Consistent Dissonance

I have been having exchanges with several scientists, who responded to some of my previous posts on the general topic of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and survival of the fittest.   (See : Happy 200th Birthday!Only Believe, What Darwin Got Wrong, Intelligent Design vs. Stultifying Naturalistic Coercion, or A Far More Interesting Question.  In their world, science is the only means by which anyone can know anything.  Yet as a Christian, I see four primary categories of questions surrounding life that need to be answered in order to have a comprehensive worldview.  The four are:

  • Origin – Where did we come from?  
  • Meaning – What’s the point of anything in life? 
  • Morality  – What guidelines do we need to agree upon to live without fear?
  • Destiny – When we leave this life, is there something else?  What will become of us?

(Those ideas came from Dr. Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org), a highly regarded Christian teacher, who was born in India and converted to Christianity after coming to the conclusion that the Hinduism that he had been surrounded by all his life, left him without hope, and without a reason to live.)

Science does not even concern itself with the last three – at least today.  That’s not how it once was.  At some point, the definition of science changed.  It was a word that originally meant “seeking knowledge”.  Today it has narrowed that definition to restrict itself to natural means.  So nothing that is not verifiable through testing is “real”, and therefore not “scientific.”  Darwinists do not even consider the bigger question of the origin of life itself – only with the means by which any living thing came to be what it is.

Anyone who is honest about it will admit that they have pondered such questions.  But that is all the further they go.  Yet in order to take even the first tentative step, we must leave the scientific method behind.  We must step into the realms of philosophy, religion, metaphysics, or epistemology.  And none of those fields can ever know whether the beliefs they derive are right or not – Not this side of eternity anyway.  What is required is a different kind of testing.  What is required is to think deeply, hypothesize, then ask whether the “answer” seems compatible with what can be seen or observed.  

I’m not a scientist, and I am not a philosopher.  I’m just a guy who has the God-given ability to think and ask questions.  (If you prefer to think of it as an ability derived by random mutations, fine.  But I do think, and am therefore able to ask questions.)

The thing about this that is so hard to understand, is why atheistic scientists seem so unable to allow me to think about such things – to form opinions about such things – and to ask questions about such things without yelling, swearing, calling me a liar, and otherwise acting like they need an exorcist.  One guy called me a “lying scumbag” – that was his very first attempt to communicate with me – apparently because he thought I quoted Darwin out of context.  That, even though I gave Darwin credit for having come up with a number of valid ideas and said that “I do not reject at all, much of what Darwin accomplished. I am among those who accept the possibility that some of his theories have proven true. I simply do not accept all of them dogmatically.”  And, I should add, neither should anyone who adheres to science alone as a means for deciding what is true.

One guy wanted to know how I responded to the “evidence” that ” statistically the more intelligent you are, the less likely they …” are to be Christian.  Here’s my response to him:

“What studies or surveys are you citing? Although I doubt it, they may exist. So if they do, I’d like to know some things about them, including who did them, what the questions were, how many people were invited and how many responded, and when they were done.

But, assuming there are some, and that they were fair and recent, and even compelling proof that believers are inferior in intelligence, I have a few questions.

1. What do you do with that information? Beyond allowing you to feel superior, what does it accomplish?
2. Do the statistics invalidate the fact that there are a number of very intelligent, very educated, very erudite people who are also Christian? Would you call them aberrations? Do their arguments for the logic of their beliefs deserve an audience?
3. Assuming the evolution paradigm is correct, man is only the current most highly evolved species. When there is a higher one, will we become slaves? Part of their food? What will give us any rights – any sense of human dignity at all?

I have plenty of other questions, but let’s see how you do with those.” 

One of the primary things I am trying to do on this blog is to engage people in constructive dialogue about what they actually believe, and how they came to believe those things in the first place.  Dialogue is discussion where the participants’ primary purpose is learning and understanding.  When one starts out by calling another a lying scumbag, nothing constructive can ensue.  Dialogue precludes such practices, along with name-calling, condesending attitudes, cursing, and rants.

Another thing we forget when we blog, is that it is relatively easy to just vent, without having to deal with the damage we cause by doing so.  There’s so much of that in cyberspace – it’s almost as if we take on a Mr. Hyde persona, allowing our Dr. Jekyll side to retain less and less power over our lives.

So in closing, the question I want to ask is:  Does it matter where we came from, what the meaning of life is, what defines our morality (or even whether morality is necessary at all) and what is our destiny?  And if so, how should we go about trying to find answers – through discourse or dissonance?

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10 thoughts on “Consistent Dissonance

  1. Pingback: Topics about Christian life and Bible readings » Archive » Consistent Dissonance

  2. Havok

    Yet as a Christian, I see four primary categories of questions surrounding life that need to be answered in order to have a comprehensive worldview. The four are:

    * Origin – Where did we come from?
    Well, the most probable answer seems to be “simple chemistry giving rise to hi fidelity replicators”.

    * Meaning – What’s the point of anything in life?

    The point to “life” in a general sense seems to be “to make more life” – replicate. Pretty simple really 🙂
    There doesn’t seem to be much of any credible evidence to support a “trancendental” meaning, such that Christians tend to claim exists. In it’s absence it seems it is up to us to create that meaning for ourselves – there is no one else about to do it for us.

    * Morality – What guidelines do we need to agree upon to live without fear?

    It seems that regardless of what you think of morality (absolute, objective morality, or some kind of evolved bahavioural system) we, as rational beings, need to discuss it. “Biblical morality” is so out of step with what we today actually call “moral” (slavery and genocide are considered “bad” things these days) that any “literal” reading of the bible is useless (unless you think slavery is a moral good?). Hence the need for rational dialog.

    * Destiny – When we leave this life, is there something else? What will become of us?

    Again, doesn’t seem to be any evidence that there is anything after we die. Is there a problem with “I don’t know” here? Do we need to come up with an answer when there is no credible evidence to support any sort of “afterlife”?

    Science does not even concern itself with the last three – at least today. That’s not how it once was. At some point, the definition of science changed. It was a word that originally meant “seeking knowledge”. Today it has narrowed that definition to restrict itself to natural means.

    Do you know why that is so?
    Science today is restricted to using objective methodology because it does not rely upon the subjective experience of an individual. I should be able to get the same results as you do.
    Do you know of an objective method for investigating supernatural claims?

    So nothing that is not verifiable through testing is “real”, and therefore not “scientific.”

    When it comes to reality, it seems that we’re unable to “prove” something is correct. All we can do is show that something is incorrect. The hypothesis which are not proved incorrect after being subjected to a large number of “tests”, which provide predictions of future observations, are taken to be closer to being “correct” than those which fail the tests and do not provide accurate predictions.

    What is required is to think deeply, hypothesize, then ask whether the “answer” seems compatible with what can be seen or observed.

    That sounds awfully close to the scientific method 🙂

    1. Thanks for your post. It’s nice to be able to contrast our views in a spirit of actually learning something.

      You may be right about our origin, but so far, in spite of lots of effort to demonstrate otherwise, no successful, replicable proofs. More to the point, origin here refers not just to us, but to everything. Why does anything at all exist? If everything is purposeless, why, as Stephen Hawking put it, did the universe go to the bother of existing?

      If the only point to life were to make more of it, I would be in abject despair, wouldn’t you? What is it that makes us human? We are self-aware, of course, but we also have the capacity for a wide range of emotional thought. Why would that ability have evolved? What caused it? It does not seem to be necessary for us to propagate. In fact, unrestrained, it has far more potential for destruction than propagation. I want three things – to have a better life in the nasty here and now, to leave the world a better place when I’m gone, and to abide beyond this life in a better state than the one i have now. Christianity, and Christianity alone, allows me to have all three. I have no way to prove it to you, but my life in the here and now did get better when I accepted Christ. Many people think they will have to give up lots of fun and interesting stuff to follow Christ and that their lives will be boring. And since we can’t prove to them that there IS a next life, why sacrifice? But I say that even though your rewards will be somewhat different than the ones commonly sought after, life takes on richer hues, more satisfying and gratifying kinds of rewards.

      With regard to your comments on morality, I want to say two things. First, the problem we have is not that we do not feel the need to be moral. The problem is that by ourselves, we can’t agree on what moral IS. Communism is a great idea on paper – power to the people with no elite ruling class – yet every time it’s been tried, power ends up in the hands of people who, having been given absolute power, have become absolutely corrupt. With biblical morality, we have a standard not set by men. And it’s far from being out of date.

      What you imply about slavery is completely opposite of the true message of scripture. Here’s the paradigm: From the days of early man, we were incapable of reigning in our lusts for power, wealth, and sexual gratification. God sent Moses down from Mt. Sinai with “the law” (what we now call the ten commandments). Man ignored every one of them, and went his own way. Christ came to teach us how to live, and went to the cross to provide atonement for our sins. And little by little in the two thousand years since, society has been getting better. What he taught, among many other things, is that one of the top two most important commandments is the one to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To see what that looks like, see the parable of the good Samaritan. But the point is that that central teaching is completely incompatible with an endorsement, even a tacit one, of slavery. If I own you, how can I love you as myself? How can I deny you the right to determine your own life choices and at the same time say I love you as I love myself?

      Slavery was endemic to society in Christ’s days on earth. It was not something he accepted, it was simply something that could not be dealt with until the stone cold hearts of men could be dealt with. And the reality is that slavery was almost eradicated
      because of the influence of Christianity! In fact, it was the relentless effort of William Wilberforce, who was born a British aristocrat and could have lived a profligate life just as his contemporaries did, chose instead to give his life in the pursuit of “two great causes”. He felt called to work to reform British society and morality, and to make the African slave trade illegal. That enterprise was more important to the society of his day that oil and gas is to us today. He succeeded only after investing all he had – time, talent and treasure – in the accomplishment of both causes. And they were inextricable, because the desire to do right had been subjugated to the desire to make money, and no out of date Christian moral code was going to deter them! Watch this short clip for an introduction.

      The Birth of Freedom

      I have no problem with what you say here about why science restricts itself to naturalistic testing. What I wanted to point out here is that it is absolutely necessary to use something other than the scientific method to determine what your answers to my questions about origin (of the universe), meaning, morality and destiny. There are no scientific tests for them, so the only choices are to either ignore them, pretend they don’t matter, or just use the ostrich approach and hide from them. But the fact that we cannot design a scientific test to determine the validity of our hypotheses, does not mean that they are not testable. We cannot and will not find definitive proof, but we can most definitely determine whether it comports with things we do know about.

      I doubt scientists would agree with you that “That sounds awfully close to the scientific method .” but if it works for you, it’s fine with me!

  3. Havok

    John: You may be right about our origin, but so far, in spite of lots of effort to demonstrate otherwise, no successful, replicable proofs.

    Which means we don’t know, right? We don’t seem to need to place God in this gap as yet, do we?

    John: More to the point, origin here refers not just to us, but to everything. Why does anything at all exist?

    As with Abiogenesis, it’s being worked upon. Also like abiogenesis, there are a number of promising hypothesis. It’s another “gap”, and as yet the supernatural isn’t necessary.

    John: If everything is purposeless, why, as Stephen Hawking put it, did the universe go to the bother of existing?

    I don’t know and neither (I would think) does Hawking. Christians seem to make the claim that they DO know why. You make a claim, you need to support it 🙂

    John: If the only point to life were to make more of it, I would be in abject despair, wouldn’t you?

    Well, I don’t despair. I make my own meaning. I would suggest you do the same, but you use a single book as if it provided the answer.
    Why would nihilism the “default”?

    John: What is it that makes us human? We are self-aware, of course, but we also have the capacity for a wide range of emotional thought. Why would that ability have evolved? What caused it?

    The other great apes also seem to have the same ability, though of a lesser quantity (but not of a different quality). The ability may have evolved simply because it aided survival and replication – having something which makes you more adaptable would certainly be an advantage, wouldn’t you say?

    John: It does not seem to be necessary for us to propagate. In fact, unrestrained, it has far more potential for destruction than propagation.

    It has helped us propagate – surely you wouldn’t deny that, considering there are 6 billion of us.
    That it also has potential for destruction is beside the point. Evolution has no goal in mind – homo sapiens sapiens are not some “final product”.
    There is no teleology behind evolution, thinking “Well, if I give them big brains they’ll be able to survive much better, but perhaps they’ll gain the ability to destroy themselves. I probably shouldn’t do that then.”

    John: I want three things – to have a better life in the nasty here and now, to leave the world a better place when I’m gone, and to abide beyond this life in a better state than the one i have now.

    I don’t think the here and now is particularly “nasty”, but that’s just me. Leaving the world a better place seems to be an admirable goal. Your third aim seems to be without supporting evidence, however – wishful thinking does not make something true 🙂

    John: Christianity, and Christianity alone, allows me to have all three.

    Good for you. I find Christianity irrational and wholy unbelievable, as well as being false 🙂
    Also, how do you know Christianity alone allows you to do this. Have you (seriously) followed other belief systems? Muslims seem pretty happy that Allah will look after them here and in the afterlife. Buddhists also seem content with their afterlife etc.
    Are you simply making a subjective statement about your preferences?

    John: I have no way to prove it to you, but my life in the here and now did get better when I accepted Christ.

    Again, good for you.
    Many people have claimed their life has improved after submitting to God (Islam), or seeking elightenment (Buddhism) as well as from rejecting belief in a god (atheism) and all sorts of other things.
    What makes your experience different to theirs and “special”?

    John: Many people think they will have to give up lots of fun and interesting stuff to follow Christ and that their lives will be boring.

    It’s not giving up fun stuff which bothers me, it’s the fact that I find no credible support for a belief in Christianity. I also find the God presented in the Christian bible to be thoroughly unworthy of worship. Pretty simple really 🙂

    John: And since we can’t prove to them that there IS a next life, why sacrifice?

    Since we can’t prove Vishnu doesn’t exist, why not worship it? If you want to claim that something is so, then it is up to you to show that it probably is.

    John: But I say that even though your rewards will be somewhat different than the ones commonly sought after, life takes on richer hues, more satisfying and gratifying kinds of rewards.

    So, is the life of a Christian “better” in some fashion (either in quality or quantity) than that of everyone else (including those of every other religion)?
    What about Christians from sects which don’t agree with your beliefs, are their lives “better”?
    That seems to be what you’re claiming.

    Again, it’s nice that your belief in Christianity makes you feel better, but you shouldn’t expect anyone to accept it as probably true unless you can demonstrate that it is probably true – something which to my knowledge has not been done (and which you seem to suggest cannot be done above) 🙂

    John: With regard to your comments on morality, I want to say two things. First, the problem we have is not that we do not feel the need to be moral. The problem is that by ourselves, we can’t agree on what moral IS.

    As a society we seem to do a reasonable job of it. Wouldn’t you agree? Sure we mess up at times, get things wrong. It’s a learning experience 🙂

    John: With biblical morality, we have a standard not set by men. And it’s far from being out of date.

    Actually, with biblical authority you have a standard set by men thousands of years ago. If you can demonstrate that the bible was most likely inspired by your particular conception of God, then I’d have to accept that it was not (entirely) set by men. If not, well, you’re stuck with human writers and no divine inspiration 🙂

    As for being out of date – slavery doesn’t seem to be in vogue any longer. Neither does subjugation of women. Both of those things are put forward as morally good in the bible, commanded by the god described within it’s pages.

    John: What you imply about slavery is completely opposite of the true message of scripture.

    You mean it doesn’t agree with your interpretation of scripture, right?

    John: Here’s the paradigm: From the days of early man, we were incapable of reigning in our lusts for power, wealth, and sexual gratification.

    Which early days are you talking about? When Homo Erectus came on the scene? Later? Earlier?

    John: God sent Moses down from Mt. Sinai with “the law” (what we now call the ten commandments). Man ignored every one of them, and went his own way.

    The 10 commandments equate wives with property – not something I’d think is viewed as moral in the west today.
    What about the laws concerning slavery – take from those who sojourn with you. Releasing a Hebrew slave after 7 years, that sort of thing. As far as I can tell, those commands are from God.

    John: Christ came to teach us how to live, and went to the cross to provide atonement for our sins.

    How did Jesus provide atonement for my sins? 🙂
    Shouldn’t he have continued to be punished for our sins instead of a brief visit to the underworld?

    John: And little by little in the two thousand years since, society has been getting better.

    Scoeity was getting “better” prior to the 1st century, wasn’t it?
    Society seemed to get much worse in Christian Europe – we call them the “Dark Ages”. The Arabs kept knowledge alive, adding to it quite vigorously. It was only when Christianity began to lose it’s grip upon society that things in Europe began to improve – we call that period the “Enlightenment”.
    Society seems to actually get better when technology advances, when the society is prosperous etc. It seems to have little to do with Christianity as such.

    John: What he taught, among many other things, is that one of the top two most important commandments is the one to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    A message which had been taught by others prior to Jesus. Why was it important when he said it, but not when others did?

    John: But the point is that that central teaching is completely incompatible with an endorsement, even a tacit one, of slavery.

    No it isn’t, really. It’s just a plea to treat your slaves a little better. Musonius Rufus seemed to teach more against slavery than did Jesus in presented in the gospels. Shouldn’t we value his teaching on this matter more than that of Jesus? It seems to be the more moral.

    John: If I own you, how can I love you as myself? How can I deny you the right to determine your own life choices and at the same time say I love you as I love myself?

    And yet nowhere in the NT does it say “You should not own your fellow man, as it is against the will of the Lord” or similar. Why is that I wonder? It would be such a simple message to pass on.

    John: Slavery was endemic to society in Christ’s days on earth. It was not something he accepted, it was simply something that could not be dealt with until the stone cold hearts of men could be dealt with.

    That is your interpretation of things. People thought that slavery was the way things should be, and used the bible as support for this position.
    And obviously, God couldn’t say something which would be a lesson for all time. That the bible has no anti-slavery message is exactly what you’d expect if it was not inspired by a god.

    John: And the reality is that slavery was almost eradicated because of the influence of Christianity!

    False. It was the influence of individuals. Christianity had little to do with it (though the individuals may have followed their own “faith”). Christianity seems to have been a major stumbling block to ending slavery.

    John: In fact, it was the relentless effort of William Wilberforce, who was born a British aristocrat and could have lived a profligate life just as his contemporaries did, chose instead to give his life in the pursuit of “two great causes”.

    And against him in his pursuit to end slavery were Christians. There were always more Christians for slavery than against it, and seemed to have had the bible on their side.

    John: He succeeded only after investing all he had – time, talent and treasure – in the accomplishment of both causes. And they were inextricable, because the desire to do right had been subjugated to the desire to make money, and no out of date Christian moral code was going to deter them! Watch this short clip for an introduction.

    If the bible is anti-slavery, as you’re claiming, why on earth did Wilberforce and others have to fight so damn hard to stop it? A single line saying “Don’t own other humans” or some such would have been all that was required of you’re omniscience omnibenevolent deity, but alas, nothing!

    John: I have no problem with what you say here about why science restricts itself to naturalistic testing.

    Currently the only method which “works” is methodological naturalism – ie. the scientific method. You need to have a reliable process before you can investigate and “know” things. This is why science investigates the “natural” (whatever that actually is). It’s not some a priori ruling out of everything else, it’s simply that there is no way to know about it. Hence why supernatural claims are generally ignored 🙂

    John: What I wanted to point out here is that it is absolutely necessary to use something other than the scientific method to determine what your answers to my questions about origin (of the universe), meaning, morality and destiny.

    Yes. When we’re unable to use the method which works to decide how things probably are, we use reason and logic and other tools.

    John: There are no scientific tests for them, so the only choices are to either ignore them, pretend they don’t matter, or just use the ostrich approach and hide from them.

    Or reason and logic, as I said above.

    John: We cannot and will not find definitive proof, but we can most definitely determine whether it comports with things we do know about.

    Science doesn’t deal in definitive proof – all science is provisional.

    1. I’ll respond only briefly for now, since I’ tired and want to go to sleep.

      So did anything I said add to your understanding of anything? You seem unwilling to give me credit for saying anything with which you would agree. Or are you just into talking, and getting somewhere is not important? I’ll make just one point before going to bed. Many atheists (I hope you are not offended that I refer to you that way) say that they don’t believe because they see no evidence. But that is usually a non sequitur. They see no evidence because they choose to be atheists, and therefore look for confirmation of that belief system with every breath. The evidence for belief is as abundant as the evidence for unbelief. It’s all in the looking. And you have to have a heart of flesh, not of stone. Read the scripture with an eye to proving their fallacy, and you will find that. Read them with an eye to discerning what their true meaning is, and you will find that. I testify to that personally.

      C.S. Lewis was a highly educated atheist before he made it his business to actually make a study of Christ and Christianity. After conversion, he became a very prolific writer, and produced what many consider classic non-fiction works that are treasured by many people, both for their literary value and their unique ability to ascertain truths from scripture that theretofore were less than fully accessible by the massees.

      Oh, what the heck – one final thought. I have said elsewhere that there are two things that would completely invalidate my faith. The first would be for man to create life from non-living inorganic matter in a completely naturalistic, random, unaided process. The other would be proof that Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead. People have been trying for 2000 years to find that body, and it’s just gone. Either of those would be paradigm crushers for me. I think I’m safe.

      What would falsify your belief system?

  4. Havok

    John: So did anything I said add to your understanding of anything?

    I’m not sure you’ve actually said anything as yet. Your comment (and even post) seems to put your position as “This makes me feel good. I can’t prove it but I believe it. Science doesn’t have all the answers”.

    John: You seem unwilling to give me credit for saying anything with which you would agree.

    John: Or are you just into talking, and getting somewhere is not important?

    Getting somewhere is always important, assuming there is someplace to get. As yet you’re not really saying anything (and neither am I in all likelyhood).

    John: I’ll make just one point before going to bed. Many atheists (I hope you are not offended that I refer to you that way) say that they don’t believe because they see no evidence.

    No offence. Refer however you wish, i’ll let you know if/when it becomes offensive.

    John: But that is usually a non sequitur. They see no evidence because they choose to be atheists, and therefore look for confirmation of that belief system with every breath.

    I’m sure there are some people who “choose” to have no belief in a god or gods prior to looking for justification for this choice. The majority of the non-believers, agnostics, atheists whom I’ve had contact with have come to that conclusion after looking at what is supported by the evidence and justifiable. My experience does not match up with how you see this in the slightest. In a word, you’re simply wrong 🙂

    John: The evidence for belief is as abundant as the evidence for unbelief. It’s all in the looking.

    What do you think provides abundant evidence for belief, specifically in the Christian god?
    You seem to suggest that belief is as valid a starting point as unbelief. Would you say the same for “guilty” and “innocent” in a court of law?
    How about belief in fairies vs unbelief in fairies?
    For a believers in fairies the evidence would be abundant, I would assume (else, why else would they believe).

    And you have to have a heart of flesh, not of stone.

    What does that even mean? In having come to a conclusion of atheism, are you saying that I’ve not engaged my emotions or something similar?

    John: Read the scripture with an eye to proving their fallacy, and you will find that. Read them with an eye to discerning what their true meaning is, and you will find that. I testify to that personally.

    And if you approach the bible with an eye to assessing it’s reliability and find it severely wanting?
    What do you mean by “true meaning” here? What the original author intended? Some “spiritual truth” which can be gleaned through revelation while studying the text?
    How do you read the Koran? The Hindu Veda’s? The Zoroastrian Gathis? trying to prove their fallacy, or with an eye to finding their true meaning?

    John: C.S. Lewis was a highly educated atheist before he made it his business to actually make a study of Christ and Christianity. After conversion, he became a very prolific writer, and produced what many consider classic non-fiction works that are treasured by many people, both for their literary value and their unique ability to ascertain truths from scripture that theretofore were less than fully accessible by the massees.

    Does that mean he was right? There are many former Christians who lost their faith because they found it simply “false”. There are many Muslims who were once Christians (and vice versa). I’ve read much of “Mere Christianity” and found it to be rather unconvincing. Does he make any arguments which you think are or should be “convincing”?

    John: Oh, what the heck – one final thought. I have said elsewhere that there are two things that would completely invalidate my faith. The first would be for man to create life from non-living inorganic matter in a completely naturalistic, random, unaided process.

    What do you mean by “life”?
    Simply providin a plausible method (or 3) the probability of whose occurance is increased by deep time, and pointing out that deep time was available in the early earth doesn’t cut it?
    Unless you’re “loading” this statement somehow (ie. “Yes, they did it in a lab, and put the chemicals together. It simply shows that intelligence is required!”) I’d be careful – Abiogenesis does seem to be coming along in leaps and bounds. Just recently scientists created artificial RNA which was able to replicate. This RNA was composed of a short sequence of amino acids, which are formed through natural processes (ie. don’t require “life”).

    John: The other would be proof that Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead.

    Do you have credible evidence that he did rise from the dead?
    There’s quite a few other saviour god-men floating around, yet you don’t worship them.

    John: People have been trying for 2000 years to find that body, and it’s just gone.

    What body? A pretty strong “mythicist” case can be made. A strong case can also be made that early Christianity held to a “spiritual” 2 body resurrection (Paul’s letters seem to support this).

    John: Either of those would be paradigm crushers for me. I think I’m safe.

    I really don’t understand why people think the (physical) resurrection is so strongly attested. Late documents, most of which are not of the genre of history (only Luke “look” like a history), the earliest of which seems to be composed of predominantly midrash of existing scripture, and which leaves us with no post ressurection appearances (Mark), and the later of which show legendary development (Matt’s raising of the saints, earthquake etc), written by “unknown” individuals are not the ideal types of documents upon which to base your beliefs, as far as I’m concerned. If you’re happy trusting these types of sources as being “absolute truth” I wonder why you disregard the Koran?

    John: What would falsify your belief system?

    What “belief system”?
    These would cause me to seriously consider that the supernatural existed:
    – Process or method to investigate the supernatural.
    – Some mechanism for the supernatural to interact with the “natural”.
    – definitive proof that there is not nor could there ever be an explanation for some phenomena which was “natural”.

    As for belief in the Christian God, appearing in an undeniable fashion would help. Perhaps some statistical evidence that after accounting for other factors, Christian prayers were “answered” more often than those of other faiths, or that Christians were saved from natural disasters more often.

    Basically I’d like some credible argument and evidence – you got any? 🙂

    1. I find this style of point-by-point refutation to be hard to follow. By the time I’ve read your post, there are so many things I want to respond to in the first three sentences, that I could do an entire post on them alone. So, I decided to do that. My post entitled “Free or Slave” was inspired by our exchange. But between us, I will tackle just a few others here.

      I’m sure there are some people who “choose” to have no belief in a god or gods prior to looking for justification for this choice. The majority of the non-believers, agnostics, atheists whom I’ve had contact with have come to that conclusion after looking at what is supported by the evidence and justifiable. My experience does not match up with how you see this in the slightest. In a word, you’re simply wrong

      That’s based on a sampling of what, one? And have you ever taken a bible study course, to actually learn what it is that is believed by a larger percentage of the population of the planet than any other? And if there is one chance in a few billion that you might have to endure eternal suffering, wouldn’t you want to give it a little more than a casual look-see?

      And you have to have a heart of flesh, not of stone.

      What does that even mean? In having come to a conclusion of atheism, are you saying that I’ve not engaged my emotions or something similar?

      Do you not understand the idea of the desire of the heart? It’s one on the facets of humans that separates us from the animals. We desire. It’s the difference between Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. It’s what makes us say, when we see our own newborn child. “Oh he/she’s so beautiful!”, when the truth is that every newborn baby looks like a shriveled prune.

      And regarding your question of “what if you approach the bible with an eye to assessing it’s reliability and find it severely wanting?”

      My answer is that if you approach it with an open heart and mind, you will not find it wanting at all. There’s a lot that I could say to support that. In fact, I could build a year-long course on it. But for a brief introduction, I recommend you read the 7 posts by my blogfriend Krietsauce, starting with the one posted on February 7th entitled Literary Aspects of the Bible. And, look at this table of the prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, and the verse in the NT that show Him as their fulfillment. And ask yourself, what are the odds those are all coincidences?

      To be born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 Matt. 2:1-6, Luke 2:1-20
      To be from the line of David Isaiah 9:6-7 Matthew 1:6-16
      To be born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14 Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38
      To be a prophet like Moses Deuteronomy 18:15-19 John 7:40
      When he would come Daniel 9:24-27 Matthew 1,2 ; Luke 1,2
      Would come out of Egypt Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14-15
      Would live in Capernium Isaiah 9:1-2 Matthew 4:15-16
      (land of Zebulun & Napthali)
      Enters Jerusalem in triumph Zechariah 9:9 Matt. 21:1-9, John 12:12-16
      To be rejected by his own people Isaiah 53:1-3, Ps. 118:22 Matt. 26:3-4, John 12:37-43
      To be betrayed by a follower Psalm 41:9 Matt. 26:14-16, 47-50 ; Luke 22:19-23
      To be tried and condemned Isaiah 53:8 Matt. 27:1-2, Luke 23:1-25
      To be silent before his accusers Isaiah 53:7 Matt. 27:12-14,Mark 15:3-4
      To be struck and spat on Isaiah 50:6 Matt.26:6,27:30;Mark 14:65
      To be mocked and insulted Psalm 22:7-8 Matt. 27:39-44, Luke23:11
      To suffer with criminals Isaiah 53:12 Matt. 27:38, Mark 15:27-28
      To be given vinegar and gall Psalm 69:21 Matt. 27:34, John 19:28-30
      To die by crucifixion Psalm 22:14-17 Matt. 27:31, Mark 15:20,25
      Others cast lots for his clothes Psalm 22:18 Matt. 27:35, John 19:23-24
      His bones were not to be broken Exodus 12:46 John 19:31-36
      To die as a sacrifice for sin Isaiah 53:5-12 John 1:29,11:49-52, Acts 10:43
      To be raised from the dead Psalm 16:10 Matt. 28:1-10, Acts 2:22-32
      To be at God’s right hand Psalm 110:1 Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-51

  5. Pingback: Free or Slave « Bloom Where You’re Planted

  6. Andrew

    So did anything I said add to your understanding of anything? You seem unwilling to give me credit for saying anything with which you would agree. Or are you just into talking, and getting somewhere is not important? I’ll make just one point before going to bed. Many atheists (I hope you are not offended that I refer to you that way) say that they don’t believe because they see no evidence. But that is usually a non sequitur. They see no evidence because they choose to be atheists, and therefore look for confirmation of that belief system with every breath. The evidence for belief is as abundant as the evidence for unbelief. It’s all in the looking…

    I found it strange to see this comment written by your own hand. If I had to pinpoint where I find you to be generally in error, it would be in the ways that you describe in this comment directed toward Havok.

    In this blog you keep painting the materialists you speak with as closed-minded and arrogant, and yourself as a humble truth-seeker interested in all the knowledge the world has to offer. In almost every post you make it sound as if the well of polite and open discourse has gone dry — at least when conversing with people who disagree with you.

    Do you really think you’re being intellectually honest with this portrayal? Really and truly? Having read the ways you typically respond to materialists, something in this picture just doesn’t add up.

    When a scientist does give you a polite explanation of some of the biological processes behind evolution (yes, it does happen — I’ve seen it), your reply is usually just as you described Havok’s to be. You don’t give credit. You don’t show signs of having really tried to understand the argument (by pointing out where it falls short, for example). You simply change the subject. You bring up some other criticism you have of materialism that may or may not even be related to topic at hand. As if you were only asking questions about biology because you were “just into talking” rather than wanting to understand. It’s not until you’ve dodged or dismissed a comment or two that the other person starts getting rude.

    I don’t think you’re as interested as you think you are (or at least claim you are) in what your opponents have to say. The reason I think this is because you don’t seem to have read any of their literature. From your blog it’s very obvious that you get your education on evolution from people like Michael Behe, Ray Comfort, Michael Egnor, etc. I don’t think you’ve studied any literature in support of evolution. If you had, you wouldn’t ask many of the basic questions that you ask or and you wouldn’t make the basic errors when describing evolution that you do.

    You’re probably going to dismiss me as a closed-minded antagonist, even though I’m merely attempting to help show you why so many people respond to you the way they do, and I have no venom or anger in my words. I implore you to just consider this one point:

    If someone learned everything they know about religion from Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, you would say that their picture of religion is woefully incomplete, wouldn’t you? You would say it was the blind leading the blind in such a situation. You would give that person a list of scholars to read if he really wanted to understand religion rather than retain a hollow caricaturization of it in his mind.

    My question is, why isn’t this point just as valid when it comes to the study of evolution? Behe, Comfort, and Egnor are considered by the vast majority of biologists to be clueless about evolution. Just as you consider Dawkins and Hitchens to be clueless about God. So wouldn’t you want to learn from the people that biologists admire instead? As a truth-seeker, wouldn’t you want to get your biology education from the greats of biology? Just as you would say an atheist should get his theological education from the greats of theology?

    Becoming educated on something by those who disagree with it is always problematic. The information is filtered. Important points are left out. The whole picture can never be acquired.

    I’m suggesting, in other words, that you aren’t really doing “the looking”. Rather you’re looking for confirmation, as you accused atheists of doing in your comment to Havok. If you were genuinely interested in what evolution is all about, you would study the experts. You wouldn’t ask commenters and bloggers to teach you about evolution. You’d proactively go out and absorb it on your own.

    The fact that you don’t is why people don’t take you seriously as a truth-seeker. Your seeking has limits. You want people to learn your side, but you aren’t willing to do others the same courtesy.

    If your position is solid, getting your information from a champion of evolution rather than from an outsider won’t pose a threat.

    When I personally want to learn about theism I go to those such as C.S. Lewis, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, etc. I don’t go to atheists and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone else should.

    I hope you’ll consider a similar approach in your own studies.

  7. Andrew, I want to thank you for your comment, and for the genial tone. I truly do want to engage in respectful discourse, and humbly apologize for any offenses I may have committed in prior posts.

    And yes, I am attempting to be intellectually honest. If you can point to things I have said that are contrary to that, I do want to hear about them. I want to hold myself to the same standard I apply to others. I am less than fully able to pull it off, however, so I really do want to be called out when I fall short, even thought the rebukes are seldom very much fun to read.

    My education on evolution comes from a much broader spectrum than you imply. And for the record, none of it comes from Ray Comfort or Michael Egnor. (I have read a bit from both of them, and just don’t have either bookmarked on my browser. If you read my other posts, you’ll see that there are others. And no, I don’t read much from atheistic people like Dawkins or Hitchens. The little I have heard them say (audibly and in print) has not been interesting enough that I thought it worth investing further study in.

    I also want to make the point that if I need my car fixed, I go to a mechanic. I do not need to know how to become a mechanic. I only need to know how to tell a good mechanic from a bad or dishonest one. I am interested in learning, however, and if you know of someeone I really should know about, I’m open to hearing it.

    What I am trying to get to in this series, however, is that I can see flaws in the way that atheistic scientists see the world. They are not playing by the rules they themselves lay down. They contend that only materialism is science, because nothing else is testable or falsifiable. Yet that statement, in and of itself, is a faith statement. There is no scientific way to evaluate whether it is true or not. In addition, their worldview is not comprehensive. Many of them were perfecly happy assuming that the cosmos, as Carl Sagan called it, was eternal. Now that we have learned that it had a beginning, we need a new mindset. Because nothing begins without a cause. And if the universe began, it had a cause-er. And that’s a paradigm shift for many biologists, because they have assumed that neo-Darwinism was self-sufficient and did not “need” the involvement of a creator. Yet even thought it turns out there may be one after all, they still doggedly insist on removing all consideration of his involvement – even his existence – in the study of origins.

    So, yes, your point about getting your biology from biologists and your theology from theologians is valid. (And if you are reading C.S. Lewis, Augustine, and Acquinas, you’re getting it from the really good ones. I’d be interested in hearing your comments on what you get in reading them too.) But life is not that pat a hand. The biologists I trust the most are the ones who acknowledge the possibility that man may not be the most intelligent being in the universe, and that such a being might have been involved from the beginning. Not many take Dawkins as a serious scientist, because his atheism gives much of what he has to say on any subject a dissonance that’s disconcerting!

    Thanks again for visiting and commenting, and I’d love to hear from you again!

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