experience God and love him with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is real. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be flawed. They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.

Since we’re now talking autobiographically, many current Christians can also attest to knowing what it’s like to be an atheist. I get it too. I used to be an atheist myself. I know what’s it like to be an unbeliever. I know what it’s like to experience the feeling of “freedom” one gets when one does not believe in God, and to love myself (selfishly) with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is unreal. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be flawed.

Luke said…
“They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.
An atheist on the internet pointed out that I literally believed I had a magical invisible friend who could grant me wishes.”

That’s extremely reductionistic and misleading. Magic is an ambiguous term that can mean many different things. It also has the unsavory connotation of something being inexplicable, and irrational. While God is invisible physically through the optical nerve, God can be seen by His activities, creation, and providence, answers to prayers, etc. Finally, the term “wishes” gives the impression that God were a finite, capricious genie who’s job it is to grant my every whim. It’s a reductionistic caricature. It’s analogous to a son calling his loving father the “sperm donor” whose actions resulted in his emergence into the world.

Luke said…
“Of course, I preferred to describe my belief in other terms, but I had to admit that was literally what I believed.

I thought, “Woah. Woah, there. Maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about this.” “

This is the first time you thought about how a non-Christian might view your belief system and you were shocked? I was aprox. 13 years old when I first became a serious Christian and that thought entered my mind immediately. I’m sure many other Christians have thought of that before too. Also, just because I became a Christian at such a young age, doesn’t necessarily mean that I continue to be so because of mere habit or out of comfort. Though, I don’t deny such influences. There have been times in my Christian life I’ve been a mere spiritual sycophant. But I’ve been exposed many of the common arguments against and objections to Christianity and I don’t find them very convincing. While there have been times when I could have lost my faith (if left to myself), it was God who caused me to continue to persevere in faith. That’s partly why I’m a Calvinist. Because, if it was ultimately left up to me, I know I could never continue in faith. The temptations of this world are too strong, and the trials of faith too difficult to continue if God didn’t uphold me and my faith by His faithful kindness. As Francis Thompson said in his famous poem, God is the “Hound of Heaven.” Or as a Hymn has put it, His love is the kind that will not let me go.

Luke said…
“When I looked at the arguments with the real understanding that they could both be flawed, I found the atheist arguments much more persuasive, and I lost my faith.

While there are many good and useful things in traditional apologetics (whether, Classical apologetics, Evidentialist, Cummulative Case, Historical etc.), if not framed presuppositionally, then it leads to serious problems in argumentation. Moreover, those traditional approaches don’t challenge those non-Christian worldviews to give an account of the possibility of argumentation itself, given their worldview. Christianity not only can make sense of the evidence, it can make sense of the the ability to make sense of the evidence. That is, provides for the preconditions of argumentation and evidence itself. Does that, in itself prove Christianity is true? Of course not, since consist and useful theories can nevertheless be false. That’s one of the limitations of Abductive presuppositionalism whereby one reasons/infers to the better/best hypothesis (or hypotheses, theory/theories). To those or that one which has the greater explanatory power and scope.

Luke said…
“So what I ask of you is this: Try to rattle your own faith. Shake it up. Cause as much doubt as you can. Read what the best of the opposition has to say, and take it seriously. Describe your own faith in the most contentious terms possible…”

Say Christianity is true, then that advice would be one of the most dangerous things one can do. Especially since it seem to assume that one can only become a Christian if all the evidence or even the preponderance of the evidence leans towards Christianity. It assumes that that’s the only or greatest basis upon which to determine whether Christianity is true or respectably and reasonably acceptable/assentable.

To avoid being charged with the Special Pleading Fallacy, insert other religions in that above statement. But again, this goes back to our presuppositional commitments. Is it possible to be epistemically and morally neutral? I believe the consistently Christian position on that issue is no. That’s precisely what the devil did in tempting Eve. “Eve, you don’t know whether what God says is true or not, so you might as well test it be partaking of the forbidden fruit.” Inductive experience was to be the ultimately criterion upon which to make a decision. When maybe it shouldn’t have been the greatest criterion. Maybe God has provided only enough evidence that it requires His grace to accept the truth, and His continue grace to maintain faith. In which case, the position that assumes that faith is ultimately determined by the person who exercises it (as the Arminian-type of Christianity you were exposed to taught), then there will be a tendancy to examine the evidence apart from the assistance and dependance of God. Hypothetically, Eve could have asked God, why He didn’t want them to eat of the forbidden tree. Maybe God would have given a good reason. But once the devil sowed seeds of doubt in a person, that can lead the person to stop asking God for help in dealing with doubts and seemingly contradictory evidence. In fact, it can lead to a person concluding (falsely) that the most objective, rational and unbiased way to examine the evidence is actually by *intentionally* to stop praying and asking for wisdom and try to go it alone in one’s own mind. Yet, those same people will place much confidence in and resort to the resources (books) and advice of people hostile to that position. The Christian position is that of the father of the epileptic son, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Or in this case, “I don’t believe, if You exist, help my unbelief!” Luke, I encourage you to keep studying and learning. You’re a much brighter person than I am. But I would also encourage you to keep a humble and prayerful attitude in all your studies. I’m sure you would say the same thing to me, but probably without the prayerful attitude. Or maybe, you would say that, since, you might say, “For all we know, both of us are wrong, and Muslims are right.” In fact, atheism might be true, and strange contingent/fortuitous things happen in this weird world. That’s why, if I were an atheist, I would be a dogmatic materialist or naturalist. No amount of induction can lead one to conclude that naturalism is true. A consistent atheist should be open to the possibility of the paranormal, preternatural, extra-terrestial (all that Art Bell kind of stuff). Well, I’ve got to end part 2 here because of other commitments. So I’ll end it this way. I previously said what I said about how claimed supernatural occurances cannot prove that a particular worldview is true. For all we know, all the miracles found in the Christian and non-Christian religions are the practical jokes of some advanced extra-terrestrial species. But I personally have had what appeared to me to be (and continues to convince me were) supernatural experiences. I’d rather not mention them here because they are so very personal. But what I can do is refer you to a Christian ministry that I think is the best example I can think of when it comes to a genuine and truly respectable Christian ministry that moves in the supernatural. Among the ones I could mention, I’ll mention Roger Sapp’s ministry. He’s definitely NOT a Calvinist like I am. My views on healing would be slightly different than his. But I nevertheless believe his ministry is “of”, “from” and “blessed” by God.

His website is at http://www.allnationsmin.org

His teaching material can be freely downloaded at this link:
http://www.allnationsmin.org/downloads.aspx

Here are more links to audio/video of Dr. Sapp’s sermons on Healing

audio interview by Sid Roth of Dr. Sapp
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=rad_&page=NewsArticle&id=6054&security=1042

Different Video interview of Dr. Sapp by Sid Roth
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=5978&security=1041&news_iv_ctrl=1192

Creating the Right Spiritual Chemistry for Healing
http://www.jacobswell.org.uk/kingdomhealing/index.asp

Eight sermons by Dr. Sapp (Christ Centered Healing Ministry Seminar)
http://www.newlifegrandrapids.org/app/w_page.php?type=section&id=43

place cursor on top of the arrow in the simulated Ipod to scroll down to Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.nlvb.org/pwsite/page.php?linkID=1861

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/39359

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/193575

Six EXTREMELY Large files of Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.401kideas.com/zionpc/zcfcast.xml

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Reginald Selkirk June 30, 2009 at 11:19 am

“Atheism: The Case Against God”, by George Smith.

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James Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Mr. Reginald Selkirk,

I specifically asked (Luke, btw) or the top 10 (or so) CDEs because anyone can present the worst cases of alleged contradictions and wait till all of them have been answered from the smallest to the largest because it can be an evasive maneuver to delay having to take seroiusly the claims of Jesus on one’s life. I’m not saying you’re doing that. Also, if the “greatest” alleged contradictions of the Bible can be easily answered, that ways a lot about the other lesser claimed CDEs. If the greatest can be resolved, then maybe the lesser ones can be too. Thus strengthening the plausibility that the Bible is true. I don’t have the time to answer every person’s comments and questions. I’d like to focus on Luke because he’s a more strategic “adversary” .

I hope the following will help you out in your search for the truth. Btw, I’ve read George H. Smith’s book. Not very good. There are better atheistic books out there.

It’s enough to show that there is no logically necessary contradiction in a Biblical passages to extricate it from the charge of a clear and irresolveable contradiction. That’s the nature of necessary logical contradictions. Even if one cannot discern for certain which possible resolution is the correct one. Just as we can believe that light behaves like a wave “sometimes” and at other “times” like a particle. Even if a solution isn’t yet available.

The following are quotes from various books on the topic.

From which of David’s sons was Jesus descended? In Matthew 1:6 Jesus’ ancestry is traced through Solomon, while in Luke 3:31 it is traced through Nathan.

Matthew 1:1-16 gives the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, who was himself a descendant of King David. As Joseph’s adopted Son, Jesus became his legal heir, so far as his inheritance was concerned. Notice carefully the wording of v.16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (NASB). This stands in contrast to the format followed in the preceding verses of the succession of Joseph’s ancestors: “Abraham begat [ egennesen ] Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, etc.” Joseph is not said to have begotten Jesus; rather he is referred to as “the husband of Mary, of whom [feminine genitive] Jesus was born.”

Luke 3:23-38 , on the other hand, seems to record the genealogical line of Mary herself, carried all the way back beyond the time of Abraham to Adam and the commencement of the human race. This seems to be implied by the wording of v.23: “Jesus…being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” This “as was supposed” indicates that Jesus was not really the biological son of Joseph, even though this was commonly assumed by the public. It further calls attention to the mother, Mary, who must of necessity have been the sole human parent through whom Jesus could have descended from a line of ancestors. Her genealogy is thereupon listed, starting with Heli, who was actually Joseph’s father-in-law, in contradistinction to Joseph’s own father, Jacob ( Matt. 1:16 ). Mary’s line of descent came through Nathan, a son of Bathsheba (or “Bathshua,” according to 1 Chron. 3:5 ), the wife of David. Therefore, Jesus was descended from David naturally through Nathan and legally through Solomon.
from “The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties” by Gleason L. Archer
************************

LUKE 3:23—Why does Luke present a different ancestral tree for Jesus than the
one in Matthew?
PROBLEM: Jesus has a different grandfather here in Luke 3:23 (Heli) than He does
in Matthew 1:16 (Jacob). Which one is the right one?
SOLUTION: This should be expected, since they are two different lines of ancestors,
one traced through His legal father, Joseph and the other through His actual
mother, Mary. Matthew gives the official line, since he addresses Jesus’ genealogy
to Jewish concerns for the Jewish Messiah’s credentials which required that
Messiah come from the seed of Abraham and the line of David (cf. Matt. 1:1).
Luke, with a broader Greek audience in view, addresses himself to their interest in
Jesus as the Perfect Man (which was the quest of Greek thought). Thus, he traces
Jesus back to the first man, Adam (Luke 3:38).
That Matthew gives Jesus’ paternal genealogy and Luke his maternal
genealogy is further supported by several facts. First of all, while both lines trace
Christ to David, each is through a different son of David. Matthew traces Jesus
through Joseph (his legal father) to David’s son, Solomon the king, by whom
Christ rightfully inherited the throne of David (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12ff). Luke’s purpose,
on the other hand, is to show Christ as an actual human. So he traces Christ to
David’s son, Nathan, through his actual mother, Mary, through whom He can
rightfully claim to be fully human, the redeemer of humanity.
Further, Luke does not say that he is giving Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph.
Rather, he notes that Jesus was “as was supposed” (Luke 3:23) the son of Joseph,
while He was actually the son of Mary. Also, that Luke would record Mary’s
genealogy fits with his interest as a doctor in mothers and birth and with his
emphasis on women in his Gospel which has been called “the Gospel for
Women.”
Finally, the fact that the two genealogies have some names in common (such
as Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, Matt. 1:12; cf. Luke 3:27) does not prove they are the
same genealogy for two reasons. One, these are not uncommon names. Further,
even the same genealogy (Luke’s) has a repeat of the names Joseph and Judah
(3:26, 30).
from “When Critics Ask” by Norman Geisler, alternatively titled “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties”
************************

There are two principle theories respecting these genealogies.
1. That held by Alford, Ellicott, Hervey, Meyer, Mill, Patritius, Wordsworth, and others – that both genealogies are Joseph’s; Matthew exhibiting him as the legal heir to the throne of David, that is, naming the successive heirs of the kingdom from David to Jesus the reputed son of Joseph; while Luke gives Joseph’s private genealogy or actual descent. This theory is very ingeniously and elaborately set forth in Lord Arthur Hervey’s work upon the subject, to which the reader is referred. 2. That held by Auberlen, Ebrard, Greswell, Kurtz, Lange, Lightfoot, Michaelis, Neander, Robinson, Surenhusius, Wieseler, and others – that Matthew gives Joseph’s, and Luke, Mary’s, genealogy. Although the alleged discrepancies may be removed upon either hypothesis, yet we must give the preference to the second, for the following reasons.
(1) The latter theory seems supported by the several early Christian writers, – Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Athanasius, and Justin Martyr.
(2) It is indirectly confirmed by Jewish tradition. Lightfoot cites from the Talmudic writers concerning the pains of hell, the statement that Mary the daughter of Heli was seen in the infernal regions, suffering horrid tortures. This statement illustrates, not only the bitter animosity of the Jews toward the Christian religion, but also the fact that, according to received Jewish tradition, Mary was the daughter of Heli; hence, that it is her genealogy which we find in Luke.
(3)This theory show us in what way Christ was the “Son of David.” If Mary was the daughter of Heli, then Jesus was strictly a descendant of David, not only legally, through his reputed father, but actually, by direct personal descent, through his mother. The latter consideration is one of the very first interest and importance.
(4) This theory affords a very simple explanation of the whole matter. Mary, since she had no brothers, was an heiress; therefore her husband, according to Jewish law, was reckoned among her father’s family, as his son. So that Joseph was the actual son of Jacob, and the legal son of Heli. In a word, Matthew sets forth Jesus’ right to the theocratic crown; Luke, his natural pedigree. The latter employs Joseph’s name, instead of Mary’s, in accordance with the Israelite law that “genealogies must be reckoned by fathers, not mothers.” For the remaining difficulties of the cas, see discussion elsewhere.
from “Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible” by John W. Haley
************************
concerning Luke 3:23-38:

A literal translation of the Greek text starting at v. 23 would be: “and Yeshua himself was beginning about thirty years, being son, as was supposed, of Yosef, of the Eli, of the Mattat, of the L’vi,” etc. The questions raised here are: What does it mean to be “of” someone? and which person is described as being “of the Eli”? – Yosef or Yeshua?
If Yosef is here reported to be the son of Eli, there is an apparent conflict with Mt 1:16, which reads, “Ya`akov was the father of Yosef, the husband of Miryam, from whom was born the Yeshua that was called the Messiah.” But the genealogies of both Mattityahu and Luke employ unusual language in connection with Yeshua – and with good reason, since both assert that he had no human father in the ordinary sense of the word, but that the virgin Miryam was caused to bear Yeshua by the Holy Spirit of God in a supernatural way; see Mt 1:16N.
If this is so, what do the genealogies mean? The simplest explanation is that Mattityahu gives the genealogy of Yosef, who, though not Yeshua’s physical father, was regarded as his father by people generally (below, 4:22; Yn 1:45, 6:42); while Luke gives the genealogy of Yeshua through his mother Miryam, the daughter of Eli. If so, Yeshua is “of the Eli” in the sense of being his grandson; while Yeshua’s relationship with Yosef is portrayed in the words, “son, as supposed” – implying not actually; see numbered paragraph (2) of Note on “Son of” Mat 1:1N.
Luke’s language also distinguishes Yosef from Yeshua’s direct ancestors by not including the word “the” before “Yosef” in the original Greek. “By the omission of the article, Joseph’s name is separated from the genealogical chain and accorded a place of its own” (F. Rienecker, Praktisches Handkommetar Zu Lukas Evangelium) 1930, p. 302, as cited in A Jewish Christian Response by the Messianic Jew Louis Goldberg).
A different explanation of these anomalies is to make not Yeshua but Yosef the grandson of Eli on his mother’s side. In the JNT text as it stands I have opted for this explanation; that is the significance of my reintroducing the word “the” as a demonstrative: It was supposed that Yeshua was a son of the particular Yosef who was, on his mother’s side, the grandson of Eli, son of Mattat, son of L’vi…. But I have no strong attachment to this explanation; the other equally satisfying and and equally problematical.
The two genealogies also raise the question of how Yeshua can claim the throne of his ancestor King David (see Mt 1:1N on “the son of David”). The argument against him is that even if Luke’s genealogy is of Miryam and goes back to David, it doesn’t help Yeshua; because descent, for purposes of inheriting kingship, cannot be counted through the mother. And if Yosef is not Yeshua’s physical father, his legal status as Yeshua’s adoptive father, even though adequate for establishing Yeshua’s legal right to King David’s throne (see Mt 1:24-25N), is insufficient to fulfill the prophecy of 2 Samuel 7:12 to David, “And when your days are fulfilled and you sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will issue from your bowels.” But there is a descent from David, whether it applies to Yosef or to Miryam, and no genealogy could cope with the radically unique circumstances of Yeshua’s birht as God’s “only and unique” son (Yn 1:18&N) with no human physical father. Such circumstances transcend pedestrian application of genealogies. Yeshua was the see of David, phyiscally from his loins, in the manner and to the degree that these circumstances admit; also see Mt 1:16N.
from “The Jewish New Testament Commentary” p. 112-113 by David H. Stern (himself a Jewish Messianic believer in Jesus)
************************

Yosef, the husband of Miryam, from whom was born…Yeshua.

The change in language from the litany, “X was the father of Y,” signals that Yeshua was not conceived in the usual way; other passages state that the Holy Spirit of God overshadowed Miryam…
from “The Jewish New Testament Commentary” p. 3 by David H. Stern (himself a Jewish Messianic believer in Jesus)
************************

Yosef’s behavior shows that he accepted Yeshua as his son. According to the Mishna, “If one say, ‘This is my son,’ he is to be believed” (Bava Batra 8:6). The Gamara explains that he is believed “as regards the right of inheritance” (Bava Batra 134a). Thus Yeshua, as a legally acknowledged son, is entitled to inherit the throne of King David from Yosef, as descendant of David (v. 8). (This point is made in Phillip Goble, How to Point to Yeshua in Your Rabbi’s Bible, New York: Artists for Israel 1986.)
from “The Jewish New Testament Commentary” p. 8 by David H. Stern (himself a Jewish Messianic believer in Jesus)
************************
By the way, one of the foremost apologists who focuses on the Messianic credentials of Jesus who is also himself a Messianic Jewish believer in Jesus is Michael L. Brown. He’s got a 4 volume book titled “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” he deals with this issue in pages 76-83 of volume 4. That’s seven full pages. I don’t have the time to type it all up.

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James Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Luke, I’m typing these things up because I can relate to your experience. And I wonder if any serious Christian apologist has addressed your objections before. While there are other better Christian apologists out there (as I said, visit http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com), I can’t help but address this current blog of yours because your being especially personal. Btw, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now.

I won’t fix the obvious typos in part 1. I’m sure you can get my meaning.

Things I forgot to mention in part 1:

1. By Biblical contradictions, I’m referring to the kinds one can find at http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com. I mention that website, not because I think it’s the best source for finding genuinely difficult passages in the Bible. But because many skeptics *think* it (and similar websites/books) is (are).

2. When I typed:

“Christian of all sorts (including Calvinist) have different views on this issue. In fact, many Calvinists believe that infants who die in infancy can or will go to heaven even though they are guilt due to original sin…” It was in response to this, your comment, “What about young children? Did they really deserve to go to hell?” I forgot to paste that. So, my comment looked like I was still talking about the previous issue.

. When the said the following, I’m sure you know that I was referring to the Genetic Fallacy.
“While it’s true that some people believe that a god/God exists because they want to believe a God exists, that has nothing to do with the objective fact of whether a God really exists or not. Discovering the origins of a belief (or at least one origin) as being psychological and concluding that the belief is false is another non-sequitur.”

3. When you bake a cake and follow the recipe, it’s important to i) have the right ingredients, ii) not have the wrong ingredients, iii) perform the operations in the right order. So for example, you need some kind of leavening agent (like yeast, or baking powder). Otherwise the cake won’t rise. You cannot have paper clips and gasoline in there, or it won’t be edible or tasty. Finally, you can’t put the frosting/icing at the wrong time. Unless you add the icing at the end, it just won’t come out right. The same goes for the order in which creation happened and mentioned in the Bible had to be just right. As Hugh Ross points out in his books.

CONTINUATION:

Part 2.

While I do recommend continuing investigation and research, it should also be recognized that no finite creature can have universal inductive experience. No creature can exhaustively search out all the evidence for or against belief in God (or anything else in the world). Whether one is 6 or 60 million years old. In one sense, we ought to be making informed decisions, and in another sense, no one can “fully” (in the sense of exhaustively) be informed. Though, we can and are informed enough by General Revelation so that we’re all without excuse. That’s the beauty of the consistently Christian (ie. Calvinist) position. While we are commanded and expected to search for God, if anyone does actually find God, it’s ultimately because God “found” (read “revealed Himself”) to them. Conversion is not, as Charles Finney taught, the result of the due use of means proper use of d

It’s not a matter of merely having the right kind, and adequate amount of evidences to convince someone of the truth of Christianity. It takes the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Much of traditional apologetics makes use of bad argumentation. With all due respect, Craig included. Fortunately, God can save people by the use of bad argumentation as well good argumentation. Because of these things (General Revelation, limited evidence, argumentation (even poorly/badly stated), the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, people can be saved. And, if Plantinga is right about belief in God being a properly basic belief due to our being made in the Imago Dei (and I believe he is right), then he’s right in thinking that that can account for why a child of five can rightfully believe in God without having to be able to articulate the reasons she does. Even if she hasn’t encounted all the arguments pro and con.

Luke said…
“And so I decided to look up what others had said about how to live without God.”

And until one can show how there can be universally binding morality if there were no God, then what others have to say about living as atheists is their mere fallible, and finite opinion.

Luke said…
“I should have realized this earlier, but of course there are millions of people throughout history who have lived happy, fulfilled, meaningful, moral lives without God.”

Yes, and many of them were addicts, sadists, murderers, thieves etc. They were able to achieve (delusional) “happiness/bliss” as well as fulfill their junkie, sadistic, murderous, and thieving designs and so were able to attain temporary non-absolute self-assigned non-universal subjective “meaning”. Hey, if one can reductionistically refer to people’s relationship with God as an invisible friend who grants their wishes, I think it’s only fair that I can refer to atheistic life in the way that I do. In fact, I would say it’s not only accurate, but not reductionistic. Unlike the former description.

Luke said…
“In fact, many of the most important scientists and philosophers of the last century were atheists, as are the two greatest philanthropists of all time (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). “

While not exactly commiting it, this statement rings of the Fallacy of Obsolescence. I could just as well illogically argue the opposite. That theism is true because older generations of scientists held to various theistic views, and what’s older is better (insert an irrational X criteria for why).

Luke said…
“In fact, I quickly felt even more fulfilled than I ever had as a Christian, even though I’d had some pretty high highs as a believer.”

Again, the problem of inductive experience. For all you know, Christianity might be true, and you die in unbelief, and had you remained a Christian, you would have a higher high than you ever had before for all eternity had you made it to paradise. But, instead, you end up having the lowest low you ever had (and that for all eternity). I have many reservations regarding Pascal’s Wager. Nevertheless, nothing gets around the fact that if Christianity is true, then for the non-Christian, earth is the closest thing to heaven he will ever experience. While for the Christian, earth is the closest thing to hell he will ever experience. Here’s a link to a chat log I have where I play the atheist advocate and show how Pascal’s Wager has a negative apologetical value
http://n.1asphost.com/bestrong/Does%20Pascal's%20Wager%20Have%20a%20Negative%20Apologetical%20Value.html
I’m Be`Strong/FakeAtheist

Luke said…
“…I didn’t have to juggle a thousand conflicting beliefs that didn’t add up. I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I think atheism is one of the most self-conflicting and self-inflicting worldviews. Presuppositionalists have pointed this out numerous times. One the one hand, many (not all) atheists consider themselves ‘freethinkers”. On the other hand, many (not all) of them hold to metaphysical views that would preclude freedom or thinking/deliberation. Often, they will hold to mechanistic materialism/naturalism, yet live and speak as if their choices aren’t deterministic. Don’t get me wrong. As a Calvinist, I’m a theistic determinist. Most Calvinists are compatibilists when it comes to the human will and reject libertarian free will. But a naturalistic atheist cannot is hard pressed to escape the reductionism of “eliminative materialism” whereby there are no personal agents, just impersonal agencies. All choices, thoughts, and beliefs are the products of fixed natural laws. In which case, if such a kind of atheism were true, then it would give us one of the greatest reasons to believe that our beliefs are false. Including the belief that atheism is true. Having said that, I don’t deny that there’s a distinction between hard/strong atheism and soft/weak atheism. Even that there are religious types of atheism (certain types of Buddhists), as well as non-materialistic versions (e.g. platonic atheism). Granting that the Big Bang theory is true, atheists often want us to believe that something came from nothing, life came from non-life, intelligence came from non-intelligence, morality came from non-morality, and meaning came from non-meaning.

I like what C.S. Lewis said, “Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too— for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense.

Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

So much more could be said about the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical problems and inconsistencies of atheism, but I have to move on.

Luke said…
“I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I would have to ask what your criteria for evidence is. How much evidence is necessary? How is evidence even acquired in your atheistic worldview? Empirically? Rationally? Mystically? Intuitionally? Or a combination (of some) of them? Why accept those criteria since each has their problem for finite creatures (especially atheists). Let me mention just one problem in each. Why assume that there is any connection or relationship between subjective knower and the external object (supposedly) being known? As I’m not a Chuengian Scripturalist, but as Vincent Cheung points out, there’s a logical leap between “I preceive/think/believe I’m seeing a red car in the parking lot” and “There is a red car in the parking lot”. When it comes to rationalism, unless you have access to truly indubitable premises, then you cannot come to deductively valid AND sound conclusions. Pure rationalism would require an internalist and infallibilist constraint on knowledge. And so you reduced to inductive inferences. But they cannot lead to certainty at all. As even Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper have pointed out.

Luke said…
“I tell you all this, believer, because I want you to know that I get it. I haven’t had your exact experiences, and I never believed exactly as you do, but I get it. I know what’s it like to be a believer. I know what it’s like to experience God and love him with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is real. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be flawed. They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.

Since we’re now talking autobiographically, many current Christians can also attest to knowing what it’s like to be an atheist. I get it too. I used to be an atheist myself. I know what’s it like to be an unbeliever. I know what it’s like to experience the feeling of “freedom” one gets when one does not believe in God, and to love myself (selfishly) with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is unreal. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be flawed.

Luke said…
“They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.
An atheist on the internet pointed out that I literally believed I had a magical invisible friend who could grant me wishes.”

That’s extremely reductionistic and misleading. Magic is an ambiguous term that can mean many different things. It also has the unsavory connotation of something being inexplicable, and irrational. While God is invisible physically through the optical nerve, God can be seen by His activities, creation, and providence, answers to prayers, etc. Finally, the term “wishes” gives the impression that God were a finite, capricious genie who’s job it is to grant my every whim. It’s a reductionistic caricature. It’s analogous to a son calling his loving father the “sperm donor” whose actions resulted in his emergence into the world.

Luke said…
“Of course, I preferred to describe my belief in other terms, but I had to admit that was literally what I believed.

I thought, “Woah. Woah, there. Maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about this.” “

This is the first time you thought about how a non-Christian might view your belief system and you were shocked? I was aprox. 13 years old when I first became a serious Christian and that thought entered my mind immediately. I’m sure many other Christians have thought of that before too. Also, just because I became a Christian at such a young age, doesn’t necessarily mean that I continue to be so because of mere habit or out of comfort. Though, I don’t deny such influences. There have been times in my Christian life I’ve been a mere spiritual sycophant. But I’ve been exposed many of the common arguments against and objections to Christianity and I don’t find them very convincing. While there have been times when I could have lost my faith (if left to myself), it was God who caused me to continue to persevere in faith. That’s partly why I’m a Calvinist. Because, if it was ultimately left up to me, I know I could never continue in faith. The temptations of this world are too strong, and the trials of faith too difficult to continue if God didn’t uphold me and my faith by His faithful kindness. As Francis Thompson said in his famous poem, God is the “Hound of Heaven.” Or as a Hymn has put it, His love is the kind that will not let me go.

Luke said…
“When I looked at the arguments with the real understanding that they could both be flawed, I found the atheist arguments much more persuasive, and I lost my faith.

While there are many good and useful things in traditional apologetics (whether, Classical apologetics, Evidentialist, Cummulative Case, Historical etc.), if not framed presuppositionally, then it leads to serious problems in argumentation. Moreover, those traditional approaches don’t challenge those non-Christian worldviews to give an account of the possibility of argumentation itself, given their worldview. Christianity not only can make sense of the evidence, it can make sense of the the ability to make sense of the evidence. That is, provides for the preconditions of argumentation and evidence itself. Does that, in itself prove Christianity is true? Of course not, since consist and useful theories can nevertheless be false. That’s one of the limitations of Abductive presuppositionalism whereby one reasons/infers to the better/best hypothesis (or hypotheses, theory/theories). To those or that one which has the greater explanatory power and scope.

Luke said…
“So what I ask of you is this: Try to rattle your own faith. Shake it up. Cause as much doubt as you can. Read what the best of the opposition has to say, and take it seriously. Describe your own faith in the most contentious terms possible…”

Say Christianity is true, then that advice would be one of the most dangerous things one can do. Especially since it seem to assume that one can only become a Christian if all the evidence or even the preponderance of the evidence leans towards Christianity. It assumes that that’s the only or greatest basis upon which to determine whether Christianity is true or respectably and reasonably acceptable/assentable.

To avoid being charged with the Special Pleading Fallacy, insert other religions in that above statement. But again, this goes back to our presuppositional commitments. Is it possible to be epistemically and morally neutral? I believe the consistently Christian position on that issue is no. That’s precisely what the devil did in tempting Eve. “Eve, you don’t know whether what God says is true or not, so you might as well test it be partaking of the forbidden fruit.” Inductive experience was to be the ultimately criterion upon which to make a decision. When maybe it shouldn’t have been the greatest criterion. Maybe God has provided only enough evidence that it requires His grace to accept the truth, and His continue grace to maintain faith. In which case, the position that assumes that faith is ultimately determined by the person who exercises it (as the Arminian-type of Christianity you were exposed to taught), then there will be a tendancy to examine the evidence apart from the assistance and dependance of God. Hypothetically, Eve could have asked God, why He didn’t want them to eat of the forbidden tree. Maybe God would have given a good reason. But once the devil sowed seeds of doubt in a person, that can lead the person to stop asking God for help in dealing with doubts and seemingly contradictory evidence. In fact, it can lead to a person concluding (falsely) that the most objective, rational and unbiased way to examine the evidence is actually by *intentionally* to stop praying and asking for wisdom and try to go it alone in one’s own mind. Yet, those same people will place much confidence in and resort to the resources (books) and advice of people hostile to that position. The Christian position is that of the father of the epileptic son, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Or in this case, “I don’t believe, if You exist, help my unbelief!” Luke, I encourage you to keep studying and learning. You’re a much brighter person than I am. But I would also encourage you to keep a humble and prayerful attitude in all your studies. I’m sure you would say the same thing to me, but probably without the prayerful attitude. Or maybe, you would say that, since, you might say, “For all we know, both of us are wrong, and Muslims are right.” In fact, atheism might be true, and strange contingent/fortuitous things happen in this weird world. That’s why, if I were an atheist, I would be a dogmatic materialist or naturalist. No amount of induction can lead one to conclude that naturalism is true. A consistent atheist should be open to the possibility of the paranormal, preternatural, extra-terrestial (all that Art Bell kind of stuff). Well, I’ve got to end part 2 here because of other commitments. So I’ll end it this way. I previously said what I said about how claimed supernatural occurances cannot prove that a particular worldview is true. For all we know, all the miracles found in the Christian and non-Christian religions are the practical jokes of some advanced extra-terrestrial species. But I personally have had what appeared to me to be (and continues to convince me were) supernatural experiences. I’d rather not mention them here because they are so very personal. But what I can do is refer you to a Christian ministry that I think is the best example I can think of when it comes to a genuine and truly respectable Christian ministry that moves in the supernatural. Among the ones I could mention, I’ll mention Roger Sapp’s ministry. He’s definitely NOT a Calvinist like I am. My views on healing would be slightly different than his. But I nevertheless believe his ministry is “of”, “from” and “blessed” by God.

His website is at http://www.allnationsmin.org

His teaching material can be freely downloaded at this link:
http://www.allnationsmin.org/downloads.aspx

Here are more links to audio/video of Dr. Sapp’s sermons on Healing

audio interview by Sid Roth of Dr. Sapp
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=rad_&page=NewsArticle&id=6054&security=1042

Different Video interview of Dr. Sapp by Sid Roth
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=5978&security=1041&news_iv_ctrl=1192

Creating the Right Spiritual Chemistry for Healing
http://www.jacobswell.org.uk/kingdomhealing/index.asp

Eight sermons by Dr. Sapp (Christ Centered Healing Ministry Seminar)
http://www.newlifegrandrapids.org/app/w_page.php?type=section&id=43

place cursor on top of the arrow in the simulated Ipod to scroll down to Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.nlvb.org/pwsite/page.php?linkID=1861

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/39359

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/193575

Six EXTREMELY Large files of Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.401kideas.com/zionpc/zcfcast.xml

  (Quote)

James Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I can’t seem to post part 2 of my response here. I think my first attempt failed, and for some reason, the browser or the website thinks that I’m posting the same exact post a second time, and so it won’t let me. So here’s a link to part 2. http://n.1asphost.com/bestrong/Luke%20part%202.htm

Please be patient if it doesn’t pop up quickly. The webhost is free any not reliable.

  (Quote)

James A. Mayuga June 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Luke, I’m typing these things up because I can relate to your experience. And I wonder if any serious Christian apologist has addressed your objections before. While there are other better Christian apologists out there (as I said, visit http://www.triablogue.blogspot.com), I can’t help but address this current blog of yours because your being especially personal. Btw, I’ve been monitoring your blog for a few months now.

I won’t fix the obvious typos in part 1. I’m sure you can get my meaning.

Things I forgot to mention in part 1:

1. By Biblical contradictions, I’m referring to the kinds one can find at http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com. I mention that website, not because I think it’s the best source for finding genuinely difficult passages in the Bible. But because many skeptics *think* it (and similar websites/books) is (are).

2. When I typed:

“Christian of all sorts (including Calvinist) have different views on this issue. In fact, many Calvinists believe that infants who die in infancy can or will go to heaven even though they are guilt due to original sin…” It was in response to this, your comment, “What about young children? Did they really deserve to go to hell?” I forgot to paste that. So, my comment looked like I was still talking about the previous issue.

. When the said the following, I’m sure you know that I was referring to the Genetic Fallacy.
“While it’s true that some people believe that a god/God exists because they want to believe a God exists, that has nothing to do with the objective fact of whether a God really exists or not. Discovering the origins of a belief (or at least one origin) as being psychological and concluding that the belief is false is another non-sequitur.”

3. When you bake a cake and follow the recipe, it’s important to i) have the right ingredients, ii) not have the wrong ingredients, iii) perform the operations in the right order. So for example, you need some kind of leavening agent (like yeast, or baking powder). Otherwise the cake won’t rise. You cannot have paper clips and gasoline in there, or it won’t be edible or tasty. Finally, you can’t put the frosting/icing at the wrong time. Unless you add the icing at the end, it just won’t come out right. The same goes for the order in which creation happened and mentioned in the Bible had to be just right. As Hugh Ross points out in his books.

One last thing I want to say. Luke please don’t be offended when I speak negatively of the kind of Christianity you were exposed to. I was exposed to the same kind of Christianity. There were some good things, and some bad things. When I speak negatively, it about the bad things, not the good profitable things. They are my kind of Christians too. Also, I might sound condescendingly, but I don[‘t mean to.

CONTINUATION:

Part 2.

While I do recommend continuing investigation and research, it should also be recognized that no finite creature can have universal inductive experience. No creature can exhaustively search out all the evidence for or against belief in God (or anything else in the world). Whether one is 6 or 60 million years old. In one sense, we ought to be making informed decisions, and in another sense, no one can “fully” (in the sense of exhaustively) be informed. Though, we can and are informed enough by General Revelation so that we’re all without excuse. That’s the beauty of the consistently Christian (ie. Calvinist) position. While we are commanded and expected to search for God, if anyone does actually find God, it’s ultimately because God “found” (read “revealed Himself”) to them. Conversion is not, as Charles Finney taught, the result of the due use of means proper use of d

It’s not a matter of merely having the right kind, and adequate amount of evidences to convince someone of the truth of Christianity. It takes the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Much of traditional apologetics makes use of bad argumentation. With all due respect, Craig included. Fortunately, God can save people by the use of bad argumentation as well good argumentation. Because of these things (General Revelation, limited evidence, argumentation (even poorly/badly stated), the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, people can be saved. And, if Plantinga is right about belief in God being a properly basic belief due to our being made in the Imago Dei (and I believe he is right), then he’s right in thinking that that can account for why a child of five can rightfully believe in God without having to be able to articulate the reasons she does. Even if she hasn’t encounted all the arguments pro and con.

Luke said…
“And so I decided to look up what others had said about how to live without God.”

And until one can show how there can be universally binding morality if there were no God, then what others have to say about living as atheists is their mere fallible, and finite opinion.

Luke said…
“I should have realized this earlier, but of course there are millions of people throughout history who have lived happy, fulfilled, meaningful, moral lives without God.”

Yes, and many of them were addicts, sadists, murderers, thieves etc. They were able to achieve (delusional) “happiness/bliss” as well as fulfill their junkie, sadistic, murderous, and thieving designs and so were able to attain temporary non-absolute self-assigned non-universal subjective “meaning”. Hey, if one can reductionistically refer to people’s relationship with God as an invisible friend who grants their wishes, I think it’s only fair that I can refer to atheistic life in the way that I do. In fact, I would say it’s not only accurate, but not reductionistic. Unlike the former description.

Luke said…
“In fact, many of the most important scientists and philosophers of the last century were atheists, as are the two greatest philanthropists of all time (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). “

While not exactly commiting it, this statement rings of the Fallacy of Obsolescence. I could just as well illogically argue the opposite. That theism is true because older generations of scientists held to various theistic views, and what’s older is better (insert an irrational X criteria for why).

Luke said…
“In fact, I quickly felt even more fulfilled than I ever had as a Christian, even though I’d had some pretty high highs as a believer.”

Again, the problem of inductive experience. For all you know, Christianity might be true, and you die in unbelief, and had you remained a Christian, you would have a higher high than you ever had before for all eternity had you made it to paradise. But, instead, you end up having the lowest low you ever had (and that for all eternity). I have many reservations regarding Pascal’s Wager. Nevertheless, nothing gets around the fact that if Christianity is true, then for the non-Christian, earth is the closest thing to heaven he will ever experience. While for the Christian, earth is the closest thing to hell he will ever experience. Here’s a link to a chat log I have where I play the atheist advocate and show how Pascal’s Wager has a negative apologetical value
http://n.1asphost.com/bestrong/Does%20Pascal's%20Wager%20Have%20a%20Negative%20Apologetical%20Value.html
I’m Be`Strong/FakeAtheist

Luke said…
“…I didn’t have to juggle a thousand conflicting beliefs that didn’t add up. I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I think atheism is one of the most self-conflicting and self-inflicting worldviews. Presuppositionalists have pointed this out numerous times. One the one hand, many (not all) atheists consider themselves ‘freethinkers”. On the other hand, many (not all) of them hold to metaphysical views that would preclude freedom or thinking/deliberation. Often, they will hold to mechanistic materialism/naturalism, yet live and speak as if their choices aren’t deterministic. Don’t get me wrong. As a Calvinist, I’m a theistic determinist. Most Calvinists are compatibilists when it comes to the human will and reject libertarian free will. But a naturalistic atheist cannot is hard pressed to escape the reductionism of “eliminative materialism” whereby there are no personal agents, just impersonal agencies. All choices, thoughts, and beliefs are the products of fixed natural laws. In which case, if such a kind of atheism were true, then it would give us one of the greatest reasons to believe that our beliefs are false. Including the belief that atheism is true. Having said that, I don’t deny that there’s a distinction between hard/strong atheism and soft/weak atheism. Even that there are religious types of atheism (certain types of Buddhists), as well as non-materialistic versions (e.g. platonic atheism). Granting that the Big Bang theory is true, atheists often want us to believe that something came from nothing, life came from non-life, intelligence came from non-intelligence, morality came from non-morality, and meaning came from non-meaning.

I like what C.S. Lewis said, “Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too— for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense.

Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

So much more could be said about the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical problems and inconsistencies of atheism, but I have to move on.

Luke said…
“I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

I would have to ask what your criteria for evidence is. How much evidence is necessary? How is evidence even acquired in your atheistic worldview? Empirically? Rationally? Mystically? Intuitionally? Or a combination (of some) of them? Why accept those criteria since each has their problem for finite creatures (especially atheists). Let me mention just one problem in each. Why assume that there is any connection or relationship between subjective knower and the external object (supposedly) being known? As I’m not a Chuengian Scripturalist, but as Vincent Cheung points out, there’s a logical leap between “I preceive/think/believe I’m seeing a red car in the parking lot” and “There is a red car in the parking lot”. When it comes to rationalism, unless you have access to truly indubitable premises, then you cannot come to deductively valid AND sound conclusions. Pure rationalism would require an internalist and infallibilist constraint on knowledge. And so you reduced to inductive inferences. But they cannot lead to certainty at all. As even Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper have pointed out.

Luke said…
“I tell you all this, believer, because I want you to know that I get it. I haven’t had your exact experiences, and I never believed exactly as you do, but I get it. I know what’s it like to be a believer. I know what it’s like to experience God and love him with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is real. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be flawed. They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.

Since we’re now talking autobiographically, many current Christians can also attest to knowing what it’s like to be an atheist. I get it too. I used to be an atheist myself. I know what’s it like to be an unbeliever. I know what it’s like to experience the feeling of “freedom” one gets when one does not believe in God, and to love myself (selfishly) with all my heart. I know what it’s like to know that I know that I know that God is unreal. I know what it’s like to glance over the arguments for atheism and feel them to be plausible, and to glance over the arguments for theism and feel them to be flawed.

Luke said…
“They felt that way to me, too, until one very important thing happened.
An atheist on the internet pointed out that I literally believed I had a magical invisible friend who could grant me wishes.”

That’s extremely reductionistic and misleading. Magic is an ambiguous term that can mean many different things. It also has the unsavory connotation of something being inexplicable, and irrational. While God is invisible physically through the optical nerve, God can be seen by His activities, creation, and providence, answers to prayers, etc. Finally, the term “wishes” gives the impression that God were a finite, capricious genie who’s job it is to grant my every whim. It’s a reductionistic caricature. It’s analogous to a son calling his loving father the “sperm donor” whose actions resulted in his emergence into the world.

Luke said…
“Of course, I preferred to describe my belief in other terms, but I had to admit that was literally what I believed.

I thought, “Woah. Woah, there. Maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong about this.” “

This is the first time you thought about how a non-Christian might view your belief system and you were shocked? I was aprox. 13 years old when I first became a serious Christian and that thought entered my mind immediately. I’m sure many other Christians have thought of that before too. Also, just because I became a Christian at such a young age, doesn’t necessarily mean that I continue to be so because of mere habit or out of comfort. Though, I don’t deny such influences. There have been times in my Christian life I’ve been a mere spiritual sycophant. But I’ve been exposed many of the common arguments against and objections to Christianity and I don’t find them very convincing. While there have been times when I could have lost my faith (if left to myself), it was God who caused me to continue to persevere in faith. That’s partly why I’m a Calvinist. Because, if it was ultimately left up to me, I know I could never continue in faith. The temptations of this world are too strong, and the trials of faith too difficult to continue if God didn’t uphold me and my faith by His faithful kindness. As Francis Thompson said in his famous poem, God is the “Hound of Heaven.” Or as a Hymn has put it, His love is the kind that will not let me go.

Luke said…
“When I looked at the arguments with the real understanding that they could both be flawed, I found the atheist arguments much more persuasive, and I lost my faith.

While there are many good and useful things in traditional apologetics (whether, Classical apologetics, Evidentialist, Cummulative Case, Historical etc.), if not framed presuppositionally, then it leads to serious problems in argumentation. Moreover, those traditional approaches don’t challenge those non-Christian worldviews to give an account of the possibility of argumentation itself, given their worldview. Christianity not only can make sense of the evidence, it can make sense of the the ability to make sense of the evidence. That is, provides for the preconditions of argumentation and evidence itself. Does that, in itself prove Christianity is true? Of course not, since consist and useful theories can nevertheless be false. That’s one of the limitations of Abductive presuppositionalism whereby one reasons/infers to the better/best hypothesis (or hypotheses, theory/theories). To those or that one which has the greater explanatory power and scope.

Luke said…
“So what I ask of you is this: Try to rattle your own faith. Shake it up. Cause as much doubt as you can. Read what the best of the opposition has to say, and take it seriously. Describe your own faith in the most contentious terms possible…”

Say Christianity is true, then that advice would be one of the most dangerous things one can do. Especially since it seem to assume that one can only become a Christian if all the evidence or even the preponderance of the evidence leans towards Christianity. It assumes that that’s the only or greatest basis upon which to determine whether Christianity is true or respectably and reasonably acceptable/assentable.

To avoid being charged with the Special Pleading Fallacy, insert other religions in that above statement. But again, this goes back to our presuppositional commitments. Is it possible to be epistemically and morally neutral? I believe the consistently Christian position on that issue is no. That’s precisely what the devil did in tempting Eve. “Eve, you don’t know whether what God says is true or not, so you might as well test it be partaking of the forbidden fruit.” Inductive experience was to be the ultimately criterion upon which to make a decision. When maybe it shouldn’t have been the greatest criterion. Maybe God has provided only enough evidence that it requires His grace to accept the truth, and His continue grace to maintain faith. In which case, the position that assumes that faith is ultimately determined by the person who exercises it (as the Arminian-type of Christianity you were exposed to taught), then there will be a tendancy to examine the evidence apart from the assistance and dependance of God. Hypothetically, Eve could have asked God, why He didn’t want them to eat of the forbidden tree. Maybe God would have given a good reason. But once the devil sowed seeds of doubt in a person, that can lead the person to stop asking God for help in dealing with doubts and seemingly contradictory evidence. In fact, it can lead to a person concluding (falsely) that the most objective, rational and unbiased way to examine the evidence is actually by *intentionally* to stop praying and asking for wisdom and try to go it alone in one’s own mind. Yet, those same people will place much confidence in and resort to the resources (books) and advice of people hostile to that position. The Christian position is that of the father of the epileptic son, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Or in this case, “I don’t believe, if You exist, help my unbelief!” Luke, I encourage you to keep studying and learning. You’re a much brighter person than I am. But I would also encourage you to keep a humble and prayerful attitude in all your studies. I’m sure you would say the same thing to me, but probably without the prayerful attitude. Or maybe, you would say that, since, you might say, “For all we know, both of us are wrong, and Muslims are right.” In fact, atheism might be true, and strange contingent/fortuitous things happen in this weird world. That’s why, if I were an atheist, I would be a dogmatic materialist or naturalist. No amount of induction can lead one to conclude that naturalism is true. A consistent atheist should be open to the possibility of the paranormal, preternatural, extra-terrestial (all that Art Bell kind of stuff). Well, I’ve got to end part 2 here because of other commitments. So I’ll end it this way. I previously said what I said about how claimed supernatural occurances cannot prove that a particular worldview is true. For all we know, all the miracles found in the Christian and non-Christian religions are the practical jokes of some advanced extra-terrestrial species. But I personally have had what appeared to me to be (and continues to convince me were) supernatural experiences. I’d rather not mention them here because they are so very personal. But what I can do is refer you to a Christian ministry that I think is the best example I can think of when it comes to a genuine and truly respectable Christian ministry that moves in the supernatural. Among the ones I could mention, I’ll mention Roger Sapp’s ministry. He’s definitely NOT a Calvinist like I am. My views on healing would be slightly different than his. But I nevertheless believe his ministry is “of”, “from” and “blessed” by God.

His website is at http://www.allnationsmin.org

His teaching material can be freely downloaded at this link:
http://www.allnationsmin.org/downloads.aspx

Here are more links to audio/video of Dr. Sapp’s sermons on Healing

audio interview by Sid Roth of Dr. Sapp
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=rad_&page=NewsArticle&id=6054&security=1042

Different Video interview of Dr. Sapp by Sid Roth
http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=5978&security=1041&news_iv_ctrl=1192

Creating the Right Spiritual Chemistry for Healing
http://www.jacobswell.org.uk/kingdomhealing/index.asp

Eight sermons by Dr. Sapp (Christ Centered Healing Ministry Seminar)
http://www.newlifegrandrapids.org/app/w_page.php?type=section&id=43

place cursor on top of the arrow in the simulated Ipod to scroll down to Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.nlvb.org/pwsite/page.php?linkID=1861

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/39359

http://sermon.net/enewlife/sermonid/193575

Six EXTREMELY Large files of Dr. Sapp’s sermons
http://www.401kideas.com/zionpc/zcfcast.xml

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Reginald Selkirk June 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

 

James Mayuga: Luke 3:23-38 , on the other hand, seems to record the genealogical line of Mary herself

[23] And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,…
I have no idea where they got the notion that lineage is for Mary, rather than Joseph. That is not the least bit convincing.

Further, Luke does not say that he is giving Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph. Rather, he notes that Jesus was “as was supposed” (Luke 3:23) the son of Joseph, while He was actually the son of Mary.

Yes, Luke notes the Joseph was cuckolded (by Yahweh). But he makes no note whatsoever of Mary. That is a complete fiction, and is not consistent with the actual text.

If this is so, what do the genealogies mean? The simplest explanation is that Mattityahu gives the genealogy of Yosef, who, though not Yeshua’s physical father, was regarded as his father by people generally (below, 4:22; Yn 1:45, 6:42); while Luke gives the genealogy of Yeshua through his mother Miryam, the daughter of Eli.

No, the simplest explanation is that the genealogies actually contradict each other, and were fabricated to fulfill such OT verses as Jeremiah 23:5, predicting that the messiah would be a descendant of David.
The only reason I can see for accepting such contrived explanations is that the various apologists you quote, like you yourself, have started from the presumption that the Bible cannot contain contradictions.
 

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Reginald Selkirk June 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm

James Mayuga: I think my first attempt failed

I can agree with that. And if you would exercise some quality control, your posts could be much shorter. I.e. concentrate on quality, not quantity.
 

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TK June 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Reginald Selkirk: 2. Suppose some of those purported 110,000 steps had gone a different way, and humans were not here. Possibly some other lineage might have achieved the level of intelligence and communication that we are using to hold this discussion. Perhaps not. So what? Why assume this conclusion was inevitable? Isn’t that like the person who won the lottery and presumes that his or her choice of deity willed it to be so?

I have read the offending argument. It is on page 565 of their book. The 4^(-180)^(110000) to 4^(-360)^(110000) probability is calculated thus; Barrow and Tipler cite some work showing that between 180 and 360 of the nucleotide residues in each gene are essential to their function. They then take an estimate that humans have about 110,000 genes (which today we know is about 90,000 too many). Thus, the odds of this specific group of nucleotides appearing at random is about 1 in… that number. Since there probably have not been more than 10^40 organisms on Earth, ever, these are astronomical odds.
Your intuition is correct; on the very next page they say that this shouldn’t be taken as an argument against homo sapiens evolving. They draw the analogy that the odds of any given person being the Queen of England are about 1 in 10^8, but the person who is the Queen shouldn’t be surprised that she’s the queen–someone has to be! They also imply, correctly, that we have no idea how many possible nucleotide arrangements might correspond to an intelligent species, so it’s premature to judge the probability of this event.
Craig, as a philosopher who understands probability and has read Barrow and Tipler’s book, must certainly understand this, so it screams dishonesty that he continues to use such a faulty argument.

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lukeprog June 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm

William,

Unfortunately, the best books I happen to have read (which is, obviously, a tiny fraction of good books out there) do not aim at the reformed tradition, but most of their criticisms will be relevant to the reformed tradition, anyway, since they make de facto objections to Christianity (and the most popular defense of reformed theology, given by Plantinga, only says that de jure objections cannot be made independent of de facto objections).

So for your case, the one book I recommend in John Loftus’ “Why I Became an Atheist“, $14 on Amazon.

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lukeprog June 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

James,

Your post was caught in the spam filter, waiting for my approval. I have approved them now. But that means there are some repeats. Let me know which ones you want me to delete.

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Reginald Selkirk July 1, 2009 at 5:12 am

 

TK: Barrow and Tipler cite some work showing that between 180 and 360 of the nucleotide residues in each gene are essential to their function. They then take an estimate that humans have about 110,000 genes (which today we know is about 90,000 too many) … Craig, as a philosopher who understands probability and has read Barrow and Tipler’s book, must certainly understand this, so it screams dishonesty that he continues to use such a faulty argument.

Thanks for saving me some work. Yes, we now know that humans have about 20,000 genes. So, not only are they wrong by quite a lot, but this would be the argument of a human showing up out of some random gene-mixing machine, not a human evolving through natural selection from simpler organisms over billions of years by mechanisms which are reasonably well understood.
How few genes can a single-celled bacterium get by with? less than 200. But that makes assumptions about what is accepted functionality under what conditions. For example, if you would get rid of the DNA and hold your genome in RNA, that might considerably reduce the number of required genes. (i.e. RNA World scenario)
And these single-celled organisms are thought to have arisen, via replication with variation, and natural selection, from simple, non-cellular, self-replicating molecules. Once again, by means of replication with variation, and natural selection.
 

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Reginald Selkirk July 1, 2009 at 5:16 am

James A. Mayuga: …

Forestalling a possible argument that it is reasonable to presuppose that the Bible is inerrant, I will point out that this is the question under consideration, so doing so would be circular.
 

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TK July 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

Reginald Selkirk: TK

To be fair, I give Barrow and Tipler a little more credit than that. Yes, evolution obviously isn’t random per se–the argument they’re trying to make in this section is based on the idea that this nucleotide sequence must have appeared (in stages) by chance before selection could have acted on it. They ignore events like inversions and duplications, which decrease the number of independent nucleotide appearance events that would have had to occur.
 
The clincher is that, even if this (20,000*180) to (20,000*360)-nucleotide sequence is what specifies humans, we have no idea how many other possible sequences might lead to something human-like, or even something intelligent in general. It’s a bit like reaching into a giant bowl, pulling out a white marble, and marveling at how improbably that was–wait a second! You have no idea how many other marbles in the bowl were white!

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Reginald Selkirk July 1, 2009 at 11:49 am

TK: It’s a bit like reaching into a giant bowl, pulling out a white marble, …

With the added assumption that because you pulled out a white marble, it was inevitable that you would do so.

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Taranu July 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

Reginald and TK thank you for looking into and addressing this issue.
 
 

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DC July 2, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Reginald Selkirk: …if you would exercise some quality control, your posts could be much shorter. I.e. concentrate on quality, not quantity. 

Ah, but I love someone who can and will examine Luke line by line! You must not enjoy reading James’ thoughts as I do.

 

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lukeprog July 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I gotta say, I appreciate the line-by-line, too. But as with Curtis’ posts over here, there’s just so much we fundamentally disagree about I don’t even know how to begin!

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Jeff October 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Kudos to you for elucidating a process that has, no doubt, happened many times in many lives. My story is similar: a bunch of inconsistencies and contradictions that eventually were just too much. The whole thing crumbled while reading ‘Answers In Genesis’ magazine and finding that their arguments are so ridiculous in the face of such overwhelming evidence. They might as well be extolling the reasons why earth is the center of the universe. My favorite was the line that explained who to argue about the subject “don’t let them take away your source of truth: the bible.” Ha! And that’s scientific?!?

The funny thing is that morality is nooooo different or even better now. That whole argument about needing god(s) for absolute guidance is poppycock that I’m so happy to be free of. Not that I’m going to go cheating and stealing, but that I can be good for good’s sake.

Reality is so much better!

Thanks for sharing.

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Mark November 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Luke this article is so filled with folly, fallacy, and foolishness it is hard to read. Sorry to say but you were worshiping some other God, not the God of the Bible. This is evident throughout your post:

“And why would God allow so much confusion? If he was all-powerful, surely he could communicate to his pastors more clearly.”

Surely. Because the pastors must surely be worshiping the sure God of the sure Bible. How could they be wrong? Their title is pastor, right? Surely they have worked out all the kinks. Surely they couldn’t possibly call themselves pastors if they were not in fact ordained by God. Surely. Surely the all powerful God would SERVE his pastors as they need him to. Surely God needs these pastors on his payroll. Surely he would never let them fail. Surely if he was all powerful he would pull their strings like a puppetmaster for surely he is not concerned with petty ideas like free will. Surely this all powerful God would act the way I expect a God to act and if he doesn’t surely he must not be all powerful. Surely, surely, surely. I am sure of all these things.

Sure.

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Mark November 30, 2009 at 2:23 pm

“I should have realized this earlier, but of course there are millions of people throughout history who have lived happy, fulfilled, meaningful, moral lives without God. In fact, many of the most important scientists and philosophers of the last century were atheists, as are the two greatest philanthropists of all time (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). After that, it didn’t take me long to figure out how to be happy, fulfilled, purposeful, and moral without God.”

Good Lord you missed the entire point of Christianity. I will spell it out for you since no one else has been able to sp far:

IT’S NOT ABOUT **YOUR** HAPPINESS, Luke. Try taking that “I can be happy and fulfilled and purposeful all on my own” drivel into a marriage.. with kids. Let us know how that works out for you.

Happiness and fulfillment are by-products of LOVE. No love, no happiness or fulfillment. If you disagree, hold your protest until you’re ~50 years old and still single and then come back here and respond.

Luke, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You have no idea if Bill Gates is happy. You think just because he’s a philanthropist he’s happy? Do you equate philanthropy with happiness? Is this what your old brand of Christianity taught you? Gates could be MISERABLE for all you know. And all those great scientists and philosophers you say were atheists? Sorry dude, all of my favorites (Descartes, Einstein, Kant, Newton, Aquinas, Bacon, Kelvin, et al) were believers. You have parted company with all of these great minds simply because of your experience. You claim to be so versed in philosophy yet you shun arguably the greatest of all time (Kant) who said atheists are ignorant to say they have the truth when they can not acknowledge the existence of reality outside of the five senses.

Oh, oh I know it was “empirical evidence” that dragged you away and enticed you. That’s right. Forget all the evidence of intelligent design everywhere we look, the atheists have all the answers because their words were more jolting than the rest. Then again, if one believes he has been bamboozled, any old stick will make for an arrow and any old branch will make for a good bow.

In fact, I quickly felt even more fulfilled than I ever had as a Christian, even though I’d had some pretty high highs as a believer.

First of all you weren’t a “believer.” No believer could be so vulnerable to the musings of some cantankerous atheist who reduces Scripture to caricature for the purpose of trampling all over it. Second, if you had “highs” you weren’t high on God dude, you were high on your own dopamine. God is not a drug. He doesn’t get you high. Closeness to the Spirit brings CONTRITION, not EXUBERANCE. You should have been taught that. It’s sad you were not.

Now I could embrace reality for whatever it was, and I didn’t have to juggle a thousand conflicting beliefs that didn’t add up. I could just follow the evidence wherever it led.

Luke, you need to read Nietzsche. You are a carbon copy of him. Same exact story: Preacher’s son rejects God and goes on rampage to disprove Christ. Talk about “been there, done that.” Why even bother with all of this when you can just post Nietzsche’s works here? He said everything you are saying already. Read all his works and you can find out precisely where your so-called “reason” is leading you.

This “liberation” you seem to think is so unique to your experience is embodied in Nietzsche’s “God is Dead” proclamation. It is a joyous statement for him because it signaled the end to his slavery to God. It was his emancipation, the same exact as it is yours. But keep reading him. See where he winds up (insane).

And watch the movie “When Nietzsche Wept.” I think you will find it most enlightening if you open your mind and heart.

Luke I pray you will find the real Christ one day. I don’t think you would know his spirit if you met it right now. Just a hunch.

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MuslimgirlfromNZ December 1, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Hi!

Your response should have been, “and you literally believe that blind processes and chance produced a living breathing thinking feeling human who can have intelligent discussions about the existence/non-existence of an Intelligent Mind behind his existence!”

3 – 1 to Luke

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Scott Williams March 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm

As a fellow atheist, I found the best arguments against religion to come from confirmed Christian philosophers-Descartes, Hume, Spinoza, Cooper, and Keirkegaard. Also, Nietze is a good source, both the Nazi’s and tha Allies quoted him.

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Jason Jude May 12, 2010 at 5:28 am

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here but it could do with more detail. – They stayed away in droves. – Samuel Goldwyn 1882 – 1974

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eddie milne March 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Hi Luke,
just read your open letter to believers, I hear what your saying (altough I think you are making a lot of unfounded assumptioms), but I don’t know why you are saying these things. If it is really the case that there is no god then we are all evolved slime we live we die and that’s it. And if you if your belief (and it is a belief) and someone who is religous has his belief and both are happy in this why bother trying to reach them if there’s no god. If as Dawkins says were all just dancing to our dna why again are you trying to evangelize people to your persuasion. The fact that you wrote this tells me there’s more to you than just dna or evolved slime.. and I think you feel this too.
With still so many unanswered questions and there are many especially from your point of view, could it be there really is a God who still loves you, could it be you are mistaken on many of the issues that caused you to turn away, and could it be there is truth that you still haven’t taken hold of. We speak of human emotions, values, meaning, truth, beauty etc and you long for such as indeed we all do, but where do these come from? What I’m saying is that these deep seated feelings I believe are transcendent. If you can honestly say you believe these uniquely human emotions & values and even a sense of spiritaul awareness
(and I’ve heard athesist say this) are the product of an empty cold indifferent universe that just time and chance can produce in each one of us and indeed bring forth each one of us I would say you have greater faith than many believers, but sadly your faith leads to nothingness, hopelessness with no prospect of anything beyond our short exsistence. I’m a Christian who has his struggles,questions, hopes and fears and I can relate to some things you say, but I urge you to go beyond this and submit to the One who died for you on His terms not yours, let Him gave you true hope now that doesn’t disappoint leading to eternal life.. this is the true life and the fullfillment of what we are all mean’t for.
Eddie

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Eddie March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am

Hi,
would just like to apologize for my previous response above as a spell/grammar check was not done before I accidently submitted it.

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Angel November 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Ight….. i was reading all these comments on anthsim and junk… But let me ask YOU something.(for my opinion) If Jesus or god was to come back in the revelation and you had no religion.. and all the christian went to heaven. you were still on earth.. what would you do… I like to recommend to the atheist (no offense) The movie Left Behind… this is what i believe will happen with the king on the throne returns…. Dont turn your faith from god… he loves you.. say you have so many questions on your head.. noneare answerd. you think what the point of life, is god even there does he even exist? Let god answer those questions. God loves you with his heart.. There will be trial in your life like somebodii dies in your family.. That person died cause it was time or he/she to be judged by god… Your enterney either be in heaven or hell. HELL is’nt a place you wanna be in.. even though people who deny Jesus and his word god still loves.. you but your paying the price for your SINS. THE BIBLE SAY- GOD LOVES YOU WITH ALL HIS HEART WHOEVER WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ENTRNITY LIFE IN HEAVEN.. hell is WITH Fire.. and demons who will torture you can never escape hell ever in your life time.. EVER.. it extremly hot… satan ruler of evil will do everything in his path.. to hurt you.AND ETCCC

HEVean.. is a wonderful place.. you be with the lord.. the KING OF KINGS LORDS OF LORDS. a place of gold glory.. you could.. play in the rivers praise the king.. Even i when i die want to enter the gate of heavan.. you could go anywhere.. EARTH IS A TEMPORARY PLACE FOR US HUMANS. where do you think you will go after your life is over.. god only lets bad things happen to you cause god testing your faith… i am not trying to change your mind.. but this is my opinon of what i beleive i will not try to start anything.. but this is what i belive.. but belive what you want… but rember… this this place is temporiary and ALL OF US WILL BE JUDGE !

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